Due diligence is a different concept for a buyer than it is for a seller. Where a seller can be overwhelmed by the feeling that the business is being interrogated and stripped bare for the world to see, the buyer has to take the approach that they need to investigate and find what the seller is hiding. This does not mean you have to be rude or treat the seller as the enemy. As a buyer you want to not only feel confident in what you are acquiring but the seller might be too close to the business to realize what needs to be disclosed.
Confidence in your purchase comes from finding out all the information you can about the business you are trying to acquire. This ranges from the obvious things like financials, projections, marketing and operations to other not so obvious aspects like contractual terms, potential claims and compliance issues. Having a good acquisition due diligence checklist can ensure that you cover as much as possible.
Sellers are generally entrenched in the the day-to-day operations of the business. They do things a certain way and have had minimal or no issues doing it that way for years. These actions and behaviors, while not problematic to date, are ticking time bombs for a buyer. Think about a seller that has used the same customer agreement for over 10 years. If there is a term in that agreement that leaves the seller potentially liable, even though the seller might have never had an issue, if you buy that business and assume those contracts, you will inherit that potential liability. Again, a solid acquisition due diligence checklist will ensure that you don’t overlook something that might be important.