Building a Portfolio of Content Sites w/a PE Exit: Brad Wayland

Brad Wayland may be the only QLB broker that was asked to join our team. Others amy dispute that, but they were not interviewed today, so they don’t have a voice! Brad has been with Quiet Light Brokerage for less than a year now, and has already established himself as an honest, hardworking and driven entrepreneur  and broker.

Prior to joining Quiet Light, Brad spent his time focused on SEO for a custom t-shirt firm (Blue Cotton) where he is a partner. From there Brad built a portfolio of content & affiliate sites and eventually sold them to a private equity firm in 2015. In all, Brad completed 30 transactions between 2010 and 2016. Mostly as a buyer, with four sold.

Brad learned quickly how to find the right opportunities and work out a deal that made sense for both the seller and himself. And he gained a reputation as the person to sell to, where sellers reached out to him to sell their business.

Episode Highlights:

  • [3:22] Who is Brad Wayland?
  • [8:10] Why is the custom t-shirt business the most difficult ecommerce niche?
  • [8:40] Buying and building a portfolio of content sites.
  • [11:15] Wall street style negotiations, or nice guy everyone is happy?
  • [11:45] Name dropping. Yep, Brad met Warren Buffett.
  • [13:50] How to implement economies of scale.
  • [14:45] Outsourcing and keeping things simple, streamlined and with little effort.
  • [16:10] How Brad set up the corporate structure(s).
  • [17:00] How to work with investors and set up a win/win.
  • [19:40] Why having investors can turn pretty uncomfortable, quickly.
  • [20:30] Brad’s recommendation on deal structure for investors.
  • [23:10] What interest rate do you pay investors?
  • [23:30] How the multiple of SDE changes with larger net numbers.
  • [27:15] Brad’s view of PE monies and what’s happening in the industry
  • [28:40] Google “freshness” is critical to long term content portfolio success.
  • [29:50] Content multiples are strong, the nich is hot and buyers are in abundance.
  • [30:30] QLB closes a content site for just under $9,000,000
  • [32:30] Bryan @ QLB has a supplement business under LOI for $18,000,000.
  • [33:55] The worst conversations we have as brokers are…
  • [35:35] Near death accident: Wayland Falls – the newly named mountain in North Carolina.

Transcription:

Joe: So Mark the more we bring on brokers here at Quiet Light the less I feel like I’ve achieved anything in my life. I think you and I are just a couple of slackers compared to the people that have joined the company.

Mark: You know I feel the exact same way. We were at the capitalism.com just a few weeks ago and I was standing next to Walker, you know the last picture he sent me was of him in the lineup with Bill Nye the Science Guy right next to him. And he’s casually mentioning over a dinner about the different documentaries he’s been a part of and all that right? But it goes for every single person on the team. Amanda, when we were talking to her there and I was just consistently feeling like boy I need to get my butt in gear.

Joe: Yeah I don’t try to have in-depth conversations with Amanda about business because I just feel stupid.

Mark: Right, I mean she just starts going off and you’re like oh okay I … everything I thought I knew yeah it could pale as in comparison. Brad though is one of those guys and I remember the first time we did a companywide call; we do this once in a while with Quiet Light Brokerage because we’re all over the world. All over the country but all over the world and so I don’t know maybe once a quarter we have a companywide Zoom conference call where we can see everybody and there was Brad on top … in his office overlooking his factory floor. And I think everyone was just kind of like oh this guy has actually done and accomplished some real things.

Joe: Yeah Jason was calling from his kitchen. Amanda was calling from a car. Chuck was from home. I was from home. You, of course, have to get out of your house because you have got a basketball team and a half in your house … well, maybe not that much I exaggerated. I love to exaggerate about the number of kids you have by the way.

Mark: Hey it changed since the last time by the way. We’ve had like four more kids. It’s attractive to … you know and it’s hard to-

Joe: Completely different podcast right there.

Mark: But Brad was somewhere in the world. We have no idea. I think he was in Cuba or Costa Rica or something.

Joe: Oh right he’s always somewhere else, some other exotic location. But yeah Brad is an impressive guy. A very low key but man he’s sharp. He talks about his history, talks about what he did at the Blue Cotton T-shirt company. It takes 22 hands to make one t-shirt. It gets touched 22 two times but he stepped in, focused on SEO, and that company blew up after a couple years of him being there. But that’s not really what the podcast is about. It’s about him and his experience but I’d really focused in on his content portfolio. At one point while running … or while being a partner at blue cotton he built a small little multimillion dollar content portfolio on the side and eventually sold it. And he outsourced everything. He had a reasonably low workload and he used initially other people’s money. You have to listen to find out whose money he used. It’s kind of interesting and fun but he did very well. And he talks about that approach and I think it’s something that any listener can get something out of it in terms of whether they’re building their own portfolio of physical products companies, drop ship companies, SaaS companies, or content companies. And of course get to know Brad along the way as well which is kind of the purpose of the podcast. But I think there’s so much more to it than just getting to know Brad Wayland.

