Carl Allen is an entrepreneur, investor, and corporate deal-maker who has worked on transactions worth over $50 billion, which includes over 250 acquisitions and sales, together with more than 100 capital fundraising projects. He is one of the world’s premier experts on buying and financing small business acquisitions and coaches more than 1000 entrepreneurs all over the world to buy small businesses rather than start new ones.
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3 Value Bombs
1) It’s so much easier and so much quicker – and it’s far less riskier – to actually go and acquire a business that somebody else has built but no longer wants to own. You can buy or invest in that business using the business’s own resources.
2) “The best way to find deals is networking.”
3) As you are teaching or mentoring, you’re going to help refine what you do and get better every single day. Every single time you answer a question, you remove an obstacle and you identify a challenge, and it’s going to help you as you move forward.
**Click the time stamp to jump directly to that point in the episode.
Today’s Audio Masterclass: How to Buy a Business Without Investing Your Own Cash
[04:40] – Carl shares something about himself that most people don’t know.
[06:43] – Carl gives an overview of today’s masterclass.
- Like in real estate investing, you can buy a business or invest in a business without YOU having to commit any of your own personal capital.
- It’s so much easier and so much quicker – and it’s far less riskier – to actually go and acquire a business that somebody else has built but no longer wants to own. You can buy or invest in that business using the business’s own resources.
[08:19] – What is the value of buying a business as opposed to founding one?
- 96% of all businesses that start up will fail in 10 years, and 50% of them will fail inside of the first 12 months.
- There are over 2.4 million businesses for sale today in North America alone.
[10:10] – Carl names what he thinks are good reasons for people to sell businesses (so it’s not a red flag if people come across that opportunity.)
- They don’t have what it takes to take their business to the next level, so they want to cash out and let somebody else take it to that next level.
- What happens when you combine businesses together is you can eradicate lots of duplicate costs.
[16:35] – Where can you actually find these opportunities?
- The biggest mistake that most business buyers come across is they just go to brokers.
- The best way to find deals is networking.
[18:38] – What’s another approach if you don’t have the kind of network that would allow you these opportunities?
- 79% of all small business owners who actually sell their business have never actually listed it through a broker.
[21:03] – How can you evaluate whether a business is worth buying? What numbers actually matter when you’re trying to figure out if this business is financially stable?
- You have to look at it quantitatively and qualitatively.
- From a financial perspective, it’s really straightforward. You’re looking for businesses that have recurring revenues, pretty solid balance sheet, and positive cash flow.
- It’s important that you find the deals that really resonate with you. It’s buying a business that’s in a niche you understand and you are passionate about.
[29:20] – Carl talks about ‘Psychology versus Numbers’ and how it balances out.
- When you’re doing these monster deals, they’re 90% financial engineering and 10% psychology. When you’re buying a small business from a baby boomer that burns out and wants to retire, it’s kind of the opposite.
- 78% of people who have sold their business say that when they sold their business, cash at closing was not their primary concern. Their primary concern was that they wanted a trusted, safe pair of hands that would take their business on, push it to the next level, and protect the brand, the legacy, the heritage, the culture, the employees, and the customers inside of that business.
[33:36] – Carl talks about the most important things to think about when making a buying decision.
- The legacy and heritage of the business is the difference that makes the difference. It’s the single kind of nucleus of how this entire thing works.
- You’ve got to go out and find a friendlier buyer that’s going to keep the name, keep the employees, and run the business exactly as it is.
[36:44] – Carl recommends a couple of steps for people who are looking to sell their business.
- The biggest payday that you have as the business owner is the day you decide to sell the business.
- First, and foremost, decide who you want to sell your business to.
- The next thing you need to do, and this is where most sellers fall down, is properly prepare your business for sale.
[46:05] – How teaching other people helped Carl refine his own system that he’s still using today.
- You can’t just talk about stuff and be very academic about it unless it works on Wall Street or you’ve got an MBA.
- As you’re teaching or mentoring, you’re going to help refine what you do and get better every single day. Every single time you answer a question, you remove an obstacle and you identify a challenge, and that is what’s going to help you as you move forward.
[48:46] – What are the action steps you should have for the first 100 days as a business owner?
- The first thing you do is go into the business and meet the employees.
- The second thing is to get into the working capital of the business.
- Carl has a 7-step plan he’s developed over the last quarter of a century to really get businesses firing on all cylinders.
- Next thing he does is quickly systematize the business so he doesn’t have to be there anymore.
[53:28] – Carl shares one super key take away from this masterclass – tune in, Fire Nation!
[56:04] – How do we do this without actually investing our own cash?
- You can pay for the business over time using the cash flow.
- If you want to buy a business that’s worth a million dollars, do not go and put a million dollars of your own money into that deal. You don’t have to do that.
[59:03] – Carl’s parting piece of guidance
- Check out Carl’s 90-minute Masterclass training where he goes through his proprietary 10-step system in detail! How to Buy Your First Business
Shake the room Fire Nation. JLD here and welcome to Entrepreneurs On Fire brought to you by the HubSpot Podcast Network with great shows like I Digress. Today, we're pulling a timeless EOFire classic episode from the archives, and we'll be breaking down how to buy a business without investing your own cash with Carl Allen. Carl is an entrepreneur investor and corporate dealmaker who has worked on transactions worth over $50 billion, which includes over 250 acquisitions and sales together. With more than a hundred capital fundraising projects. He is one of the world's premier experts on buying and financing, small business acquisitions and coaches, more than a thousand entrepreneurs all over the world to buy small businesses rather than start new ones in today.
Fire Nation, we will be talking about why it's so much easier and quicker and less risky to go acquire a business that someone else has built, but no longer wants to own the best ways to find deals in networking and so much more. When we get back from thanking our sponsors, easy to start and built a customized Thinkific enables thousands of entrepreneurs to run their training remotely. Try Thinkific for free today at Thinkific.com/EOF. That's Thinkific.com/EOF. Wondering what to do when you need motivation. Wish you had a go-to guy when it comes to preventing burnout tune in to Jenna Kutcher's The Goal Digger Podcast brought to you by the HubSpot Podcast Network. Listen to The Goal Digger Podcast , wherever you get your podcasts. Carl, see what's up to a Fire Nation and share something interesting about yourself that most people might not know.
