You’ve just entered the business market with the intent of buying yourself a small business, and you are shopping around for a business broker to help you.
There are many factors that separate the good brokers from the bad – but one of the big ones is experience.
Rookie brokers make lots of mistakes, and if you’ve hitched yourself to their wagon for your transaction then you get to live those mistakes right along with them.
As experienced brokers, it can be very frustrating to try and work with these newbies. It becomes increasingly difficult when they are trying their hand at the business transaction process alone and without any guidance (or if they have an experienced broker they work for who has given them little to no training).
One of the major ways this lack of experience shows through? Too many showings.
What do we mean by too many showings?
If you’ve ever bought a house, you know that going to see a plethora of homes is part of the game – especially in a fast-moving market where a house might have multiple offers the first day it lists. This is not, however, how business sales works – so newbie business brokers (especially those fresh out of the real estate industry) will sometimes try to play the same game by attempting to line up a litany of businesses for their clients to see. It doesn’t work.
First of all, when you are buying a business, you are buying an existing business – one that is open and running with staff and customers. The importance of confidentiality means that the staff and customers can’t know the business is for sale. Therefore, a business seller can’t have a parade of semi-curious buyers waltzing through the front door on a regular basis – it would make confidentiality impossible.
If done properly, the process to go see/tour a business is much more extensive:
It starts by having a conversation with your business broker about what you are looking for in a business and what your goals are. You will also talk about how much capital you have to invest in a business, and your broker will then take that information and find you a number of listings to look at that will be within your budget and meet your entrepreneurial goals. Out of that initial batch of potential businesses, you will typically be asked to narrow down the choices to just a few – think two or three – that peak your interest. You will then sign non-disclosure agreements for those listings in order to receive the marketing package, complete with the name and physical location of the business. After thoroughly reviewing the marketing materials for your few choices, you will probably prefer one business over the others. Your broker will help you form a list of additional questions you have for the sellers, and you will be given an opportunity to ask those questions during a conference call including the sellers, the brokers involved and you. After all of those steps have passed and you are still very interested in the business, your broker will set up a walk-through of the physical location of the business either before or after business hours when the staff and customers are gone.
What you can’t do in this process is decide that you want to spend a few days touring businesses and line up 5, 10 or more “showings” with your broker. No experienced broker worth their salt is going to waste their seller’s time by trying to coordinate a visit when the buyer hasn’t even bothered to narrow down their choices or ask any good questions. It’s just not going to happen. They’re also not going to put the confidentiality of the business at risk by having too many unfamiliar people coming to the business to meet with the seller during business hours as the staff will know something is up.
If you ask for this type of multi-tour approach and your broker says “Sure!”, beware that you probably have a rookie on your hands. The experienced brokers on the other side of the table aren’t going to play along, and you will be stuck seeing only the businesses listed by fellow rookie brokers.
If you are serious about buying, get yourself an experienced broker and go through the proper steps. You will end up only seeing the businesses that are right for you instead of wasting your own time looking at businesses that don’t fit the bill.
Are you a first-time buyer with more questions about the business buying process? Have you had an experience with a rookie broker that you’d like to share? Please feel free to leave comments or questions and we would be happy to help.
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