Business Brokers – How to Choose the Right One

The vast majority of small businesses are sold without the assistance of business brokers.

But if you do decide the hire a broker, here are some suggestions on how to pick the right one and how to structure the agreement in your favor.

What Business Is The Broker Actually In?

In many states there is no training or certification needed to become a business broker. In other states, brokers are required to hold a real estate license.

In these states it’s common to find real estate agents that do business brokering as a side business. If you deal with a broker who is also a real estate agent, make sure that being a business broker is more than just his hobby.

You will pay a pretty penny for the broker’s expertise and experience – you should make sure they have that experience when it comes to selling businesses and not just experience selling houses.

Questions To Ask

If you hire a broker you will be working with them closely for months to come; they will have access to your most confidential business records; the amount of money you put in your pocket at closing will be influenced heavily by the quality of work they do.

Therefore, you absolutely must check them out.

Here are some questions you should ask any prospective broker before hiring him:

1. How long have you been a broker?
2. Have you ever owned a business?
3. How many businesses similar to mine have you helped sell?
4. Can I see a blank version of your Listing Agreement?
5. What percentage of you income comes from brokering and how much from real estate (If applicable)

Ask them to provide you with references from previous clients. Then, I suggest you do something very unusual: Actually call the broker’s references!
I know a lot of people ask for references just to see how the person will react when asked (and to see if they actuality have any). But you can learn a lot about the broker’s reliability and professionalism by talking to people who dealt with that broker when they were in the exact same spot you are in.

Business Broker Fees

There are two benefits a broker can provide the business seller. First, he can locate potential buyers while maintaining the seller’s confidentiality. And second, a broker will qualify these potential business buyers so the seller saves time by not having to deal with weak prospects.

The big negative of dealing with a business broker is his fee, which averages 10-12% of the sale price. This fee is charged to the seller.

There is also a minimum fee. A very small business will pay a flat amount, typically $8-$10,000, instead of the commission. For a business worth $50,000 this minimum fee actually works out to be a higher percentage than the 10-12% industry average. But as a matter of practice, brokers usually won’t be interested in your business unless the asking price is above $100,000.

These fees are the reason most business owners choose to sell their business themselves and rely on their lawyers and accountants for the professional assistance they need.

The Broker Agreement

If you decide to use a broker you’ll be asked to sign a broker agreement which will detail the his fees. If possible, have your agreement include the following clauses:

Timing of Payments – Have it written into the agreement that the broker’s fee will be paid at the time you receive the purchase price – not at the time the sale is closed. This way, if you finance part of the sale price over a number of years, you pay the business broker as you get the money, not all up front.

Length Of Agreement – Your listing agreement should be for a limited time. If the broker locates the buyer within that time he gets paid. Be careful of lengthy agreements that lock you in with one business broker for more than 6 months. If he doesn’t produce, you want to be able to try other options. A 6 month business broker agreement is the longest you should allow. However, because selling a business can be a lengthy process, 3 months is usually too little time for the broker to find the right buyer. Try to settle on something between 3 and 6 months. If after six months, you haven’t closed the deal but you think the broker has done a good job, you’re always free to extend the agreement. But you want to be free to decide on an extension 6 months from now, not today.

Broker’s Guarantee – Include a paragraph stating that if you find the buyer, you don’t have to pay the commission. Without this clause, the broker is usually paid no matter who locates the buyer. Before signing any listing agreement, it is best to have your attorney review it to make sure your interests are protected.

Tips on Setting Up Your Small Business Bank Account

One of the first things you will need to set up is a bank account. We recommend a large bank because:

They have locations everywhere

They have longer hours

They will probably buy out your local community bank anyway

If you are an owner/operator of a small business, you will appreciate having a Debit or ATM card for your business. They also have easy to read statements for merchant accounts, little or low fee checking accounts, locations in the grocery store, weekend banking, business credit cards (VISA or MC), small business loans, auto loans and leases, etc. If you run a lot of locations and are expanding your business you might even ask the local manager to fax you weekly confirmation of daily deposits made during the week.

When opening an account always ask about checking account fees, primarily deposits per check charges. Try to have these reduced or eliminated. If you wish to shop banks and fees, don’t forget to shop service. We recommend these ten tips when selecting a bank.

Make an honest list of the services you want and those services you really need and then interview banks to see which services they provide on your ‘shopping list’. Be careful at big banks. Ask for the branch manager and not the new accounts sales girl. Chances are she’s just out of college and doesn’t even understand real world banking relations or hand-shaking deals at the Rotary Club or golf course. She’ll be too ‘By-The-Book’ to answer any real questions.

Start seeking referrals from long standing community and business leaders. Perhaps a local CPA, home based business consultant or small business owner. Make sure you get advice from people you respect.

Geography is important, but it should not in all cases be the deciding factor. You should start with nearby banks.

Visit the bank. Are there long teller lines? Is the staff courteous? Do they smile, etc.?

Sit down with a bank officer and don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions: Do you really want our small company’s business? Are you interested in long-term relationships? Will I be able to work with a certain specific person on a continuing basis? Will you treat me like a number? What is your turn around time on loan applications? How many layers of management are there until I get to the president? What’s his or her name? Have you ever met them? May I?

