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professional advice

Getting professional advice when selling a business

Whatever your reasons for contemplating a sale, it's often vital that you seek out high quality, professional support

There are many reasons for considering the sale of a business. You may, for example, have decided that it's time to retire, or that you are simply interested in starting a new venture.

It could be the case that you feel that are forced to sell, due to ill health or other considerations. Occasionally, business owners make the decision to sell as a result of receiving an offer that simply appears to be too good to turn down.

It's easy to underestimate the sale of a business as it can be a very time-consuming and complex process. And it's a common seller faux pas to take their eye off the ball during the sales process, which in turn weakens their sales proposition. 

By seeking professional advice, the seller can benefit with help from an experienced professional who has a track record of achieving successful deals and who can see the process through from beginning to end.

Finding a broker

When looking to find a business broker, there are a number of key questions that you'll need to ask. Your aim will be to find an expert with the appropriate level of knowledge of your business and the wider market in South Africa.

You'll want to find out how long they have been operating for and whether they are fully independent. If they have particular ties to other organisations, then it's important that they should make this clear to you.

You may also want to know whether they have offices throughout South Africa and it's likely that you'll want to confirm that they have numerous, competent employees. It's also important to find out how the broker goes about carrying out checks on prospective buyers. Do they, for example, seek to ensure that finances are in place?

Valuation

Whatever your reasons for contemplating a sale, it's vital that you should get a professional, accurate valuation. Without such a valuation, you'll discover that it's incredibly difficult to identify a fair price for the business.

If you're asking a broker to carry out a valuation, then it's critical that they should have experience within your industry, as well as comprehensive knowledge of how individual assets should be valued

"Although it's tempting to concentrate on the wider sector, you should also find out whether a broker has specific experience of selling businesses of a similar size within South Africa and within your region."


You will also want to confirm that they have a strong track record of selling businesses with your sector, together with a commitment to advertising in relevant South African magazines and trade journals. It would also be expected that a nationwide business broker would have an active and useful website.

Although it's tempting to concentrate on the wider sector, you should also find out whether a broker has specific experience of selling businesses of a similar size within South Africa and within your region. Since regional differences can have a significant impact on valuations and some transactions, it's important to identify a broker with expertise that is specific to your own enterprise.

References

Always take the opportunity to ask a broker for references and ensure that you take the time to check those credentials fully. Although you may feel that it's time consuming to talk to previous clients of the broker, it's really the only way of confirming that you have been given accurate information. If there are potential problems, then you'll want to know about them at the earliest possible opportunity.

You may not wish competitors to know that you are planning on making a sale, so it's important that all checks of this nature should be carried out in a discreet manner.

Most brokers will also be keen to let you know about professional qualifications and memberships that they may possess. For example, you may be informed that they are members of the South African Institute of Business Brokers. If you are given such information, then make sure that you confirm that such memberships are valid. You can also find out more about what is required to gain such qualifications, so that you can see whether they offer real measures of quality.

Who to ask for help...finding help

Your accountant or solicitor may be in a good position to recommend a broker. You can also consult with friends and business contacts, to see whether any of those individuals have experience of particular brokers.

Since a business broker will play a critical role in the sale of your enterprise, it's vital that you find a broker offering a service that is suited to your needs.

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