Resources for Buying and Selling Online Businesses

Buying and Selling Insights with Woz, Quiet Light’s Newest Ridiculously Experienced Advisor

Welcome back to the Quiet Light podcast. Chris Wozniak is the newest member of our team and we thought it would be a great idea to sit down and chat with him. He has built, bought, and sold online businesses, in addition to brick and mortar brokerage firms. Chris has more experience than anyone on our team and we are excited to have him on board.

Tune in to hear us talk with Chris about what buyers and sellers should do to come out on top.

 

Topics:

  • An abbreviated version of Chris’ work history.
  • Earning a CBI after becoming a board certified broker.
  • Chris’ buy-side brokering experience.
  • Potentially creating short films about clients.
  • Tips for sellers.
  • How he leads buyers through the process.
  • Why Chris spends time with and coaches buyers.

 Transcription:

Mark: I’m really excited to announce that we have a new member to our team, Chris Wozniak. Now you hear Wozniak and we think Steve Wozniak from Apple, is there any relation? Did you ask him that? I know you talked to him this week and that would have been my first question, how is he related to Steve Wozniak?

Joe: I did and I’m not going to tell you the answer.

Mark: So we don’t know.

Joe:    I know. I asked the question.

Mark: Then I’m going to listen.

Joe:    All right.

Mark: You have to listen to the pod. You got to listen.

Joe: How many shares of Apple he actually owns and whether he inherited them or bought them?

Mark: Oh, there’s a bit of a tease right there.

Joe: All sorts of tease.

Mark: Chris Wozniak, the guy, he’s new on our team but he’s; Chris is new on our team but he’s not a greenhorn by any means.

Joe: Not at all. He’s got more experience than anybody that’s ever joined our team before. I think he comes to the table with more experience. He’s built, he’s bought, he’s sold his own online businesses, and he’s run two brick and mortar business brokerage firms and sold one of them as well. His top year is probably selling 15 million dollars worth of businesses. The guy’s just ridiculously qualified. He’s got all sorts of certifications behind his name in his LinkedIn profile. We talked about that; jokes about that quite a bit, actually. But it’s not just talking about him and his experience. I asked him a lot of questions about what sellers should do, what buyers should do throughout the entire process of building a business to eventually exit or looking to buy a business, and then build it so he gives lots of advice throughout.

Mark: Well, let’s go. I’m excited to introduce him to our listeners, and I’m really excited to get him as a part of the Quiet Light team.

Joe: Oh, and there’s one thing that we do tease something that’s coming in the future at Quiet Light and Chris is helping us bring that to the table. It’s something people have been asking for for years. We talked about it briefly, so be sure to listen in to that as well.

Joe: Hey, folks Joe Valley here with Quiet Light Brokerage, and today I have the Woz with us. How are you doing today?

Chris: I’m doing good Joe. How are you doing?

Joe: Good. How many Apple shares do you own?

Chris: None.

Joe: None? Grandfathered in by uncle…

Chris: None and we’ve never really investigated it either so maybe we do. I don’t know.

Joe: So you’re not…

Chris: I knew that I wouldn’t work as hard as I do.

Joe: You’re not a descendant then of the great Wozniak?

Chris: I have to be a descendant. I just don’t know how far down the line that stretches.

Joe: You know, I actually have a client now who is the; we were having just a casual conversation and he said, hey, you want an interesting fact? I’m actually the great, great, great, great-nephew of Teddy Roosevelt. And when he told me, I was like, that’s an odd Segway into telling me this, but I’ve repeated that story and now it is interesting. I find it fascinating that we…

Chris: Oh yeah, everybody does. Yeah.

Joe: Even with what’s going on in the world and some folks wanting to take down the Teddy Roosevelt statue outside of the museum, but yeah, fascinating. So, no relation the Steve Wozniak of the world?

Chris: I honestly don’t know.

Joe: Okay, enough with the jibber-jabber, folks. This is the real Chris Wozniak, the newest member of the Quiet Light Brokerage team, a ton of experience, but I’m going to let him talk about it. I’ve got your LinkedIn profile open here but why don’t you talk to us, tell the folks listening, Chris, about your background and how you ended up coming to Quiet Light.

