Blog

From Billion Dollar Startup To Bankruptcy And Back Again

Back in 1996, Sunny Vanderbeck started Data Return, a business that provided website hosting to big e-commerce companies. They grew 40% every quarter leading to an Initial Public Offering (IPO) in 1999 and an eventual market capitalization of $3 billion.

Then the internet bubble burst.

Customers started failing and Data Return’s growth flat lined. Despite the effect the market crash had on Data Return’s business, computer giant Compaq still saw a lot of value in the company and readied an acquisition offer of around $1 billion.

Closing day with Compaq came and went without a signed purchase agreement. Three days later, Compaq announced they had merged with HP. Compaq’s acquisition of Data Room was dead.

Data Room was burning cash and Vanderbeck figured they had six months to get a deal done before they could face mortal danger.

Find out what Vanderbeck did next to fall from running a $3 billion company to owning some shares in a bankrupt business – to ultimately ending his lengthy stint by selling Data Return to Terremark Worldwide for $70 million in cash and $15 million in Terremark stock.

Sunny’s story includes both the best and worst of selling companies, in this episode you’ll learn:

  • The definition of reverse due diligence and how to do it on your acquirer
  • 3 tips for ensuring you don’t end up regretting the decision to sell
  • When to listen to your advisors (and when to tune in your gut instead)
  • The definition of “fundamental reps” and how to react to an acquirer’s request for them
  • The definition of “founder’s speak” and how to spot it
  • How something known as “hero mode” can undermine your company’s value

Listen now

______________________________________-

If you’re interested in improving the value of your business, take our questionnaire or contact Colonial Business Brokerage today at 443-982-7332.

Effectively Utilizing Confidentiality Agreements

Every year countless great deals, deals that would have otherwise gone through, are undone due to a failure to properly utilize and follow confidentiality agreements.  A failure to adhere to this essential contract can lead to a myriad of problems.  These issues range from employees discovering that a business is going to be sold and quitting to key customers learning of the potential sale and taking their business elsewhere.  Needless to say, issues such as these can stand in the way of a sale successfully going through.  Maintaining confidentiality throughout the sales process is of paramount importance.

Utilizing a confidentiality agreement, often referred to as a non-disclosure agreement, is a common practice and one that you should fully embrace.  There are many and diverse benefits to working with a business broker; one of those benefits is that business brokers know how to properly use confidentiality agreements and what should be contained within them.

By using a confidentiality agreement, the seller gains protection from a prospective buyer disclosing confidential information during the sales process.  Originally, confidentiality agreements were utilized to prevent prospective buyers from letting the world at large know that a business was for sale. 

Today, these contracts have evolved and now cover an array of potential seller concerns.  A good confidentiality agreement will help to ensure that a prospective buyer doesn’t disclose proprietary information, trade secrets or key information learned about the business during the sales process.

Creating a solid confidentiality agreement is serious business and should not be rushed into.  They should include, first and foremost, what areas are to be covered by the agreement, or in other words what is, and is not confidential.  Additional areas of concern, such as how confidential information will be shared and marked, the remedy for breaches of confidentiality and the terms of the agreement, for example, how long the agreement is to remain enforced, should also be addressed. 

A key area that should not be overlooked when creating a confidentiality agreement is that the prospective buyer will not hire any key people away from the selling company.  Every business and every situation is different.  As a result, confidentiality agreements must be tailored to each business and each situation.

 When it comes to selling a business, few factors are as critical as establishing and maintaining confidentiality.  The last thing any business wants is for its confidential information to land in the hands of a key competitor.  Business brokers understand the value of maintaining confidentiality and know what steps to take to ensure that it is maintained throughout the sales process.

_______________________________________

Whether you are looking to exit your privately held business, represent an acquisition-minded corporation, value your business, or are personally interested in owning or building value in your own company or franchise, Colonial Business Brokerage offers the professional services that successfully bring buyers and sellers together.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

giggsy25/BigStock.com

Starting Vs. Growing a Business

Most company founders are good at the first stages of entrepreneurship. But in the phases that follow, they may only be average. Just because you have a knack for starting companies, doesn’t necessarily mean that those skills translate well into growing one.

There are celebrated cases of founders who have successfully started and grown a business – Elon Musk and Bill Gates come to mind. There are, however, many more examples of entrepreneurs who perform well initially and then hold back their company as it ages. But, as a business owner, you can avoid this.