1 (1m 48s):
Hey, what's up Fire Nation. So really good to be, to be on the show JLD. Thanks for, thanks for having me. I think one of the, one of the coolest things about me is, is, you know, how I got started, you know, doing what I do, which is buying, buying businesses, growing them, and then selling them without me investing any of my own personal money. So, so the classic LBO leveraged buyout model. And once I grew up on wall street and did lots and lots of mega deals for big corporates, I decided to do what I do now buying my own things. 10 years ago, I was in Moscow closing a very big, very boring deal for, for a large corporate.
1 (2m 30s):
And my wife went into labor 2000 miles away back in the UK. So I had to run out of the hotel in the middle of Moscow, flagged down a cab, which is not the easiest thing to do. Let me tell you. And I managed to get back to the UK, to the hospital about five minutes before my, my son popped out. So out came Josh, he's just turned 10 that's 10 years ago. And I decided there, and then that, you know, I didn't want to work for anybody else anymore. I wanted to do my own thing and become entrepreneur.
0 (2m 60s):
I love that leaving corporate story and Fire Nation. I definitely would challenge you to think about your leaving corporate story. If you have one right now, and if you don't well, maybe send the plan at that leaving corporate story. So Carl, thanks for sharing yours. I mean, five minutes before your son is born, that was incredible. And as I mentioned in the intro Fire Nation, we have a dope, a value bomb, drop an audio masterclass, which is called how to buy a business without investing your own cash. And let's be honest. Sometimes we don't have cash to buy a business, so to speak, or sometimes maybe we don't want to use the cash that we have. We want to leverage the scale, other things.
0 (3m 40s):
And that's why I'm fired up to bring it Carl on the show today. So Carl, why wants you to maybe give us just a real quick overview about what this masterclass is going to be about? Just kind of hook up, hook the listener, so to speak, and then we'll dive into what some of the main points.
1 (3m 53s):
Sure. So what's, what's very common and very widely understood. Certainly north America is the whole concept of no cash down real estate investing. You know, everybody gets that. There's a whole bunch of people doing it, whole bunch of people coaching yet. What people don't necessarily comprehend as well is that you can do exactly the same thing though, with businesses. So you can buy a business, invest in a business without you having to commit any of your own personal capital, whether you've got that capital to invest or you haven't. So that's what my, my core expertise is. That's my skillset. That's what I've been doing for 26 years, but doing it on my own for the last 10.
1 (4m 35s):
And my, my kind of my big mantra in this world is I, I don't believe that people should go out and start a business. I believe that it's so much easier. It's so much quicker and it's far less riskier to actually go and acquire a business that somebody else has built, but no longer wants to own. And you can buy that business, invest in that business, using the business's own resources. So, so that, that's my area of expertise. And, you know, that's what I'd like to talk about today.
0 (5m 7s):
So a lot of people are saying, well, John, like you founded your business. A lot of people you have on your show have founded their business. You know, it's their vision, it's their show. You know, they're the founder or the CEO, they're the whole nine yards, but what is the value of actually buying a business opposed to doing like what I did of just founding one.
1 (5m 27s):
So there's a couple of points to that. So that the first point is, and I'll quote Michael Gerber. Who's the author of the email. It's the greatest business book that I've ever read. You know, Michael's worked with hundreds and hundreds of thousands of entrepreneurs and small business owners, you know, in his career. And his statistics tell us that 96% of all businesses that start up will fail inside of 10 years. And 50% of them, five zero will fail inside of the first 12 months and not surprising when you think about it, you know, when you go into business on your own and you know, I have my, you, you know, JLD that, you know, your, one of the 4% that, that have made it happen.
1 (6m 7s):
But when, when most people go into business, they have no cash, no credit, no employees, no premises, no equipment, no customers, products and services to sell. And the grind, the physical financial, emotional grind of getting a brand new business off the ground. For me, it's just, it's just too much. It's so much easier to go and find a business that somebody's built, you know, and it's prospering, but for whatever reason, they don't want to own it anymore. So America's kind of gripped by this huge epidemic of the retiring baby boomers. So did you know that there's over 2.4 million businesses for sale today in north America alone?
1 (6m 49s):
Wow. According to Forbes, there are 10,000 baby boomers retiring every single day, 19% of them own a small business. And only one in 13 of those businesses will sell in the next 12 months.
0 (7m 7s):
Kind of put you on the spot here because I'm just personally curious. So name two reasons you think it's a red flag. If we find out people are selling their businesses for reason, X and reason why, but then on the flip side, named two reasons that you think is a good reason for people to sell businesses. So it's not a red flag if we come across that type of opportunity.
1 (7m 27s):
Yeah. So, so two reasons why people will try to sell a business. Then it's a red flag is number warm that they're entrepreneurs they've gone through the first couple of years of growing a business. They don't have what it takes to take it up to the next level. So they want to cash out and let somebody else take it to that next level. That's a very plausible reason. You see a lot of that in like the Amazon SBA space, you know, entrepreneurs get businesses up and running and then they cash out and move on to something else. You know, that's great. I applaud that. Those aren't the types of deals that, that I would do. Other people will try and sell a business because it's failed.
1 (8m 7s):
And in a lot of cases, you can buy that business for a dollar, but you're inheriting all the problems that that business currently has. So again,
0 (8m 16s):
Potentially also acquiring the debt you are.
1 (8m 19s):
Yeah. So, but those are the types of deals that you know, that I don't want to do. I want to buy a business. That's a good business. That's going to carry on trading and operating, you know, without me being in that business every day. So, you know, I, I am 17 different businesses all around the world from, from LA to Brisbane, Australia, and all the places in between, you know, I don't work in any of my businesses, so I want to buy good businesses that can function without me. And I've got good managers inside of them day to day that are kind of just trading those daily operations. But going back to the second part of your question, there's many, many reasons why owner managers want to sell good businesses.
1 (9m 1s):
The number one reason is retirement. As we talked about earlier with the baby boomers, you know, we've got this unprecedented wave of people trying to exit their businesses because they want to retire. They could be sick, they could be dying. In some cases they're bored, frustrated, burnt out, or just run out of ideas. So there comes a natural evolution in someone's business ownership that for all those reasons, you know, they want to come out of their business. It could be, you know, still a very, very profitable business, but they just don't have it in them to carry on running that business for another two, five or 10 years, depending on how old they are.
