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Business mergers: Questions to ask your prospective intermediary

The large amounts of money involved in a business merger mean that emotions will be running high, a lot will be on the table and there's the risk of making a huge mistake that haunts you for many years to come. For these and many other reasons, hiring an intermediary to help navigate the various moving parts involved with a large business merger is a wise move.

Whoever you choose as a prospective intermediary, you will want to interview this person to ensure he or she is the right one for the job. Here are the first question you should ask regarding the intermediary's experience, education and qualifications:

What is your education and experience? You'll usually want an intermediary who has received some kind of specialized training in business management, business assessment and business transactions. As in all areas of hiring, however, experience could trump education because, ultimately, you need someone who has shown he or she can get the job done.

With what businesses has the intermediary worked in the past? You'll want your intermediary to have had experience working with similar sized businesses, and preferably businesses in the same industry as yours.

What's the intermediary's "track record"? Look for an intermediary who has proof of successful mergers and acquisitions in the past.

Does the intermediary and his or her firm have references? Ask for real references with whom you can speak about their experience working with the intermediary and/or his or her firm.

Does the intermediary have a license? You'll want to make sure that your intermediary has the requisite licenses to do the job in your state.

What about past regulatory complaints? Checking for past regulatory complaints and/or administrative actions taken against your intermediary and his or her firm is essential to your evaluation. You don't want an intermediary with a checkered past.

Contracting and hiring an intermediary for a merger is not something that a "layperson" who has never been involved in a business merger should do without assistance from a qualified legal counselor. Ultimately, it's best to investigate and learn as much as you can about your legal rights and options regarding the business merger before you start to move forward with the process -- even before you hire an intermediary.

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