If you’re thinking about selling your company, I always recommend you work with an experienced business broker. And there are plenty to choose from – an estimated 10,000 brokers operating in the U.S.
How do you pick the best broker for you?
It’s important to get the right fit; you’ll be working together for months on what’s probably the biggest financial transaction of your life. It’s a complex and often emotional process, and you’ll want to work with someone you trust and whose communication style feels comfortable. You want someone competent with a proven track record.
But there’s another factor you should consider: does your broker understand your industry? How much experience does he or she have with companies like yours? Not just in size or revenue, but in how they do business? Industry experience can make a big difference in getting you the best deal in the shortest time.
Brokers do research on comparable sales to help them suggest a price for your company. A broker with a deep understanding of your business model will be able to find the right companies to compare; you’re more likely to get the most accurate valuation of your company. You’ll be more confident throughout the sales process because you’ll have realistic expectations.
Industry specialization can be an asset in other ways. As a broker who specializes in selling HVAC companies, I’ve developed relationships over the years with lenders who understand the industry and how to value an HVAC company. They understand the revenue model and can analyze the financials and cash flow potential quickly because they’ve done it so many times before. The same principle applies to other professionals like appraisers and attorneys.
A broker with industry experience can help you and your buyer avoid pitfalls that can sink a deal. In the industry I represent, for example, licensure is a big issue. If a buyer doesn’t have a license, it can prevent them from qualifying for SBA funding. In most states, it takes years to get an HVAC license: completing a training program, passing the exam, spending years in the field and getting experience as a foreman. It’s not a quick process. If a buyer relies on a key employee’s license to operate the business, that employee becomes literally indispensable. It’s not a great situation.
A generalist working to sell your company may not understand that.
Every industry has complexity that it might take a broker months to master. If they’re not up to date with all the laws and regulations that govern your industry (and they can vary by state, as well) they may not be able to facilitate a quick and well-structured deal.
A broker who specializes in your industry will have more and deeper relationships in your industry. That means they’ll have access to more qualified buyers more quickly. They’ll know whether the prospective buyer’s experience is a good fit for your company; that will help you and a lender understand and mitigate some of the risk from the sale.
They’ll also be able to market your company more effectively to prospective buyers. Prospects will trust someone who speaks their language and understands their business model. Buyers will be able to ask tough and probing questions and know that they’re getting straight answers rather than a one-size-fits-all sales pitch.
You’ve only got one chance at selling this company you’ve worked so hard to build. You want to find the right fit. Experience. Knowledge, A large industry network. Trust. All good reasons to look for a broker who’s a specialist.