Thinking of buying or selling an RIA firm in 2017?

Here are 10 — OK, 11 — tips that should help:

1) Start with your business goals.
Forget the deal for a minute - what do you seek to achieve during the next five years? Business and professional goals.

2) Create a comprehensive profile of your target candidate.
Size, geography, investment philosophy, client profile and…how a candidate can best help you achieve your goals!

3) Have lots of short introductory discussions.

You are kissing a lot of frogs - not becoming best friends with a lot of frogs. Expect kissing 100 frogs to find your prince. Yes, 100 to 1.

4) Consider hiring an investment banker.
Be real: Do you really know what you are doing? Perhaps, hire an expert - just like your clients do.

5) Culture, Culture, Culture.
From here on out, have your radar up: Can I, my staff, and my clients work with this person or team? Do our companies fit?

Biggest deals in RIA M&A: No end in sight
Who is poised to buy next year?

6) Identify Deal Killers.
What are your 'no-can-dos'. Ask diplomatically what their deal killers are, too.

7) Get a professional valuation.
Don't use math that a twelve year old can do in her head to value an asset worth millions: Spend the $6,000 to $16,000 needed to get it done right.

8) Deal structure is your friend.
This is where the magic happens. Align incentives to best achieve the best transaction.

9) Watch the emotions.
It can be a gut-wrenching journey. People are selling or merging companies they have nurtured and grown. Change is hard. Expect and respect emotions.

10) Watch the pacing.
Too much pressure? Your potential partner will spook and drop out. Not enough momentum? Deal fatigue will kill the deal. Keep the pace right.

11) Buy two bottles of champagne.
Pop one when the deal is complete. Open the second when the integration is done.

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