How To Sell Your UK Business In 2018: All Options Compared - BusinessesForSale vs Daltons vs Bizdaq vs Business Brokers And More

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There are so many different options for selling your business, from do-it-yourself websites to business brokers (of varying service levels & prices). Which one should you choose? What is the cheapest way to sell your business? What is the best way to sell a business? Which approach will find the most buyers?

In this post we’re going to compare the main business for sale websites in the UK (BusinessesForSale, Daltons, Rightbiz, Bizdaq and the Business Sale Report). Plus we’re going to compare business brokers (otherwise called business transfer agents or M&A consultants), at the low, medium and high end of the scale, to see how they compare on price, service and their ability to actually sell your business.

Bonus: At the end we’ll also discuss some other marketplaces for small businesses including eBay, the Gumtree, Flippa, Rightmove and more!

Who Will Buy Your Business?

Before comparing your options, there is something important to think about: who will actually buy your business?

Think about all of the people who might buy your business. Not the ones who might think about buying your business, or all the people who theoretically could buy your business, but the people for whom it is actually a realistic prospect that they will buy your company. You have to understand this before selling.

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Circle A in this diagram represents the real buyers of your business – the ones who actually have the funds to acquire you, and the reasons to buy you, and if presented with the opportunity they would do so. But as the diagram shows, most of the real buyers of your business are not actively searching for you (yellow group).

You can reach some of the people in Circle A by advertising your business on one of the “business for sale” websites that we will compare below. Advertising on these sites will allow you to reach those buyers who are actively searching for you on these sites (Circle B), or who are at least passively receiving (and reading) their email updates (Circle C). Out of all of these people in Circles B and C, the ones who could seriously acquire your company are in the black shaded areas above.

But as you can see, most of the serious buyers who could buy your company are not in these shaded areas, and can’t be reached via these methods. They are in the yellow area. This is the most important point to understand before comparing your options.

The people in the yellow area include strategic buyers – companies in your industry or related industries to yours, who can benefit more than anyone else by acquiring your business. They can derive strategic advantages such as cost synergies and economies of scale that other buyers can’t benefit from. But most of the time, the people responsible for M&A at these companies (typically the owners themselves), have other priorities and aren’t actively searching. Presented with a good acquisition opportunity, they will pull the trigger. But at any given point in time, very few of them will actually be searching for your company.

Finding these buyers (the yellow group) is the main reason business owners look beyond the self-service “business for sale” websites, and many choose to use business brokers.

Business brokers promise to handle the sale for you, taking care of some of the legwork at the start of the process and managing the initial enquiries for you (although in every case the business owner is still heavily involved). Critically, they promise to find buyers that you can’t reach on your own. But this claim is not always true – not all business brokers are alike, and not all of them are worth the additional cost. In many cases brokers can only find the same people in the black areas of the diagram, and offer little advantage other than handling some of the administrative work. Relatively few are able to find buyers in the elusive yellow area.

So it’s very useful to bear this in mind when comparing all of the options for selling your business. Now on to the details!

Selling Your Business: A Comparison Of The Options

In this table we’ve compared the largest and most widely used websites for selling your business in the UK, as well as the other main option: business brokers. We’ve subdivided the latter group into three categories depending on their service level and price. This allows you to compare business brokers and websites like BusinessesForSale all in one place.

Notes:
1.Price ex-VAT. Assumes successful sale after 6 months on the market, advertising at the lowest price for 6 months, final agreed price  (total consideration) of £100,000
2.Price ex-VAT. Assumes successful sale after 6 months on the market, advertising at the lowest price for 6 months, final agreed price  (total consideration) of £500,000
3.Advertisements on Bizdaq are also placed on Daltons, BizBuySell, Rightmove & Rightbiz - via these placements they suggest that the total is 500,000 active visitors / buyers - however this claim appears to be false as it could not be verified

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All of the business for sale websites operate in a similar fashion: they are self-service listing sites where you can create your own advertisement for your business and receive enquiries through the website. Some of them prefer to call themselves “marketplaces”, but since the transaction doesn’t occur through the site (you can’t actually receive payment through the site), they are more like classified listings. They have similarities but there are some important differences.

BusinessesForSale.com

The largest of the UK business for sale listing sites, BusinessesForSale.com claims 1,014,000 monthly active visitors at the time of writing, and a UK mailing list of 526,000 people.

