Lois Melbourne and her husband started Acquire Solutions, a software business that helped large companies manage their employees. After 18 years, the self-funded business had grown to 85 people and the Melbournes received an offer from a private equity firm rolling up software companies in the human resources field.
Acquirers are a secretive bunch. They typically operate behind confidentiality agreements with their motives and tactics disguised from the public. That’s one reason I enjoyed my interview with Rocky Romanella so much.
Anthony Amos and his brother started HydroDog, an Australian company offering a mobile dog washing and grooming service. For $10, the Amos brothers would show up at your door with a giant dog bath on the back of their trailer and wash your dog.
How many people will you have to approach about buying your business before you end up getting an offer?
In this week’s episode, you’ll hear from John Arnott who gives you a breakdown of the statistics on how many people he approached, the conversion rate of those approached to those who signed a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA), what proportion of people under NDA requested a face-to-face meeting and, of the people he met with, how many offers he received.
It’s the first time that we at Built to Sell Radio have received such specific conversion rate statistics on a single deal. Arnott’s story is treasure trove of hard-fought wisdom, including:
Dan Lok packaged a set of table tennis video tutorials into a membership website and charged a subscription fee to join. Over eight years, Lok managed to build a five-figure recurring revenue stream from subscribers to Table Tennis Master.
Table Tennis Master was one of 20 businesses Lok was developing simultaneously when tragedy struck his family. That’s when he decided to simplify his life and sell off some of his business interests.
In Lok’s case, speed and ease of transaction were more important than maximizing his financial take, so in this episode you’ll hear the story behind the sale of Table Tennis Master and learn some unconventional tactics, such as:
The Mortgage Reports publishes information about mortgages for home owners. Site founder Dan Green, capitalized on the internet traffic they generated by selling leads to mortgage lenders.
Within three years, Green crested a million dollars a year in annual revenue. That’s when he began to worry about new regulations and compliance as his business went from being a hobby to a major player in the mortgage leads industry. Green decided to sell and quickly got three offers from the companies he was selling leads to.
The first offer was mostly cash. The second was for half cash and the other half “at risk” in an earn-out tied to meeting lead volume goals in the future. The third offer included a small payment up front with a rich potential earn-out if Green was able to send the acquirer enough quality leads. You may be surprised to learn which of the three offers Green picked.
In this episode, you’ll learn:
Laura Gisborne has started nine companies and sold six of them, including The Art of Wine, the subject of this week’s episode. The Art of Wine is a tasting room with a subscription-based wine club division. With a little more than $1MM in annual revenue, The Art of Wine was still a relatively small business, but when the lease came up for renewal Gisborne reasoned it was the perfect time to look for a new owner.
Gisborne channeled her experience from six exits into the sale of The Art of Wine, and in this episode you’ll learn how to:
Most sellers want to be paid all of their money up front, and most buyers want to avoid paying anything up front. Deals usually get done somewhere in the middle, where the seller agrees to accept some cash and to be paid some of their proceeds over time.
Eric Weiner, for example, started All Occasion Transportation in college and by the time he turned 35, his company was grossing more than $3MM a year. That’s when Weiner decided he wanted out.
Weiner found a buyer and agreed to accept half of his money in a five-year consulting contract, which sounded great in theory but ended up becoming hard to enforce. In this cautionary episode, you’ll learn:
Have you ever noticed the ads that run before you watch an official online video clip from shows like Saturday Night Live or Jimmy Kimmel? You can thank Nicholas Seet for that. Seet developed the video player that hosts both the content and the ads for some of the world’s biggest media companies. His business, Auditude, was recently acquired by Adobe for more than $100 million according to UCLA's Anderson School of Management.
Although a spectacular exit, Seet had to give up a large chunk of the company—and the CEO title—to scale up, so in this episode of Built to Sell Radio we ask the age-old question: 'Is it better to own a big chunk of a small company or a small slice of a big company?' You may be surprised by Seet’s response.
