Transferring an Amazon FBA account

Transferring an Amazon FBA account

It’s no secret that Amazon doesn’t like talking about transferring Amazon FBA accounts. In fact, their terms of service technically do not allow FBA accounts to be transferred, but this hasn’t stopped people from being able to buy and sell their FBA businesses. Our goal at Flippa is to remove the barriers between buying and selling of all online businesses, including Amazon FBA businesses. In one of our more recent sales, we worked alongside Amazon Seller Central representatives and were able to capture the exact steps necessary to transfer an FBA business. Here are the steps to transfer an Amazon FBA business:

Step 1 – Update the Primary Email

The first step is to update the primary email of the account over to the new owner. This can be accomplished by going into your account settings and under the related links section, selecting “Login Settings”. Once you’re on the Login Settings page, you can edit the primary user email ID and password. It is recommended to discuss with the new owner which email they prefer using, and then setting the password (and making sure to write it down!). Now that a new email and password has been set, the new owner should be prompted with an email saying the account has been transferred to them. Now provide the login information to them, as they’ll need to finish out the rest before the transfer is complete. (Note: If you’re also transferring the email account, it is recommended to change the password and then give them the login information.)

Step 2 – Have New Owner Complete Tax Interview

Now that the new owner has control of the account, it is up to them to complete the tax interview. This is standard process when updating the business information of an FBA account. The tax interview can be found by going to account settings page and clicking “Legal Entity” within the Business Information section.

Step 3 – Update Bank & Credit Card Information

Once the tax interview is completed, the new owner will need to update both the “Deposit Methods” and the “Charge Methods” which can be found on the Account Settings page underneath the Payment Information section. Once these three items have been completed, the new owner will now have full control of the seller account! If you’re curious about the original contents of the email from Amazon Seller Central, here it is:

I would like to inform you that the seller of a particular account can provide all the authority over the account to someone else by simply updating the primary email address and re-taking the tax interview and updating the bank and credit card information of the other person to whom you would like to sell.   Kindly know that, to update the primary user email ID, all you have to do is go to account settings> Login settings (under ‘related links’) section. Once the page is opened, you can edit the primary email ID and the password. You can update the primary email ID section with that of the email ID of the person that you wish to sell to.   Secondly, ask the other person to go through the tax interview once again (tax interview is nothing but the initial process that you had to undergo to update the business name.. etc..) in the Legal entity link under the ‘Business information section in the account settings page.   Once the other person completes the tax information, he can go ahead and update the bank details and the credit card details in the ‘Deposit methods’ and the ‘Charge methods’ respectively under ‘Payment information’ section in the account settings page.   Once the other person completes all of this process, the account will be under the other person’s control with the bank, credit and email information all will be under the other person’s name.

It’s important to note that the transfer process may differ depending on the circumstances of each Amazon FBA business. It is always recommended to contact Amazon Seller Central before transferring ownership of an FBA business.

Sold on Flippa: Cases Tech

Sold on Flippa: Cases Tech

Platform: Website

Business Model: eCommerce

Business Age: 1 year

Sell Price: $30,000

 

What is Cases Tech?

Cases Tech is an eCommerce business that sells high-quality phone cases and phone accessories. This fully automated, dropship business model sells over 40 different types of covers and phone cases. These include leather cases and phone covers in animal print, glamour, floral and other more simple designs. Cases Tech best selling products include a leather case that fits credit cards, a magnetic phone holder and an ultra slim silicone cover.

The business has enjoyed strong sales, with annual profits of $29k. A well laid out website, high-quality products and excellent customer service have all contributed to this.

We asked the buyer of Cases Tech a couple of questions around why he bought the business and what’s his plans are for Cases Tech. 

 

What was attractive about this business?

I was interested in the business strictly because of the seller. I follow Irene and received notification that she had another listing for sale. I was in the running for one of her previous listings and her communication with prospective buyers in the comments section was excellent. While I didn’t win that auction, I knew that she produced a quality product and was determined to acquire her next project. So when CasesTech hit the market, I performed quick due diligence on the site and contacted her to negotiate a BIN price. The rest was smooth sailing and the site is running great.

 

What are your immediate plans for the business?

My immediate plans are to enjoy the turnkey site as it requires minimal effort. As a working professional, I needed something that was already running smoothly. I plan to scale the business by adding new products and implementing Facebook marketing.

 

How long have you been looking for a relevant business?

