Implement Due Diligence When Purchasing An Internet Business
The process of due diligence is essential when buying a website internet business operation. It is estimated that up to 50% of all deals can fall apart during this process and this is most often due to some misrepresentations during the initial discovery, but can also often be due to an inadequate assessment by the buyer, leading to cold feet.
When you purchase an online business, you may face particular challenges not seen in a “bricks and mortar” operation. You will need to focus on the very composition of the business itself, which will be structured around the website and technology used, understand the products and services being sold, get to know who the customers are as well as the employees (especially the tech people), go through the financials and any legal issues associated with this type of business. When all this is done you must be happy with the marketing initiatives associated with the core website, understand how traffic is generated and look at the growth opportunities. Remember that this is much more than just a website for sale.
With an online venture, marketing is highly important, but the technology and software used to determine the composition of the website are equally so. The website is the businesses “window on the world” and you need to be happy with the way it has been constructed. You must get the owner to give you a full tour of the website, including the front-end and back-end, understanding the way that customers will interact with it and how transactions are handled. Find out how the website was built, if it was developed internally, who owns the source code if this is applicable, how it is managed. If any of this process is controlled by the owner, consider an agreement with him or her, following any purchase, to be available for a certain period of time in case of questions and especially of emergencies. If the whole process is outsourced you will need to speak to the people concerned before closing.
During your initial thought making processes, you should ask yourself whether you are happy to be involved with the ongoing maintenance, coding issues, updates and all elements of website operation or whether you will be outsourcing this. Pay particular attention to how transactions are handled, credit cards processed, security and safety.
When you consider the attributes of the products or services provided by the online business, ask yourself if there is any kind of exclusivity involved with them. If there isn’t, you’ll likely have to deal with strong competition in the future. Does the business have to rely on specific suppliers? If so, give some thought to whether these entities are reliable and whether there are any other sources available.
Marketing is everything when it comes to an Internet-based operation and you want to get a full understanding for the type of customer that you will have to deal with. Does the business market directly to consumers or to other businesses? You will need to be able to identify the unique selling proposition and the value-added benefit that the operation represents to your customers. Your support structure should be over and above and every element of the business should be aimed at over delivering to the client.
If the business has employees, take time to understand them. For people coming from a traditional corporate environment, this may involve a process of adjustment. Often they will find that the more “creative” types are a little unconventional – will this cause a potential conflict of understanding, loyalty or respect? Be wary if the operation of the business relies heavily on one particular individual or another due to their skills and consider whether you should have a “non-compete” clause of some kind in place? You will definitely need a robust non-compete with the owner!
In addition to your focus on regular financial information and ratios, consider what you might need to do to establish new merchant operations for yourself if need be. A business such as this will process almost all transactions through credit cards or online checks and it is really easy to look at histories and see whether there are any significant charge backs of any kind.
Often the value of a website can be in its domain name. Check to identify the owner of the domain name through one of the registration sites online. You should also check to see where the site is hosted and how easy it would be to assume any of these agreements. Check on the material published on their website to see whether it is original and not plagiarized in any way.
We said that marketing is everything. Do you have a good “gut feeling” for this type of business yourself? This may be important. Always ask the seller to explain their main marketing initiatives and how they have worked in the past. Make a good note of any marketing programs that did not work so that you do not try them again, at least in that type of form. Tracking and testing is very important in this sphere, so check to see what methods they used.
When you’re evaluating an Internet business, be aware of how radical or unusual it may be. Is there any possibility that regulation will be introduced in future to significantly affect its very existence? Remember that this has happened in the past, and you don’t want to be the proud owner of a new business who faces such a threat in the short term.
About the Author: Richard Parker is the President and founder of the Diomo Corporation – The Business Buyer Resource Center. His inspiring materials, seminars and consulting have assisted thousands of business buyers with achieving their life long dream to buy a business. Want to learn more about effective business buying strategies that actually work, then look no further than http://www.diomointernet.com