Chris: Sure. Well, first, I want to say that I’m not used to podcasts and I got an email from Joe yesterday saying, hey, just be ready at eight in the morning tomorrow and give your entire professional life history. So I said, okay that sounds like fun. So this is going to be off the cuff and obviously coming from the heart. But yeah do you want the long kind of version of my…

Joe: I think people want the shorter version.

Chris: Okay, that’s going to be hard to do but the short version of the long story is I graduated college. I was in commercial real estate for several years, even in college as an intern. Then I joined my dad as a business broker. We had a company called Lesdon & Associates that was in 2002, 2003.

Joe: Brick and mortar business broker or online business broker?

Chris: Mainly Main Street brick and mortar which we graduated to smaller deals and we had initially started and graduated to larger and larger deals, we eventually sold Lesdon & Associates, I think in 2008, 2009. And then we started The George Ryan Group, which was a company focused on lower middle-market businesses. And so what we define that as is anything over a million dollars and then we never had an engagement over 12 or 13 million. So we own that company and going backwards in 2002, I started my first e-commerce business.

Joe: That’s a long time ago.

Chris: Yeah.

Joe: 18 years ago. How much did the website cost you? I love the answers to this question.

Chris: I had to hire somebody to create and code it for me. I had the idea of what I wanted to sell; the product line, which was actually non-precious gemstones in 14-carat gold settings.

Joe: Wow.

Chris: So kind of a very niche-y product. But anyway, we built that for I think $5,500, $6,500.

Joe: Wow. That’s a lot of dough. I ask the question just because I like to say mine was $50.

Chris: Oh yeah. I guess then there is no Shopify, there is no platform that you could just point click.

Joe: No. No Amazon fulfiller accounts, very different.

Chris: Yeah.

Joe: Okay.

Chris: So I sold that. I sold the e-commerce site about a year and a half later and did pretty good with. It was 22, 23 years old so it was a big chunk of money for me and my wife. And so fast forward, I’ve been selling businesses for 17 years. Some of those are online businesses, but through the years I’ve created and run and sold online businesses of my own. And so I guess five years ago or about six years ago, my wife and I decided we wanted to get out of the United States and kind of change our pace of life. And the only way I was going to be able to do that was to be able to have some type of income where I could do business brokerage because of the situation. So we ended up moving to St. Croix in the US Virgin Islands. We were there for two years. And so winging it for about a year and a half to two years leading up to that move, I created an Amazon FBA business. And when we got to St. Croix, I purchased with a partner an affiliate business in the finance niche.

Joe: So just to be specific here folks, Chris, has built, bought, and sold his own online businesses. Okay, go on.

Chris: Yeah, and then I’ve also created and still own several content sites and still own my Amazon FBA business as well.

Joe: Okay, as I look at your LinkedIn profile, you’ve got a lot of acronyms here M&AMI, CBI, all sorts of different things, BCB. You come to us with things that I think most of the team does not have. Chuck is now certified in some way and these certifications folks are normally designated for a local brick and mortar business brokers. There’s no specific certification for online business brokers. Walker’s got some as well. Specifically, I think he got it prior to writing the book that you all hear us talk about, which is Buy Then Build. But what are some of these credentials that you have, Chris?

Chris: Board Certified Broker is a designation that’s awarded by the state of Texas. I earned that I don’t remember when; maybe 2006, 2007. I’ve also got a CBI, which is the Certified Business Intermediary. That’s awarded by the International Business Brokers Association. I got that shortly after my board-certified broker designation. And then I also carry the Merger & Acquisition Master Intermediary designation. That’s the M&AMI given by the Merger and Acquisition source, which is kind of a sister program to the International Business Brokers Association. And to maintain that designation it’s pretty difficult. I don’t know now how many there are throughout the United States, but at the time there was maybe between 100 and 150, I believe. I don’t know if that’s still true or not, but it’s difficult to achieve that designation because you have to have done a deal over a million dollars and then you had to maintain that. You have to do a deal over a million dollars at least once a year and believe it or not, in our world, Quiet Light’s world, and my world that doesn’t seem like a lot. But in general; in brokerage in general, that’s tough to do.

