M&A Advisor vs. Business Broker: What’s the difference?

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M&A Advisor vs. Business Broker: What’s the difference?

When it comes time to sell your business, making sure you hire the right team to advise and represent you through the process is one of the most important decisions you will make. The majority of business owners are unaware of the differences that separate two of the main groups business owners will run into when it comes time to selling their business – a business broker and a mergers and acquisitions advisor (M&A Advisor).

In the real estate world, most people understand there are distinct differences between a commercial and a residential real estate firm. Different firms service different markets and will, therefore, have different buyers and sales strategies. The same applies to business brokers and M&A advisors and it is critical to understand some of the differences when it comes time to select a firm to work with you.

Key Differences between M&A Advisors and Business Brokers

M&A Advisors Business Brokers
Service the low-to-middle market Typically work with smaller, owner-operated companies
Sell to a mix of individual, corporate, institutional, private equity buyers depending on the business Most often will sell to an individual buyer
Work with business owners early in the process to analyze company and prepare detailed selling package More reliance on business owner to prepare selling materials
Active approach to selling – extensive research, direct prospecting and interviews to prequalify buyers More passive approach to selling – often companies are listed with limited direct prospecting and research done on buyers
M&A advisory teams usually include knowledge of finance, accounting, tax, real estate, and legal issues which all come into play on more complex transactions Team backgrounds are typically in real estate or general business
Primarily stand-alone companies with full team in-house Often business brokers work alone or in a franchisee-type model for a larger organization
Take on a limited number of transactions at a time Typically have many listings at the same time
Typically run a competitive process with structured time perimeters around the sale Run an open-ended process, similar to that of a real estate transaction
Highly involved process, starting with advance preparation to seeing a transaction through until closing – working hand-in-hand with the seller’s lawyer, accountant and other professional advisors A lower time commitment time through a transaction – limited involvement with other professionals on the deal team

If you are a business owner and thinking of selling, we know you want the best possible representation and it’s not an easy decision to make. Of course, we have our biases. We are an M&A advisory firm and take a great deal of pride in the proactive and detailed approach we take when selling a business. Often times, we start the conversation with a business owner years in advance of selling to make sure they are properly preparing for sale. We have seen it happen all too often that a business owner will choose the wrong team to help them through the process and the deal either fall apart, or the business is sold with a less than ideal structure that leaves the owner with less after-tax money in their pocket and potentially future liabilities.

Every business that we enter in engagement with, we go in knowing that we are going to spend a great deal of time and have to navigate a lot of complexities to ensure the business owner gets to the best possible outcome. If you are thinking of selling, we encourage you to do your research and know the differences between the types of advisors that are out there. Prior to signing an engagement agreement, make sure you understand what the commitment you are making is and what will be expected of you and your advisor. Most importantly, take the opportunity to meet with your advisors and make sure you are choosing the right firm with the experience and knowledge to fit your unique needs.

Contact one of our advisors today.

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Charlottetown, PE

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