How One Founder Unlocked the True Value of His Company

Damian James grew up in Melbourne and learned a lot about the aging population in Australia. Realizing that healthcare could be a lucrative field, he discovered a sector ripe for disruption, podiatry. This is a branch of medicine devoted to the diagnosis, medical and surgical treatment of foot and ankle disorders.

At the time, most podiatrists in Melbourne worked from a retail location where the doctor owned and operated a private practice. The podiatrist would rent space, hire some staff, and charge patients per visit. At night, some enterprising doctors would also visit old age homes to offer care. Reasoning that many old people nodded off shortly after dinner, James saw an opportunity for a podiatrist to visit old age homes during the day when it was more convenient for patients.

 

The Million Dollar Idea

James, who had earned a bachelor’s degree in Podiatry in 1996, started Aged Foot Care. He approached old age homes with a compelling offer of removing the traditional overhead of an office.

Aged Foot Care went through a variety of growing pains over the years, including an expensive rebranding to the name Dimple. By 2015, Dimple was generating roughly $200,000 of profit on $2.5M in revenue.

Time to Grow

Despite his success, James was frustrated. The company’s growth had stalled. His management team seemed perpetually incapable of hitting its targets.

Quarter after quarter, he would set goals with his team, but they would fall short. James decided it was time to bring in outside help, so he hired a Chief Operating Officer.

To recruit the new COO, James knew he would need to give up some equity, so he commissioned a valuation for Dimple which came in at $2.5 million. He offered a salary, plus 5% of the company. James also offered another 3% of the business (up to a maximum of 20%) for every $1 million the COO would grow Dimple’s revenue past $5 million.

The new role was a success. James quickly promoted him to Chief Executive Officer and stepped back from the day-to-day operations. He decided to let the company thrive under the new CEO’s leadership.

Down to just one day a week, James limited his involvement to providing a vision and protecting the company’s core values. The CEO, on the other hand, ran the day-to-day business – pursuing James’ core strategy of contracting with aged care facilities.

The company hit $11 million in revenue by 2017.

 

The Big Bonus

Zenitas had a similar strategy of bringing healthcare to patients in homes or care centers rather than having them languish in hospital beds. The company was keen to add podiatry to its stable of services. The decision makers realized that acquiring Dimple would allow it to become an overnight market leader.

In July 2017, Zenitas announced they had acquired Dimple for $13.4 million. Under different leadership, the company had grown in value over 500% in less than three years.

Starting and growing a company require different skills which are rarely found in the same individual. This begs the question, ‘is it time to find someone else to run your business?’

_________________________________________

If you’re interested in improving the value of your business, take our questionnaire or contact Colonial Business Brokerage today at 443-982-7332.

 

The Hidden Benefits of Planning Your Succession Strategy

 

Succession planning is something that many business owners fail to think about; however, it turns out there are benefits to succession planning that might not be immediately obvious upon first glance.  In this article, we’ll explore a recent Accountancy Daily article, “Succession Planning for Business Owners,” which details the wisdom and benefits of succession planning.

Accountancy Daily polled 500 SME owners and uncovered a variety of interesting facts.  At the top of the list is that one-third of owners felt more confident about the future of their businesses when they had a coherent succession strategy. 

In what can only be deemed a surprising finding, the poll discovered that 17% of respondents noted that succession planning actually brought them closer to their families.  In short, the Accountancy Daily poll found that succession planning came with a variety of unexpected benefits.  In other words, it is about more than preparing to hand one’s business over to a new party.

Author Glen Foster makes the point that business owners frequently underestimate the level of effort and time needed to sell a business.  The fact is that selling a business is usually a layered process that can even take years to complete.  Importantly, business owners must understand that in the time it takes to sell, the market may have changed or their own financial or personal situations may have changed as well.  Additionally, selling can be an emotional and stressful process which further complicates the entire matter. 

For most business owners, selling a business represents the single greatest financial move of their lives.  As such, it is often accompanied with significant stress and anxiety.  It is essential not to underestimate the emotional and psychological side of the sales equation.  Properly planning years in advance for the sale of a business will help business owners prepare for the emotional and psychological stress that can result from both the sales process and the eventual sale itself. 

