Sell a business

How do you select the right adviser? Three key questions to ask…

You have decided to sell your business, but how do you select the right adviser to help you prepare and sell? There is usually no shortage of options – from your friends and family, to accountants and lawyers, to the specialist advisers (like us). All of them will claim to know how to find you the right buyer and get you the best price, so how do you sort through and find the right option for you? Here are three key questions to ask of yourself, and the adviser before you make your decision…

1. Can I work with you?

Approachability is significant. It doesn’t matter how skilled someone is, or how well connected, if you can’t work with them and you don’t have a good relationship the road will be long and difficult.

Selling a business is often an emotional journey, and if you include full preparation, it can be a long one too. It is essential that your adviser is someone you can get on with, through the rough and the smooth. This may sway you towards family, friend or long-standing colleague – but there is also value in remaining impartial and bringing a third-party perspective.

“We completed our business sale recently! I want to thank the EH team and recommend them as approachable advisors who really care and deliver!“

2. Can I trust you?

Trust is an interesting word as it can mean so many different things. Unfortunately, there are advisers out there who are unscrupulous and who simply cannot be trusted at all. But more than just talking about honesty and credibility, I am talking about integrity – doing the right thing in the right way.

The more interesting questions when it comes to integrity are…

  • Can I trust you to give me an honest valuation range, not just promise the value you think I want to hear?
  • Can I trust you to tell me bad news as quickly and openly as you tell me good news?
  • Can I trust you not to give up if the right buyer is more difficult to find than we’d hoped?
  • Can I trust you to walk the fine line between marketing my business and maintaining confidentiality? (see our previous blog for more on this subject)

3. What’s your focus?

This question is a lot harder to ascertain, because the standard response of any adviser will be ‘to sell your business for the highest price’ or similar variation on that theme. Like any business, advisers are there to earn money and be profitable – as a business owner, this should not come as a surprise – in other words, they are looking for a result. But are they focused on their own results, or the result that best suits you?

How much time do they spend finding out what result you want, or working with you to help you define this? A good adviser will spend as much time working out what you want as explaining what they can do for you. And it shouldn’t just be about financial reward either, in our experience the amount of money you realise is only one of several outcomes you are hoping for. Many clients we work with don’t take the highest offer they get, because of things like terms, speed of exit, what happens to their staff, what happens to the brand or perhaps a future role for them.

Choosing an adviser could be the most important thing you do when preparing your business and selling it, so I hope these questions help you in thinking about who you want to work with. Everyone is different, and who you chose to work with will depend on what suits you best. One final piece of advice I would give is to do your due diligence. Meet with your adviser, check out their approach, get an initial report from them… a little time invested now will be more than worth it in the end.

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