For business-savvy individuals who are tired of working for someone else, buying a small business can represent an opportunity to achieve freedom and financial independence. But before you can own a business, you have to know where to look for one.

Four Ways to Find a Company That’s for Sale

Buying a firm isn’t really like a buying a car. You aren’t going to spend a Saturday visiting dealer showrooms and test-driving vehicles … and possibly driving off with one late in the afternoon.

It’s also not quite like buying a house, either, where you browse Zillow and visit residences that are open for inspection. There isn’t just one or maybe two ways to identify businesses that are up for sale … there are dozens.

If you’re going to attempt a serious search for a company to purchase, you’ll have to look in numerous places—and turn over figurative rocks to see whether any prize might just be hiding underneath them. In other words, the process could take a considerable amount of time, but with patience, you will eventually uncover opportunities.

Once that’s understood, here are some of the ways people commonly locate a business for sale.

Listing Websites

The Internet has simplified the process of finding companies for sale. Instead of spending months poring over various resources and placing dozens of phone calls to get in touch with the right person, now you can gain access to thousands of listings after just a few simple keystrokes and clicks.

Listing websites such as these help you identify firms based on such factors as location, industry, price, and other aspects. You can even find assistance with financing and the other challenges that surface as part of the process.

Business Brokers

Business listing websites are a solid place to start, but too often they deliver generic results that may not fit your specific criteria. If you’re looking for specialized advice, a business broker will be helpful.

Business brokers not only have excellent connections, but they can also supply a wealth of useful information to their clients. They may have a list of businesses for sale on their website, and can provide information about revenue, cash flow, and listing prices for quick reference.

The greatest benefit of working with a business broker is that you will enjoy the insights and protection that can only come through allying with someone who has facilitated dozens of these sorts of transactions in the past. You shouldn’t have to worry about committing foolish errors that could drain your investment of its value.

Networking

Many business transactions take place without the company ever having been officially placed on the market. Instead, they transpired out of networking and strategic solicitation.

“Try the strategy that one entrepreneur calls ‘call-mail-call,’” The Wall Street Journal suggests.

“Start by calling a few business owners in the industry and ask if they know someone who may be interested in selling. Don’t request an immediate answer, but say you’ll follow up. Two weeks later, send a letter with your business card reminding them about your desire to find prospective sellers and say that you’ll call again soon. Finally, call back to inquire if they’ve come up with any ideas.”

Word of Mouth

Word of mouth goes hand in hand with networking. When you let other people know you’re interested in buying a company, they’re likely to tell still more people. In turn, they might tell several other individuals, and keep the ball rolling.

Eventually, this word-of-mouth chain will yield opportunities. Whether they line up with what you’re seeking or not will remain to be seen, but it certainly can’t hurt to spread the word.

Learn as You Go

People will often tell young entrepreneurs they need to check off X,Y, and Z before they purchase a business. Such counselors will lay out a list of rules and requirements that must be observed assiduously before owning a firm should be accepted as a real option.

It’s certainly true that suitable due diligence can be a worthy factor, but you should also avoid the assumption that you have to have every detail hammered out before you make your move.

If you’re waiting until you think you know every aspect of the operation, and all the conceivable risks, before you buy a business, you may never end up owning one. Honestly, nobody ever figures it all out. There’s always something to learn, discover, and explore after you’ve taken the plunge … not to mention the inevitable surprises, good as well as bad.

A substantial portion of small business ownership entails learning as you go: figuring out how to deal with challenges once you’re in the midst of them. So, of course, you must research a company before you buy it, but it ultimately comes down to your posture and willingness to learn.

If you’re open to personal and professional growth, opportunities will have a way of finding you.