You’ll also learn:
Ian Ippolito started Rent a Coder as an online marketplace for hiring technical talent. He quickly expanded to go beyond technical professionals and re-branded as vWorker. Ippolito built vWorker up to $11.5MM in annual revenue before he received an acquisition offer from Australia’s Freelancer.com
Freelancer.com had been courting Ippolito for months but their original offer was too low in Ippolito’s view. That’s when Ippolito decided the only way for him to get any real negotiating leverage was to seek out a second bidder. In this episode, you’ll learn:
Peter Shankman started Help A Reporter Out (HARO) to connect experts with journalists who needed people to quote for stories. HARO sent a simple email three times a day to subscribers and because every email had the potential to be a reporter from a media outlet like The New York Times, the email open rates were close to 80%. Most days Shankman worked from his sofa with two employees helping him remotely.
Within three years, Shankman was generating $1.5MM from selling simple text ads on his email blasts. That’s when Shankman’s largest advertiser approached him to buy HARO. In the episode you’ll learn:
Bobby Albert took over the family moving business when his father died unexpectedly. Determined to succeed, he transformed his father’s five-person business into a fast growth company, eventually employing 150 people before The Albert Group of Companies was approached by a strategic acquirer.
Rather than simply accept their first acquisition offer, Albert patiently negotiated the offer up by more than 100% before he agreed to be taken over.
In this episode, you’ll learn:
- The difference between an abundance and a scarcity mindset.
- What distinguishes your company’s core values from the founder’s core values.
- How to 5X your revenue.
- The secret to getting discretionary effort from your employees.
- The difference between a values-driven company that gets results and a results-driven company that has values.
- Why aspirational values kill a company’s culture.
- How to more than double your next acquisition offer.
Julie Pickens and her partner Mindee Hardin created Boogie Wipes, a moistened tissue Moms use so their sick kids can avoid a raw nose in cold season. They patented their formula and won orders from Rite Aid, Walmart and Target leading to annual revenue of $15 million.
But all was not well in Boogie land—in fact, the partners’ relationship became strained when Hardin announced she wanted out, forcing Pickens to find a buyer for their company. The result would leave Pickens disappointed with her exit while partner Hardin had to file for bankruptcy.
What follows is a cautionary tale of what happens when partners decide to go their separate ways.
Bert Martinez is a best-selling author and a national radio host who has sold a dozen businesses in his career. In this episode, you’ll hear the story of Accelerator, a supplements company he sold for just under $1.6MM in 2014.
Accelerator’s main supplement was ephedra, a weight loss pill that was selling well despite a growing group of customers who were getting sick from misusing it.
Martinez started to worry that ephedra could be banned so he put his business on the market, only to realize it was worth a lot less than he thought.
Rajiv Kumar and Brad Weinberg started ShapeUp, a software company designed around getting people to improve their health. Instead of going direct to consumers, they decided to license the platform to large Fortune 500 companies looking to reduce their insurance expenses by getting employees to improve their health.
The partners sold 20% of the company for $300,000 in start-up capital and went on to raise five more rounds of capital at increasing valuations. They got the business up to $20 million in recurring revenue when they got a call from Richard Branson-backed Virgin Pulse.
Kumar was able to gin up Virgin’s initial offer by 50% based on some savvy negotiation skills. In the episode, you’ll learn:
In 1992 Stephanie Breedlove started a payroll company to make it easier for parents to pay their nannies. It began small and she self-funded their growth, which averaged 20% per year.
By 2012 they had hit $9 million in annual sales when she got a call from Sheila Marcelo, the CEO of venture-backed Care.com. Marcelo wanted to buy Breedlove’s company and offered her almost $40 million—more than four times Breedlove’s revenue, an astronomical multiple that only serves to underscore Breedlove’s audacity when she turned it down.
Breedlove wanted more and ultimately settled on a price of $55 million for her $9 million business. In this episode, you’ll learn:
When you get an acquisition offer for your business, it is natural to focus on the offer price, but your employment contract can be a key element of your remuneration.
I know, you don’t want to be an employee but, when you sell, you’ll likely have to sign on for a transition period or earn-out where you will officially be an employee again. The terms of this employment contract are a key element of any deal.