Mark: Yeah I think one of the things I love about this company is it seems like everybody that we bring on just seems to up the ante as far as their qualifications. I mean two or three years from now we’re going to have Elon Musk asking us for a job.

Joe: Okay, got to be very sad for all the investors of Tesla, sorry folks.

Mark: I don’t know maybe they’ll kick him up and who knows. All right enough of me talking, enough of you talking, let’s listen to Brad.

Joe: Hey folks it’s Joe at Quiet Light Brokerage and today we have one of our very own on the podcast with us. Now don’t get bored he actually has a life time of entrepreneurial experience. He’s bought and sold many businesses. He’s kind of a big deal. I think he bought and sold more than I have for sure; probably more than most of us. His name is Brad, most of you folks listening know who he is. Brad Wayland welcome to the Quiet Light Podcast.

Brad: Hey Joe thanks for having me on.

Joe: How are you doing?

Brad: I’m doing well.

Joe: Are you ready to tell all of these people everything about you?

Brad: I’m ready to tell them but I would contest your point that I’m kind of a big deal. In fact, I was on another podcast with Chris Guthrie that you had on the Quiet Light Podcast a couple of months ago and several years ago. He did an intro and he said most of you probably don’t know Brad Wayland. He’s what I call a silent baller. Am I right? All right well-

Joe: He subscribes to HBO there.

Brad: Yeah I would call myself pretty well unknown. But I have had a lot of experience and I hope that I can share some things today that will help our listeners.

Joe: Well you are humble. There is that and you’re part of the Quiet Light team because of that vast amount of experience that you do have. And you’re one of the few … actually, maybe the only one where Mark actually said “hey maybe you should do this” versus the rest of us which reached out to Mark and said “hey can we do this?” that’s right isn’t it, Mark asked you to join the team?

Brad: Well there’s different versions of that story but I specifically remember that I asked Mark. I knew Chuck from the buying and selling world so I kind of made a joke at Mark about [inaudible 00:06:41.6] Chuck on I guess if things don’t go well on the buying and selling world you might end up doing some brokering. And he was like I think you might be interested in doing some brokering with Quiet Light and that’s where the conversation kind of started. And then over about a six month period he kind of showed me the Quiet Light way and I started getting more and more interested. And I really enjoyed my time at Quiet Light so far, it’s good for people. And really every day when we get on the phone calls with buyers and sellers I’m just blown away by how impressed they are with the team we have at Quiet Light. Just the knowledge is there, its entrepreneurs. I tell everybody every day, its entrepreneur led. These are people that have bought, sold, built, operated in through hard times so I really do enjoy it. And I think brokers sometimes have like a little bit of a stigma attached to them. And I think that we are kind of definitely leading the way in kind of changing that. Because I find that people really look at Quiet Light as a breath of fresh air.

Joe: Yeah I would have to agree. I was just at Brand Builder Summit down at Austin and really for the first time in a long time, I mean I started in 2012 the broker stigma had an icky feel to it. You and I have been self-employed for years … decades probably and people are starting to reach out to brokers for the experience and expertise that we do have. So it’s good but let’s talk about your experience and expertise. Who the heck are you? Tell us about your entrepreneurial history and when you started? Kind of how many things you bought so on and so forth.

Brad: I started having some interest in the internet world around 2003 and I had graduated from college with a finance degree and was working as an accountant for a publicly traded company. And I really hated the work and actually thought you know what I’m going to get fired from this job before I can find another job because I felt like I was doing such a poor job. I just wasn’t really built for the check in to your cubicle at 8 AM and checks out at 5 PM. I needed something a little more challenging for me and maybe a little less structured. And so I was thinking I would go into financial planning because I had a degree in it and had an offer. And a couple of friends of mine said “Hey would you like to come on and work on some business development for us in our t-shirt company?” And they had just crossed a million in sales and they have launched a website and it’s called Blue Cotton. And so I came on and quickly I became enamored with search engine optimization and spent a lot of time trying to figure it out. And honestly I fumbled it around like four years and even to the point where I think they thought does this guy have any idea what he’s doing at all? But around 2005, I started realizing what we needed to do and that was rebuild the site. It had not been built where it could really ever rank the way that certain things were structured and basically the site was just a giant image. So we rebuilt it. It took two years to rebuild it and when we launched it we were on the front page of Gizmodo within 24 hours from just people finding it. And back then there was-

Joe: Gizmodo, what the heck is Gizmodo?

Brad: It’s a popular tech blog. I’m sure you probably heard of it.

Joe: Clearly I haven’t, so thank you.

