By the time I turned 30, I had worked as a stockbroker, a film producer, an outside sales representative, and a board member, and I had started a business. I held two degrees, one of which was an MBA. When I finally felt comfortable enough to buy a business, the path to acquisition entrepreneurship was rougher than I had anticipated despite my confidence, experience, and education.
I had assumed finding a business to buy would be somewhat straightforward. Yet there were few high-quality sources to guide me. I called mergers and acquisitions advisors and business brokers who presented me with run-down bars and restaurants, hardly scalable, profitable ventures. Unsatisfied and losing cash, I took a full-time job to pay the bills while I continued a part-time search for a company to acquire. It was frustrating at best, but it was eye-opening, too. No one seemed able to point me in the right direction.
I wanted the textbook on how to acquire a business — but one didn’t exist. Working through this helped me define my own process, my own framework, and my own perspective on how to go about it. It took 13 years of mastering my craft before I could publish “Buy Then Build,” my how-to manual on practicing entrepreneurship through acquisition.
Learning the Hard Way
Eventually, a door opened, but it wasn’t the door I expected: My father asked me to join his business. I asked him about ownership, but he wouldn’t start the conversation unless my work there was well-received.
A year later, we went through the sales process together. We met with advisors, CPAs, and lawyers to develop a 21-step plan. The experience was nerve-wracking at times, but because I was working with a seller I trusted immensely, we worked together to find the best way to transact. The beauty of it was that I got to see the inner workings from both the buyer’s and seller’s perspectives.
I actually don’t know that I could have closed a deal if I had been working with a seller I didn’t know. The whole concept was new, and I realized that more people would be doing this if they could understand the economics, get past the mistrust of the private market, and get access to the deals.
The Launch of Acquisition Entrepreneurship
The impetus for acquisition entrepreneurship was born. It’s not about what a buyer can afford; it’s about the skill set of the entrepreneur and the growth opportunity the business provides.
As word got out about our transaction, other business owners began contacting us. They wanted to know how to exit, but they lacked a process. Entrepreneurs who wanted to acquire companies also reached out. There was demand for the lessons I had learned searching for a business.
I didn’t invent business acquisition, of course, but at that time, it wasn’t married with entrepreneurship. I have worked on developing more efficient, effective ways for entrepreneurs to spend less time hunting for companies to buy so they can spend more time building them.
If You Can’t Find It, Make It
It was clear from the moment I started my first search pre-2004 that acquisition entrepreneurship needed a well-written model. I started by wanting to source multiple people who had done it before so I could learn some best practices. Instead, after a decade of active engagement buying multiple companies myself, I realized that I could unpack what worked and didn’t work in this opaque entrepreneurial path.
It’s given birth to a book, an online course, speaking engagements, coaching, and advising in deals. The irony is that I didn’t acquire this business — I’m building it from scratch. Although most startup ideas are not new, and most don’t warrant the economic risk associated, I’ve accidentally found myself bootstrapping my own “Zero to One” helping others on their acquisition entrepreneurship path and building a powerful new community.