Your Shout: Stephen Johnston, Charter & Co

13 September 2004
Your Shout: Stephen Johnston, Charter & Co

Instructing an agent to sell your business is like going to the dentist - you suspect the experience might hurt but there comes a time when you know it has got to be done.


Having sold hotels for more than 25 years, with some of the market leaders as well as the smallest firms, I believe I am well placed to argue from both viewpoints.

Some years ago, while I was employed by one of the largest firms, research was carried out which highlighted the fact that agents' fees were of low priority when choosing an agent - music to an agent's ears. I suspect, however, that a similar survey carried out today would show that owners now hold to a different opinion. People today expect value for money, more than ever before.

Putting cost implications to one side, the most important attribute to look for when choosing an agent has to be experience.

Big agents do some things very well. If you want to find a buyer for 200 pubs or a portfolio of large hotels, then it's only the "big boys" that can logistically handle such a sale. Other, lesser mortals with a one-off business to sell can still get value with a big agent, provided they choose the right person within the firm.

Small agents promote personal service, quick responses and are often flexible on fees. The same criterion applies, however - look for experience.

As a general comment on the future hotel market, I think it is likely to undergo one of its periodic changes, driven by a slow-down in the residential housing market. But no one needs to panic. We have seen it all before, and there will always be buyers for an experienced agent to find.

Give the little guys a chance - you might be pleasantly surprised.

Stephen Johnston: 01803 835300

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