Brad: Well it crashed the site. And so that first day we launched it [inaudible 00:10:02.2] spent two years working on this project, it’s never going to do anything. And that morning we got a phone call from the developers, our phones are ringing off the hook and they said something’s going on. There’s tons of traffic on the site. Back then you didn’t even have Google analytics. We were paying for index tools back then. And so they … Gizmodo crashed the site, we had something like five million people trying to get to the site and it couldn’t happen.

Joe: Wow.

Brad: You know it was just some crazy situation and there was no social media. So a lot of the traffic back then went through these popular blogs. That’s how people … they have their RSS readers on their desktop and they would go through and read their articles and stuff. So they did that and then we had built a design studio where people would create their t-shirts in Flash. And a month later Adobe awarded us the site of the day which didn’t crash site but it gave us a page rank 9 of 10 link from Adobe’s website.

Joe: Wow.

Brad: Adobe was the most … at the time Adobe was the most went to website in the world. And the combination of Gizmodo … well because of Acrobat and I mean think of all the click here is that you have for Flash, for PDF reader, for all those things. It had tons of links coming in. And so the combination of those two things propelled us and we went on a crazy tier of growth. It grew up 50% a year for nine years on average.

Joe: Woah, we’ll let the listeners do the math on that unless you’re going to tell us. 50% percent a year for nine years and you wouldn’t want to know.

Brad: Well we went … we grew from … I mean we were small. We were like a million dollars in sales but that ride took us from like, it probably took us to about seven million. I still own my equity in that company. I didn’t start that way. We kind of after the web kind of took over the two owners came to me and said hey 85% of our revenue is coming through this thing you’ve helped us work on so we need to come up with an arrangement here. So we ended up doing that in 2008 and today Blue Cotton is still a thriving business. It’s got … we’re, I would call us a medium sized business now. We’ll be considered a low eight figure business in terms of revenue. We’ve got 125 employees, 110,000 square feet of production capabilities which one I’m using all of that now. We use about 55,000 [inaudible 00:12:27.3]. So I did that and just to kind of quickly summarize that when you’re in the custom t-shirt world you are making money in the most difficult way possible. A custom t-shirt has to be touched by about 20 people before it goes out the door. And if you order one for your family reunion then it’s got Joe Valley’s Family Reunion 2018, it’s time sensitive. You’ve got a specific idea and you don’t want to be the guy that ordered them and your family says “Man, Joe these are awful. You did a terrible job designing them.” So there’s a lot of anxiety in the purchase and so I became pretty interested in content. And around 2010 a friend of mine who was … is a pretty big name in the vector space, like image vectors, he was looking at a blog for sale and it was on Flippa. And he … it was it was a $50,000 purchase price and he said you know what it’s only worth 25 grand to me in high five. Man, that thing has content and ads like that’s the most amazing business model I’ve ever seen. You don’t have to do anything.

Joe: Especially compared to 22 hands per t-shirt.

Brad: Right. So I ended up buying that site for $50,000. And that started a new trajectory for me. From 2010 I started getting heavily involved into content and affiliate and just bought and sold a lot of stuff from 2010 and 2015. 2015 I divested a lot of it up to private equity but the-

Joe: Can you ballpark how many you bought and sold in that time period?

Brad: Yeah so I did 30 transactions between 2010 and 2016 and most of it was buying. I had basically four sales everything else was purchase. I kind of quickly … the space was the web design space so the blog that I bought … economy was kind of in the tank in 2010 and so the blog that I bought I quickly made my money back on it. It’s a $50,000 purchase and I made the money back in like 10 months. And I thought this is like too good to be true. So I started kind of keeping my eyes open for opportunities and found another one that was for sale and overpaid for it compared to what I had done. So I paid 72,000 for the second one and it was starting on that same trajectory but after those first two, economy was really not doing well and I started having people reach out to me. And so I had a guy reach out and say hey I hear you’re the guy that buys web design sites, you’ve bought this one and this one would you want to buy mine while I was tapped down on cash. I had spent all my kind of extra money that I had to kind of do something like that with and so I told him you know what I’ll give you about 80% of what you made in the last year but that’s the best I can do and I can do it today.

Joe: And they said?

Brad: And he said I’ll take it.

Joe: So let’s talk about that on … just for a moment because you’ve got experience, I mean you bought 30 businesses, 30 transactions over the last several years. Was your process New York Wall Street walls to the wall top negotiating or was it nice guy that really likes you and you built a relationship and you made it work both in the end?

Brad: I’m probably me there. I’m a quick decision maker. When I was in … when I graduated from college I had the opportunity to meet Warren Buffet at a finance event that went on in my hometown here at Bowling Green. And Warren Buffet said that he plays bridge, and he drinks diet Coke, and he takes 13 phone calls a day, and he doesn’t have a computer in his office and one of the questions was how do you evaluate companies? He had bought Fruit Of The Loom which is why he was in town and they said how do you evaluate it? And he said honestly I don’t spend a lot of time on it. I go with my gut. I look at the few things that I think I have but I usually make a decision within a matter of hours about whether or not I want to buy something, the price, everything which is not the way M&A is done.

