By Andrew Cagnetta

When you are trying to figure out if you should purchase a new business you should ask a lot of questions. You can start off by asking these general, but essential questions and then progress to more industry or company-specific concerns as needed.

  1. Tell me about the impact you’ve had on the business. – You can get a good feel of what kind of owner the person was as well as how you may need to tailor your approach if you choose to purchase the business. You can discover what leadership style the owner utilized and whether it was effective through the way they explain their accomplishments.
  2. Why did you decide to sell the business and why now? – This is an important question to ask not only because you’ll see the motivation behind the sale, but because you’ll get insight into the reasoning behind the timing. It could be something as small as the owner’s desire or as large as company downturn. This can also help you prepare for any issues that have come up recently or focus on opportunities that are on the horizon.
  3. If you can’t sell the business, what will you do instead? – If the business is in serious trouble, you will be able to find that out when you hear the answer to this question. This may also give you insight into the amount of buyers who are interested in purchasing the business. If the current business owner seems confident that the business will sell then you may need to determine if you are willing to compete with others for the company.
  4. What have you done to document the business’ history? – Receiving thorough documentation will only make it easier on you in the transition phase. You want to make sure that the current owner can explain how they were able to complete their job and that they maintained all of this relevant information. This is essential if major issues arise that require immediate action that can only be demonstrated with proper guidance or data.
  5. What are your favorite aspects of this business? – You can find out what aspects of the business are most valuable before you even start working by asking this question. It can help you discover what was seen as vital to the business owner and therefore might not require as much change. You can also see why the owner enjoyed working for that company to determine and whether you can see yourself as a good fit for the business.
  6. What are your least favorite aspects of this business? – Maybe the company had poor morale or the owner didn’t like the structure of the various teams. You can see what may need the most attention when you first start working as the business owner when you ask this question. You can also start prioritizing what needs to be researched and analyzed so that you can run the business effectively as soon as you take over as the new owner.
  7. What skills are required to be an effective business owner? – This is also vital in helping you determine person-job fit. Maybe you are more of a relaxed leader, but the company requires a strong owner who has to demonstrate a high level of control. If you can figure this out before you commit to purchase then you can save yourself from working for a company who isn’t able to run effectively with your personal skills.

Asking these questions can help you impress the owner and demonstrate your interest in the purchase. In addition, vocalizing the questions and concerns that are most important to you will help you determine if you can be an effective and successful business owner for the company.

Andrew Cagnetta is the CEO of Transworld Business Advisors. Andy enjoys helping business owners/buyers realize the American Dream through business brokerage and franchise consulting and development. Transworld Business Advisors, LLC, is a worldwide franchise leader in business brokerage, franchise consulting and franchise development. Follow him at @acags.