Buying or Selling a Business: An Overview

Here's what you need to know if you plan to buy or sell a business.

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Each year, some 300,000 U.S. businesses change ownership. Most are small and mid-sized businesses, like retail stores, beauty salons, quick-print shops, restaurants, tax preparation services, landscapers, electrical contracting firms, and modest manufacturing operations. If you're thinking about buying or selling a business and want to get the best deal possible, expect to do a lot of planning and preparation.

Selling a Business

No matter what kind of business you own -- a professional services company, a neighborhood bagel shop, or a home-based website that sells imported garden tools -- chances are good that there's an interested buyer out there (assuming the price is right). But finding the right buyer and selling the business on favorable terms will require both planning and hard work. Many more businesses are for sale every year than actually sell. 

Your first step is considering whether you're ready to sell. Other steps will include understanding the sales process, preparing your company for sale, setting a price, seeking potential buyers, negotiating and preparing a sales agreement and other documents, and closing the deal. For more information, see the remaining articles in Nolo's Buying or Selling a Business topic area.

Buying a Business

If you're planning to buy a business, you also have many factors to consider. These include whether owning a business is right for you or for your lifestyle, what the potential for success in the field you've chosen is, and the risks involved. Owning a business can mean that you have signed on for longer hours and more worries than you've ever experienced as a hired hand -- but if you succeed, the financial and personal rewards are yours to savor. And of course, if you own your own business, no one can fire you.

Other things to consider include whether to buy a franchise or an independent business, how to find a business for sale, how to know whether the asking price is reasonable, and how to research the business's history and finances (what lawyers call doing "due diligence"). For more information, see the remaining articles in Nolo's Buying or Selling a Business topic area.


Whether you're selling your long-held business or buying a new one, enjoy this next, fresh phase of your life!

For More Information

Nolo offers comprehensive, easy-to-use guides for anyone involved in the purchase or sale of a business: The Complete Guide to Buying a Business, and The Complete Guide to Selling a Business, both by Fred Steingold.

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