Joe: Wow.

Brad: I know. He’s a great capitalist in terms of what he does and that’s not me. So I’m not trying to embarrass Warren Buffet but there is one element that is like me and that is I don’t waste time. I like to put deals together. I’m not very patient. And that kind of benefited me in the buying and selling world. So I did things very unconventional. Like my transactions, I would never use escrow. I would try to do it as fast as possible, meet them in person, come up with an arrangement of I’m going to wire half here and then you’re going to transfer this. Or I’m going to wire it all you’re going to transfer these things at the same time. I just did a lot of things that weren’t kind of the norms because I’m just not very patient. I kind of wanted to get my hands on it that second. I didn’t want to wait 60 days for things to pan out.

Joe: So no long drawn out contract negotiations on asset purchase agreements or SBA deals anything like that?

Brad: No.

Joe: Pretty simple.

Brad: And I would say that I focused less on making sure I got this exact price that I wanted at that exact multiple that I wanted. And I focused more on trying to find things that I knew I could immediately do something with. When I got into the design space I don’t know anything about design. In Blue Cotton, we have nine designers that work there. I don’t know anything about it. I don’t know anything about web design really. I know I can tell you some names of like what post would be like but I know nothing. If you put me inside one of those Adobe programs I’m totally lost, I know nothing about it. But what I did learn pretty quickly is that there are some economies of scale to having things that are alike each other. And so when I had one blog and an advertiser would come through it was like what would happen if I had five of these blogs? Or what I could do is I could leverage the advertiser for five times the amount and have the same amount of contact. And so I did a lot of that and I did it on the affiliate side. You know I couldn’t negotiate better affiliate deals for my company because I would say well here’s all the traffic I have in total and they would look at me and be like oh well if you’ve got that much then we want to do this size e-mail send or we want to do this size add by and so I started to feel that … and a lot of the … so about 15 of my 26 purchases were in the design space.

Joe: And did you have writers that were consistently focused on the design space, outsource VA’s, or did you do it all yourself?

Brad: Yeah so in the design space there’s a lot of writers available. You go to some of the popular sites like Smashing Mag or some of these other big names. You’ll see a new name every day. And so I again I kind of always try to structure things in a way where I didn’t have to spend a whole lot of time on them. So you know one of the things that I did is I found writers that were okay at being paid once a month because I didn’t want to be jumping into PayPal 15 times a month to pay writers. So I found writers that could go across several sites that wanted to do like a substantial amount of work. And so I’d have four or five of them and then at the end of the month, I would just one time pay everybody for all their posts. I found people that knew what I wanted instead of me having to review every single post I found people and I was like okay you did these three posts for me this is exactly what I want, go down that road. Some of them would send me like here’s what I’m thinking about doing this month, some of them were just like I know what he wants and they would just do it. And I just always try to streamline things to a … the most hands off as possible. I did not want to hire people to support the network. I didn’t want to … I wanted to keep it very like the opposite of the teacher business. I wanted it to be something that I could do a lot with a little time.

Joe: Did you put all 30 of the properties or 26 when you sold four off, did you put them all in one LOC did you have them separate? How did that work out?

Brad: Well I had to … we hadn’t gotten into how I built the portfolio so I will tell you that I quickly ran out of my own cash and had to start looking for help. So I did end up having three different LOCs total and that was because of the way I had to go find capital for the deals.

Joe: Okay.

Brad: And then I kind of got tired of that and so I basically rolled all of those partners up and blown and got them out and took everything over 100%. And you know the thing is when you’re … there’s guys that it was their pockets that are out there raising money and I had a conversation with one of our … someone who’s buying a property from us yesterday about it. When you’re trying to raise money from people instead of going out and asking for everything you think they could possibly muster up one of the best ways to convince people that you give them good returns on their money is to do something good with some … with a small amount of money, something that you know is not a big deal to them. And I didn’t really do that on purpose. It’s just that my deal started out kind of small. I started around this $50,000 range and by the time I was done I wasn’t interested in $50,000 transactions. I didn’t do anything that was all that large but I did a couple of three hundreds. I did two $500,000 transactions. And the thing about those transactions is I put that money together in a few days and it wasn’t coming out of my bank account. So I had people that believed in what I was doing and I could literally pick up a fund and say hey I’ve got this opportunity and they would say I’m in.

Joe: For those that are listening that have portfolio folks that might do that but for those folks that are investing that haven’t ever done it before are they getting equity or are they getting return on investment and how quickly do you start paying them back?

