For Sale By Owner

Go For Broker

Should you sell the business yourself? The consensus among experts and entrepreneurs is, Don't waste your time trying. "If the business is something with general value and a high market, maybe you can sell it on your own," says Alex Oziran, a Chicago-area entrepreneur who previously built and sold a medical-transportation firm and now owns three Pearle Vision franchises. "It's more likely that a small business is attractive to only a small group of buyers. Get somebody who knows how to network to those buyers."

Or, as Lautens says, "I know how to sell a serigraph or a frame, but I know nothing about how to sell a framing business."

Both entrepreneurs agree a business broker can be an invaluable aide in selling your business. Like a real estate agent, a business broker knows not only where the buyers are but also what they want to buy and how to make your company stand out from the others. "Even a business that isn't large involves a deal that is complex enough that you ought to have a business broker to guide you through it," says Merkin. "What if [you're a novice] at selling and you wind up dealing with a buyer who's bought four businesses in the past six years? There will be an imbalance of skill that works against you in the negotiations."

Whenever possible, Lipman and Sanders say, it's best to hook up with a broker who has experience selling businesses in your field. If you can't find such a specialist, Sanders urges using a broker who is a member of the International Business Brokers Association and, even better, one with the Certified Business Intermediary designation. Both are marks designating brokers who have sufficient training to sell businesses in various fields.

Leonard B. Sis, owner of Sis Investments Inc., a business brokerage firm in Oak Brook, Illinois, explains that a broker also plays the crucial role of gatekeeper. "Try to sell it yourself, and you'll be overwhelmed by phone calls from people who want to meet with you but who don't have any money or people who have no understanding of what you're trying to sell--unqualified buyers that a broker can screen out quickly and effectively."

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This article was originally published in the January 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: For Sale By Owner.

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