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.

Choosing the Right Business Brokers

Whether you’re buying or selling a business, having a broker on your side can make the difference between a successful outcome and a nightmare. However, not all business brokers will be suitable for your specific situation. Use the tips below to choose the right broker for your needs.

Start by asking for referrals from your inner circle of business advisers and colleagues. Have any used a business broker in the past? Were they satisfied? Does the broker handle the type of transaction you have in mind?

You may need to widen your net to find a pool of qualified business brokers that specialize in brokering deals such as yours. Once you have several potential brokers, it’s time to get down to business and narrow the field down. Below are several key factors to consider:

– Is the individual or firm professional? Professionalism shows in numerous ways including personal appearance, the presentation of marketing materials, website, language, mannerisms, and expertise. Use both objectivity and your gut instinct. Remember, the broker you choose will be representing your business so make sure you’re fully comfortable with the person and firm you choose.

– Does the broker have experience working with businesses like yours? While it’s not necessary for the business broker to have specific experience in your exact niche, it’s helpful for the broker to understand the nature of your business and have experience brokering deals with similar characteristics. For example, if you run a family-owned microbrewery, a broker with a successful track record brokering deals for small wineries, family-owned specialty food manufacturers, or small brewpubs may not know the finer points of brewing beers but could be an excellent choice thanks to experience with similar businesses.

– What qualifications does the broker have? Look for licensing, education, certification, experience, and membership in professional associations.

– Is the broker well prepared? In other words, did the business broker do his or her research prior to your initial meeting? Brokers use comparable sales, business and industry reports, and other tools to price businesses. Your business broker should be able to support any suggested listing prices, which should be presented in writing, with documentation.

– If you are selling your business, find out how the broker intends to market your business. Brokers have many marketing tools available to market their business listings. However, some prefer to use specific marketing techniques over others. Make sure to ask the broker to present a detailed marketing plan.

– What type of businesses does the broker work with? For example, if your business has annual revenues in the $50 million range, you’ll need a special type of buyer making it important to choose a business broker capable of attracting those high net worth individuals and investors.

– Check references. No matter how professional, personable, experienced, qualified, and prepared potential broker appear, cover your bases by checking references. Ideally, the broker should give you references from businesses with similarities to yours.

Choosing the right broker to sell your business or help you find a business to buy is a process. Do your part to ensure a successful outcome by choosing wisely.

How to Find a Business Broker and Why Referrals Are Best

When it comes to how to find a business broker you have to ask; how do brokers find clients? 7 times out of 10 it was from a referral. Many business owners and budding entrepreneurs aren’t sure where to look for a broker. The first thing you should do is simply ask a broker to refer you to someone with the time, know-how and determination to bring you the best deal.

Refer business right out the door? Is that crazy talk? Why would a business broker refer business that they could take? Small businesses aren’t closing very often these days. When you are working with an experienced broker that builds their business model around the connection of a specialized, well-qualified, pre-screened broker, screened for both expertise and location but also the available time they have to devote to you and your transaction, you get the best brokers to choose from. You are getting to pick from the cherry picked by experienced and knowledgeable broker’s that are motivated to have you in the best hands, those that will deliver you the best results in price and convenience.

Firms willing to refer you to a broker outside of their firm are hard to come by. The referral firm only gets a fraction of the commission received from the broker you work with and only get paid if your broker closes the transaction. How to find a business broker that offers to refer you to the best broker, not just the broker in their firm that is currently available, is completely free to you but an enormous value since you don’t buy or sell a business very often and want it to go smoothly. It’s also worthy to note that if you are a buyer the representation by your broker is typically free to you since the broker usually gets paid by the seller’s broker with a split of the commission fee paid by the seller.

How to find a business broker is simple, simply ask a broker willing to refer you to the best available broker of all brokers. The most important thing you should have when you are buying or selling a business is a team of great professionals. An attorney, an accountant, possibly a tax adviser and most definitely the best business broker so that you get the best price in the quickest time. Speak to the owner of the firm; ask if they refer deals outside the firm. I think you will find few that will.