1 (9m 42s):
So for me, those are, those are my perfect deals. Those are the deals that, that I absolutely love to do. And I, I coach my 1200 strong band of global entrepreneurs on how to find those deals and how to negotiate and structure these no cash down business transactions.
0 (10m 1s):
So Fire Nation, even if you're listening to this right now, and you're like, well, I'm actually running my own business. And they're kind of happy doing that. I don't want to like give it all up and, and maybe buy and acquire another business. You know, one kind of food for thought that I would toss in here is, you know, you can look at acquiring a business, it's going to improve your current business. So it kind of would be like a strap on. So if you're doing a business and ax, and then you come across as awesome business opportunity, you know, because this person's retiring like a baby boomer and this business does Y but it compliments each other so well, that can be a huge opportunity. You know, like captain planet with our powers combined, you can make a better business. So it's not like you're stopping your current business or giving it up. You could look at it as, Hey, I'm going to improve my overall business by acquiring and adding this to that.
0 (10m 45s):
So have you seen some scenarios of that, Carl?
1 (10m 48s):
So now, now we're really starting to have a wonderful conversation. And then a lot of the people that I coach in my system are doing exactly that because they've got different kind of pain points. So, so if you look at the two types of, of, of people that I work with, you know, 0.1 is they could be a frustrated employee that wants to own their own business, but doesn't want to start one. And then the second avatar, the second example is what you've just described. So it it's the CEO or it's the owner of an existing small business. And they're struggling to grow their top line revenue. They're struggling to generate increased cashflow and they're struggling to find and retain high quality talent to bring into the business.
1 (11m 34s):
If you go out and you acquire another business to Bolton or tuck into what you've already got, you're solving all three of those problems. So number one, when you're buying an existing business into what you've already got, that business is going to have products and services and customers that are to what you've got. So, for example, let's say that you owned a PR business, a PR agency, and you went and acquired a social media marketing agency. That's going to have different sets of customers and different product offerings. So you can cross sell and cross promote the PR services to the web customers and vice versa.
1 (12m 17s):
Cause they, they both buy up all these services from, from other people. What also happens when you combine these businesses together is you can eradicate lots of duplicate costs. So premises, other overheads, employees, all those different things. So there are a lot of costs, synergies that come about from doing these combination deals and those costs synergies just drop to the bottom line, make the profits and the cash flows of the combined entity, much stronger. And then thirdly, when you're bolting on another business, you're getting the employees, the good employees that are coming along with the journey. So a lot of the people that, that aren't coaching, that they're buying these extra businesses for those three reasons.
1 (13m 2s):
And what they're finding is one of their frustrations is that they, that they don't want to be the manager of that business anymore. They want to be more of the kind of owner investor. So by bolting on another business, they've got high quality managers that they're bringing in that could run that combined operations.
0 (13m 19s):
I guess the main question I would have kind of moving forward now, because this is all starting to come together and I can see it for me. I can see all the different reasons for acquiring a business or buying a business. I can see all the reasons, you know, that it really makes a lot of sense for a lot of different businesses in the criteria, but where, like, where can you actually find these opportunities? I mean, personally, I feel like I'm pretty plugged into the scene, but I wouldn't even know where to start.
1 (13m 43s):
Yeah. So there's multiple ways of originating deals. The biggest mistake that most business buyers come across is they just go to brokers. So they go to, you know, an online broker, like a best buy, sell.com. That's probably the largest online broker in the states, or they, you know, they go to a SunGard or one of those other broker franchises. And they're just kind of looking at the deals that they've got listed. Some of those deals can, can be very good, but, but most of them, you know, they're not great deals, but the best way to find deals and I'd be doing this, but this is my 26th year of doing this. The best way to find deals is, is networking. So you're networking with your, your personal network, but we're also, you know, we do a lot of work through leveraging LinkedIn, leveraging Facebook, leveraging a lot of online groups and forums.
1 (14m 32s):
You know, there's so much activity online in terms of deal-making and buying businesses, whether that's specific to a certain industry or a location. So the vast majority of the deal flow that that certainly is coming across my desk because I'm still doing deals. I'm buying for businesses at the moment. Wow. Those deals have come through not only my own network, but networks that I'm now plugged into pretty much using social media. And what, and what's interesting is, you know, 26 years ago, we didn't have Facebook. We didn't have LinkedIn, you know, we didn't really have a functional internet. So all of these tools, they're now enabling this notion of, of going out and finding businesses that, that you can buy without spending your own capital
0 (15m 20s):
Fire Nation. It's so true. The quotes that your network is your net worth. I mean, really think about that and always be looking to improve your network. I mean, why do I end every single EOFire episode with you're the average of the five people you spend the most time with because you are, that's your network, that's your mastermind. Those are your people, but what are people are listening, listening right now, Carl? And they're saying to themselves, well, I don't have the kind of network that would allow me to have some opportunities. I mean, where do they start? Like, what's another avenue of approach.
1 (15m 51s):
So I just want to kind of double down on the networking piece again, just because it's so lucrative. Even if you don't have a network, you know, here's how you can quickly build one. In a matter of days, that's super, super primed for you to get deal flow. So one of the other interesting statistics is that 79% of all small business owners that actually sell their business now never actually listed through a broker. And one of the reasons for that is when you sell through a broker, it's pretty easy these days to find out exactly who that business is before you sign the NDA. And you know, you get all the particulars about the deal.
1 (16m 33s):
So the kind of whole world knows that you're for sale and your employees get anxious. Your customers get anxious and competitors can swoop in and get all the juicy information, abandon your business and potentially harm you in the market. So for that reason, most business owners won't list with a broken covenant. It's also very expensive. So what most small business owners do is they tell four people. So if you own a business and your 62, and you've decided it's time for you to retire, here's the four people that you're going to tell. Number one, you're going to tell your spouse. So we're not going to network with, with the spouse, but then you're going to tell your CPA, you're going to tell your local attorney, and you're going to tell your bank or another financier that's invested in your deal.
