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You'd Better Shop Around Buying an existing business? Smart idea. But before you sign on the dotted line, make sure the business is all it's cracked up to be.

By Julie B. Davis

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

After spending 18 years working for a Fortune 500 corporation,and moving and traveling continually, Ian Mitchell put away hissuitcases in 1997 and went into business for himself. "My wifeand I had been thinking about it for a long time. Our daughter wasin high school, and we decided she needed some stability,"says Mitchell, 53, who bought The Mary Curtis Shop in Concord,Massachusetts, a bustling gift store, decoy shop, printingbusiness, and coffee shop.

Mitchell decided to buy an existing business rather than startone from scratch because he wanted to try something new. "Tostart a business, you need expertise in that field, and Ididn't want to go into the same career," says Mitchell. Hechose the business because it was well-established, showed a goodprofit, and had an experienced staff and an impeccablereputation.

Buying an existing business is an excellent option oftenoverlooked by entrepreneurs, according to Russell Brown, author ofStrategies for Successfully Buying or Selling a Business(Business Book Press). Often, the perceptions that deterentrepreneurs from considering buying a business are simply untrue.Many entrepreneurs, for example, think buying a business is tooexpensive, or they don't understand the process and areintimidated by the idea of more experienced businesspeople.

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