Pricing is in three tiers (all ex-VAT): £169 for one month, £209 for 3 months (£69.67 per month) or £299 for 6 months (£49.83 per month). They have a 20-day free trial option which allows you to list your business for free and see to gauge responses, but before you receive the contact details from the enquirers you have to sign up to one of the paid options.

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The site doesn’t have an automatic business valuation calculator, but instead has a form which appears to be used as a lead generator for business brokers. If you are happy to be called by “a number” of business brokers about your business then this is fine, although many people find lead generators like this annoying. It is not specified whether or not BusinessesForSale makes money from sending these forms (“leads”) to the brokers, or if it is an added service to the business brokers who are their main clients. In any case this is unlikely to be an independent valuation, since the brokers providing the valuation will have a vested interest in impressing you in order to win your business.

Buyers are offered the ability to upgrade to a “premium” membership, which grants them earlier access to the businesses listed on the site (for the first two weeks of a listing, it is only visible to premium buyers), as well as access to the seller’s contact details so that they can contact sellers directly instead of messaging through the platform. From a seller’s perspective, the fact that ads placed on this site are only visible to a small fraction of buyers for the first two weeks is a significant downside.

As with all of the do-it-yourself business sale options, the business owner is required to do basically everything, from writing the ad, to handling enquiries to negotiating the final sale. And like all sites, it only enables sellers to find those buyers who are actively searching.

Daltons

Daltons is the oldest of the self-service business for sale websites, and was originally in the form of a newspaper dating back to the 1870’s. The site receives 406,000 monthly active visitors and has 275,000 people on its mailing list.

Their three-tier pricing (all ex-VAT) is as follows: £159 for one month, £249 for 3 months (£83 per month) or £339 for 6 months (£56.50 per month).  There is no free trial tier.

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The 6-month option comes with some added services that would otherwise be charged as added extras: the advertisement would be a “featured” promotion (appearing higher in the listings), it would be promoted on social media and some additional privacy settings for the advertisement would be allowed. Interestingly, only those who choose this 6-month option have the right to telephone support, and only this group has their advertisement emailed out to the Daltons mailing list – this would normally be assumed to be part of the service, but for the lower pricing tiers it is not.

One other added benefit of this tier is the promise to refund your money pro-rata if your business sells before the end of the 6 months. This is an unusual feature not offered by the other self-service business for sale websites, but industry statistics from the US show that 6 months is roughly the median length of time a business takes to sell (and most do not sell), so this would benefit relatively few people.

The website has a free, automatic business valuation calculator. As with all automatic business valuation calculators, it is very basic and not as useful as an independent valuation conducted by a real person.

Like BusinessesForSale, Daltons also offers buyers a premium membership, with similar benefits such as immediate access to new listings (non-premium members have to wait 21 days to see the listings on the site) and the seller’s contact details if the seller has disclosed them. From the seller’s perspective, this means that the ad will be delayed even further on Daltons than on BusinessesForSale before the majority of buyers can find it.

Given Daltons’ brand and its long association with businesses for sale in the UK, it likely has some followers that the other sites do not. But whether this warrants the higher price than BusinessesForSale (with an arguably lesser service offering) remains to be seen. Like all self-service websites, Daltons enables sellers to find only those buyers who are actively searching.

RightBiz

The next largest of the UK self-service business for sale websites is RightBiz. The site does not disclose its monthly active user count or the size of its mailing list, preferring to cite other statistics such as the 26,442 businesses currently live on the site at the time of writing. This is a greater number than even BusinessesForSale (18,878 businesses for sale in the UK on the site at the time of writing), but it is partly due to the fact that some ads are “lifetime” listings (they do not expire, see below).  It is assumed that its visitor & buyer numbers are lower than competitors due to RightBiz’s decision not to disclose them, but the website is comparable in scale to the first two.

RightBiz’s pricing structure is significantly cheaper than the first two, and offers an unusual “listed until sold” option for the highest end product. The pricing (all ex-VAT) is as follows: £49 for one month, £99 for 3 months (£33 per month), or £129 for to list the business “until sold”. This premium tier also includes gold highlighting of the ad on the site, to make it more prominent. The “until sold” listing model will likely be attractive to many sellers, as it fixes the advertising cost in the event that the business takes longer to sell than planned.

The fact that this “until sold” tier exists undoubtedly contributes to the larger number of listings on RightBiz, since these ads do not expire – the owner has to take them down once the business sells or is taken off the market.