Make clear exactly what you want and need from a banking relationship. Will you be looking for a loan soon? Like any other relationship, communication is the key to a good banking relationship.

Don’t fall for flashy ads that promise you stuff and they forget your name next week. You might even come back the next day and ask “Do you remember my name? If they don’t, smile and walk out.

Try not to be misled by free toasters or mouse pads if you open an account. These free items won’t help your car wash business thrive, but a good banking relationship can.

Remember, that a bank’s service is gauged by the service it provides, not it’s brochures, gimmicks, signage or billboard ads.

Evaluate the relationship when you have been with a new bank for six months. Honestly evaluate how things are going and share your conclusions with your banker. The best banking relationship is one where both parties are open and forthright and where issues can be discussed that will lead to a long-term mutually beneficial partnership for the expansion and betterment of your car wash franchise.

Check Ordering For Business Account

Why does ordering checks and replacement checks cost so much?

Because banks make a profit on the checks you order. For a little less than one-half the cost you can order your own checks and eliminate the middleman – that’s the bank. Call:

Current Check 1-800-426-0822;

Checks In The Mail 1-800-733-4443;

Deluxe Checks 1-800-4DELUXE

All three firms guarantee that their checks meet industry standards. We’ve ordered from all three. Deluxe is faster if you’re out of checks, but still have money left. They do cost an average of $4.00 more per box.

Interest Bearing Accounts

If you choose an interest bearing checking account, be sure to take a close look at the other associated fees. It may say it’s a free account with no fees and that it’s interest bearing, but if you fall below a pre-determined balance you may pay exorbitant fees or if you have high activity such as lots of checks written or deposited, you may be charged a fee anyway. If it’s a per check fee it will undoubtedly be higher than a normal basic account.

You should not pay fees on a business savings account if fees are charged for your checking account you may seriously want to consider switching banks.

Choosing a good bank for your small business is very important, please take this initial step in your business seriously, you’ll be glad you did.

Choosing the ‘Right’ Programming Language for Your Business Solutions

Most likely there are two reasons why you are reading this article at this moment. Either (1) you are starting a business and looking for the most apt software for the best price that will help you get ahead; or (2) you need to revamp your software and technology to stay ahead in this ultra competitive business world.

There are an endless number of programming languages out there – Is java the best technology for your project or is it .Net, PHP or may be Perl? There are an equal number of databases to choose from – Access, mysql, SQL server or may be Oracle. But the question is – how to choose the ‘Right’ technology which is affordable and can cater to not only your current business needs but to its future requirements as well.

Ideally deciding on the best software programming language for your business solutions, should be a team activity which involves heads of IT and relevant departments and experts from your solution provider. But in case you are a small business owner or just starting-up on your own, evaluating the following factors can help you too, to take the right decision on the technology front.

Key Factors

Budget

The first thing to consider for your business is the costs and the possible return on that investment. Decide the budget based on the return, a product/service is expected to bring. If it’s a product with small shelf life and limited features, you might consider a boxed solution rather than a custom solution. It’s a quick and less expensive way to market. But if this application is the lifeline of your business then you need to evaluate the long-term business requirements and benefits of investing in custom build solution with a high-end technology.

– Choose the right features

What are the features you are looking in your software? What are the shortcomings in your business that can be resolved by having the right system in place? Identify the areas where technology can automate the processes, thereby improving business efficiency and productivity. What features would be required in the long run to accommodate more products or services when your business expands? Discuss these features with your solution provider to decide on a programming language which can handle your business for a long time without being outgrown by it.

– Time to market

If you are developing a time-sensitive product, the most critical factor in its success will be its timely release. It may be your best idea and you may have invested in the best technology, building an error-proof product. But if you are not able to market it at the right time, you may lose to your competition who would have captured the market impulse and brought the product at the right time. Quite possibly, you can lose out on a huge market share. Choosing the programming language which can quickly build the product is the key factor here.

– Scalability requirements

What is the intended life cycle of your product/application? If your business requires it for next 5-10 yrs, there is high probability that you might need to expand its functionality or increase usability. The technology used for such solutions should be scalable and upgradable, with or without vendor involvement. Imagine a situation where you have invested a good amount of money and time in training employees to use a software, which after 2-3 years needs upgradation to meet your business requirements but doesn’t has the capability to do so. Surely, you don’t want to land up in such a situation. So, a golden rule – always clarify with your solution provider about the future business requirements and capabilities of the chosen technology and programming language.

– Application demands

o Performance

If you application sees some peak traffic in certain time of the day which is crucial for your business, then performance is the key factor for your system. It will be important to choose a programming language with ability to handle a large number of simultaneous requests/transactions (supplemented by high-end servers) without affecting the speed and performance of the system.

o Security

If security of your application is of paramount importance, then short-listing a technology with focus on security features is what you need to do. For ex – Java security technology provides a large set of APIs (cryptography, public key infrastructure, secure communication, authentication, access control etc), tools, and security algorithms, mechanisms, and protocols. Zero-in on a programming language which provides the user or administrator with a set of tools to securely manage applications.

o Content change requirements

If your application requires a frequent change in the content or you need to change the look and feel of your website quite frequently, it’s good idea to go for a CMS with features and flexibility to be managed by the system administrator without vendor involvement.

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