A key part of the stress of selling a business is that business owners are often left wondering “what comes next?” after selling.  Developing a succession strategy is a way to think through such issues well in advance.

Another key aspect of succession planning is to take the steps necessary to make sure that your business is ready to be sold.  As Foster points out, you wouldn’t put a home on the market with significant problems, and the same holds true for your business.  If you want to receive the optimal price for your business, then your business should be in tip-top shape.  This means diving into your books and records and getting everything in order.  Working with an accountant or an experienced business broker can be invaluable in this process.

______________________________

Whether you are looking to exit your privately held business, represent an acquisition-minded corporation, value your business, or are personally interested in owning or building value in your own company or franchise, Colonial Business Brokerage offers the professional services that successfully bring buyers and sellers together.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

dolgachov/BigStock.com

How A Patent Sways The Value Of Your Business

Think back to the last time you booked an oversees flight.

Chances are, you traveled within one of the big travel alliances: Oneworld, SkyTeam or Star Alliance. Airline partners share a common system which is why your bag shows up in the right place (most of the time) even though you may have taken a set of connected flights to get to where you were going.

Now, imagine you’re a small regional airline trying to offer passengers a breadth of destinations while not being part of one of the big three alliances. If you’re passenger who wants to fly to one place, you’re fine… but as soon as they want to connect into a different city on a competing airline, you’re left trying to stitch together a solution.

The results are predictably bad, which is why Timothy O’Neil-Dunne co-founded Air Black Box Company. The goal was to help smaller travel operators manage their back-office operations so they could compete with the major travel companies.

O’Neil-Dunne was able to patent his technology which is one of the reasons 777 Partners bought Black Box early in 2019. In this episode, you’ll learn how to:

  • Value your patents
  • Create a competitive advantage by learning the “patois” of your industry
  • Keep your equity while funding your growth
  • Spot people who are vested (and avoid those who aren’t)

Listen now

______________________________________________

If you’re interested in improving the value of your business, take our questionnaire or contact Colonial Business Brokerage today at 443-982-7332.

 

Business Owners Can’t Always Sell When They Wish

A recent and insightful Forbes article, “Study Shows Why Many Business Owners Can’t Sell When They Want To” penned by Mary Ellen Biery, generates some thought-provoking ideas.  The article discusses an Exit Planning Institute (EPI) study that outlined the reality that many business owners can’t control when they are able to sell.  Many business owners expect to be able to sell whenever they like.  However, the reality, as outlined by the EPI study, revealed that the truth is that for business owners, selling is often easier said than done.

In the article, Christopher Snider, President and CEO of EPI, noted that a large percentage of business owners have no exit planning in place.  This fact is made all the more striking by the revelation that most owners have up to 90% of their assets tied up in their businesses.  Snider’s view is that most business owners will have to sell within the next 10 to 15 years, and yet, are unprepared to do so.  According to the EPI only 20% to 30% of businesses that go on the market will actually sell.  Snider believes that at the heart of the problem is there are not enough good businesses available for sell.  In short, the problem is one of quality.

As of 2016, Baby Boomer business owners, who were expected to begin selling in record numbers, are waiting to sell.  As Snider stated in Biery’s Fortune article, “Baby Boomers don’t really want to leave their businesses, and they’re not going to move the business until they have to, which is probably when they are in their early 70s.”

The EPI survey of 200+ San Diego business owners found that 53% had given little or no attention to their transition plan, 88% had no written transition to transition to the next owner, and a whopping 80% had never even sought professional advice regarding their transition.  Further, a mere 58% currently had handled any form of estate planning. 

Adding to the concern was the fact that most surveyed business owners don’t know the value of their business.  Summed up another way, a large percentage of the business owners who will be selling their businesses are Baby Boomers who plan on holding onto their businesses until they are older.  They have not charted out an exit strategy or transition plan and have no tangible idea as to the true worth of their respective businesses. 

In Snider’s view, the survey indicates that many business owners are not “maximizing the transferable value of their business,” and additionally that they are not “in a position to transfer successfully so that they can harvest the wealth locked in their business.”

All business owners should be thinking about the day when they will have to sell their business.  Now is the time to begin working with a broker to formulate your strategy so as to maximize your business’s value.