I have been looking for a business for about 5 months and will continue to evaluate quality assets in the future.

 

 

To find other great businesses like this one for sale, check out Flippa.com

New feature: Uploading financials and revenue to Flippa

New feature: Uploading financials and revenue to Flippa

We continuously listen to our buyers and sellers and your feedback is really important to us. As a result, we have some great news to share with our customer base. Now on Flippa, business owners can upload a Profit And Loss Statement (P&L), and Evidence of Revenue when building their listing.. While these fields are options we know that buyers are highly unlikely to consider a business that doesn’t have clear evidence of revenue and up-to-date financial records.  e strongly encourage all business owners to spend the time to upload these verification sources.. You can download a free P&L template here or better yet use cloud-based accounting software like Xero or Quickbooks Online.

Why do I need to do this?

Buyer matching

Flippa will not be able to match or market you to buyers without at least having a P&L or evidence of your business performance. This means that you will not be connected by Flippa, with buyers whose interests your business matches. This can make the sale time of your business a little longer.

 

The appeal to buyers

Critically, buyers want to see evidence of your business performance up front. Buyers are not inclined to inquire and ask for financials if they aren’t obvious. Business financials are considered to be basic and essential information that should be immediately visible when looking at your listing. Buyers are interested in profits and expect verifiable financial claims.

What an SBA loan means for buyers and sellers

What an SBA loan means for buyers and sellers

Accessing finance to buy an online business can be a tricky area. It is essential to evaluate all potential sources of funding including seller financing. While some investors do have cash readily at hand and are just looking for an investment with profitable returns, most buyers certainly have the energy, enthusiasm and ideas to invest but fall well short of having the total funds required. Hence the need for borrowing.

Most mainstream lenders, particularly banks, are reluctant to lend for online businesses. If you are intending to build your own business from scratch, you can basically forget about a bank loan. If you are buying an established online business your chances are only slightly higher. Even where there is audited evidence of financial success over a period of at least two to three years, typically online businesses have very little in the way of saleable physical assets or inventory to provide collateral. Even if the borrower has separate assets such as real estate to mortgage, major banks tend to shy away from lending for online business purchases even if the loan is fully secured. Banks aren’t sentimental, but foreclosing on mortgages is never a good look for them!

So, where to go for a loan?

Perhaps surprisingly the most common loan source for startups and online business purchases still remains family and friends funding. In most cases this comes with some advantages but many drawbacks and limitations. Alternatively there are numerous small business lending providers who are willing to back an online business purchase, but usually at a hefty interest rate and with a relatively limited pay-back period required as part of the contract. Obviously unsecured loans are more expensive than secured loans. While this is always a borrowing option, think carefully before committing to one of these loans as paying it off could be financially draining.

What about an SBA loan?

Depending on your circumstances this could be where an SBA loan comes in. The US Government Small Business Administration loans underwriting program is designed to enable funding of small businesses as an incentive for investment and as an economy growing measure. The SBA program has numerous strands and is designed to meet many different contingencies, including even business loans for disaster recovery. However, in the case of borrowing to purchase an existing online business the relevant scheme is the SBA 7(a) loan.

How does an SBA loan work?

The government does not lend any of the money directly to the borrower. Rather it guarantees the loan, or typically a high proportion of it such as 85%, for the security of the lending institution. Many but not all banks will consider loan applications where the borrower is securing an SBA guarantee. The process is complex and quite arduous for the borrower, so it is vitally important to source in advance a bank or other major lending institution which has plenty of experience with loans underwritten by the SBA and the capacity to provide advice and guidance throughout the application stages.

Because the process is time-consuming, working with a potential lender without an established record in fast-tracking SBA loans will definitely delay the process to an extent which may dissuade the seller from entering into an agreement. Even with an experienced SBA lender the loans process is still likely to take somewhere between 45-90 days. This is very important to understand because a formal letter of intent to purchase and signed Agreement subject to SBA-guaranteed finance must be lodged before the application will be considered.

There are many private SBA loan facilitation specialists who will guide you through the process and connect you with a lender most likely to approve your SBA-guaranteed loan application – but for a fee of course. This cost can significantly erode your net financial position before you even start, so it’s worth investing the time and effort to understand the process so you can work your own way through it.

Eligibility Requirements

These are pretty strict, which is why only a small (but growing) proportion of borrowing for online business purchases comes from this source.  

