Selling your biz? Find the best broker
When selling your business, selecting a broker can be tricky. FSB has the scoop on finding a good match.
(FORTUNE Small Business) -- Dear FSB: I want to sell my company. I have sales in the range of $5 million annually, and it seems that brokers either specialize in companies worth less than $1 million or far more than $5 million. Where do I go to get help selling a company of my size?
- Chris Huff, Torrance, Calif.
Dear Chris: "At $5 million, you're kind of on the cusp between what we consider 'small' and 'mid-size,'" says Peter Seigel, a consultant who worked as a business broker for 15 years and is the author of Businesses for Sale: How to Buy or Sell a Small Business.
To find the best broker for you, plan to interview 10 to 15 candidates, Seigel recommends.
"Don't be concerned about finding a broker that specializes in your particular industry, as not many do that," he says. "A good broker will know how to market and advertise your business correctly to the right type of buyers."
You'll also want to be sure you find a broker with a good network.
"A lot of sellers don't realize that about 70 percent of brokers don't cooperate with other brokers for various reasons," Siegel says. "Be careful. Talk to former clients of brokers."
Before you decide on someone, get an independent business valuation from a third party, so you'll have a fair idea of the value of your business.
When you do select your broker, set clear expectations, Seigel advises: "Have them be in touch at least once a week about any activity."
Don't sign on with someone for a term of more than three months.
"Most want a six-to-12-month engagement, so it might be more work to find someone, but it's worth it, especially if it's a good listing" Seigel says. "If it's a good broker and a good listing, they should have it under contract within three weeks to a month."
Because of the high level of confidentiality inherent in business sales, there's no true MLS (Multiple Listing Service, the directory for real-estate listings) venue for businesses. Nine years ago, Seigel created bizben.com, an informal MLS for small and mid-size California businesses.
"We have over 950 business brokers advertising," he says. "There's definitely a market for a business your size. A lot of people are coming out of corporate America with 401(k)s and equity in homes who can afford a business that size and are looking for a challenge."
Your turn: Did you recently sell your business? How did you find a broker who fit your needs? Have any horror stories? Talk back here.
Can I believe a seller's claims about his business?