Brad: Yes. So the way that I was kind of pitched it I didn’t have anybody that I was connected to that was like used to investing in tech … so I’m talking about people that have some extra income or extra savings but they’re not people that were like highly technical. So, my parents, you know the first people I went to were my parents and I said “Hey would you guys want to invest a little bit of your money into an idea?” And they said, “Sure, what’s the terms?” Well, my terms were terrible for me in my opinion. I said well if you’ll put up the money I’ll give you 50%. That’s where I started.

Joe: Oh.

Brad: And I talked to someone yesterday he said that that was absolutely ridiculous. They are like you gave them 50%? I was like well I didn’t have … I wasn’t going to be able to buy it [inaudible 00:22:40.7].

Joe: They could praise you so that … you know they ultimately lost money on the flunk transaction called Brad Wayland.

Brad: Still that’s true. There are some things in our past, there’s some car situations and things like that but it definitely cost them some money and a hard day. But I started with them and … but I became concerned also about … oh wait a second, they’re willing to put a lot into this after we started going. They’re willing to put more into this and I started thinking I don’t really want to be responsible for my own livelihood and know that I could potentially tank theirs.

Joe: Right.

Brad: So I started to get kind of concerned about that. And they didn’t have unlimited funds anyway. But around that time I started looking to partner with other folks and I partnered with some people that I didn’t know as well as my parents. So people that had told me like hey I want to get in and my relative over here is willing to invest in me. So I did that kind of deal and I became pretty uncomfortable with those pretty quick. And the reason why is because when you’re working with your parents or if you’re working with a close friend you kind of know we’re not going to end up in a courtroom somewhere.

Joe: Right.

Brad: You know that that’s not going to happen. You know now you could ruin your relationship or you could have that little mark on your relationship where you’re like well remember that time when I lost like $400,000 of your money? Sorry about that. You know like that’s not a good situation. But I started getting uncomfortable with having partners at all in the space when I took on partners I didn’t know.

Joe: So how did you determine … you know once you’ve got beyond that experimental stage and your relatives and friends of relatives and giving them too much, what would you recommend to somebody that’s listening that wants to build a portfolio of sites? Is getting money from people are not used to investing? What would you say? Look if I were to do it all over again with what I know I’d probably offer them X, Y, Z, and pay them how often? Can you summarize what you know?

Brad: Yeah. So if I could do it all over again I probably would do it the same way. I understand that giving up 50% sounds like … I don’t know if that sounds like a lot or not. One guy I talked to yesterday said yeah it sounds like a lot. It probably was a lot. They weren’t doing anything. And I was … you asked a minute ago were they getting paid? If I took a check they got a check. And I was looking for cash flow because I wanted to build up and be able to go buy more and do things. So I wanted to realize real gains and kind of do something with them. So I would give a lot early but I would structure the agreements to where you control the situation. And that is one thing I did. I just … when you have all the knowledge and the other side doesn’t really have an opinion, they’re like hey I don’t know really know what you’re doing with the money over there. I just know that you’re operating these websites out here and you’re making us money. When you have that kind of arrangement those people are more willing to say well you tell us what the investment is going to look like? And so from my perspective I kind of went down the road of just saying look I want to … I still want to pay you your money but I don’t want to have partners any more for various reasons. Like I want to structure this in such a way that makes sure that you get your return but also make sure that I benefit from it in the way that I think I should long term. And so I’d like to roll out … basically, I bought them out. I just came up with a structure and said this is how I would value the properties and I can [inaudible 00:25:59.2] the properties to pay this off. And so I rolled everything out into basically a Seller Finance note and I was able to get it done in 20, 30 days. As opposed to an SBA loan or trying to go out and raise … when you do a situation like that where people are giving you their cash and you’re dealing with multiple investors, if you are able to call the shots then when you’re ready for that change you can do it very quickly and efficiently.

Joe: How many different investors did you have at that time where you had to get them out?

Brad: So I only had really three people that had invested at that time but at the same time I was looking to buy more. So when I rolled it out into a loan I actually brought on three new investors but I brought them on as just debt.

Joe: Got you, okay then you paid them a higher than normal interest rate.

Brad: I did. So it depends on who it was but my interest rates were 6 to 9% on the deals that I did.

Joe: Okay.

Brad: So it just depends on who it was. And I never really nickeled and dimed people over the interest rate, I try to find people that I thought would be able, that would trust that I would do the right thing with the money and [inaudible 00:27:07.6] plus trying to get the exact interest rate.

Joe: Let’s talk about for those listening thinking about rolling up different properties into a portfolio. Let’s talk about multiples and returns on investment. You know we talk all the time about a business that’s doing 100,000 that’s five years old with one employee is worth a certain multiple but an equal business with one employee and work load that same age that’s doing a million in discretionary earnings not only is it worth 10 times more in terms of numbers but it’s also that multiple goes up right? So instead of two and a half to three and a half times in terms of value, the multiple because of the size and breadth of the business that multiple might jump to four or five times. Did you find the same thing to be true when you rolled up essentially 30 small content sites, 30 small blogs into one portfolio and sold off to a private equity firm where they pay a much larger multiple?

