The value of hiring an M&A firm to sell your Dallas business is well-documented. The right advisory team can help bridge gaps in your knowledge, support the negotiation process, and ensure you get a fair deal. They can also help you prepare for the sale well ahead of closing, so that your business is as attractive as possible and your valuation expectations are reasonable. That doesn’t mean you can hire just any M&A firm. You need a company that knows your niche and believes in your business. Here are three red flags to look for when interviewing or hiring a Dallas M&A firm.

The M&A Firm Won’t Provide References

Just as you would when hiring any other employee, check references. If the firm is unwilling to provide references, or you can’t get a call back from the references they do provide, this is a bright, glowing red flag. Companies that have good experiences with M&A firms want to share those experiences with others, so don’t buy into claims of confidentiality. It’s common for firms to delay providing references until they think hiring is imminent, to avoid irritating previous clients. This is fine, and shows the firm cares about their clients’ time. But if you can’t get any references at all, don’t waste another second trying.

They’re Very Busy, But With Few Results

A business that takes on lots of clients each year but cannot point to many closed deals may be focusing on signing new contracts, with little attention paid to the actual needs of their clients. These volume practices don’t have the time or energy to invest much into each business, which means you’ll get little value for oyur money. Selling a business is a complex, detail-oriented process. Don’t fall for a company that’s too busy to give you the attention you need, and too interested in signing new contracts to prioritize those they already have.

The Pricing Model Focuses on Large Upfront Fees

It makes sense for an investment bank to charge some upfront fees, since this reduces the incentive to sell the company at all costs, regardless of the consequences to the client. You need a clear understanding of how the advisory firm you select charges for their services. If the model seems heavily weighted toward upfront fees, then there is little incentive for success, and little reason to invest time and effort in selling your company.

Some firms will forego a cash retainer altogether if your company is large and frequently engages in M&A. But this is the exception to the rule, and most small business owners can’t command the sort of M&A presence that a large business can. So expect to pay something upfront. Just make sure that’s not the largest share of the total fee.

There are, of course, other red flags, including anything your own intuition tells oyu. Ultimately, you must feel comfortable working with this firm. If you don’t like your banker, the sale process is going to be miserable. Trust your gut.