As a business broker, one of your most critical responsibilities is guiding your clients through the transaction process. A crucial part of this process is conducting due diligence, which involves verifying the information provided by the seller to ensure that the buyer clearly understands the business’s operations and financials. Due diligence can be challenging, but with the following tips, you can navigate this stage successfully:
Five Tips for Successfully Navigating Due Diligence
1. Know Who’s Who: As the point person during the transaction, you should orchestrate the communication with all parties involved. Get to know the buyer’s advisors – there’s always someone who has their ear – and build credibility early. Work with the seller to determine when the landlord should be contacted and involve the seller’s accountant as soon as possible – they often don’t move as quickly as you’d like them to.
2. Have Regular Meetings Along the Way: At the beginning of due diligence, hold a formal kick-off meeting to remind everyone of the milestones, re-set expectations, and discuss the best way to share information. Regular (weekly) meetings are crucial for maintaining communication and building trust between the buyer and seller. Hiding any issues with the business will damage everyone’s credibility, so it’s better to have the seller disclose them early.
3. Document Everything: It’s essential to document every communication with the buyer and keep copies of all documents provided by the seller. This documentation can be helpful if any disputes arise during the transaction. Electronic deal rooms are a great option to protect you in the long run – plenty of good options exist.
4. Have a Plan B: There’s always a chance that the transaction will fall through – every broker has lost a deal in due diligence – so it’s essential to have a backup plan in case this happens. The standard BBF APA does not limit you or the seller from discussing the business with other interested buyers. Keep fielding inquiries, setting meetings, and answering questions with backup buyers and their brokers. If your deal dies, you won’t want to start at the beginning again!
5. Keep Your Focus and Handle Your Emotions: Although you may feel as if you are almost done, the due diligence stage is where the sale can be made or lost, so it’s critical to remain focused. This is also when inexperienced buyers and sellers feel the most stress. As a broker, you should remain emotionally unattached and handle the transaction with the calmness that comes from being an expert in the field and having a history of successful transactions!
Ryan Cave, MBA, CBI, M&AMI, CMAP
South Florida District