If you own a customs brokerage or freight forwarding business and want to sell, there are some general…and some specific questions you should ask your prospective business broker or M&A specialist.
We’re going to break those down here and prepare you to hire the best sales organization to help you turn your life’s work into a profitable and fulfilling retirement or fund your next venture with confidence.
First Question: How experienced are you in our industry?
Or better yet “Tell me about your experience in selling businesses in the freight forwarding and customs industries.”
The vast majority of business brokers and mergers and acquisitions companies like Albion Mergers and Acquisitions do not specialize in an industry. Websites like bizbuysell.com and franchises like Murphy or or 2 World have developed systems to sell businesses in general.
And those website-only and franchised approaches do work, but they work best for common and easy to understand businesses. That’s why they’re full of hair salons, sandwich shops, gas stations and lawn care companies for sale.
Freight and Customs Brokerage businesses just do not fit that category.
It’s essential to work with a business broker who has specific experience and expertise in the industry. By asking this question, you can gauge their familiarity with the unique challenges AND the hidden opportunities when selling a customs brokerage or freight forwarding business.
Look for a broker who understands the industry’s regulations, market trends, and potential buyers.
Second Question: Can you provide references from previous clients in the customs brokerage or freight forwarding industry?
Reputation and success stories speak volumes about a business broker’s capabilities.
Asking for references from previous clients in your industry will give you valuable insights into the broker’s track record and their ability to handle transactions similar to yours.
Reach out to these references to inquire about their experience working with the broker and the outcomes they achieved. And while you won’t find too many online reviews for M&A firms you should do your due diligence and look.
Third Question: Will you describe your approach to valuation and choosing a sale price?
Determining the accurate value of your business is crucial for a successful sale. A competent business broker will have a structured and data-driven approach to valuing businesses in the customs brokerage or freight forwarding industry.
They should consider factors such as:
- financial performance
- customer base
- existing contracts
- and growth potential
Understanding their valuation methodology will help you assess their expertise and ensure you receive fair market value.
Bonus Question: How often have you recalculated or restated earnings after a financial review?
Fourth Question: What is your marketing strategy to attract buyers to my specific business?
Marketing plays a pivotal role in attracting qualified buyers to your business.
Inquire about the broker’s marketing strategies and channels they utilize to reach potential buyers specifically interested in the customs brokerage or freight forwarding industry.
Look for a broker who employs a mix of traditional methods, online platforms, industry networks, and their own buyer database to maximize exposure and generate interest.
This is where experience and a industry connections can make for big wins, both in how fast they can sell your business and how good of a price they can get you.
A talented digital marketing oriented agency might develop a good marketing plan, but the power of picking up the phone and offering a current customer a new business-buying opportunity is incredibly powerful.
Fifth Question: How do you qualify potential buyers?
Your business doesn’t stop running when you put it on the market for sale.
And working with potential buyers and your broker answering questions, finding information, negotiating terms, all take time. Time that could be working IN your business.
Going through that process with an unqualified buyer – someone that either isn’t really interested in BUYING, or is isn’t financially capable of the purchase is a clear and disappointing waste of time.
Sharing the details of your company and it’s financials, and especially it’s plans and projections for the future, also puts that future at risk if you don’t sell.
Properly qualifying buyers is a key role that your seller’s agent must fill.
Ask the business broker about their buyer qualification process. They should conduct thorough due diligence on potential buyers, including assessing their financial capability, industry experience, and motivation for purchasing a customs brokerage or freight forwarding business.
Sixth Question: What negotiation strategies will you use to get the best deal for my business?
The best answer to this question is a description of how they negotiated previous sales in the industry.
Parts of business sales that are typically negotiated include:
- The sale price itself, or fair market value. This number is open to interpretation and subject to the judgement of both parties. How have they handled disagreements over the top line price the businesses they’ve sold?
- Deal structure can often be even more important than the selling price depending on your goals and the goals of the buyer. For example, if you are cashing out for retirement you may prefer an ongoing revenue share to a lump sum. Or if you’re investing in another business, that large payout may be key to your future. Those kinds of factors also play into the BUYERS motivation. How have they used deal structure in the past to close a sale?
- Timing is another opportunity for negotiation. The buyer may be in a hurry to close or you may prefer a gradual exit. How has your seller’s agent negotiated the timing of the deal to the seller advantage?
The goal in getting this information isn’t to limit or “nail down” the specifics of how the broker will be approaching every opportunity for you. It’s to demonstrate their knowledge, flexibility, and understanding of how to negotiate the sale itself.
And if they have multiple examples to share it’s also an indication of their success.
Selling a customs brokerage or freight forwarding business is a one time, life changing event for most business owners. By asking the right questions and evaluating their responses, you can ensure that you hire a broker with the necessary experience and effective strategies for to make it as easy and profitable as possible.