Technically the borrower does not have to be a US citizen but the business development needs to be considered economically beneficial within the US and any borrower who is a foreign national needs to meet strictly defined residency status conditions.

The qualification requirements are too complex to cover in full here, but in a nutshell the business itself must be:

  • based primarily in the US
  • within the technical definition of a ‘small business’
  • for profit – and demonstrably profitable
  • an existing business, established for at least 2 years, with invested equity.

Any person borrowing for investment in the business must have:

  • an established credit score (at least in the high 600 range)
  • a bankruptcy-free record
  • no criminal history
  • no unpaid debts to any Federal agency
  • demonstrated competence to manage and develop the business proposed for purchase
  • an absolute minimum of 10% deposit after all fees incurred in the acquisition have been accounted for.

Detailed business financials and a clear business plan need to be provided with the application and it must be demonstrated that there is a proven need for an SBA loan. That is to say, other sources of finance are not available or financially viable for the borrower.

Advantages for buyers

Don’t let the seeming complexity of all this put you off. After all, your business success relies on diligence and perseverance! The advantages of an SBA-guaranteed loan are enormous, including minimum personal equity required, favourable interest rates and an extended loan repayment period.

It also provides you with substantial reassurance of the business profitability and development viability if the seller is willing to undertake the degree of financial and business plan scrutiny which the SBA loan process requires.

Implications for sellers

If you are confident of the worth of your business and want to secure the highest possible sale price, and if an ultra-short settlement period isn’t your highest priority, then entering into an agreement with a buyer intending to use an SBA loan may be a win-win outcome. Those buyers with ready cash or access to a rapid funding source will expect a discounted price in return for the certainty of a quick settlement. Cutting out a prospective buyer who is depending on an SBA loan will narrow your field of potential purchasers and may not yield the high sale price you could achieve.

The SBA-guaranteed loans program is a significant source of buyer finance for small businesses. The online business segment is still only a small proportion of these loans. But to provide just a slight indication of the scale here, Wells Fargo’s annual lending in the SBA 7(a) loans field alone is worth around $5 billion. Five billion dollars from just one single SBA lender. That’s a lot of small business investment money to spread around.

So, as online business sales increase, as a seller it’s certainly a good idea to be open to an SBA funded purchase offer.

 

What sellers need to know about valuations

What sellers need to know about valuations

There is no shortage of motivated buyers on the lookout for great online businesses. While the stock market is highly volatile, there is increasing enthusiasm for investment or purchase of online businesses. So, the potential appetite for buying is enormous. However, by far the major brake on buyers committing to a final purchase decision is their uncertainty about pricing. There is little understanding of sound valuation principles and buyers are wary of what they see as pricing based on an arbitrary multiple of net profit. Not to put too fine a point on it, buyers believe that sellers generally over-value their businesses and they find it hard to define a reliable and objective valuation method. The outcome is that too often an enthusiastic and highly motivated buyer fails to follow through with a final purchase because of the understandable anxiety about paying more than the business is worth.

How to value an online business

Typically with an online business, there will be little or no inventory to value and only a very limited if any physical asset base. Accordingly, the business will generally be valued almost entirely on the projected profits, calculated on the basis of current and relatively recent past profits.

While there are various alternative techniques for valuing an online business, including the traffic valuation method for sites with high traffic as a business asset but with no or incomplete monetization, many of these methods are highly technical and yield disputable outcomes. They are often suitable only in highly specific situations, depending on a precise definition of the particular revenue model, current and projected OR you are the next Facebook which is highly unlikely.

For that reason, online businesses are almost always sold on a negotiated value based on an earnings multiple or a price to earnings ratio. While it is very common to define the ratio in terms of a multiple of average net monthly profit, it is simpler for most purposes to quote the ratio as a multiple of annual net profit. Using this basis, average asking price multiples have increased from 2.4 in 2010 to around 3.4 now (sourced from our good friends at Centurica), with final selling prices typically at around a 10% discount to the asking price. This suggests that generally speaking sellers who value their businesses realistically can expect to achieve a sale outcome within reasonable range of the asking price. But putting a realistic value on the business is complex and there is an understandable tendency of business owners to over-value their business.

The average net profit multiple varies markedly from one kind of online business to another and also depends greatly on the specific market niche. However, the absence of highly consistent profit ratios can cause buyers to be both surprised and sceptical about the valuation proposed by a vendor. On objective grounds SaaS and e-commerce businesses sell for a significantly higher profit multiple than content-based or media businesses, because of the higher reliability of recurring income in the former models and the generally much higher operational time demands in the latter cases.

