For full disclosure, I want to start off this article by leveling the playing field on perspective by saying I am an accredited business appraiser and have no experience as a business broker. The purpose of this article is to provide insight into key differences between costs associated with the services of a business broker versus an accredited business appraiser, and to clarify the impact of independence and objectivity in their respective services.
Consider, for illustrative purposes, that you are contemplating selling your business and don’t know where to start. You have heard you need to have a business valuation performed so that you can determine a selling price. While there are many different levels of service that both a business broker and accredited appraiser can offer, including limited consulting services, a scope-limited calculation (estimate) of value, or an opinion of value, for purposes of this article we are going to assume you want a full opinion of value without any scope limitations.
• Accredited Business Appraiser: Fees are based on hourly rates, and the amount of time required for services depends on size and complexity of the business. Fees cannot be based on a contingency or outcome, as doing so would be a violation of their code of professional conduct.
• Business Broker: May choose not to charge fees to provide a Broker’s Opinion of Value (BOV) in lieu of them receiving commission on the successful sale of a business. Therefore, they want to provide BOVs for companies when the owners are ready to sell. Otherwise, realization of their commission may be delayed or may never come.
Independence and Objectivity
• Accredited Business Appraiser: Business appraisers who hold designations such as the ABV (Accredited in Business Valuation) and or ASA (Accredited Senior Appraiser) from reputable organizations such as the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) or the American Society of Appraisers (ASA) must abide by a code of conduct and code of ethics, which require independence and objectivity. They are an advocate for their own opinion of value and not an advocate for the client or business. When hired as an expert witness in a litigation setting, accredited business appraisers must be vigilant in confirming with clients that they are not “a hired gun.” While a client’s attorney may be an advocate, the accredited business appraiser is an advocate for their opinion and their opinion only. As a result, whether in litigation or not, accredited business appraisers are able to remain independent and objective regarding the business value on which they opine.
• Business Broker: A business broker is not independent or objective because their goal is to sell the business for the highest price they can realize in the market, as they receive a financial benefit from selling the business for a higher price because it results in higher commissions. Because of this, they cannot be independent or objective.
Intended User – Audience Reliance
• Accredited Business Appraiser: If the user/potential audience of the report is a trier of fact, such as a judge, or jury during a trial, or a bank or the Internal Revenue Service, the fact that an accredited appraiser is independent, and objective is key because their unbiased opinion can be relied on. For these reasons, if there is an intended 3rd party audience, employing an accredited business appraiser for an opinion of value would likely be the best option.
• Business Broker: If the user of the report is a business owner who has decided to sell their business, utilizing a business broker for their broker’s opinion of value to determine an asking price may be a viable option because an unbiased opinion of value may not be necessary.
Our Business Valuation group at TDT CPAs and Advisors uses a team-based approach of multiple accredited business appraisers who work full-time together to meet the level of service our clients need. Whether it’s business value consulting services or a written opinion of value, we are here to help. Additionally, as a full-service CPA Firm, TDT CPAs and Advisors can not only assist you with those challenges related to valuing your business, but also provide services related to your accounting, tax, and assurance needs.