Brad: Yeah okay. So … just so you know the private equity firm that I sold it out to I sold it at four and a half multiple. So just to kind of … that was a high multiple, I was very pleased with the transaction.

Joe: Okay.

Brad: So in my sale, I definitely saw an increased multiple. Okay, so from my perspective I did transactions that were … I did a lot of them in the 50,000 range and then as I got further down the road I did a lot of 125, 300, a couple of 500s. And here’s what I found from my perspective, the properties in the … at least in the web design blog space that we’re selling for more were higher quality properties. So where we deal with every day like we’re talking to someone who’s selling on Amazon, we could find someone who’s selling on Amazon that’s doing $50,000 a year in discretionary earnings, it’s got … doing everything but they’re in a small category. Whereas you could find someone who’s doing a million dollars in discretionary earnings that’s doing everything perfect as well but they’re in a broader category. So we would see that where it’s like hey they’re both doing great they’re … you know but they just happen to make less. In the design blog space, it wasn’t so much like that. It was like if you’re doing great then you are bigger and you are earning more. And so they did command higher multiples. I don’t know off the top of my head I know one of my 500,000 transactions was a two and a half multiple and … but I know that one of my $300,000 transactions was a three point maybe one or two.

Joe: And you talked about when you purchased it.

Brad: When I purchased; yeah. So [inaudible 00:29:46.2] a lot of that.

Joe: When you sold it was all lumped together and one multiple was applied. They didn’t look at the individual blogs and sites and say we’ll give you this for that and this for the other one, it was all-

Brad: Right and the and the private equity plays … I mean I’m sure that you’ve talked to people just like I have, the private equity world is … we’re seeing some changes I think in the industry right now with private equity. I think there’s kind of two things going on. One is private equity is scooping up a lot of sides, stripping out all of the cost out of them, and literally just let them die and because the return on the money is good even then. That’s one thing that I’ve seen private equity doing and that’s what happened with mine. It killed them off. I mean there’s no way.

Joe: It killed them off.

Brad: Yeah but having said that, that company that bought it is thriving. So I think through the acquisition they learned some things about what they wanted to do and what they were good at. So I don’t know that they would look at it as a failure because I think that if they were able to use the information to then go and build a much bigger company that’s doing some pretty big things. On the other hand, I had mentioned the other way that private equity is going like we just had a transaction that closed this week that I … where you’ve got an operational group that is under private equity. So we see the private equity guys a lot of times, they’re like hey we want five million on EBITDA. Well, we don’t have a lot of sites that come our way that have got these big seller discretionary numbers. So what I think is happening in the industry right now is there are these operational groups that are saying hey we’ll go deal with 10 or 15 of these things, we’ll still get you your … whatever you’re looking for, several million dollars in sellers discretionary earnings but we’ll operate all these things underneath you and kind of keep them running. And I do think that they’ll like hold on to the content and just let it die. I think that Google especially is fighting against that right now specifically. I think their Freshness algorithm has kind of taken over and kind of prevented people from being able to do that effectively. And so I don’t think that strategy is advised or a good idea and I think it will go away completely.

Joe: You mean in the algorithm updates or having those sites die off a lot faster if you’re not doing anything?

Brad: They do. They just … they track what you’re doing and I’ve even done some experiments. So I analyzed it on a small content portfolio and I have a marketing firm that runs those forming. They basically do all the content and everything. And we have experimented and seen Google Freshness is a very real algorithm that if you fall asleep on a blog or something that has any kind of time sensitivity at all then you will pay the price and it doesn’t take very long.

Joe: Got you. So for anybody listening that thinks that Quiet Light is only a physical products e-commerce brokerage firm, Brad is obviously showing us that the experience that we have is pretty vast. Jason’s been in the affiliate space. We’ve all done SaaS, affiliate, content, advertising, physical products, but Brad obviously I think probably the bulk of transactions that you’ve closed so far with Quiet Light as an advisor you had been in the physical product space. But you’ve got a tremendous amount of experience in content as well correct?

Brad: Yeah but to me, the content is hard to come by. I don’t know if you feel that way or not but I don’t get them a lot. I did a transaction last month for a guy that I actually had bought three websites from in my buying days. And it was a really interesting dynamic because I was able to … when the buyer has been on the phone and saying can I trust this guy? I was able to say you know what I did three deals with him myself and I can tell you it went exactly like this [inaudible 00:33:21.0]. So that was kind of a neat thing. But you know he came to me and said hey I want to sell a content site and he was monetizing it through digital downloads, and not a big transaction, a couple of hundred thousand dollar transaction. And you know he said what should I expect? And I said you know what the content is pretty hot, we don’t get tons and tons of content people trying to sell these days. People want to hold onto it because it’s very low workload and it’s very high earnings for what people are doing and they seem to be getting very good multiples for it. So we priced it out at a 3.25 multiple and we got about 96% or something of the asked within 72 hours, I think you sent me an e-mail and said both your listings this week are going to be under a lot. By the weekend you are right one was 48 hours, one was 72 hours that transaction was closed in three weeks start to finish.