As an example, a currently listed relatively small SaaS business (not on Flippa) with a claimed $55k net annual profit has an asking price of $250k, a hefty earnings multiple of 4.55. You would expect that ratio level to make any buyer hesitate. Let’s assume it doesn’t have rocket ship growth (doubtful because they are selling) a buyer simply will not pay that amount.

Vendors who are seeking to sell at an earnings multiple above the prevailing average need to factor in the understandable buyer nervousness and be sure that the audited income and expenses figures are going to stand up to serious interrogation. While there is never an absolutely guaranteed success in any investment decision very few buyers overall, and virtually none in the six and seven figure range, are interested in taking a wild gamble on getting value for money.

The valuation factors that buyers will weigh up

Because it goes without saying that buyers generally regard sellers’ asking prices as inflated, it’s important that the vendor has realistically priced the business having regard to all the considerations which the prospective buyer will be factoring in.

The income figures must be accurate and cover the duration of the business operation, including only those income streams which will fully transfer to the new owner with the sale. Gross and net income trends will be crucial to the buyer’s assessment. All expenses must be transparently declared in detail, including all payments made to service providers and suppliers of goods and expertise. It is vital to new owners that they will be able to maintain all of the necessary business operations within the same cost structure, or ideally achieve some savings where possible. Any outstanding expenses or other debts transferring with the business obviously must be declared.

Absolutely all operating expenses need to be disclosed, not disguised, by the seller and discoverable by the buyer. Often overlooked, the full value of any unpaid work which has been invested in the operation of the business will be accounted for in the buyer’s own valuation of the business. The predicted cost of the new owner’s time, and any specific technical expertise required, will significantly affect the buyer’s business valuation. It is absolutely essential to the prospective buyer to be able to rely on an honest declaration of the time and expertise required to manage the business, as the new owner will need to put a dollar value on this expense.

The prospective buyer will need to analyse all the financial indicator trends over the longest time frame for which the figures can be produced. Sources of customers and the cost of gaining them will be important factors for the buyer, as will the effects of any changes to attracting traffic such as Google algorithm changes or even penalties which may affect search traffic.

The buyer will need to assess how competitive the niche is and whether there are barriers to the entry of competitors, which raise the business valuation, or the likelihood of increased competition in the absence of any significant barriers to entry, which will lower the valuation. It is crucial to the buyer to ensure that any licences required are fully transferable, or readily obtainable by the new owner, and that any branding, trademarks or other unique advantages will transfer with the sale.

The seller needs to appraise the business through a buyer’s eyes

The seller will be keenly aware of the time, energy, money and vision which has brought the business to its current status and positioned it for a successful sale. Naturally the vendor wants to achieve the highest possible price. However, seller over-valuation is the prospective buyer’s biggest turn-off. It really enables the sale process if the current owner evaluates the business using the same valuation indicators that the buyer will be applying.

It is worth mentioning that some buyers will apply a discounted cash flow (DCF) measure in their valuation. This is a somewhat less relevant consideration in an era of low inflation as at present, but put simply the principle is that a dollar of profit now is worth more than a dollar will be in the future, so a formula is applied to compensate by lowering the notional future profit value, given that the buyer will be paying in advance the equivalent of some years of projected net profit.

The bottom line for the buyer is that the online business acquisition must be fully transferable, it must be sustainable, it must have scalability, and above all it must be purchased at a reasonable earnings multiple. While it is still relatively unusual for an online business to be bought using funds from an institutional lending source, lenders may place a ceiling on the multiple, determined by the actual business model and specific market niche.

Overall, to achieve a reasonable pool of potential buyers interested in undertaking onerous due diligence and finally negotiating a fair sale price, sellers need to keep their initial asking price close to buyer expectations. Avoid ambit claims with the view that eventually you will negotiate down. The process of carefully considering a purchase is time-consuming for the prospective buyer. The factors outlined above will determine where the buyer expectation sits in terms of an earnings multiple. There are so many variations in play that the ratios will vary between around 2 and 4. There would have to be exceptional circumstances taking a selling price outside this already wide range.

Know exactly why you have decided on your own seller valuation, and understand what the buyer will be factoring in. Your initial asking price should not be more than 10% higher than you believe on reasonable grounds the buyer will consider fair after all due diligence and consideration of all the factors covered here.