1 (17m 24s):
So the quickest way financially to go and build a very, very quick, very profitable network that can give you great deal. Flow is go and network with people in your local area and CPAs attorneys and financial services providers. And you will get unbelievable deal flow.
0 (17m 44s):
Wow. Fire Nation. It's right in your neighborhood. I mean, there's the CPAs, there's the lawyers. There's the financial experts. I mean, it's right there. Just go out, let the word be known. This is something that you're interested in. I mean, that can really be the next step for you, but when it really comes down to a car, and this is where I'm fascinated because I am a numbers guy. So how can you actually evaluate whether a business is worth buying? I mean, what numbers actually matter when you're trying to say, if this business, you know, is actually a financial, you know, financially stable business, that would make sense for you for any number of factors, how do you determine that?
1 (18m 22s):
So you've got to look at each deal at a knob itself, and you've got to look at it both quantitatively. So tapping into the financials. And you've also got to look at it qualitatively. So most of the deals that I do, most of the businesses that I buy, I start first of all, with a qualitative stuff. And the sort of deals that I love are deals where when I'm sat with, with an owner, either in person or on Skype, the first thing they always tell me is that they don't do any marketing. So I say to them, you know, ha ha, how do you market, you know, what's your marketing strategy? How do you get customers? How do you get leads and say, this is a great thing about our business called. We don't have to do any marketing.
1 (19m 3s):
It's all word of mouth and it's all repeat customers. And I love those deals because I know that that's the bread and butter revenue and earnings that's coming into the business. But as soon as I take over and I put in some real-world marketing systems, we improve the website, we start leveraging social media, we start to get affiliates and other partners involved. Then all of a sudden the business can just take off from the existing cost base that you've got inside of the business. So, so for me, I'm looking for businesses that, you know, I've got great potential that the owner just hasn't exploited, you know, for the reasons I mentioned before that they just run out of steam. They run out of ideas, you know, they're happy, you know, for the new buyer to take that business on the next stage of the journey.
1 (19m 49s):
And then really from a financial perspective, it's really, really straightforward. You know, you're looking for businesses that potentially have got recurring revenues. You're looking for businesses that, that have got, you know, pretty solid balance sheets. You know, they've got good assets in the business that we can use for financing. They've got positive cashflow and sometimes the business might have some debt that's been inherited by the existing owner. And that's fine. As long as the business is generating more cashflow than what the business needs to survive, then it's a pretty simple analysis. And, and, and yeah, once we've made an offer and we've lined up the financing, then you know, we do go through a slightly more detailed process of due diligence.
1 (20m 35s):
So we'll, we'll hire a CPA on a contingent fee basis just to kind of go through and, and really dot the I's and cross the T's on all of the numbers. But, but looking at deals, it's, it's a lot like a sales funnel, you know, you throwing opportunities into the top and you're, you're kind of filtering them down to the handful of deals that, you know, really make sense qualitatively quantitatively. And then more importantly, which we haven't talked about yet is doing deals that really fit your requirements as the buyer, you know, because there's so many deals out there for you to go and target, it's really important that you pick and choose, and you find the deals that, you know, really, you know, kind of resonate with you for an individual.
1 (21m 17s):
It's buying a business, that's in a sector that you understand it's in a sector that you're passionate about, or if you own a business already, and you want to bolt something into that, it's making sure that, you know, there are some synergies, you know, there's a complimentary nature of putting those two deals together, but like the PR business merging or acquiring the kind of web design business, a social media business, you know, there are synergies and complimentary facets to bringing those things.
0 (21m 46s):
I like the analogy, Carl of how it's like a sales funnel, where you start with a lot of potential deals. And at the end, there's only going to be a few that make sense for you in Fire Nation, just to run through some things Carl talked about recurring revenues, really important, a solid balance sheet, very important assets. Like what kind of assets does that business have? Do they have a positive cashflow and debt? Like, don't be afraid by dad. Don't run away from debt. If it's good debt and make sure you hire a CPA to dig a little deeper, especially maybe in that area of debt, but also to make sure all your, the numbers make sense. So Fire Nation, I hope you can see that, you know, the, the thought of buying a business, which at the start of this masterclass, it might've seemed very daunting and unattainable because you know, you don't have millions and millions of dollars in the bank.
0 (22m 34s):
You know, I hope you're starting to seem a little more reachable and little more possible for you. And then maybe people thinking of how adding a business, your existing business could be a huge value. Because again, we're talking about how to buy a business without investing your own cash. And that is really where we're going to be getting into some cool specifics. When we get back from thanking our sponsor, being an entrepreneur is not all about money all the time, but ultimately without it, you can't grow your business and earn a sustainable income. So imagine if there was something you could do to earn passive income on autopilot with little to no time commitment after launch. One of the most effective strategies that we use here at Entrepreneurs On Fire is a host and sell online courses on Thinkific.
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0 (24m 49s):
No coding required. Learn more about how a HubSpot CRM platform can help build, maintain, and grow your customer relationships at hubspot.com. So Carl, we're back. And I feel like a lot of people when it comes to buying a business, think that it's all about the numbers. And, you know, we went through at the ends right before the break, the end of the first segments, some numbers and some really important numbers to look into and numbers are important, but there's also a lot of psychology that goes into this as well. So kind of talk to us about that psychology versus the numbers and how that balances out.
1 (25m 25s):
Yeah. I'm so glad that you brought that up. You know, this is one of the, you know, the big misconceptions and, you know, we're talking here about buying businesses between one and $5 million in annual revenues. You know, that's the bulk of the market. That's the bulk of the businesses that, that both exist in the world and are for sale, you know, in, in the world today. But what's interesting is when, when you're buying a billion dollar business, you know, which I've done when I was at HP and at bank of America, I've done loads and loads of those deals, hundreds of them, when you're doing those monster deals, those deals are 90% financial engineering and 10% psychology. When you're buying a small business from a baby boomer, that's burnt out and wants to retire.
1 (26m 10s):
Then it's kind of the opposite. It's really 90% psychology and 10% numbers, because if you really delve into the mindset of a baby boomer, and it might not, it doesn't necessarily have to be a 62 year old person in Pennsylvania that wants to retire and hand their business off. This could be, you know, this, this could be a young entrepreneur. That's just completely burnt out. That there's a great story. About three or four years ago of, of a great entrepreneur in the UK called Simon Cohen. He owned a, a PR company in London. He built it up, was a seven figure business. And, you know, he'd missed his family, did not spend enough time with his wife.