Joe: Yeah. So, folks, if you haven’t visited the Quiet Light website lately, you’ll see that it is new next time you go visit it. And it says right there on the homepage, sell your online business with a team that has a crazy amount of been there, done that experience. And obviously, the Woz here, QLB’s Woz. We have three Chris’s now so his email is actually [email protected] because he has that experience.

Chris: By the way, I had to clarify to the team because Joe introduced me as, hey, check this guy’s email out. He’s our new member, [email protected] so I immediately; my first reach out to the entire team, all the other brokers was guys I’m not trying to be cool with Woz. There’s already two Chris’s. I didn’t want to get anybody confused with the other two Chris’s. My name is too difficult to spell in its entirety so I went with Woz for simplicity purposes only, not to be cool.

Joe: You’re cool by default just because the email address is accepted. But you do have a crazy amount of been there, done that experience, but let’s segue way to one of the reasons why you are on the team amongst all of the others. And buyers and sellers this is important for you to understand in terms of one of the things that we’re going to do at Quiet Light in the coming months. We’re launching this podcast sometime in the month of July 2020. And you’ve got, Chris, some buy-side brokering experience. For the last decade or more we’ve had requests for buy-side services and we’ve always said, no, we don’t do that. Because of your experience with it and experience with a close friend of mine that you worked with we’re going to move in a direction where we’re going to offer this. Don’t start sending us e-mails here folks. We will announce it. We’ll give you the details. We’re going to start with a small pilot program and make sure that we serve you properly. And we will not be helping you buy businesses that are listed by other business brokers. These will be unlisted businesses that we will search and find for you, given the criteria that you’re looking for. But what made you go into or get pulled into the buy-side part of the brokering Chris?

Chris: Yeah, that’s the right way to say it. I kind of got pulled in to it wasn’t necessarily a proactive decision on my part to get into it. There was demand there for it and so I just tried to get that demand and service those people that needed that service. So we had buyers that we’re looking at online businesses, we had buyers that were looking for any type of service business, we had buyers that were specifically looking for manufacturing, all these things over the years and so we just developed the process on trying to uncover businesses that were not on the market, which is that’s the kind of grassroots kind of guerrilla effort that we use to uncover these types of businesses.

Joe: Yeah, and it’s an exciting one for us because it’s one that everybody’s constantly been asking for and sort of pulling us in that direction. But with Chris’s experience, the vast amount of experience that he has here we formulated a plan, we’re starting to put it into action and we will test it out in the coming months. And we will make an announcement both via the website, email address, this podcast again, and an official, probably podcast specific to the buy-side brokering and what services we’ll be offering. So keep that in mind for the future, and we’re excited about it for sure. So, Chris, with your experience, I’m going to ask you random questions because you’ve been doing this for so long. As everybody knows, Mark and I don’t script these. We’re just flying by the seat of our pants here and hopefully, it gets across good information to you folks. Let’s talk to the sellers out there in the audience, in your experience; the vast amount of experience that you have, what are the top one or two things that a seller should understand about a business that they own, and a path toward exiting that business? And when I say understand, I mean understand and do.

Chris: Understand and do, yeah. Well, I think something that kind of gets overlooked when we’re speaking with sellers and trying to coach them and advise them is they should know that it’s going to be an emotional experience because of the nature of what it is we’re about to do, which is the biggest transaction in their life. It’s bigger than purchasing your home. It’s bigger than the most expensive car or boat you’re going to buy or sell. And so this transaction is going to be a monumental change and it’s going to be an emotional ride because they typically have some blood, sweat, and tears poured into this business and a lot of times it’s their baby. So to not address that when you’re speaking with them, because they may not realize they’re going to go through these different waves of emotions, that’s why a lot of times I know you’ve talked about it, too, and I’ve said it a million times, we’re just as much psychologist or therapist as we are advisors because it’s 100% going to happen that there’s going to be these waves of emotion and anxiety and things of that nature that happen. And so I think if the sellers just know that and we can kind of tell them what to expect a little bit and why they’re probably going to be feeling this way and why it’s natural and why everybody else goes through it too, that I think helps ease that burden a little bit.

