What to Look For In An M&A Advisor Before the Sale

Even if you are a veteran business person with decades of experience, when you decide to contact an M&A advisor for the first time, you may be entering new territory. You may also be feeling a lot of pressure to pick the right team, to understand your options, and to choose the best path forward. For all of those reasons, it is critical that you choose to work with a true strategic partner. The best advisors have the following qualities, even before a sale is discussed.

Interested in long-term relationship vs. transactional relationship

True strategic partners want to work with you for the long haul, even if you have only contacted them to fill a temporary need. They understand the value of long-term relationships and spend a lot of their time building those connections.

Tends to listen vs. talk

You will learn in your first meeting if a given advisor is a talker or a listener. If you can’t get a word in edgewise or if they spend a lot of time “selling” their philosophy or recommended approach that may be a warning sign of an advisor who is putting their own agenda first, rather than learning everything they need to about your needs, wants, and long term goals.

Expects to earn trust vs. expecting credibility

There are very few successful M&A professionals who do not have an impressive resume. While that resume may get them a seat at the table, it doesn’t automatically earn them the right to stay there. Your advisor should care about earning your trust. If they ask for it without earning it, they are again showing you where their priorities lie.

Wants to support vs. push

There will be times over the course of working with your investment banker where they will need to tell you things you may not want to hear. There will be difficult conversations. If the first three qualities we’ve mentioned ring true – your partner wants a long-term relationship, they listen when you speak, and they know they need to earn your trust, then the odds are good that they plan to support you rather than push or manipulate you into a deal that meets their goals (rather than yours).

Every situation and every business owner has unique needs – there is no one size fits all M&A advisor. Start by finding someone who looks great on paper, has a lot of experience in your industry, and then meet with them. If you look for the four points above before you even discuss a transaction, you stand a much better chance of securing a truly valuable strategic partnership.

Symmetrical assists Middle Market companies with strategically assessing their needs and helps them prepare for big transitions. If you are considering what options might be best for you, please contact us for a confidential discussion about how we can help.


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