The following is adapted from Buy Then Build: How Acquisition Entrepreneurs are Outsmarting the Startup Game.
Instead of sinking time, money, and energy into the high-risk environment of a startup, acquisition entrepreneurship offers the opportunity to purchase a successful existing business, and utilize your entrepreneurial skills to grow and develop that business.
Your first response to the idea, however, may be to assume that you can’t afford to take this route. Buying a business sounds expensive, so how can you do it if you’re not rich?
First, let’s draw a comparison between acquisition entrepreneurship and startup funding. In my experience, very few entrepreneurs raising capital to launch startups are rich. They don’t let it stop them because they have what they believe is a great idea and they’re determined to turn it into a reality.
If they can succeed in raising the finance to pursue their startup idea, you can finance the far less risky move of buying a business. Although brokers typically want to see a few hundred thousand in available cash, the nature of buying an existing business makes it much easier to gain access to capital.
Banks offer loans to buyers for up to 90 percent of the purchase price, using the assets of the business as collateral. Additionally, raising capital for acquisition entrepreneurship usually takes much less time than raising capital for a startup. The financing of these deals is typically done in one fell swoop, with you bringing a “down payment” or “equity infusion” and the bank providing the balance.
Raising money from a bank also means that you get to own 100 percent of the company yourself. If you require investors or other backing for the initial equity infusion, you have options. You can bring on partners, raise from friends and family, or pitch family offices or angel investors who will be attracted to the better economics of existing companies as opposed to startups.
There has also been an increasing trend in new search funds. These funds are dedicated to helping acquisition entrepreneurs buy businesses. These funds can also assist in helping you acquire significantly larger companies than you could do on your own, effectively allowing you to stretch well into the middle market (which I’ll define here, as those companies generating between $5 and $100 million in revenue) or provide additional capital to lower the debt profile.
Buying a Business Requires about as Much Capital as Buying a Home
Let’s do a quick comparison of how much capital it takes to buy a business as opposed to launching a startup or making another large investment, such as buying a home. I want to show you that, in terms of initial capital required by the entrepreneur, the three opportunities are comparable.
Babson College statisticians reported through the Wall Street Journal that the average startup in the US kicks off with $65,000 in invested capital. Similarly, the average down payment on a home for the last three years was approximately $57,000, with the twenty-five counties experiencing the biggest increase in millennials averaging $66,174. So, whether people are starting a business from scratch or buying a house, they are investing somewhere around $65,000.
Because companies under about $10 million in revenue tend to sell for lower multiples than middle-market or publicly traded companies, a $65,000 investment, paired with a 90 percent loan backed by the small business administration, could buy a company generating over $1 million in revenue, immediately launching an acquisition entrepreneur into the role of CEO of one of the largest 4 percent of companies in the US.
There are a lot of assumptions in a back-of-the-napkin calculation like this, but the goal is to illustrate that an investment similar in size to starting a business from scratch or buying a house can instead be used to acquire a sustaining business generating profitable revenue with an existing infrastructure. There will be additional costs, but it is absolutely achievable to acquire a company of this size with less than $100,000.
Do you still think that you don’t have enough money to buy a company? The chances are that, if you believe you have enough capital to invest in a startup, or indeed to invest in buying a home of your own, you also have enough to purchase an existing, profitable business, which you can use your entrepreneurial skills to grow and develop.
This is an investment that, with careful handling, can yield dividends for years. If you keep the business in good shape, you can also make a profitable investment when you’re ready to move on to other projects or simply when you decide that you’d like to let it go. These are all advantages the average startup can’t hope to match, for a comparable financial stake.
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For more advice on funding acquisition entrepreneurship, you can find Buy Then Build on Amazon here.