Inc.com's Buying a Business mentor Tom West responds:
I'm a business broker, so I can't be 100% objective about this question. But, in my experience, using the services of a business broker or intermediary can, in many cases, make or break a deal. If you're a buyer, a business broker can show you opportunities that you might never find on your own. Owning a doughnut shop might sound intriguing until you learn that someone has to make the doughnuts -- at about 3 a.m. A good broker can help you keep an open mind during your search and figure out what you don't want to do -- e.g., run a bakery -- and move on from there.
It's important that you remember one key fact: Unless you've hired the broker, he or she represents the seller of the business. So, no matter how helpful or pleasant the broker is, he or she is still in the employ of the seller. However, that doesn't mean he or she won't treat you fairly. The vast majority of business brokers deal honestly.
Of course, brokers are also a great source of information on current market conditions, issues related to pricing and financing, and many other facets of the business buying process.
If you're selling a business, a business broker or intermediary can bring more prospects to your business than you could ever do on your own. They'll also separate the buyers from the lookers, which can save you valuable time. And, in most cases, I think they'll get you a better price than you could on your own -- more than justifying their fee. Brokers can also help you price your business properly, tell you how you can make it more saleable, and simply be there as a resource throughout the sale.
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Company for Sale by Owner -- or Maybe Not