Key Question When Raising Equity: “If This, Then What?”

“I need $1,500,000 to open a new distribution center in North Carolina. It's a home run idea, but how much equity will I have to give up to raise that much?” Johnny (not his real name) and I have been good friends for seven years. We see each other socially several times a year, and once every 5 or 6 months we sit down to a serious conversation about his growing and vibrant medical supply business. “If I ever sell Read More

Buying a Business, the Downside(s) of Low Interest Rates

“I’m looking to buy a business, but I'm having the devil of a time doing it. Can you help?” Frank (not his real name) sold his profitable medical supply company two years ago, and is eager to get back to creating value through business ownership. He doesn’t have to work, the money he put in the bank after the sale of his company provides more than enough to take care of his family. But just 42-years old, Frank said Read More

A Funeral, Fried Chicken and Valuable Lesson

Little did I know I'd learn something at a funeral to help me appreciate an important lesson regarding the successful sale of a professional services business. I had returned to Orlando, where I spent the first half of my business career, to attend the funeral of a dear family member. After the funeral, the church hosted a covered dish dinner for family and friends. While going through the food line, I bumped into Read More

Selling to Private Equity … Losing Control

“Please, Jim, you have to help me unwind this disaster. The private equity firm’s pitch was so convincing, but those guys don’t know what they’re doing.” I had never met Geoff (not his real name), but he was referred to me by his cousin who is a family friend. Geoff described his dilemma during our first call. “I sold my company four years ago. This PE group from Chicago made me an offer that was too good to be Read More

Is It OK to Pay Too Much for a Business? (hint: yes, and it might even be a smart thing)

When he walked into Starbucks with a big red notebook under his arm, I figured the meeting might not go as planned. I had worked with Robert (not his real name) for almost four months. We had met through a mutual friend who knew Robert and his wife were looking to leave corporate life and buy a business they could run together. Robert had contacted me to see if I had any companies he might be interested in Read More

The Laws of Supply & Demand Not Applicable to the Market for Privately Owned Business?

Professor Bentley (not his real name) was one of the most revered yet feared professors at Harvard Business School. Every time he entered the classroom, you knew you were in the presence of genius. But with one question, he could make you look or feel like the village dunce. I didn't learn the principle of supply and demand at Harvard, I knew that a long time before I got there. However, in the rigorous case study Read More

Are You Guilty of The Wimpy Effect?

“I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.” If you are 60 or older, you probably recognize that comment frequently spoken by J. Wellington Wimpy. This character from the Popeye cartoon series seemed to be a successful businessman (after all, he wore a suit and tie). But curiously, Wimpy never had money in his pocket to buy his favorite lunch. He seemed to always be saying “you can trust me, I’ll have it in Read More

One Dumb Comment Cost Him $35 Million

Don (not his real name) was smart, but his dumb comment cost him $35 million. In just 12 years, he had built his company to be the largest in his industry. Don was a rock star, and his company’s future was bright. But Don had taken the company as far as he wanted to take it. Though just 44 years old, he was ready to sell the company and realize his life’s ambition to play golf on all six continents (since there are Read More

Earn Your Way to a Better Exit

When Mayor Johnson (not his real name or title) asked me to meet, I assumed he wanted me to sponsor a table at his next fundraiser. He ushered me into his office, and after looking at pictures on the wall of him with nationally prominent politicians, he got to the point. “I’m not here to talk politics, Jim, I want to talk about selling my business. I know you can help me.” Mayor Johnson has lived in his community Read More

The A of Valuation ABCs

It’s no fun telling a songwriter his song is bad. Telling an author her novel won't sell takes nerves of steel. Telling a business owner his business is overvalued is no way to make a friend, much less gain a client. Marvin (not his real name) was flat P-O’ed at me. When I told him how a buyer would look at his business, he told me in no uncertain terms he was not going to hire me because I didn’t know the market Read More