Just ask Eric Sit.
Sit’s company was acquired by Detection Technologies in 2013. Six months later, Detection was acquired and Sit lived to regret the employment contract he had signed.
Barry Hinckley founded Bullhorn with his two partners Art Papas and Roger Colvin. The software company built an application recruiters used to manage candidates and clients. Bullhorn raised three rounds of financing and went on to sell for $135MM in 2012. Hinckley and his team raised money from family, friends, and venture capitalists and have the scars to prove it. In this interview you’ll learn:
The first book I ever read about entrepreneurship was The E-Myth by Michael Gerber.
I loved it.
Gerber’s knack for simplifying the complex art of starting and growing a company resonated with me immediately. Although I’ve never met Michael, I consider him to be one of my very first teachers.
I have not read his more recent books so when his publicist contacted me last week to see if I would interview Michael on Built to Sell Radio, I was keen to hear what he had been up to since The E-Myth.
In this interview, you’ll get a summary of his new book, Beyond The E-Myth including:
For the better part of 40 years, Michael Gerber has been encouraging business owners to work “on, not in” your business. That’s exactly what we do with owners that leverage The Value Builder System™. Each month, you’ll get focused time with one of our Certified Value Builders to help you build your company as if it were a product to sell. Get started by completing your Value Builder questionnaire.
Frank Cottle led an investor group to buy Hi-Mark Software for 10 times EBITDA. Cottle then sold a chunk for 15 times and ultimately sold his last tranche of equity for more than 16 times EBITDA to Lufthansa. In this interview, you’ll get deep inside the mind of a private equity buyer and learn:
Most of our Built to Sell Radio episodes have been success stories but this week’s show is a cautionary tale of what happens when you don’t plan ahead. It features Dan Bradbury, a young entrepreneur who was growing a successful business right up until the day he had a cycling accident and ended up in a coma.
Bradbury made a full recovery after seven months, but his business didn’t make out as well. It suffered in his absence, and instead of committing to build it back up upon his recovery, Bradbury decided to sell it, reasoning he needed to safeguard his family’s finances should anything bad happen again. After a long search, Bradbury found a buyer but the offer he received revealed his weakened negotiating position.You’ll hear Bradbury's cautionary tale along with:
Mark Stephenson and his partners grew their conference business, Media Edge Communications, to north of $10 million in annual revenue when they were approached by an acquirer. They agreed to a deal that was just shy of eight times EBITDA—85% of the deal was in cash with 15% in an earn-out. If Stephenson had the deal to do over again, he would change his earn-out structure to avoid leaving money on the table. You’ll learn about Stephenson’s earn-out mistake along with:
- The emotional impact of selling.
- How buyers try to grind you down during diligence (and how to counter).
- How to tell the difference between a time-kicker and a serious acquirer.
- How long it takes to negotiate the sale of a business.
Steve Huey bought The Learning House, a company that creates online courses on behalf of colleges, for $2.7MM in 2007 because he saw the opportunity to professionalize the sales and account management of the business. Five years later, Huey sold the business to Weld North, a private equity company for $27.5 MM earning his shareholders an 8 to 1 return.
In this episode, you’ll hear Huey’s advice on:
Joe Saul Sehy is the host of Stacking Benjamins, a popular personal finance podcast on which he has interviewed everyone from Jean Chatzky to David Bach.
Sehy’s journey to becoming a podcasting sensation was a little unusual: he started as a financial advisor, building a firm with $65 million in assets under management. Then, on his 40th birthday, Sehy received a letter from a friend which was the trigger that made him want to sell his business. His friend’s letter became a catalyst for him to switch careers and become a professional podcaster. In this episode of Built to Sell Radio, Sehy describes the sale of his financial planning practice and you’ll learn:
Doug Chapiewsky built CenterPoint Solutions Inc. into an Inc. 500 company with $5 million in revenue and more than $3 million in EBITDA before he sold it to Israeli-based Nice Systems. In this episode of Built to Sell Radio, Chapiewsky describes how to: