The New Startup: Buying an Existing Business

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When you hear the term “startup” you immediately imagine a small, entrepreneurial-minded person (or persons) creating a new business from the ground up. You might imagine no (or little) funding, exciting ideas and an eager person at the helm. But the truth is, a startup may come in a host of different forms. You may be inventing a product, creating a brand or developing a unique service for the first time.

You can even feel the thrill of a start-up when you buy an existing business…

And maybe surprisingly, you can even feel the thrill of a start-up when you buy an established business because he truth is, when a business is being sold, it probably needs a little re-invigorating. And in that case, you will find yourself taking over and starting that business up… again.

Starting up… again with an existing business, can be tricky. For one, there is a level of expectation put on you from several angles – the family or previous owners (for whom you are taking over), the employees (who have expectations from the previous owners), the industry (the company’s industry for their product or service) and yourself. You, no doubt, have your own set of expectations and those might just be the toughest of all.

If you are purchasing or taking over a company in this economy, you have an even bigger challenge ahead. What makes you believe that you can do a better job than the previous owners? What will you bring to the table to ensure success? You need a plan – a plan for a predictably successful future.


5 Steps to a More Predictable and Successful Future

  1. Take the time to analyze the past “why’s. You have a unique opportunity when you take over an existing business. You have the ability to analyze the past decisions the previous owners made. Why did they do that back then? Why didn’t they? The “why’s” will give you perspective of why to change or why not to change.
  2. Scrutinize your products, services and brand. Taking over an existing business means that you have no personal attachment to the old brand, and that is valuable. Because you do not have personal history with the brand, you will be able to use your head rather than your heart when analyzing the business. Scrutinize every part of the business – marketing, assortment of products or services, quality, financial and operations.
  3. Make the brand and business your own without losing its integrity. Everyone has different style and opinions. This is your golden opportunity to give new life to the business and brand. You want them to have your style, your touch. It isn’t always necessary to make drastic changes (although sometimes it is needed), but you can easily re-brand in a way that continues a legacy without losing integrity at the same time. Often times through re-branding you will find that your entire team can become re-invigorated about the brand.
  4. Utilize an expert in the industry as a mentor or pay someone for their solicited advice. Once you have taken the time to analyze the “why’s” through the history of the company, and scrutinized your entire business with your head instead of your heart, you WILL need advice. Having someone else’s opinion will give you another perspective on the business, and that is very valuable information.
  5. Prioritize the proposed changes. Create a system by putting your ideas into lists of “must do now” or “can wait.” This will help you determine your immediate needs as well as plan for the future needs as well. It is also good to keep adding to this list. You will be amazed at how this list can change daily.

Starting up again takes time to do it right. So, take the time to really analyze the business and the changes you are going to make.  Once you are ready, move forward with your new plan and don’t look back.  You will make mistakes, but continue to learn from them and make your own history so that you can grow the company, or pass it on to the next generation.

Saddleback Educational Publishing was established in 1982 by Thomas Milano, Arianne’s father. Working and printing out of his garage in Huntington Beach, California, the former high school math teacher created low-level material for the upper grades. In 2009, Arianne Milano McHugh and her husband, Tim, purchased the company, rebranded it, and developed it into a 35% hi-low curriculum-based and 65% hi-low book publishing company for teachers and students nationally. Saddleback was awarded six YALSA Quick Picks awards. For more information, go to or