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Businesses for Sale: Where to Look?

Where can you find businesses listed for sale? While you can find listings in the classifieds of your local newspapers, you probably won't find what you're looking for there. Finding the right business will take time, effort and more than a little detective work; here are a few of the resources you can use to find businesses for sale.

Commercial investment magazines/newsletters can often be found in more populated areas. For example, in southern Ontario there are a handful of free publications, such as the Business Exchange, which can be picked up at magazine racks throughout the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). In these publications you will typically find retail businesses, such as restaurants, apartments, and convenience stores, where a property is often linked to the sale of the business.

Trade publications specific to the industry you want to be in are another useful resource, as they often have businesses for sale listed in the classified section. You can find listings for many Canadian trade magazines online at the Canadian Business Press site. Canadian Business Press. Look under the members section.

Newspapers also have classified sections, where you can find listings for local businesses. Look for real, local businesses, but be wary of vague “business opportunities.”

The Internet is speeding up the pace of business, making it easier for businesses to close transactions around the world. There is still room for further development in this aspect of the Internet, but you can currently find business listed for sale on (for Western Canada, includes generic goods for sale).

Word of mouth can be an excellent way to learn about a business that has just come up for sale or one that may not be listed but the business owner would consider selling. Networking and business events can help you tap into this channel of information, as can communication with your banker, lawyer and accountant. Similarly, when you are looking for a specific type of business, you can put the word out in the industry that you are looking to buy and ask contacts in the industry about businesses that might be for sale.

Brokers earn commissions when they help a seller close a deal. A good broker is an excellent resource; a part-time broker or half-serious broker will not likely add value to your search. The best way to find a broker is to tap into your network and ask people you trust for referrals. If you are looking to buy a business in a specific industry, ask people within the industry if there are any brokers they would recommend.

Buyer beware, there are many business opportunities listed where the opportunity is misleading or overstated. If it sounds too good to be true, then proceed with extreme caution. If it were easy to get rich quick or make “$4000 a week from your home!”, then everyone would be clamouring to capitalize on these opportunities. [Check out Paul Adam's article on the secrets of success for more information on this topic.]

As a seller, before listing on the general market, there are a few people you may want to look to first. It's possible that you have an employee who already knows how to run the business and might be interested in buying it. Customers or suppliers who have shown some interest in the past are also ideal candidates. You'll want to be careful and discreet when you start to ask questions, says Wise, as you certainly don't want is to look like you are trying to dump your business onto the first person to show some interest.

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