So, a business broker, a priest and a stripper walk into a bar …

OK. At least there’s a business broker in the joke.   Read on …

Business brokers – for the small percentage of Americans who know what they are and what they do – have a mixed reputation in business communities. On the one hand, they’re the people business owners turn to in the hope of getting a great price for the sale of their companies. They’re also the people who not infrequently prod wary sellers – and buyers – to ‘move along’ with the deal.  Hmm…

And so – for the bad hats in our profession, we hear the jokes like this:

Business broker dies, goes to the front gates of heaven to present himself for his eternal reward. St. Peter holds up his hand and says, “You’re a difficult case. On the one hand, you did a lot for your community and its charities, but, on the other, there were some pretty shady owner-financing deals you peddled off. So, let me sell you on a sweet deal — we’re going to give you a tour of both your afterlife options to see where you’re most comfortable. “

The tour of heaven was delightful – the broker admired the broad streets lined with successful Main Street businesses and large homes (and thought who ARE the brokers around here?) but was a little turned off by people having fun by playing harps and singing heavenly music.

Second stop on the tour – Hell – wasn’t anything like the broker imagined. While not as much entrepreneurial activity — the people spent time playing golf or going to the club pools for smoking and drinking. And, amazingly, even the Devil seemed like a pretty nice guy.

“You know,” said the broker to St. Peter, “this is a tough call. Let me sleep on it and get back to you in the morning.”

And so it was agreed.

Next morning he told St. Pete his choice was Hell.  Long elevator ride …

The doors of Hell opened and what the business broker saw was just what we hear in Sunday school. Fire and brimstone, people burning and screaming out in anguish.

“Wait,” cried the broker to the Devil, “this isn’t at ALL what you showed me yesterday!”

“Oh, that” replied the Devil, “I guess the seller didn’t remind you of how fast deals can change. You should have locked in when you had a good offer.”

Ta-da-Boom…

So, what are some of the ways that you can identify brokers you might want to steer clear of? How do you find people you will be comfortable dealing with something as financially and emotionally central to so many lives?

Social computing tools can help a lot. Different areas have forums where people share stories of their experience with different professionals. In Berkeley California, there’s a great local online space called Berkeley Parents Network. Yahoo Groups for neighborhoods can be places where you’ll get leads. Same thing for Google Groups.

More proactively? Start searching Facebook and LinkedIn profiles to locate possible candidates. If you’re comfortable with Twitter, today’s search on ‘Business Broker’ pops up over 50 tweets.

And, if you’re willing to deal with information overload, a search on “Blog, How to find broker recommendations” yields – well – put it this way … you’ll be skimming text for a long long time.

Next time – some specific search tips on tapping into what friends, colleagues and neighbors can teach you about their experiences with business brokers.

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