Joe: Yeah content is easier to do due diligence on as well. I just had a content site closed. What is … we’re recording on I think Wednesday right?

Brad: Yeah.

Joe: So 10 days ago. Less than 10 days ago I had one sell and it’s interesting I’ll give you the details of it. Daily updates, hundreds of thousands of visitors to it and Google was rewarding it like crazy because of the vast amount of new content on a daily basis. And the revenue took off like a rocket. It was just under a nine million dollar transaction and a very very high multiple. Higher than yours but it was explosive growth. It was very big. A lot of … their discretionary earnings is obviously very high. So the bigger the discretionary earnings, perk of the growth that you’ve got there the higher the multiple as well. So content sites if you’re out there listening and you’ve got a portfolio of them or you’re an individual person running one and you think that you’re hearing things that are not worth all that much, truth of the matter is that we saw lots. And there’s lots of good buyers for them.

Brad: And I think that’s your point, you asked the question earlier. Are we seeing the multiples go up the same way? And I think across the board you just have a supply and demand issue when you get into larger sites. There’s just not a lot of them available and we’re seeing that our buyers are ready to go on larger transactions. You just don’t get as many large transactions to come by. And the example that you gave, I’m pretty sure you had competing offers on that deal.

Joe: I did. I had three offers and they kept … they update each other and grew it up. Bryan-

Brad: Three offers on a nine million dollar property, that’s something.

Joe: Yeah. Bryan’s got the physical products business; its nutritional supplements. It was listed at 15 million and is under contract at higher than that because there were multiple offers on it. So don’t be afraid. I hear people tell me look I think I should sell before it gets too big because there’s not going to be as many buyers out there. That’s not what I’m finding. It’s not the case. Would you agree that there’s a ton of money out there for the right business? If it’s a good quality business it’s going to last.

Brad: Well it will sound very counterproductive to what we’re trying to do at Quiet Light but every week I talk to people on the phone and I just basically tell them if you’ve got the willingness to keep working on your business you should not sell. I mean you just shouldn’t because you should grow it as big as you can. Because it’s not easy to build a business that does what your business is doing. Whatever it is, anyone that we’re talking to is having some level of success because they’re talking about selling and they know they’ve got cash flow and things like that. And I just always tell them if you’re done let’s go. If you’re ready to be done or you’ve got other plans or you want to travel or you want to do this or that or you want to … you’ve got a new venture that you’re thinking about sure let’s list it. Let’s get it done. But if you’ve got the willingness to keep going then we’re here when you’re ready but honestly keep going. Go as far as you can take it.

Joe: And Mark calls that reckless honesty because it’s not necessarily in our best interest but it’s what we all do. He did it for me when I sold back in 2010. The difference I’ll tell you now for those that are thinking they’re emotionally tired and done really you’ve got to sort of tap yourself in the chest and say do I have the heart?

Brad: Yeah.

Joe: Because the worst conversations I’ve had are when I say look, you want X value, your business realistically is only worth Y. If you hang on another 12 months and you reinvest your energies, you set some goals, you get that traffic back up, and you get that revenue going again at a higher level you’ll get Y but it’s going to take 12 months. The worst conversations I have are when they come back to me in 12 months and say you know I didn’t do any of it. The revenue has gone down 20%, can I still get the X you talked about? And the answer is no because they didn’t have the heart. Those were the worst conversations.

Brad: Right.

Joe: So always, I tell people tap in my chest if you’ve got a heart do it. But like you say, if you’re emotionally done; if you’re ready we’re ready. I think some people … I’ve been doing this six years as you know and occasionally we tell people look it’s in your best interest to hold off. Sometimes they’ll interpret that as we don’t want to list their business. That’s not the case at all.

Brad: Yeah not.

Joe: When they’re ready, we will do it. We’ll get that buyer. And just from the few examples that we’ve talked about, there are buyers and situations where we get it under contract very very quickly. Listen Brad we are running short on time you shared a lot of information here that I think will give people good insight into you into building a portfolio of either content businesses or any businesses the way that they can sort of piece it together the way you did and then exiting which is fantastic. I do want to talk about one thing briefly though. Personal in nature if you don’t mind, can we? I won’t go too far I promise but say yes.

Brad: Yes.

Joe: Okay. So I understand you went hiking in North Carolina recently and they’re renaming a mountain after you.

