This guide is provided by BusinessesForSale.com – the leading global website for the buying and selling of small and medium sized businesses.

The purpose of seeking outside help when selling a business is to make your life more easy. Accountants, lawyers, brokers, consultants – they all seem to have your best interests at heart but at the end of the day they want to get paid for their small business consulting. Whoever you choose to have working on your behalf it is important to make sure you are getting value for money and the best deal available.

It is vital that any professional adviser you employ for your small business consulting regards you as being in charge. You set them guidelines and expect to be regularly informed of developments. Transparency and organisation are essential in order to avoid paying two people for the same job while failing to cover a crucial area.

Accountants

An accountant is a financial trouble-shooter and go-between. Some say avoid them wherever possible until the last minute, while others say establish a close relationship and involve them from the beginning. Whatever you decide, choose an accountant you like and can trust.

Make sure your accountant reads a draft of the definitive agreement, before you commit to the small print. Their crucial role in the due diligence process means they can offer expert advice on the conditions of the sale. They will also help you to spot any anomalies in your paperwork which you can be sure the buyer's accountant will also find. Try to agree on the accountant's fee for the total project, regardless of hours put in, so that the money you need to allocate is specified from the start. Enquire whether there will be additional costs and what they relate to so that you don't receive a nasty shock later on. If you do find yourself in a disagreement over pay, your lawyer can advise you on who to contact.

Lawyers

Like accountants, lawyers can be effective trouble-shooters and go-betweens. It is worthwhile spending an hour with a lawyer early on in the sales process because they can alert you to key issues.

Choose your lawyer with extreme care and discuss the payment up-front. Perhaps you can get a recommendation from a friend or from your broker. Remember – you are paying the bills so you have the right to be kept informed of all developments. Don't hesitate to send an associate to be present at the meetings between lawyers.

In your attitude towards the sale it is often helpful to make a clear demarcation between business decisions and legal decisions. As a result, you will keep control of the transaction and maintain a certain distance if the lawyer decides to go on the attack over a certain issue.

The lawyer's fee will probably be the highest and the least predictable, so try to finalise a cost per hour before enlisting their service. In theory, the lawyer's costs are not related to the size of the transaction, so if you're only a small fish in a big pond then you won't want to employ a top lawyer!

Business agents and consultants

There are a variety of advice agencies providing solid small business consulting that can be approached at any stage during a business sale. Research the agencies thoroughly and decide who covers your field. It may be worth looking at government initiatives first, such as 'Business Links', because they generally charge less than private agencies.

Sometimes the broker may offer to be paid by the buyer – but be warned, the broker will then act on behalf of the buyer and you may miss out on more lucrative offers. Small business consulting tends to cost by the hour, so agree a target number of hours for each stage of work as well as a system for keeping you up-to-date with the costs. You may also choose to specify a maximum fee that you are prepared to pay.