7 Tips For Selecting the Best Small Business Brokers to Sell Your Business

Are you thinking about selling your business? Have you ever gone through the process before? Are you confidant that you can do it yourself? Where would your time be better spent, running your business at peak performance while trying to sell it, or focused on the advertising campaign, networking, negotiating, and coordinating the closure of the sale of your business? Maybe you should consider doing what you do best, running the business, and search out small business brokers and let them do what they do best, sell businesses. If you go that route, here are 7 tips to choosing a business broker that makes sense for you.

1. Don’t get lost in the shuffle

You want your broker to have a proven record and a great reputation but you don’t want the organization to be so big that your deal is passed off to a junior staffer. You want the active involvement of the principals.

2. Do your due diligence

You’re about to engage the services of someone that is going to have a big impact on your financial life. Make sure you are comfortable with the relationship. Check with the International Business Brokers Association and see if your broker is a member in good standing. Follow up on the references provided and determine just how satisfied past clients are. Check with your local better business bureau and see if there are any unresolved complaints.

3. Use a specialist

Real estate agents and other professionals sometimes hold themselves out as business brokers on a part time basis. You want someone who makes their entire living selling businesses full time. Preferably somebody who has experience in your particular industry and someone who can point to successful sales they have made for your competitors.

4. Avoid heavy up front fee structures

Typically a business broker will charge between 10% and 15% of the sale price as a fee. While it is customary for them to ask for some up front fees to initiate the process, avoid those brokers who are looking for greater than a third. Also make sure that the up front fee is deductible from the sales fee when the business sells. Following this advice will save you from having to invest a ton of cash before you actually sell the business.

5. Only contract for the business selling services

Smaller business brokers will offer accounting and legal services that you will need during closing for an additional fee and these services are typically outsourced by the broker. It may be to your advantage to contract for those services directly leaving the broker with only the requirement to focus on the selling process and not generating add on fees.

6. Share your expectations

Before you select a broker you should have at least a general idea of what you want to accomplish by selling your business. You should have a rough valuation number and you should know if you want a cash sale or stock. Share this with the broker and see if he agrees with your plan. While there probably will be differences in valuation, your broker should be in tune with the rest of your objectives. If he’s reluctant or believes that it will be difficult to achieve your goals, find another broker.

7. Keep the whole process confidential

The last thing you want to do is let the word that you are seeking a business broker or that you are in negotiations with a buyer leak out. Once it becomes common knowledge that you are selling, your relationships with your employees, customers, vendors and bankers could be adversely affected. Have an exit plan for after the sale that includes sharing the news with all those listed above.

Using business brokers to help sell a business is usually the smart route to take for any business of substance. You want your organization to have as much “curb appeal” as possible during the process and that means you should be focusing your time on optimizing the business not chasing down buyers.

Business Brokers: Who They Are And What They Do

Since business brokers operate under the radar, many people don’t know who they are and what they do. If you are curious to know, business brokers are intermediaries who work with both buyers and sellers in order to facilitate the sale of small and medium size privately owned businesses.

For you to be a business broker you need to have the right level of education. For example, you must have a business background. You must also have attained business brokerage training from a recognized professional body such as the American Business Brokers Association.

Functions of business brokers

The brokers perform many duties such as:

  • Valuing a business
  • Marketing a business that needs to be sold. While they advertise the business, they maintain strict confidentiality. For example, they don’t mention the exact business that is being sold. They also don’t mention the owner of the business.
  • They introduce prospective buyers to the business
  • Facilitate meetings between buyers and sellers
  • Handle negotiations between the buyer and the seller after an offer has been made
  • Schedule and facilitate the closing of a transaction
  • Draft a confidential business review. The document is very important and is provided to prospects after they have signed a confidentiality agreement.

How brokers work

The professionals usually work with commissions. This means that they get a commission after selling a business. In most of the cases, the commission ranges from 8 to 12%. Most of the brokers charge a 10% commission; however, when the business being sold is small, the commission is usually higher.

How to work with a business broker

The first thing you need to do is to ensure that you hire the right broker. This calls for you to do a lot of research in order to identify a reputable one. Some of the things that you should look for when hiring include: experience, professionalism and specialization.

Once you have found the right professional you should give him/her all the details that he/she needs to work. For example, if you are interested in buying a business, you should give the broker a list of all the types of businesses that you are interested in. You should also mention the amount of money that you are ready to invest.

Conclusion

From the above information, it’s evident that business brokers have a role to play in the buying and selling of businesses. To ensure that you are on the same page with the broker, you should regularly communicate with him/her.

5 Red Flags in Choosing a Business Broker

When selecting a broker to sell your business, be aware of the following tips…

The broker wants a significant or total fee paid upfront.

Many brokers have begun taking upfront fees, but generally the total fee is a combination of an upfront fee and commission paid upon sale of the business. An unreliable broker meets with you, runs some quick numbers, tells you that you can get your price or even more for your business, and then asks for a check to get started. In many cases, business owners are so relieved that they’ve found a broker and elated that they’ll write a check on the spot, without checking any references.

During your first meeting, the broker says he or she can get your asking price or higher.

Be wary of too much optimism. The key to selling is that the price be reasonable. According to Tom West of Business Brokerage Press in Concord, Mass., most owners over value their businesses. An unreliable broker might suggest after a brief meeting with you that he or she can get you your asking price or higher for your business.

The broker doesn’t have a Web site.

Most likely, if the broker doesn’t have a site, he or she is behind the times. The Internet is a powerful marketing tool for business brokers, according to Cooper. Is the site well-written? That’s another way to gauge a broker’s competence, he adds.

The broker doesn’t seem well grounded in business valuation.

Your broker should be able to explain business valuation to you clearly and if he or she can’t, then how can he or she explain to a buyer what your business is worth? Make sure your broker is confident in this area.

The broker is not licensed to sell or lease real estate in your state.

Ninety-two percent of business brokers have a real estate license, according to an annual survey of business brokers West conducted. Even if your business doesn’t include real estate, make sure your broker carries the license. Also be aware that if a broker holds a real estate license doesn’t mean he or she should be selling commercial or residential real estate too. A good broker will hold the licenses but be focused on selling businesses.