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All buyers have to be registered and logged-in to view businesses for sale on the site. From the seller’s perspective, this added friction might be a negative compared to other sites. But on the other hand, the site makes use of this function by allowing “one-click requests” for information on businesses of interest – a significantly better and faster experience for buyers than on BusinessesForSale or Daltons. RightBiz also offers buyers a “premium” membership, and pushes this option significantly harder than its competitors. The features are similar to the premium buyer offerings from Daltons and BusinessesForSale, except that premium buyers do not get early access to the listings. Instead, all buyers can see all listings as soon as they are advertised. From the seller’s perspective this is an advantage over BusinessesForSale and Daltons, where the majority of buyers cannot see the listings for the first couple of weeks.

There is no automated tool or human assistance on the site for business valuation on RightBiz.

The company does not state the size of its mailing list of “buyers”. As with the other self-service business for sale websites, RightBiz only allows sellers to find buyers who are currently searching for them of course.

Bizdaq

Bizdaq is relatively new (2014) and makes bold claims about re-inventing the experience of selling a business. In practice, the site is fairly similar to the existing business for sale websites already on the market, although with a few unique points of differentiation.

Bizdaq was completely free for sellers in the first several years of its existence – a fact which has enabled it to grow very quickly to the point where it now has thousands of live businesses for sale on its site and claims to have a buyer database of more than 100,000. It is still significantly smaller than the first three, but leverages partnerships to attempt to make up for this: Bizdaq claims that its listings are also advertised on Daltons, RightBiz, BizBuySell (the US self-service business for sale site, which lists a small number of UK businesses), and Rightmove. Through these partnerships it claims to be able to get a seller’s advertisement in front of up to 500,000 buyers. However, we have not been able to verify these claims and at the time of writing could not find any businesses listed on BizBuySell, for example, that originated on Bizdaq.

The site is no longer free and has moved to standard three-tier pricing (all ex-VAT): £95 for one month, £255 for 3 months (£85 per month) or £390 for 6 months (£65 per month).  There is also a 7-day free trial which, unlike free trials from BusinessesForSale and RightBiz, allows free access to the full functionality of the site (including contacting buyers) during the trial.

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This pricing makes Bizdaq the most expensive of the self-service business for sale websites, based on the 6-month option. But Bizdaq aims to add more value to the process than the other sites, adding a human touch to several elements of the process. For example, all advertisements include a “review and recommendations from one of our professionals”. Similarly, the site’s valuation tool claims to be operated by human experts, who individually value each business based on the metrics entered, and email you the result.

Bizdaq is also much more open to having sellers call to ask for advice and support, and displays its phone number prominently. The live chat functionality on the site is very useful (during business hours), and in our experience Bizdaq’s customer service was far quicker and more helpful than any of the other three websites listed above.

The premium 6-month tier also includes some other features that Bizdaq’s competitors don’t offer, including professional photography, a sales brochure, and some free legal documents. The quality of these products has not been assessed (and given that Bizdaq ascribes a value of only £35 to its sales brochure, it is unlikely to be of the same standard as a professional information memorandum), but they are unique added benefits that may justify the additional cost.

Bizdaq intends for its site to be “everything you need” to sell your business, although in practice this is very difficult to achieve with a self-service website. For example, key steps early in the selling process are qualifying buyers and getting them to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) before viewing confidential details. Bizdaq doesn’t have any functionality to replace the normal process of qualifying the buyer (asking the buyer to demonstrate “proof of funds”), although a spokesman from the company said that in its next release in 2018 the company will be adding more in-depth buyer profiles, so that sellers can at least see their social media and LinkedIn profiles, although this is significantly short of seeing proof of funds, and therefore doesn’t qualify the buyer.

The normal process of sending and receiving back a signed non-disclosure agreement (NDA) is short-circuited through Bizdaq, as the site makes all buyers e-sign a standardised NDA document before contacting a seller. This certainly saves time, although it has been argued that NDAs are difficult to enforce as it is, and reducing this process to a quick tick of a box may further reduce the seriousness with which a buyer views the agreement. But the addition of this functionality shows the direction the site is heading – Bizdaq clearly wants to streamline the process for sellers.

However, without any other significant functionality, at the moment the main function of the “seller dashboard” appears to be messaging, which could otherwise be achieved through email.