1 (26m 52s):
And he came home one day and just said, you know what I'm done. I just can't do this anymore. And he launched a national campaign to give his business away to what he called the safe pair of hands. And I massively latched on to this. And that's when I decided that, you know, I would not only do these deals in myself. I've been doing these deals for many, many years, but I would coach entrepreneurs on how to do this, how to find the, you know, the millions of Simon Cohen's out there young and old, that just had enough and cared more about the legacy of the business and the protectionism of their employees and the care and feeding of their customers.
1 (27m 33s):
They care more about those things than they do about the cold, hard cash that one typically would get when, when they sell their business. And the first thing I decided to do is, is I get a survey. So I spent a lot of money on those. And I, I surveyed over 2000 business owners that sold their business. In the previous few years, I did this thing in about 2012, 2013, and the results were staggering. 78% of those people told me that when they sold their business cash at closing was not the primary concern. Their primary concern was they wanted a trusted, safe pair of hands that will take their business on push it to the next level and protect the brand, the legacy, the heritage, the culture, the employees, and the customers inside of that business.
0 (28m 31s):
Furnishing. We have to remember that these business owners, I mean, some of them have put 30, 40, 50 years of their lives into growing this business. And they're proud rightfully so of the people they employ of the business they've created the products or the services that these businesses actually provided, the service that it does, you know, to the world. I mean, that is something to remember the, a lot of times, you know, we don't think about on the other side of that equation. And you know, that number to me is staggering. 78% of business owners said cash was not the priority in Fire Nation. That's why if you can come across as the type of buyer, as the type of person who's going to take over that business and continue its legacy and continue to grow, you could absolutely win out over people that are bidding a much higher rate.
0 (29m 20s):
If that business owner knows for sure that you are going to do what they want you to do and grow that legacy. So those are just some really huge things and important things to really note on. And I want to kind of flip the script Carl about actually selling your business. But before we talk about that, is there anything that you kind of want to add to this section? Because I think this is really important for people think about when they're actually going into a buying decision.
1 (29m 44s):
Yeah. So, so the bit we've just talked about, about the legacy and the heritage of the business, that that is, I would say the, the difference that makes the difference. It's the single kind of nucleus of how this entire thing works. And I can relate to this both for the first business deal that I did privately back in 2008. And the last one that I closed about two and a half weeks ago over in Los Angeles. So both of those businesses were retirement sales, the LA deals and media business. That's doing seven figures in revenue.
1 (30m 26s):
I, I bought that business, but less than $20,000 down. And that money came out of the assets that are in the business already. But the better story is, is the first deal I ever did. It was a transportation company in the, in the United Kingdom. So this was back in 2008. My, my son had been born. I decided to take a year off. I lasted about three weeks. I just got my brain turned to mush. I needed to go out and do deals. And initially I started off as a broker. So it wasn't my intention to go and buy my own businesses. My intention was to go and broker deals for sellers.
1 (31m 6s):
So I got, my first mandate was a transport company. I sat down with the two brothers, you know, Colin and Alan, and, and they said to me, look, you know, we want $4 million for this business. Can you go out and find as a buyer? So I did my work. I, I figured out who were the larger companies in the area that, that this would make a great kind of bolt on acquisition. I wrote to them, I sent them copies of the financials solicited offers, and we, you know, we got a $4.7 million offer for this business. And it was great. Everyone was happy. I would have made a $250,000 fee as the broker. And it was the night before the closing.
1 (31m 46s):
So it was Thursday night and so cold, rainy night. And I got the phone call from Colin, one of the owners of the business. And he was in tears. And this, this was a 250 pound, six foot five, you know, big guy. And he was crying floods of tears. I said, what's the matter? He said, we've pulled the deal. I'm like, no, I got a quarter of a million dollars fricking riding on this. You can't pull the deal. He said, well, can you come down, come down to our house. You know, we need to talk to you. So I went down to the house and they said, look, we've pulled the deal because the buyer came into the office today with a list of all the employees that he was going to let go tomorrow.
1 (32m 26s):
He just said, look, I'll be honest with you. All I want is the trucks and the customers and the assets. I don't need any of your employees. I'm changing the brand of the business. You know, the old name of the business will, will be no tomorrow. It's going to get swallowed up into our gigantic UK operation. And he said, we just can't do the deal. You know, we, we can't go and retire on a beach knowing that, you know, all the, all the 25, 30 years worth of work that we've put into this is going to be battery just for a big fat check. So we've pulled the deal. And I said, you've got to go out and you've got to find a friendlier buyer. That's going to buy it. They're going to keep the name. They're going to keep the employees.
1 (33m 7s):
They're going to run the business. Exactly. As we've invested, I just turned around and I don't know what came over me, but I just said, I will buy your business. Wow. And they said, really, but you know, you don't know anything about the transport sector. I said, well, I don't need to know anything about it. You know, I know enough from working with you guys for the last few months, but your, your financial controller, your operations manager and your sales person, I'm going to give them each 10% of the company I will take the other 70% is the owner. I said, I think I can get you just under $2 million. I'll pay you a million dollars down because I can finance the trucks.
1 (33m 49s):
There was a lot of cash already in the business, and there were some other assets that I could leverage. And then I'll pay you the rest over five years, this was a really profitable business. And they said to me, you know, if you can get this, if you can get that done in 30 days, then you know, we will applaud you from the sidelines. And, and we did it. And that was my very, very first deal. I owned it for about two years. I gave equity to other people in the business as well. We doubled in size and we sold it. And you know, the vast majority, the bulk of the market, you know, that's the seller psychology. That, that is the way that these people want to do deals.
1 (34m 30s):
Granted, there are entrepreneurs in there that they, they, they start a business, they grow it. They want to get out. They want to go out, but big bucks. And you know, they're not interested in receiving the majority of their payments over time. You know, that's fine. You know, we filter them out very, very quickly in our funnel. You know, we're only targeting the people that want to do these friendly deals because we're positioning ourselves as these safe, credible, trusted buyers that are going to look after and cherish and honor, you know, the business that they've built, but at the same time, you know, take it to the next level, improve it, put better systems in place, put new marketing funnels in place and really take the business on to a whole different level.