Joe: Yeah, I think that’s a huge one. I was reading some content that’s being created now that describes what we do and it said something like entrepreneur, advisor, broker, mentor, friend to online business owners and become all of those things and the friend part at the end because we spent a lot of time with clients. And I’m sure you’ve experienced that, especially if you’ve been working with somebody that lived in the same hometown as you or a neighboring area where you actually get to see them more. In our situation with the online world, we get to see them now with Zoom and we see them at conferences and things of that nature, but not as much. So the business folks know the name Joe Cocker, and if they’ve been listening to the podcast and I’ve been talking to Joe for two and a half years, I’ve never met him face to face. I sold his business in Q1, we had him on the podcast. He told a story. This is somebody, folks, that his first child, two days after his 17th birthday, he was in high school working full time and still graduated high school; hustled, worked hard, sold his car. This is the title of the podcast, he sold his car to buy inventory and then sold his business for seven figures. That was the process, a hell of a story. But, you know, I consider Joe a friend, even though I’ve never met him face to face. I can’t wait till COVID goes away so I can get down to Florida, go visit with him and go fishing because he’s got a new boat and he goes fishing all the time. And he’s very, very good at it apparently. But that’s a big part of it. And one of the things that you’re going to see, folks, is a new series that Chris Moore actually has been working are called Quiet Giant and we are sharing some experiences with our clients and doing a quarterly short film, if you will, about them. And the second one is already produced and one of the things that the person featured in that series said was just reiterating what you said, Chris, which is at times the advisor mentor, broker, friend is a therapist because whether it’s 250,000, a million, quarter of a million, or ten million that you are two weeks away from and you’re negotiating the asset purchase agreement and it goes off the rails because it will. And the difference between a good and great advisor is that the great must get it back on track towards closing. But you are going to be in a very emotional state and if you all can see Chris on YouTube, he’s very calm and collected. And obviously, I’m not hyper myself, the tone of my voice is this is about as excited as I get some time. So we’re here to support, advise, and help and sometimes that comes across in therapeutic sessions if you will. And we’ve all been there and done that so we know. When we were selling, we’re in the same situation, right? You’ve done it dozens and dozens of times with clients as well.

Chris: Yeah. I sold a non-durable medical equipment company that was one of my largest sales of my career in 2014 for right around ten million dollars. And I shouldn’t say the name of the business, but I’ll say the first name of the seller’s name is Ralph. And he actually reached out to me on LinkedIn a month and a half ago just to see. He saw my name and it kind of; I don’t know why it popped up or how it came into his point of view, but he reached out and said hey, how are you doing? And I mean, we spent a lot of months getting his business marketing and getting it sold and we developed just a great relationship. And he’s just one of honestly a ton of sellers that I’ve had that we still maintain relationships and we get along great. And that’s one of the things I love about the business. It’s transactional, but it’s very intimate and there’s so much at stake that you bond.

Joe: Yeah.

Chris: Or it’s almost you just bond.

Joe: Yeah, one of the things I like least about the business is the stigma of being a quote-unquote broker. But once I got over that and realized and became that entrepreneur, advisor, broker, mentor, therapist, friend, it is what we are. And those that want to put a label on us as just a broker, they can just go somewhere else.

Chris: You know all those letters we were talking about earlier.

Joe: Yeah.

Chris: I probably got those because of insecurity.

Joe: Right. I’m incredibly secure because I don’t have any of those letters.

Chris: Right, exactly.

Joe: No, you’re just lazy.

Chris: I’m the most insecure, yeah.

Joe: All right, let’s talk. We’re going to keep this episode relatively short, folks, just simply because you don’t want to learn too much about Chris until you get to know him personally. But let’s talk about some things though that buyers can do. One of the things that sellers can do is prepare themselves emotionally. Well, actually, I’ll follow up on that first, how do you prepare yourself emotionally? I’ve got some thoughts on that, but I want to hear from you.

Chris: How do I or how does a seller?

Joe: How does that seller prepare themselves emotionally? You said that is one of the biggest things they need to be prepared for, that it is emotional. How do they get prepared for that?

