Selecting a Business Broker or M&A Advisor – Be Careful and Involve Your Advisors



Over the years we’ve seen instances where business owners have been told to pay large retainers in order to prepare their business for sale.  We’re talking about $20,000, $25,000 and recently $40,000!

The opportunity to pay this retainer fee comes from sophisticated marketing organizations via invitations to seminars.  Very good information (all of it industry standard information and common knowledge) is shared at the seminars.  Then, after a review of some the business’s information, the cost to proceed is proposed.  If you’re not ready, they’ll be happy to send a representative to your home at a later date.  I’ve been told this is a bit of hard sell.

Please note that I don’t know what is being proposed and whether it makes sense for some business owners.  I do know several owners who didn’t think the value proposition made sense for them and didn’t proceed.  This is not an indictment of a specific company, the great marketing effort or the services being offered.  This is a word of caution to move forward thoughtfully and carefully.

Generally, most business people are very diligent before making a 5-figure decision, including asking advice from trusted friends and advisors.  The decision to move forward with a firm requesting a significant up-front investment should be no different.  If you receive an invitation to a seminar such as this and are interested in attending and learning more about a subject, I think you should consider going.   However, I suggest you take your accountant and/or attorney with you.   Make a well thought out decision about the investment and whether it makes sense to move forward or if there are other options to look at.

f you do choose to attend an event like this, beware of promises that sound too good to be true.  A local accountant just related a story to us about a seminar his client attended.  Not only was there a request for $40,000, but the owner was told he should expect a 10X multiple for his business.  What?  Are you kidding me?  Ask your accountant if your adjusted earnings could support the debt service on a 10X multiple and provide the buyer a reasonable return on his investment.  You may get a different answer than this accountant gave his client, but in this case the answer was a resounding “NO, not even close.”

Believe it or not, after everything I said in the preceding paragraphs, Sunbelt Business Advisors of Southwest Ohio will be kicking off a seminar series in February to discuss the same issues of exit strategy planning and succession planning.  In addition to a representative from Sunbelt presenting, we will have local industry experts in such areas as tax, wealth management and legal offering suggestions and guidance.

So as not to be accused of a bait and switch scam, could there be costs down the road for some of these services?  Of course, but you will choose who you want to work with and have been able to review any proposal of services on its merits.

Look for an invitation to these events and consider whether you will benefit from learning more about how to plan for a future transition of your business – exiting on your terms.  Please, bring your accountant and attorney.  And don’t bring your checkbook!


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