1 (35m 12s):
And they're going to sit on the sidelines and they're going to applaud that.
0 (35m 15s):
Now I did not see that coming. That was a great story. Thanks for sharing a Carl. I definitely love that. And now this is not the point of this master class, so I don't want to spend too much time here, but I am just curious, because I know Fire Nation, I know that some people are listening are fired up and they're, they're looking to potentially, you know, run some numbers and see what a buying a business would look like. But some people are like, well, wow. Like I'm actually at the point where I might want to sell my business for any number of reasons, maybe I'm retiring or there's that. So maybe just pretty quickly give us a couple steps that you would recommend people that are looking to sell their business do to maybe start that process.
1 (35m 52s):
Yeah. So that, that's a great question. So there's, so it's kind of, I have a three point framework because, you know, don't forget, you know, I don't just buy businesses. You know, I grow them and I sell them. You know, the, the biggest payday that you have as a business owner is the day you decide to, you know, to sell the business when you're ready and then finally, you know, get paid for it. So, so the three things that I would do that the best three pieces of advice I would give to anybody that's contemplating selling a business that they own is first and foremost, decide who you want to sell the business to. So th there are only three buyers of businesses.
1 (36m 33s):
There are individuals like, like me that are, and all the people that I coach and mentor that are other businesses. So if you own a business right now, you can sell it to another business. That's typically going to be larger than you, or you can sell it to an investor so you can sell it to a venture capital firm or a private equity firm, or even a hedge fund. If it's big enough. And they're bringing, you know, financial resources and other management teams to plug in to help you take that business, you know, you know, to the very next level. So that's the first determination is who do you want to sell to? You know, are you the legacy person, the culture person that, that, you know, you want your business and your brand to survive the transaction.
1 (37m 16s):
You want your employees and your customers, you know, treated properly. If so, sell your business to an individual. It could be somebody that works in the business already, or it could be somebody external to the business, you know, like me or anybody else that you know, that can, you know, take that business structure, that deal protect it, love it, cherish it, and take it to the next level. If you sell to a trade buyer, then you know, there are inherently more risks. They are potentially going to pay you more money. Because as I mentioned before, a trade buyer, a competitor can buy your business and do a lot of things with it. There's a lot of leverage. It can cross sell its products and services.
1 (37m 57s):
It can take costs out of the deal, you know, to make more profits, to make more cash flows, but that's inherently risky. If it's a seller, you're not bothered about those things. You're happy for your brand to disappear. You're happy for your, some of your employees to be, let go. If you don't worry about all those sorts of things, then selling to a trade buyer, you know, it's, it's definitely the way to go. So once you determine who you're going to sell to, then the next thing that you need to do, and this is where most sellers fall down is they don't properly prepare their business for sale. And what I mean by that is most brokers are guilty of this. If you're a seller and you go to a business broker, they'll list your business online, and that's all they'll they'll do, you know, I'm, I'm negotiating the purchase.
1 (38m 45s):
This is quite a large deal. It's a $25 million revenue construction business in Florida, or I'm going out there on Thursday this week. So two days from now to hopefully finalize that deal. And for such a large business has been around for so long. It doesn't have any of its financial ducks in a row it's accounting system was a whole bunch of shoe boxes just with receipts and pieces of paper, you know, tapped into it, you know, that the owners of that business or the broker, or even that, that, you know, their CPA's not properly prepared that business for sale. If you're selling your business and a buyer is interested in it, you know, instantly you've got to be giving them, you know, your tax returns, you've got to be giving them copies of your financial accounts.
1 (39m 31s):
You've got to be giving them your asset register. You've got to be giving them your customer lists. You've got to be given them your employee lists and copies of all their contracts. So having the kind of administration all tied up in a nice bow that you can give that like a business in a box, if you will, to a potential buyer is really, really important. And then the third thing that I see is when most business owners decide in their mind that it's time to sell before they've pushed the button and they've started contacting potential buyers or trying to broker a deal is they take their foot off the gas. And what you see is you see a gradual decline in business performance because they've mentally checked out.
1 (40m 15s):
They've mentally sold the business. Now they're sat on the beach, they're drinking margarita because you know, they're already spending their retirement in their mind. And buyers will take advantage of that. You know, they'll see a slight dip in performance and they'll use that to negotiate a lower price and a worse type of deal structure. So what I always recommend to sellers is before you push the button and you fall the list, you know, not only decided who you're selling to not only get all of your business admin in a row, so it's easy for somebody to study it and buy it, but, you know, have a, have a go just three months, six months, just grow the business a little bit, you know, put some plans in place, you know, ask yourself some kind of, really big questions.
1 (40m 59s):
Like, you know, if I was 20 years younger and I wanted to have another five years in this business, you know, what are the, what are the three things I would do to grow it and then put those things in place. So then you're proving to a buyer that there's, there's all these things going on, that they can pick up, take that Baton on and carry on growing that business, you know, once you've gone and once you've accepted.
0 (41m 20s):
So Fire Nation need to decide who you're going to sell your business to. I mean, are you going to sell to an individual, a business, an investor, and then get those ducks in a row, those financial ducks in a row, you know, prepare your business for sale. That is so critical. And then don't take your foot off the gas pedal. I mean, your foot should actually be pressed on that gas pole even more, all the way through the finish line. You know, it's kind of like that sprinter who lets our bride, the finish line. And then he gets past last minute and the gold medal was right there. Don't be that person or run through the finish line. Now, Carl, you have business buying systems, just like you have that selling system where you kind of start that checklist out.
0 (42m 2s):
You have buying systems as well. So how did teaching other people help you actually refine your own system that you currently use right now today?
1 (42m 11s):
Great question. And I'm so glad that you asked this because what's really amazing is so I started my, my deal-making journey in 1992 on wall street. So I started working for bank of America and I did all these massive deals. And then I went into private equity. Then I ended up working for Hewlett Packard in the corporate mergers and acquisitions teams who was doing all these deals and was classically trained. And I did my MBA and all my financial qualification. So I I'm, I'm thinking, you know, I'm, I'm a really good deal maker. I, I know how to do this stuff. And then I started doing my own deals, like the transport deal we talked about back in 2008 and a whole bunch of other ones since it's only in the last couple of years, two to three years where I built my system, I actually got better at doing deals because when you're coaching somebody.
