Business Brokers – How to Choose the Right One

The vast majority of small businesses are sold without the assistance of business brokers.

But if you do decide the hire a broker, here are some suggestions on how to pick the right one and how to structure the agreement in your favor.

What Business Is The Broker Actually In?

In many states there is no training or certification needed to become a business broker. In other states, brokers are required to hold a real estate license.

In these states it’s common to find real estate agents that do business brokering as a side business. If you deal with a broker who is also a real estate agent, make sure that being a business broker is more than just his hobby.

You will pay a pretty penny for the broker’s expertise and experience – you should make sure they have that experience when it comes to selling businesses and not just experience selling houses.

Questions To Ask

If you hire a broker you will be working with them closely for months to come; they will have access to your most confidential business records; the amount of money you put in your pocket at closing will be influenced heavily by the quality of work they do.

Therefore, you absolutely must check them out.

Here are some questions you should ask any prospective broker before hiring him:

1. How long have you been a broker?
2. Have you ever owned a business?
3. How many businesses similar to mine have you helped sell?
4. Can I see a blank version of your Listing Agreement?
5. What percentage of you income comes from brokering and how much from real estate (If applicable)

Ask them to provide you with references from previous clients. Then, I suggest you do something very unusual: Actually call the broker’s references!
I know a lot of people ask for references just to see how the person will react when asked (and to see if they actuality have any). But you can learn a lot about the broker’s reliability and professionalism by talking to people who dealt with that broker when they were in the exact same spot you are in.

Business Broker Fees

There are two benefits a broker can provide the business seller. First, he can locate potential buyers while maintaining the seller’s confidentiality. And second, a broker will qualify these potential business buyers so the seller saves time by not having to deal with weak prospects.

The big negative of dealing with a business broker is his fee, which averages 10-12% of the sale price. This fee is charged to the seller.

There is also a minimum fee. A very small business will pay a flat amount, typically $8-$10,000, instead of the commission. For a business worth $50,000 this minimum fee actually works out to be a higher percentage than the 10-12% industry average. But as a matter of practice, brokers usually won’t be interested in your business unless the asking price is above $100,000.

These fees are the reason most business owners choose to sell their business themselves and rely on their lawyers and accountants for the professional assistance they need.

The Broker Agreement

If you decide to use a broker you’ll be asked to sign a broker agreement which will detail the his fees. If possible, have your agreement include the following clauses:

Timing of Payments – Have it written into the agreement that the broker’s fee will be paid at the time you receive the purchase price – not at the time the sale is closed. This way, if you finance part of the sale price over a number of years, you pay the business broker as you get the money, not all up front.

Length Of Agreement – Your listing agreement should be for a limited time. If the broker locates the buyer within that time he gets paid. Be careful of lengthy agreements that lock you in with one business broker for more than 6 months. If he doesn’t produce, you want to be able to try other options. A 6 month business broker agreement is the longest you should allow. However, because selling a business can be a lengthy process, 3 months is usually too little time for the broker to find the right buyer. Try to settle on something between 3 and 6 months. If after six months, you haven’t closed the deal but you think the broker has done a good job, you’re always free to extend the agreement. But you want to be free to decide on an extension 6 months from now, not today.

Broker’s Guarantee – Include a paragraph stating that if you find the buyer, you don’t have to pay the commission. Without this clause, the broker is usually paid no matter who locates the buyer. Before signing any listing agreement, it is best to have your attorney review it to make sure your interests are protected.

Selling a Small Business With a Business Broker

If you are a business owner thinking that the time is right to sell, there are a few options that are open to you. Usually though, it boils down to selling the business privately or using the services of a business broker. This article will focus on a few items to bear in mind if you do decide to sell your business with a business broker.

Patience. It takes time to sell a business. Most reputable business brokers are constantly being approached by small business owners who would like to sell a business. Unfortunately, many of these businesses are losing money or are very difficult to sell for a host of other reasons. Business brokers usually turn down more business listings than they take on. Even with this being the case, it usually takes several months for a business brokerage to find a buyer for a company listed for sale. Many times, business owners that have “just listed” their business with a professional business intermediary expect rapid response and a lineup of buyers hoping to view the business. Things don’t usually work this way, unfortunately. If you have decided to list your company with a business brokerage then there are many positive benefits you can expect from the relationship. However, please do be patient.

Multiple Showings. After you enlist the services of a business brokerage to sell your small business, don’t expect the first buyer to be shown your business to be “the one”. Often, it takes showings to 10-12 different ‘qualified’ buyers before a purchaser of found. Sellers tend to get excited at the first showing of the business to a prospect but the reality is that it many take many different people to see the business. There are times, however, where the first person who sees the business ends up buying it so please take these comments with a grain of salt.

Expect False Starts. Selling a business sometimes means being expected for a few false starts. When a business is sold, the first step is (usually) the conditional sale agreement. Typically then, buyers enter into a conditional due diligence period where the operations and financials of the business are scrutinized. In this scenario, the business buyer can walk away from the deal at any time. Sellers are usually quite disappointed if this happens since they put so much time and effort into the deal and now they must start again at square one and start the process over to find a new buyer.

Deal Must Be “Win Win”. In a business sale, the dynamic between the buyers and the sellers must be such that both parties to the transaction feel comfortable with the terms. Unlike some real estate transactions, a business sale must not be confrontational in order to successfully come to a close. The process in a business transaction, especially small business sales, can be quite emotional. The buyer must feel good about the seller and vice versa. The process is much too long and there are too many “outs” along the way for both parties that if a confrontational or aggressive negotiating stance is taken that the deal process could potentially fall apart. The role of the business broker is to ‘reign in’ the emotions of both sides. Be prepared for frank discussions with a business brokerage professional if negotiations (or emotions) get heated.

Selling a small business with a business broker is a good decision that should increase your chances of selling significantly.

Making the Most Out of Selling Your Small Business at Retirement

Retirement is the holy grail of the working individual’s lifetime. Having the free time to travel, spend time with grandchildren or pets, or even hitting the links at the nearest golf course is what gets many through the forty plus years of hard work and dedication they commit to day after day. When it comes to retiring for those who own small businesses, the same thought comes to mind. How do I sell my business and make the most profit?

Selling a business in today’s economy is not an easy task. The unemployment rate is at an all time high and many individuals are seeking the help of the government in the form of stimulus checks and unemployment income. What does that mean for the small business seller? Simply put, help is needed. It is near impossible to sell a small business alone or without the help of a small business broker. According to the Business Brokerage Press, the average business broker has a 14-24% success rate, where as an individual sale may only be effective up to 2% of the time. That’s almost ten times the success.

Finding the right broker can take some time and research, but it is well worth the effort. The right broker can provide your business with the exposure it needs and the help you need to find the perfect buyer. Business brokers are a part of every aspect of the selling process, from advising, advertising the business through a network of buyers, screening potential buyers, structuring the sale (including valuation) and all the negotiations there out. Business brokers also guarantee complete confidentiality and identity safe guarding.

Retirement should be enjoyed, not spent worrying about income. Make the most out of your retirement years. Work with a business broker to obtain the maximum profit from the sale of your small business and leave the legacy you deserve.