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Research for buying a business

Question
How do I begin the research process of a business I may purchase? 
Answer
First, learn as much as you can about the overall process of buying any business. There are many potential pitfalls that can be avoided with a little information. With the proper due diligence (research), you'll be better able to know if the price being asked is reasonable. Here are a few suggestions to consider:

- How long has the business been open?
- Who are the owners? Don't assume the person you're talking to owns 100%.
- What do you know about the industry? Is it mature or emerging?
- Talk to others (probably not in the market you're in) who operate in the same industry.
- Can you determine any strengths and weaknesses of this business?
- Who are the customers and why do they come back?
- Who are the competitors?
- How will customers react if the current owners leave?

There are many more questions -- thousands perhaps -- but these will get you started. 
Brain Trust contributor: Author of Strategies for Successfully Buying and Selling a Business and Preparing Your Business for Sale
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