1 (43m 4s):
So when you're coaching somebody, that's never bought a business before, and you're taking them through soup to nuts a, to Z, you know how to do this from start to finish, you know, what are the 10 steps? And then what are the 10 steps within each of the 10 steps to get this done color by numbers? When I broke that down and systematized it with all the templates, the tools, the training for people to really be able to do this, I actually got better at doing deals because I further systematized how I was actually working. And, you know, and I tell this story all the time. You know, I, I'm working on five deals right now, and I'm doing all of those deals using my home system, using my own tools, my own templates, my own processes, because it's the most efficient way to do it.
1 (43m 55s):
And I had to do it that way because you know, you can't just talk about this stuff and be very academic about it because unless you've worked on wall street or you've got an MBA, it's just not going to be able to do it. But if you break it down in kind of a simple step-by-step process that, that people with just some basic business experience can, can follow, can understand and implement click by click. Once I bit that in my own business, it actually made me better at doing deals,
0 (44m 24s):
Fire Nation. I mean, that's why I'm such a big believer in teaching and mentoring and educate people's questions, because as you're doing that, you're going to help refine what you do. You can get better every single day, every single time you answer a question that you remove an obstacle that you identify a challenge is going to help you as you move forward. So I like to be actionable and we're kind of coming to the end, Carl of our chat here. So let's really get actionable with some action steps that you have for the first 100 days as a business owner.
1 (44m 58s):
So we'll start with day one. So you've just left the attorney's office. You've just signed the contract. It's called it's called an spa, a sale and purchase agreement. So you're now the legal owner of the business. Any money that was to be paid at closing has just transferred through the system. So the first thing you do is you go into the business and you're going to meet some of those employees for the very first time. Sometimes you will have met the mall as part of the deal, but if you've bought from a very, very Katy seller, that can be the first time that that you're going to meet some of those employees. So the first thing I like to do is spend some time with them. You know, I figure out, you know, it's the Tony Robbins, you know, C a N I framework, you know what?
1 (45m 43s):
What's worked really well in this business. What should we do a lot more of than on the other side, you know, what's going on in the business. That's kind of limiting growth, limiting performance that we need to eradicate. So I figure all that out, you know, very quickly. And I make that plan, you know, I make the employees own that as much as possible. So they feel that they're part owners of the business, maybe not in name, but in terms of the strategic plan going forward. So that's the first thing that I do. The second thing that I then do is I get into the working capital of the business because what I have found hundreds and thousands of times in my 26 years is particularly with baby boomers and older sellers of businesses is, you know, their working capital management, their cashflow management of the business, you know, can be an awful lot better.
1 (46m 34s):
So, you know, I've got lots of tools and frameworks that I use where, you know, we can squeeze, you know, every dollar, you know, out of the existing operation, which provides additional cashflow for us then to go out and start to grow the business, which is step number three. So once I've generated my, my kind of marketing budget, my fighting fund, you know, to really have a good go at the market with this new business is then I implement, you know, a seven step plan that I've developed over the last quarter century, you know, to really get businesses firing on all cylinders and looking at lots and lots of other areas of growth. And then what I also then do is I quickly systematize that business so that I don't have to be in anymore.
1 (47m 21s):
And I limit myself to, to working a maximum of two hours per week on any of the businesses that I'm involved with. I have a simple dashboard KPI chart. So I'm looking for certain things in the business on a weekly basis like sales and cashflow and size of our pipeline, you know, number of new customers. And then, you know, any of the operational metrics that are going on throughout the business. And then I'll spend a maximum of one hour per week with, with the general manager that I've put in, you know, to run that business for me,
0 (47m 55s):
Fire Nation, this is a system that's been developed by Carl, and he's been doing it for now over 26 years. I'm sure he's made some mistakes, but the fact that he's been able to narrow it down to two hours for every business per week. I mean, he knows what his KPIs are. You need to know what your KPIs are. And for me, that's just, it's all about the focus. Like if you can really sit down and you can follow one course until success for those two hours, you can really make sure that your business is moving in the right direction. You can do that in a couple hours a week, and guess what if it is then you're good to move on to the next step. And then there are some major red flags coming up with them. Maybe you can take some more time and get a dive deep. You could have some conversations with some key people at those companies to really make sure that, you know, you're getting back on track.
0 (48m 39s):
And Carl, what I love about this chat is that we've learned things from both sides of the equations about, you know, what to look for when it comes to buying a business. You know, why buying a business? Isn't always about the numbers, but there's a lot of psychology involved why it makes sense. But then also on the flip side, the sellers, like if you're going to sell your business at some point Fire Nation, you need to be doing these steps that Carl's talking about to prepare your business, to get your ducks in a row, to make sure that you are going to be very appealing. So the, when you, when it comes time for you to sell, you have the power, you have the decision to choose the right buyer and not just, you know, go to that highest bidder and potentially see your legacy disappear, which should be really sad. So I really hope that you've learned from both sides of the equation.
0 (49m 21s):
So Carl kind of wrapped this up for us, like maybe finish off, you know, what we're talking about with these first a hundred days, and then give us what you would consider one super key takeaway from this masterclass. You really want Fire Nation to make sure that they get, you know, before we say goodbye. And of course, if you have any final calls to actions with people that can connect with you, et cetera, let us know for sure. And then we'll let you go.
1 (49m 45s):
The two biggest takeaways that I want everybody to kind of really embody is takeaway. Number one is if anyone's got any inkling of going and starting a brand new business and going through that, that, that pain and that challenge of making it work, it's just so much easier and less expensive and far less risky just to go and buy a business that someone else has built and doesn't want any more, you know, give you the stats. There were over 6 million entrepreneurs in the United States in 2017, that went and started a brand new business. 96% of them will fail and close the doors inside of 10 years.
