What are some ways a broker can prevent a buyer and seller from doing a deal behind their back and what to do about it if it happens?
For most business brokers, it's something that has happened: finding out one of your sellers and perhaps one of your buyers have decided to the deal without you. The scenario is usually the same, both parties lower the agreed price a little, but not more than the amount the seller would owe the broker a commission. For a broker, who has invested many hours and resources in selling the business, it's frustrating to feel cheated out of an earned commission. Just like there are some dishonest brokers, there are also dishonest buyers and sellers, and I've learned that although there will always be people who try to cheat the system, there are some ways to deter it.
1. Take only listings that you can adequately service.
It's tempting to take as many listings as possible, because we all know the list/sell ratios in business brokerage, but if you take too many then it's impossible to service them all appropriately. I've found that the sellers/buyers who have tried to make a deal without me, even though there is a listing contract in place, are primarily the ones I took that were out of the area, and beyond my normal sales territory. If the listing is an hour and half away, I must ask myself, "do I really want to make a 3-hour round trip to get a modification of terms or some other contract signed?" Does taking a listing that I can't properly service really serve the buyer, seller, or myself correctly?
2. Subscribe to a service of escrow publications.
There are companies out there which will tell each week which businesses have opened an escrow or have posted with ABC. These companies are invaluable in monitoring what is going on in the market. I've found a few of my clients over the years who have opened an escrow amongst each other, thinking I wouldn't find out. If I do see that one of my clients has gone to escrow without me, I'll call the escrow company and put a claim into escrow for my commission. If the seller and buyer decide to sell it amongst themselves and don't go to escrow, then of course I have fewer opportunities of recourse.
3. Always keep a record of Non-disclosures with buyers.
Never, never be tempted to send a buyer out to one of your listings without having them sign an NDA. Some buyers will try to say, "I'm on the road and have no access to a computer, can you just give me the listing? Keep a good record of who you send out to the business listings, and avoid giving out too many to one buyer at a time. Also, beware of buyers who want addresses on listings that aren t the same type, such as, "your laundromat, coffee shop, bar, liquor store, mail box, and pool hall." In my listing contract and on NDA, there is language which prevents the buyer and seller from doing a deal without me for 90-120 after the expiration of the listing contract, so keep good records!
4. Produce a list to the seller of all prospective buyers you have procured the buyer.
At the end of the listing contract, provide the seller with names, not numbers, but names of all the buyers you procured through your marketing efforts. This reminds them that you keep good records, and their commitment to your listing contract, which has expired, but may have terms that spells how to deal with buyers found during the length of the contract. I have seen brokers who have taken their clients to small claims court for an earned commission, but even if you do get a judgement, it's still on you to collect, so possibly see an attorney for advice.
5. If it happens to you, don't let it get you down.
If you do get cheated out of your commission, deal with it in the way you think is best, but don t allow it to consume you or affect the way you deal with future clients. Most my clients are trustworthy, and so I don't let a few of the bad ones, make me a jaded person. Trust in our business is very important.