Brad: Yeah.

Joe: Do you … what happened there?

Brad: Well my wife and I have five boys from range two to 11. So we’re pretty busy living life. And for our 16th anniversary, we decided to go to Asheville North Carolina, leave the kids at home. My parents came to town to take care of them and we went to Catawba Falls … which you can Google it. There has been many fatal accidents there. In fact, there’s been a fatal accident there since I left. Pisgah National Forest has many accidents from what I’ve come to learn. But we were hiking up a trail at Catawba Falls and then we entered a closed section of the trail. I didn’t know it was a ropes kind of situation so we’re climbing up ropes and going up a rocky kind of cliff.

Joe: Let me just clarify for the attorneys out there that’s thinking they can help you. You entered a closed section of the trail; closed.

Brad: I didn’t know. Here’s the thing, I’ve got some lawyer friends that have reached out to me about it and here’s the other thing the Pisgah National Forest is owned by the US government. So if you decide that you want to sue them just know that the US government does not take lawsuits kindly. And they take zero liability. So I had friends reach out to me and say you need to pursue this and then I was like I was in the Pisgah National Forest and they’re like no, that’s not going to work. You’re going to lose that. But basically, it depends on the state. North Carolina does not have very friendly laws for stuff like that anyway. It’s one of the least friendly states for that. But I hiked up, I saw a beautiful waterfall … actually and filmed in the movie The Hunger Games and that’s why we wanted to go up and see it. So we went up there, saw the waterfall, we needed to kind of get a move on it because we had hiked a lot longer than we had expected so we’re moving very quickly on the way down.

Joe: You and your wife and kids or just you and your wife?

Brad: No just me and my wife. The kids were at home. I vacated the ropes for a minute, I don’t … I saw a path; it seemed like a reasonable thing to do. It was only going to be like 10 ft. and honestly I don’t remember anything after that. I fell 40 ft. down a very rocky slope and I don’t remember anything until the paramedics and the firemen were there. They tried to life like me up they couldn’t do it. And I broke my arm, dislocated my shoulder, collapsed my lung, I had deep bruises and things like that. I did not have a concussion surprisingly.

Joe: You got to thank God.

Brad: Three and a half hours to get … yeah, I did. It took them to three and a half hours to get me out in to the hospital.

Joe: Wow.

Brad: And anyway thank God it was just a lucky situation, very scary for my wife. She was talking to me for a long time without me really knowing what was going on. For 45 minutes she thought she’s lost his mind.

Joe: Well the first thing I think we all did a Quiet Light was you know thankfully you’re okay and we were doing little prayers for you and all that stuff. And then we start like man that guy is just not so bright going on the closed trails. For everybody listening, if anybody is foolish enough to do what Brad did, we bought him the inflatable … what do they call it, the inflatable?

Brad: They’re like these big bubbles that you get inside with your family.

Joe: We bought Brad a bunch of those and I started a petition here in North Carolina to change Catawba Falls to Wayland Falls but nobody listened. Nobody listened at all.

Brad: Unfortunately.

Joe: I’ve been there and next time I go again I’m not going on the closed trails I don’t think but.

Brad: You may not know where the closed trails are. I didn’t know it was closed.

Joe: Okay. I’ve been there because I know that it was like oh look that’s where the Hunger Games was filmed.

Brad: Yeah.

Joe: I’m going to bring a sign and I’m going to drop it in there. I’m going to take a sledge hammer and put it in the ground call and Catawba Falls and take a picture for you.

Brad: Yeah.

Joe: See if anybody takes it out. It could be there for-

Brad: It was a crazy accident and I’m thankful for all the support I got. From Quiet Light, from friends of family, it was a … I recovered very quickly. I’ve got a pretty gnarly scar right here that is still … I’m hoping it’s going to turn the color of my skin is it looks like I got really depressed or something.

Joe: He’s holding up his wrist ladies and gentlemen and it looks like he decided to take his own.

Brad: Tried … that’s what it looks like.

Joe: Is there a pin in there now?

Brad: Yeah there’s a play and about a dozen screws in that arm but I’ve got full mobility back. I’m free of therapy. I can’t do pushups yet but I’m getting closer.

Joe: And you did it all while we started at Quiet Light and you had listings and not a single client really knew what was going on and they … I mean it’s because you worked anyway which is amazing so that’s awesome. Well again Catawba Falls, I’m going to try to get it changed to Wayland Falls but let’s see if that happens or not.

Brad: Good luck with that.

Joe: Brad, thank you. I learned a lot.

Brad: Thank you.

Joe: I learned a lot about you and I appreciate your time. Hopefully, everybody here has did as well and we’ll keep doing what we did here at Quiet Light. Thanks, man.

Brad: Okay thanks a lot for having me on.

Links:

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[email protected]

About Brad Wayland on QLB

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