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To be able to claim to be a platform rather than a listing site, sellers would need to be able to be paid through the site, and this is not possible with Bizdaq. The representative we spoke to said that they will be adding escrow functionality “in future”. If added, this will further differentiate Bizdaq from the other sites, making it more of a true platform. But we do not yet have a date for this feature, and it remains to be seen whether buyers will have the confidence to pay prices in the hundreds of thousands of pounds through an online platform. (Note: this has been achieved by niche marketplaces Flippa and Empire Flippers (discussed at the bottom of this article), where their escrow functionality allows people to buy businesses online – but these marketplaces deal specifically with the sale of websites and it remains to be seen if similar functionality could be used to sell real world businesses).

Part of Bizdaq’s service offering is that it promises to give expert assistance to sellers “when they need it” throughout the process, presumably providing advice on pricing, negotiation strategy etc. This advice has to be given by a human, so it is difficult to imagine how it could be achieved any more effectively through a website like Bizdaq than via a traditional human advisor (such as a solicitor or accountant). The expert qualifications of the people providing the advice are not stated, but based on Bizdaq’s price point it is assumed that they are not solicitors and accountants.

There is no “premium buyer” tier with Bizdaq, which means that all listings are live on the site to all buyers immediately. This lack of delay is attractive compared to Daltons and BusinessesForSale, which only show ads to their premium buyers at first, and open up the listings to other buyers later.

Although Bizdaq compares itself to business brokers throughout its site, it is really competing with the other self-service business for sale websites. Sellers get some human assistance from Bizdaq in minor areas like “advert review” and professional photography, and some “advice”, if requested, throughout the process. But in reality it is the seller who handles all of the enquiries, qualifies the buyers, handles all negotiations, and generally does all of the work. Bizdaq offers more tools than the other sites for the seller to manage this process, but they must still do all of the work themselves. Compared to Daltons and BusinessesForSale, Bizdaq’s network is smaller, but the extra features it provides may justify the cost to some sellers. We have found Bizdaq's customer service team very responsive, which is a good benefit. And the genuine free trial (with access to all functionality), is also an advantage. But like other sites, Bizdaq only enables sellers to find buyers who are already searching for them.

Finally, the fact that we could not verify Bizdaq’s claims regarding its partnerships with sites like BizBuySell is a significant concern.

The Business Sale Report

A very different online option is the Business Sale Report, which is only available to paid subscribers and is completely free to sellers. The site doesn’t disclose many numbers (we asked) but with only “2,500+” subscribers, it is significantly smaller than the first four.

The advantage for sellers is in its business model: not only is it free for sellers (businesses with turnover > £300,000 qualify), but since the buyers are all paying members, there is a good case to suggest that they are more serious than the buyers on the other sites, where most people peruse but do not actually buy.

Besides being a website the Business Sale Report is an actual monthly report, which includes not only the latest advertised businesses for sale, but articles on the small cap M&A market in the UK.

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One caveat that should be noted is that the Business Sale Report includes a substantial focus on distressed businesses (businesses in administration etc). Access to this information is coveted amongst buyers who are looking for bargains of this kind, so their specialism in this area likely drives a substantial number of its subscriptions. Exactly what proportion is not disclosed.  But clearly from the seller’s point of view, those buyers who are only looking for distressed businesses are not of great interest, and would not be in “Circle A” in the diagram at the top of this post.

The website has an online valuation tool that is human-powered and results in a valuation being emailed to you. It does not appear to be a lead generator (where your details are sold to business brokers who will bid for your business), but simply a form to collect your details and provide you with a valuation.

Like the other websites, the advertising process on the Business Sale Report is very much a self-service affair, with a simple form to complete for your free ad, which is listed automatically.

The company offers additional selling options such as a “managed sale”, which is where they simply put you in touch with a business broker, and a “bespoke market review”. The latter is an unusual service, where for a fee of £4,000 + VAT they will refer you to a business broker who will create an “anonymous profile” of your business and proceed to email this out to their mailing list, simply to see if there is any interest in your business before you put it up for sale. This sounds novel, but as explained below in the section on business brokers, the process of actually finding and contacting strategic buyers (in the yellow area of the diagram), is rarely handled well. Most likely this would be a simple mailshot to their existing mailing list (their “network”). In any case it is outside the scope of the Business Sale Report’s main website offering, which is the advertising of businesses for sale to their paying subscribers.