________________________________________

Whether you are looking to exit your privately held business, represent an acquisition-minded corporation, value your business, or are personally interested in owning or building value in your own company or franchise, Colonial Business Brokerage offers the professional services that successfully bring buyers and sellers together.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

Goodluz/BigStock.com

A $471 Million Exit From The Online Travel Industry

From a standing start, Dinesh Dhamija grew European online travel agency eBookers to more than one billion in sales in just five years.

After two successful financing rounds, Dhamija still owned 40% of eBookers stock which represented virtually his entire net worth. Dhamija decided it was time to sell. He quickly got six acquirers interested, and sold eBookers to Cendant (owners of brands like Orbitz and Avis among others) for $471 million.

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • Where to find the most natural strategic acquirers for your business
  • One guaranteed technique for knowing whether an acquirer is serious about buying your business or just kicking tires
  • How to accelerate the pace of your deal to sell your company
  • About a “Greenshoe” option and how it can impact you as a founder
  • The biggest mistake Dhamija made after selling his company which cost him “a few million dollars”

Listen Now

____________________________________________________

If you’re interested in improving the value of your business, take our questionnaire or contact Colonial Business Brokerage today at 443-982-7332.

Great Tips for Helping You Find a Buyer for Your Business

No one keeps a business forever.  At some point, you’ll either want to sell your business or have to retire.  When the time comes to sell, it is important to streamline the process, experience as little stress as possible and also receive top dollar.  In Alejandro Cremades’s recent Forbes magazine article, “How to Find a Buyer for Your Business,” Cremades explores the most important steps business owners should take when looking to sell. 

Like so many things in life, finding a buyer for your business is about preparation.  As Cremades notes, you should think about selling your business on the day you found your company.  Creating a business but having no exit strategy is simply not a good idea, and it’s certainly not a safe strategy either.  Instead you should “build and plan to be acquired.” 

For Cremades, it is vital to decide in the beginning if your preferred exit strategy is to be acquired.  If you know from the beginning that you wish to be acquired, then you should build your business accordingly from day one.  That means it’s essential to understand your market and know what prospective buyers would be looking for.  

According to the Leadership Development Program, Kauffman Fellows, acquirers buy businesses for a range of reasons including: 

  • Driving their own growth
  • Expanding their market
  • Accelerating time to market 
  • Consolidating the market

Some of the more potentially interesting reasons that acquirers buy a business include to reinvent their own business and even to respond to a disruption.  At the end of the day, there is no one monolithic reason why a given party decides to buy a business.  But there are indeed some general factors that acquirers are known to commonly seek out.

Additionally, Cremades believes that for those serious about finding a buyer, it is critical to make connections.  Or as Cremades states, “strategic acquisitions are about who you know, and who knows you.  Start making those connections early.”  He also points out that buyers are not always who one expects in the beginning of the process.  Keeping this fact in mind, it is important to stay open and always look to build solid relationships and keep those relationships up to date regarding your status.  Getting your company acquired won’t happen overnight.  Instead, it is a process that can take years.  Therefore, networking years in advance is a must.

Like many seasoned business professionals, Cremades realizes how important it is to work with a business broker.  If you have failed to network properly over the years, then a broker is an amazingly valuable ally.  They are about more than offering sage advice, as business brokers can also make potentially invaluable introductions and help you navigate every stage of the acquisition process.

_______________________________

Whether you are looking to exit your privately held business, represent an acquisition-minded corporation, value your business, or are personally interested in owning or building value in your own company or franchise, Colonial Business Brokerage offers the professional services that successfully bring buyers and sellers together.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

4 PM production/BigStock.com

Multiple Of Earnings Vs. Revenue

Glenn Grant started G2 Technology Group which was in the business of helping website developers host their sites with Amazon Web Services (AWS).

By 2018, Grant had built his company to 30 employees and was planning to grow further by acquisition. That was around the same time he began fielding calls from Private Equity Groups (PEGs) interested in buying G2. The PEGs were throwing around valuation multiples of revenue instead of EBITDA. Grant decided to switch strategies and instead of being an acquirer, agreed to be acquired.

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • The difference between a financial and strategic private equity group
  • How stock appreciation rights are different than options
  • Why your company’s culture impacts its value
  • How reputational equity as a channel partner can boost your value
  • How the sales process differs from an auction (and why in many cases its better)

Listen Now

_____________________________________

If you’re interested in improving the value of your business, take our questionnaire or contact Colonial Business Brokerage today at 443-982-7332.