It is very clear that a reasonable seller valuation is always the key to a successful sale.

 

Why seller financing makes sense

Why seller financing makes sense

Why Seller Financing might make sense for you when selling your business

Many buyers of businesses are looking to invest in businesses which they can afford to purchase outright, even if this involves short-term Earn-out agreements, which typically are not arranged primarily for finance shortfall reasons. (The many advantages of Earn-outs are covered in a recent Flippa Blog article). However many of those looking to build a portfolio of businesses or to acquire a seriously high-value business may need to source finance.

Traditional business loans from banks and other major lenders are difficult to obtain for business investment. Currently banks are highly risk-averse and even when lending for more conventional business purchases they will be restricting lending to home equity based loans. Amazingly, after all these years of online business progress, the major banks still tend to be out of their lending comfort zones in the business website world, not really understanding or being confident about the way it operates. One of their main reasons for securing the loan with home equity is that banks cannot secure the loan against the physical assets of an online business and they are reluctant to place a value on ‘goodwill’ or business profitability potential.

We’ll cover SBA loans in a future blog post where the situation is entirely different again.

Unsecured loans from small business loan specialists, including online lenders, are more readily available but generally come with unattractively high interest rates and often quite burdening fee structures. Private equity firms which finance online business acquisitions tend to be interested only at high-value levels, and with lots of strings attached including an intrusive degree of business control or oversight.

Why you should consider seller financing

Whether you are a buyer or a seller, give serious thought to the mutual benefits of vendor financing. As a seller, if you are definitely in need of the full purchase amount immediately then of course this arrangement is out of the question. However, you will greatly increase the pool of potential buyers and the purchase price achieved if you are able to offer vendor finance for an agreed proportion of the purchase price. Unlike an Earn-out agreement which is usually limited to a minor proportion of the cost of purchase, does not entail interest payments, and is generally paid out in full within an agreed number of months, seller finance funds a proportion of the purchase with a longer-term payout period and with interest charged on the remaining balance until final settlement.

To illustrate, the owner of the business (owned outright and with no existing mortgages or liens attaching to the business) agrees to a sale price of $100,000. The buyer who has only $40,000 available as deposit, after judiciously retaining sufficient funds for immediate operating expenses and contingencies, has been enticed to pay a premium price because of the availability of seller finance. A reasonable interest rate to be applied to the outstanding monthly balance is agreed and a repayment period of typically around 5 years is determined.

The interest rate can be fixed, or floating and indexed to the official rate. In reasonable fairness to both parties, because the loan remains essentially unsecured the rate is initially set commensurately higher than major bank lending rates for business loans. In the simple illustration above, given the current interest rates and the buyer paying the seller a monthly instalment of $1000 plus the applicable monthly interest, the vendor would receive an income stream averaging around $15,000 annually for the five years. The bottom line for a seller who is in a position to defer full settlement is effectively a significantly higher final sale price, while the buyer is able to afford an acquisition which otherwise would have been out of reach.

It goes without saying that a legally binding contract is necessary for this kind of vendor financing arrangement, whereas Earn-out agreements typically rely on a less formal memorandum unless they are particularly complex or involve six or seven figure sums.

The mutual advantages of seller finance

While for the buyer the obvious advantage as already stated is the capacity to access an business business purchase which could not be afforded if the entire amount was required up-front, there is an additional benefit in the continued interest of the seller in the success of the business. Further, the willingness to provide vendor finance confirms the seller’s confidence in the business model and its ongoing viability and profitability.

For the seller, provided access to 100% of the funds from the sale is not required immediately for other purposes, then the regular income stream with an interest rate which is fair and reasonable but actually quite favourable to the seller is a great advantage and effectively raises the actual sale price achieved. Because the pool of prospective buyers has been increased by the availability of vendor financing, the agreed purchase price is more likely to be at a premium level also. Additionally in some circumstances, there may also be taxation advantages in the delayed payment of the full sale proceeds; this is a complex matter and as a seller you will need professional tax advice on this aspect, but it’s something further to consider.

A win-win solution to a business purchase arrangement

While this will not suit all sellers or buyers, seller finance is certainly an option which should be considered. In fact, it’s such a mutually beneficial situation that a rapidly increasing proportion of online business acquisitions are now financed on this way. For most vendors, offering seller finance is a sure-fire way to seal a deal.

Overall 2019 is emerging as a highly promising year for business investment, and we can expect to see exponential growth in seller financing arrangements.