Despite its alternative model, this is still a do-it-yourself option, and the business owner is required to do all of the work. Since it is free, there is no harm in advertising here in addition to one or more of the other options. But although the buyers are likely more serious on this site, it is still only a medium for finding buyers who are already actively searching for you.

Business Brokers

Why Use A Business Broker?

Given the dramatic price difference, why would anyone use a business broker? 

There are a few reasons, including the fact that brokers do some of the work for the sale around screening the initial enquiries, going through the NDA process and qualifying buyers. Some sellers prefer to have assistance with this process to save them the time of doing it themselves. Other sellers hope that the broker will be able to guide them through the negotiation (although there is a strong case to be made that brokers will actually negotiate down on price in order to close the deal, which strongly suggests that the owner would be better off without this “advice”).

But the most important reason is that a business broker is employed to find the buyers that are not searching for your business – they are employed to find the buyers in the yellow area in the diagram above. These people simply can’t be found by advertising on business for sale sites, because as we’ve discussed, most of the time they aren’t searching. A good broker can help you to find and reach these people. But not all brokers are the same, as we will see.

Business Brokers: Low End

At the lowest end of the business brokerage market, these providers (often called “business transfer agents”), offer to do some of the work in selling your business for a reduced fee. Although their fees vary, the example in the table (a low up-front fee of £750 plus a reduced minimum completion fee of £3,500) is the lowest on the market in the UK, according to our research. Much more common in this group of brokers is the alternate price structure of “no up-front fee” but a much higher commission – typically at a level of £10,000 as a minimum. The completion fee is always a percentage (3% to 5%), but for the very small businesses who would consider using one of these brokers, it is the minimum commission that counts.

For the money, these brokers typically advertise the business for sale on selected business for sale websites (some will advertise on all of the above sites), and send out an email to their own “mailing list” of buyers who have registered with them in the past. Preparation of marketing materials for the business – the Information Memorandum and a shorter document called a Teaser – is usually included in the package. These marketing materials are effectively short digital brochures that describe the business to potential buyers.

However, if the main reason for using a broker instead of advertising the business on the business-for-sale websites yourself is to find those buyers who are not searching, then low-end brokers will do little to achieve this. Rarely will brokers at this level engage in any serious attempt to research and find buyers for your business, contact them and pitch your business to them.  At this level, brokers will just advertise your business, send out the mailshot to their existing list, and hope that enquiries start coming in. Proactive they are not.

They will, however, field enquiries as they come in, qualify buyers and handle the NDA (non-disclosure agreement) process. Any buyers who reach this stage are instructed to speak to the business owner directly from this point onwards, and the business owner handles things from there.

While some buyers might think a low-end broker is a good option for “testing the market” to see if their business is saleable (especially the “no up-front fee” variety), a word of warning: there are many stories of business owners being sued by brokers for the minimum commission payment (typically around £10,000 + VAT) despite not selling the business. These stories often show a similar pattern: the seller signs up with the broker but the sale is unsuccessful. Upon deciding to hand the business over to someone else for free (typically a family member), the broker comes back onto the scene to alert them to the fact that the commission fee is payable, even though they transferred the business to a family member for no payment. The broker then pursues the business aggressively in the courts, and usually the commissions have to be paid, despite the business not selling. Search “business broker complaints” for examples. Not all of the low-end business brokers are like this of course, but it is worth noting.

At this end of the market, brokers will not be able to attract many buyers other than those that can be found through the business for sale websites listed above (since these sites are their primary method for selling the business). They do some of the “legwork” involved in the sale process so that the seller doesn’t have to. But they do very little to find good buyers in the yellow area of the diagram at the top of this post.

Business Brokers: Mid Range

Most business brokers fall into this category – pitching a higher service level (to appear similar to the high-end brokers), but without the price tag of the high-end players.

Fee structures vary within this group, and the example in the table is the lowest we found in our research.  Some have a simple up-front fee (typically between £1,000 and £2,500) and a commission (typically 4-5% with a minimum around the 7,500 to £10,000 level).  Others have an up-front fee, then a second fixed price fee to be paid at a specified time in the process (eg: upon the first meeting with a qualified buyer), and a third and final commission payment. Most brokers at this level will be willing to negotiate the exact price, structure and terms of your contract, so you could negotiate a lower up-front fee and a higher commission, or vice-versa.

