Dear Karen: I am 38 and run my own business in Germany. My wife and I would like to sell our company and move to California. Where can I find local entrepreneurs looking for successors?
Answer: Small-business owners typically find successors within their families or employees, though some may hire executives who are interested in someday buying them out. Start by contacting U.S. business brokers and provide information about your background, the acceptable price range for a purchase and what kind of business you're interested in.
You could also check listings at business sales websites and talk to local accountants and bankers. "Banks usually have a list of people who are looking to buy a business. They will keep a lookout for companies looking for a successor and alert you when they find one," said Tom Gimbel, chief executive of the LaSalle Network.
Attracting clients and investors
Dear Karen: I'm a single mother with a new business and can't get any credibility with new customers and potential investors.
Answer: Get the word out about your company through customer testimonials and good publicity. Tooting your own horn isn't as effective as having other people talk up your firm.
Consider hiring a public relations firm to put out news releases and contact media outlets about you. You don't have to spend a lot; you may be able to hire a freelancer. Publicists have helped Jill Exler, founder of jexbo.com, a website for self-published authors. "For someone with no experience at reaching the market, it may be the easiest and best way" to create credibility.
Another outlet is the Internet. "Find appropriate websites and leave messages on their forums. Tell them about products or services you offer. Look at other messages to see what people want," Exler said.
You can find investors by searching terms such as "angel investors" online. The sites you will find typically will include not only information about people interested in funding businesses but also advice on how to market and grow your operation.
Making the most of a publicist
Dear Karen: What do I need to be aware of when hiring a publicist for my start-up? We have a limited budget.
Answer: A good publicist should be someone you can trust and communicate with easily, said Melanie Rembrandt, the chief executive of Rembrandt Communications. Although some start-up entrepreneurs do their own publicity, turning the task over to a professional probably will be more effective and free you up to get your company going.
Get references and research the background of any firm you're considering. Check individuals and companies with the Better Business Bureau and Chamber of Commerce.
When you meet with a firm's representatives, ask whom they will assign to your account. "It can be exciting to sign with a big, well-known agency, but if you're transferred to the new intern, you'll be paying for the name without receiving the agency's top expertise," Rembrandt said.
Be wary of firms that guarantee media placements, and look carefully at any contract you are given. Find out exactly what services you'll receive and what they will cost before you sign.
"Also confirm that there is a fairly simple way to end the relationship if things don't work out," Rembrandt said.
Got a question about running or starting a small enterprise?
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