1 (50m 27s):
Half of them will fail by the end of this year. And there's over 2.4 million businesses for sale in the United States today. And only one in 13 is going to sell. So just connect the dots, don't start a company, go and buy one that someone else has already built. And it's like, let's say you wanted a Tesla. You want to own a Tesla car. Would you go and buy the other minium the battery? Would you go and buy the wheels, the glass, you have a giant iPad in the middle. And then would you sit there and build it yourself? Would you go to the Tesla dealership, buy one that someone else has built and then finance the purchase? That's exactly the same thing.
1 (51m 8s):
So my advice is do the latter, not, not the former. And then the second biggest takeaway that I would love everybody to really kind of embody is, you know, buying a one to $5 million business is a lot more about psychology than the numbers. It's playing that psychological game. And it's really giving the seller, you know, what they want that safe, trusted pair of hands. That's going to take the business. They're going to love it. They're going to nurture it. We're going to take it to the next level. And if you position yourself that way, they will applaud you and cheer you and help you all. They can from the sidelines
0 (51m 42s):
And safer to buy a business. This someone's already built Fire Nation. You know, I mean, think about that. I mean, they simply might want to shift their life. They might be retired. They might be moving on to another opportunity. And then that one to 5 million kind of price range, it's more about psychology and the numbers think about that. And before you kind of tell us what, where we can learn more about you and give us a call to action, Carl, like just really hammer down for us. How do we do this without actually investing our own cash? So when
1 (52m 8s):
Buying a business and, and you know, Facebook do this, you know, massive companies do this, you know, they're leveraging deals all the time that they'll the largest leverage buyout in history was the $25 billion acquisition of a company called RJR Nabisco back in the late 1980s. You know, this was a, you know, there's, there's a film made about this, a great book that I'd recommend people read called barbarians at the gate. The guy that bought that business guy called Henry Kravis. He bought that business. He didn't spend any reserves. He used other people's money. So all I'm doing is I'm teaching entrepreneurs. How to do that with one to $5 million deals, not, you know, $25 billion deals, but basically that, that the structure is really, really simple.
1 (52m 53s):
You're you're paying in some cases, no money down. You can pay for the business over time using the cash flows. So let's say you find a business and let's say it's doing 2 million in revenue and it's making, you know, $350,000 in free cashflow. And you agree to buy that at a three times multiple. So you're paying a million dollars for that deal. You could just pay the seller $200,000 a year for five years. And why that's appealing to some sellers is they're getting the same cashflow that they used to get as the business owner, but they don't have to get up and go to work anymore. They can go play golf, they can go and do other things and, and selling a business or getting cashflow that way.
1 (53m 39s):
There's a lot more tax efficient than getting paid that money as income, but that doesn't work on all deals and other deals. You actually have to pay the seller, some of the money at closing, maybe 20% or 30% or 50%. And you can leverage the balance sheet of that business to raise financing, to be able to make that down payment. And what's so, so unbelievable in the United States. And I wish we had it over here in England, but we don't in the United States, you have this great thing called the SBA, the small business administration, and they have something called the seven a loan program. So if you're an entrepreneur and you want to buy a business, the SBA or provide you with 99, 0 90% of the financing for you to be able to buy that business, you either get the seller to carry the other 10% as a note, or you can use some of the cash that's already in the business to make that deposit payment.
1 (54m 40s):
So those are just two simple ways that you would structure these no cash down deals. If you want to buy a businesses worth a million dollars, you know, absolutely. Please do not go and put a million dollars of your own money. You just do not have to do that
0 (54m 57s):
90%. If you're in the United States, SBA loan, that's incredible. And Carl let's end with a final call to action, and then we'll let you go.
1 (55m 6s):
I knew that I got asked the question, you know, how can we learn how to do this a little bit more? So what I've actually done is I've created a 90 minute masterclass training where I go through my proprietary 10 step system in detail. It comes with a lot of the tools that we use. If you go over to ninja acquisitions.com forward slash fire, you can opt-in for that master class training, hundreds and hundreds of people have been to that training. They've gone through, they've taken action and they now own small businesses and they haven't had to invest any of their money. So if anyone's interested in how that works, or if you're thinking of selling your business and you want to understand how the deal works psychologically from the buying side, you can get a lot more insight as to how I do these deals, how I structure them, the sorts of methods that I use.
1 (56m 2s):
And that would prepare you, I think even more, you know, as a seller, but primarily it's there for somebody that wants to go out and wants to buy a business, whether it's their first deal or whether it's one of those bolts on or took in acquisitions that they want to combine with a business that they already,
0 (56m 19s):
So that was ninjaacquisitions.com/fire. Fire Nation, that's a 90 minute masterclass training. That's going to go even deeper into what we talked about, and I'm guessing, I'm guessing there's going to be some great visuals, et cetera. So definitely get on over to ninjaacquisitions.com/fire. And you know, this Fire Nation, you're the average of the five people you spend the most time with in, you've been hanging out with CA and JLD today. So keep up the Ute and head over to EOFire.com, just type Carl in our search bar in his show on his page is going to pop up with everything that we've been talking about today. These are the best show notes in the biz, timestamps links galore, and again, last call to action, ninjaacquisitions.com/fire for that 90 minute masterclass training, get over there.
0 (57m 10s):
You owe it to yourself and Carl, I want to thank you brother, for sharing your truth and masterclass and knowledge and value bombs with Fire Nation today. And for that, we salute you and we'll catch you on the flip side. Thank you very much. Great to be there. Hey, Fire Nation. Hope you enjoyed our chat with Carl today, and if you're ready to accomplish that one big goal, the freedom journal is key because when you follow the step-by-step guidance that I give to you, you will accomplish your top goal in just 100 days. So visit the freedom journal.com use promo code podcast for a nice little discount in, thank you for listening to my podcasts, and I will catch you there Fire Nation, or I'll catch you on the flip side, easy to start and built a customized Thinkific enables thousands of entrepreneurs to run their training remotely.
0 (58m 2s):
Try Thinkific for free today at Thinkific.com/EOF. That's Thinkific.com/EOF. Wondering what to do when you need motivation. Wish you had a go-to guy when it comes to preventing burnouts tune in to Jenna Kutcher's The Goal Digger Podcast brought to you by the HubSpot Podcast Network. Listen to The Goal Digger Podcast , wherever you get your podcasts.
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