At this level, in addition to advertising on the business for sale sites above, brokers will make some attempt at contacting strategic buyers (who they often call simply “the trade”), in order to fulfil their promise of finding those buyers who are suited to your business but are not actually searching. As discussed, strategic (or “trade”) buyers are critical to identify and target in the business sale process, because these buyers can benefit most from the acquisition and are most likely to actually proceed with the purchase. The problem is that in most cases this search for strategic buyers is not executed well.

Researching, finding and contacting these buyers can be a time-consuming process. Following them up if they don’t respond, getting through to the right person and actually selling the business to them takes more effort than these brokers have the resources for. Remember that 80-90% of small businesses advertised for sale don’t sell – this means that 80-90% of the time these brokers will make their up-front fee only. This fee (£1,000 to £2,500) is not sufficient to build a brokerage business based around extensive research and following-up of buyers for their clients. So they don’t do it.

Instead, they conduct a simplified version of this process: they spend a short while creating a list of businesses in the same industry (the “trade”), they ask the business owner for help in adding any other businesses to this list, then they send a bulk email mailshot to this list. Not to targeted people within these companies – this would require them to individually find out who is responsible for M&A at each company, and their contact details, before sending the email – they just send the email to whichever email address is already on this list. Everyone who doesn’t reply gets a second email. The most diligent brokers in this category will make some follow-up phone calls to this list, but as any business buyer will tell you, these calls are very rare. Most of the time it is simply an email, occasionally a follow-up email, and that is it. From the seller’s point of view, these non-responses are reported as “no interest” in the spreadsheet the broker builds to describe the results of this process.

   Excerpt from a broker’s brochure: even the language used to describe this process (‘Trade mailshot’) shows the lack of thoroughness in the approach – it is just a mailshot  .

Excerpt from a broker’s brochure: even the language used to describe this process (‘Trade mailshot’) shows the lack of thoroughness in the approach – it is just a mailshot.

At least these brokers make some attempt at contacting people other than the ones who are already searching. It is far from an exhaustive approach, but at least it will yield some responses from potential strategic buyers. A thorough search for strategic buyers would be much better, but at least this basic search yields some results in the yellow section of the graphic at the top of this post.

Business Brokers: High End

At the highest end of the business brokerage market for small businesses, brokers operate slightly differently – they are more like the M&A consultancies that serve larger corporate clients. These companies do have the resources to conduct more thorough searches, because of their fee structure, which is heavily weighted at the front end. Up-front fees of around £45,000 + VAT are common in this sector, with commissions usually set at a lower level of around 3%, although this can vary.

Businesses sold through these brokers tend to be larger due to the relative affordability of their fees. Larger companies are easier to sell, since they are perceived to come with less risk than smaller companies. Beyond the level of £2m turnover, other buyers start to become interested, such as private equity houses that are not interested in smaller businesses. These are included in the search, as are foreign investors who would not normally be considered in the sale of a smaller business. As a result, an extensive search process, if executed well, can find buyers the seller would not have been able to find on his or her own.

But most important is the serious approach taken to researching, contacting and selling to strategic buyers within the UK. This group of buyers is the most important group to contact and pitch the opportunity to. If handled well, this process will find multiple willing bidders and force up the sale price of the company.

This category is the only one that makes a serious effort to find strategic buyers. It is a shame their fee structure makes them unaffordable for many small businesses.

Conclusion

Each of the different options for selling your business has its advantages. Of the business for sale websites, RightBiz is the only one with a fixed price structure to list your business “until sold”, but it is smaller than Daltons and BusinessesForSale. Bizdaq aims to provide “everything you need” to sell your business, but unfortunately doesn’t live up to this claim (although it does provide some additional functionality compared to the others). The Business Sale Report is free for sellers, and only allows paid subscribers (therefore arguably only serious buyers) to view the businesses. All of these options is only suitable for targeting buyers in the black shaded areas of the diagram - the active searchers.

Given that most of these people will not be searching on all of the sites, it makes sense to advertise on several of them rather than just one, in order to reach more of the people in this black shaded area. In addition to the main sites, an advertisement on the Business Sale Report (if turnover > £300k) makes sense since it is free. (If we could verify Bizdaq's claim that its listings are duplicated across Daltons and RightBiz this would have been a useful way to achieve this, but we have been unable to verify this). In addition, it is worth considering smaller industry-specific sites as well (mentioned below in the Bonus Section). But none of these options will enable you to reach the buyers in the yellow area - the elusive strategic buyers who are not currently searching for you.

