Buying a Business in Canada

Today’s business buyers are well educated and most of them do their homework before starting their business purchase process. Most of them research and study the subject of purchasing a business on the Internet and read books and publications about this subject. Unfortunately, most of these publications have been written about the US Market and very few address the Canadian particularities. How is the Canadian market for business resale different from the American Market?

  1. The seller take back loan is much less predominant in Canada: Most publications about buying existing businesses stress the importance of getting some sort of seller financing before making the purchase. If the seller finances a part of the deal, he/she will be motivated to teach the buyer in the transitional period and help the buyer become successful to pay back the loan. Also, the seller will only take this risk if he/she believes that the buyer has the capabilities to become successful. This is an indication that the business is worth buying. Nobody knows the business more than the seller. Finally, bank financing for small businesses is quite rare and most of the time, seller financing is the only option. Unfortunately, Canadian business sellers are much more conservative than the Americans. In most cases, they prefer to lower the price and get paid cash rather than take the risk of never getting their money back. Furthermore, most of Canadian sellers are not aware that it is very difficult to sell a business with a large component of goodwill for cash.
  2. Bank financing for very small businesses is difficult to get: There is no real equivalent of the small business Administration loan program in Canada. The SBA loan in the US could finance up to 90% of a business purchase. In Canada the small business loan can only finance business purchases with a large component of equipment in the purchase price. Goodwill and inventory is in most cases not financed by banks, but they represent most of the value of the small businesses for sale. For these reasons, we strongly discourage business buyers to spend their time looking into a business purchase if they do not have at least 50% of the purchase price. For larger businesses (requiring more than 1M$ loan) it is possible to get some high interest rate loans (more than 12 – 14% annually) if the business has enough sustainable cash flow to pay for itself in 5 years.
  3. The Canadian market for business purchase is less liquid: The business sale and purchase market in Canada is much less active and liquid than the American market. As a result it could take more time and energy to find a good match for a purchaser. This requires serious business buyers to commit a lot of their time to the business purchase process. Buyers should not hesitate to talk to business brokers and should prepare themselves to show that they are ready, willing and able to buy a business.

While we recognize that the Canadian market for selling and buying businesses is less liquid than the American market, we also realize that there are some excellent Business opportunities in Canada that would enable persistent buyers to reach their entrepreneurial dreams.

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Omar Kettani

I am a business broker in Toronto. I am specialized in selling businesses with less than $10 million in value. I have a master of Engineering from a top-notch French Engineering school and an MBA from the prestigious Richard Ivey Business school in the University of Western Ontario where I specialized in entrepreneurial finance. I have a long experience in banking, business ownership, marketing and finance. I dedicate my career to helping small and middle size business owners sell their businesses to the right buyers.

One thought on “Buying a Business in Canada”

  1. Owner financing is one way of closing more deals as is earn-outs providing the buyer has the skill set and background to take the business to the next level. I can’t imagine it is harder to close a business for sale transaction in Canada than in the US – most of the deals I work on are not bank financed – the buyer and seller work together to make it work through creative financing sometimes including an equity position.
    Internet Businesses For Sale

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