Read all about it
Now is the time to read up on your business. Search the net for relevant information; approach libraries and other organisations to see if they have helpful literature. Publications such as Daltons Weekly have listings of businesses for sale. Trade associations can also be a good place to start for getting information about your chosen business. If they can't help you then they should be able to point you in the direction.
The Business Plan
The next stage in setting out your groundwork is drafting your business plan. It sounds rather daunting but it needn't be. Basically the business plan is there to help you and the bank decide on the best course of action in proceeding with your purchase. Having your strategy down on paper will be of tremendous help for you as well because it's a template you can work from.
You need to put down your aims and address areas such as marketing and competition. You should address potential problems. You should have targets, but they should be flexible. In the majority of cases you will have approached the bank for a loan. They need to see that you have put enough thought into your business for them to be able to trust you with their funds.
As well as providing your bank manager with a business plan, you need to be able to demonstrate that you are of good character with a good credit history. And you'll need to make clear how you intend to repay the loan.
It's important to stress that this is your business plan, and your chance to take the business in a new direction. You don't have to pick up where the previous owner left off. For the full story, check out our guide to business plans.
When you're buying a business, your relationship with your agent is pretty important. Just as an estate agent is an expert in the selling of property, a business agent will know the ins and outs of buying a business. With such a wide variety of businesses to choose from, agents tend to specialise. Therefore, if you want to buy a post office you'll be able to find a specialist in that area.
If in doubt, you need to ask. There is no such thing as a stupid question.
In fact, there are some questions it would be stupid not to ask:
What is the turnover of the business at the moment?
If it's not healthy, why not?
Why are the current owners selling the business? etc.
You need to know the history of the business and all the nuts and bolts. If there's something you're not happy with trust your instincts. It might be nice to be the one to turn around a failing business but it is hard work.