While business brokers promise to do a better job of this, in reality only the most expensive brokers conduct this process thoroughly. Business transfer agents and brokers at the lower-to-middle end of the market will handle some of the administrative work in the sale process for their clients, but if they are not able to find buyers any more effectively than the self-service websites, business owners would be right to question how much value they are getting for their money by using a broker at this level.

Many business owners choose to sell their business themselves, for this reason. For a few hundred pounds they can find most of the people in the black shaded area by advertising on several of the self-service business for sale websites. And they are better placed than any broker to identify strategic buyers for their business, since they know their industry so well. Those who want to outsource some of the legwork will still choose to use a business broker, but they must accept the fact that they will spend many thousands of pounds on this decision, and still must do most of the work themselves - especially the identification and targeting of strategic buyers in the yellow area. Those with businesses large enough to warrant the hiring of a high-end broker (with up-front fees in the region of £45,000), will have a better experience, but this clearly comes at a very high price.

 

Bonus: More Options For Selling Your Business

There are a few more options available to business sellers – these ones didn’t make it into the main comparison table for various reasons we’ll discuss. Let’s have a look at these options:

BizBuySell

BizBuySell.com is the largest business for sale website in the United States and one of the largest in the world, but it lists very few businesses for sale in the UK and does not have a dedicated UK site (which is why it wasn’t included in our comparison). It is owned by the same company as BizQuest, another large US site which was excluded for the same reason.

Ebay

The world’s largest marketplace overall, eBay also lists businesses for sale. We didn’t include it in the comparison table because eBay is a marketplace for just about everything – it isn’t specific to businesses. Advertising fees are relatively low on eBay, so many sellers who don’t want to invest much money in the sale give the site a try. While the audience is not specific to people searching for businesses for sale, many of the listings appear on Google searches so they may still be found by active buyers. Businesses for sale on this site tend to be at the very small end of the market.

The Gumtree

Like eBay, the Gumtree lists businesses for sale along with almost everything else, which is why we didn’t include it in the comparison table. And like eBay, advertising fees are small, as is the average size of the business advertised on the site.

Rightmove

The UK’s largest property listing site Rightmove also lists businesses for sale, but only ones that have commercial premises (like shops). And businesses can only be listed by approved agents – sellers can’t list on Rightmove themselves, which is the other reason the site didn’t make it onto our comparison table. Advertising on Bizdaq would be one way of listing your business on Rightmove, if we could verify that Bizdaq's claim is true - but as we can't confirm this we cannot recommend this approach.

Facebook Groups

Private groups for all kinds of topics are springing up on Facebook, and small business M&A is no exception. The “Businesses For Sale UK” Facebook Group has more than 36,000 members at the time of writing. It is operated by a business broker but claims to allow members to list their businesses for free on the group. Listings are very strongly skewed towards restaurants and takeaways.

Small Marketplaces Like BizSale.co.uk

There are a number of other dedicated business for sale websites in the UK, such as BizSale.co.uk (owned by the Business Sale Report). But since the size of these marketplaces is significantly smaller than the main five, they weren’t included in our main comparison.

Empire Flippers & Flippa

Flippa and Empire Flippers are genuine marketplaces for buying and selling businesses, but of a specific type: these sites only allow sellers to list “websites” (which can include ecommerce sites, affiliate marketing sites, infomarketing businesses and others – Empire Flippers’ full list is here), apps and domains. Both marketplaces have escrow functionality that allows businesses to be purchased through the site. While Flippa was first, and used to be associated with extremely small listings, it has grown over time and now regularly sells businesses with values in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Unsavoury stories were associated with these kinds of marketplaces in the early days, but security has improved greatly and they are now considered much safer, which has aided their growth. They aren’t included in our comparison table because they are very specific in the kind of businesses they list.

Industry-Specific Business For Sale Sites

Industry-specific business listing sites like daynurseries.co.uk (for nurseries) and practicesforsale.co.uk (accountancy, legal and other professional practices) weren’t included in our table because of their specificity. But sellers in these industries would be well advised to check them out.

Industry-Specific Forums With A "Business For Sale" Section

Many industry forums have a section devoted to allowing members to advertise their businesses for sale. For example, gardenforum.co.uk has a page for buying and selling garden centres & horticultural businesses, while physiobase.com lists physiotherapy practices for sale. Again it is worth checking if forums specific to your industry have listings that allow you to sell your business.