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.

Marketing Your Business Services

Marketing your business services, in essence, is an art form rooted in knowing your market inside and out. This is the single most important component to your campaign and should be treated like a plant in a ceramic pot sitting on your office window sill. You must accommodate it’s every need to keep it alive and flourishing.

Let’s start with defining your business. What are your business goals? In order to be a successful company, you must maintain a target focus. Master an approach to three or four major industries. As you specialize in these industry segments, you will have in your possession, the knowledge required to cater to their needs and increase your competitiveness. Illuminate all of your success stories within these industries to sell yourself into new business accounts.

Your marketing material is your identity. It should represent your brand and services. The more creative you are with your design and copy, the better chance you have to platform yourself as not just a role model, but a leader of your field. This component introduces us to the next element: your industry profile. Reach out to external organizations and participate in their programs. This is a great way to showcase your work and contribute to the community. You may consider trade shows, open houses and most importantly volunteer work. These are great avenues for showcasing your capabilities.

Return on investment (ROI) is most clearly demonstrated with direct marketing. The best way to increase the return on your investment is through target marketing. This is done by picking through large amounts of your customer data and specifying your campaign and content towards a particular demographic and sale. This element will help you to build your appeal not just to prospects but also to your existing customers.

Remember, you have many audiences: your customers, your community, the media and your employees. Tailor your strategies and activities to your purpose with each of them.

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7 Benefits of American Business Brokers

Nobody has to tell you that these are pretty volatile economic times and if you’re contemplating buying or selling a business you are going to be facing some serious challenges. American business brokers have been doing a brisk business over the past two years thanks to a banking collapse and a stock market that no longer appears to be a prudent place to invest. Some businesses have to sell and others have cash that they can’t profitably invest elsewhere so they invest in growth. Business brokers are the professionals in the middle that make it happen for both the buyer and the seller. Here’s a short list of their services.

1. Preparing a business to sell

If you feel it’s time to sell your business a broker can help you put together the best look and then market your business professionally. When you’re selling you should be focusing on what you do best, running the business and making it as attractive as possible, and not be distracted with all the minutiae involved in selling a business. Leave that to the broker.

2. Valuation service

Arriving at a real market value for a business is obviously important to both a buyer and a seller and a professional broker can provide that service. In a sales transaction, the ultimate value of a business is what a buyer is willing to pay. However there are other times when an owner may want a certified value to satisfy estate planning, marital or partnership issues or when facing litigation. Once again the business broker is the pro you can turn to.

3. Closing

As hard and as complicated as it is to market and then negotiate a price, closing can be even more difficult because more people and organizations are involved. A business broker can handle much of the coordination that is required. He or she will have to deal with two sets of attorneys, accountants, possibly two or more banks, government agencies and vendors. This is a critical step and not the time to start learning by on the job training. Let a broker do it.

4. Exit strategy

The time to think about an exit strategy is before you put your business on the market. Discuss with your broker just what you want to do, retire or move on to another opportunity. This will actually have an impact on the method of payout. Many times you can get a more profitable deal if you agree to manage the business for a short time after the sale. There’s also the question of relationships with clients, vendors and employees. A broker can assist you in a strategy that leaves everybody feeling good.

5. Support services

Many brokers will work in partnership with support services such as legal and accounting. Some even work in conjunction with lending or funding sources as well. As a general rule, it is probably less expensive to contract directly with the services but if you don’t have a relationship with one or more already, then the broker is a good bet.

6. Up to date market intelligence

In a sense, business brokers work much like realtors, listing businesses and presenting the relevant facts. Brokers have the latest intelligence on a given industry in a given geographical area which can prove to be invaluable for either a buyer or a seller. And there are other market concerns that they stay current with as well. Perhaps one of the biggest changes for small businesses is in the area of financing a buy. With the banks as tight as they are, it is not uncommon for the seller to provide some or all of the financing.

7. Peace of mind

Buying or selling a business is a complex task and having a broker can assure the buyer or the seller that the transaction was fair, completed legally and save a considerable amount of time. Full time brokers make their living doing this, are professionals and render both the buyer and seller a real service of value.

The first step that a wise buyer or seller makes is to contact a professional business broker.