Chris: I think broadly speaking and yeah just talk to them about the process. What is this going to look like for you from day one and then all the way to the exit day? And as long as you’re very upfront about that and you’re detailed about your explanation of what that process looks like, it reduces the amount of question in the seller’s mind. And then if you’re also honest with them and you’re not selling a bill of goods that you can deliver, which is we’re going to get you a buyer in the first week and that buyer is going to be the one that buys your business, they’re going to close, it’s that easy. If you create those kind of expectations, you’re not going be able to deliver.

Joe: Are you saying from a seller standpoint, it’s actually hard to sell a million, two million dollar business?

Chris: Yeah, it’s a little bit difficult. And believe me, as that day gets closer and closer you’re not going to get more calm. As you get closer to that million or two million dollars, you’re going to start to tighten up a little bit. I won’t say what I want to say, but you’re going to tighten up a little bit and it’s going to get more real and it’s going to get daunting there for a little bit. But you just got to hold on and listen. That’s the other thing, you asked what are two things you would do as a broker or what two things to consider with a seller. My second thing instead of going with the normal answer would be if I’m talking to a seller right now, listen to our coaching. And it’s not because we’re rocket scientists, it’s not because we’re smarter than you. You’re an entrepreneur. You probably have certain personality traits that have gotten to where you are and why you’re successful and we get that. We’re entrepreneurs also, but we’re not trying to say we’re smarter than you or no more than you. But we actually have the knowledge of selling a business, not running your business, but selling a business. So if you’re going to hire us, just trust us because we’re there to coach you. We know the pitfalls. We know the traps. We know that things are not going to go perfectly all the time. That never happens. You’re always going to get sidetracked. So if you just listen to our coaching, if you listen to our coaching when you’re dealing with buyers, that’s a huge part of it. So my second point of advice would be just trust us and allow us to coach you.

Joe: And the sooner we can begin that process, the better. You don’t want to talk to somebody, sign an engagement letter the next day, and then list the business for sale a week later. It’s better really for everyone involved to start that process of building that trust and that relationship as early on in your business as possible. I love it when somebody calls and sets up a meeting with somebody on the team that says I’m tracking toward selling in Q1 of 2021 or 2022. Let’s get started. I want to do a review. And we do that, we will look at the profit and loss statement, we’ll look at the financial key metrics, we’ll see what the strengths and weaknesses of the business are. We’ll go over the process and educate you, help you set an exit goal. You’re going to pick that number, not us. But we’re going to help you understand what you’re leftover with after the sale. It’s not necessarily important what you sell it for it’s what you could keep. And then ideally reverse engineer a path to that goal. And the longer you are from reverse engineering that path to the goal, the more likely you are going to achieve it or overachieve it or beyond that.

Chris: Yeah, I agree.

Joe: All right. Let’s talk about bias. You’ve worked with a lot of them, both as the sell-side broker but you’re working with buyers and then as the buy-side broker as well. Any advice for buyers when they come to you or anybody on the team or any broker period or actually to a seller directly for that matter, what should they be bringing to the table? Is it a Wall Street type negotiation, is it just come in and pay all cash, what are the secrets to being a great buyer?

Chris: I think part of being a great buyer is also listening to the advisor because obviously there’s two sides to the coin. So part of our job if we’re representing a seller, is to get their business sold. And one of the ways we can do that and ensure that that happens is we lead the buyer through the process. And so that’s no different. I interview buyers when we have a business for sale, we have a buyer that approaches us we basically interview the buyer as well. And one of the things that we coach them on is transparency, I think is a big one, because, in a lot of transactional environments, you’re quote-unquote negotiating so you want to keep your cards close to the vest. In this sort of situation, we were talking about bigger dollars. Sellers need to know that you’re financially capable of getting this transaction done. And so eventually you are going to have to be transparent, not only with your financial situation but also your experience. That’s a big one because quite frankly, a lot of the time they’re seller’s notes, there’s earn-outs in some situations and so your ability to pay that owner back is huge. And so when you’re going through the process, that transparency is a big deal and a lot of buyers don’t understand that. It’s counterintuitive.

Joe: It is. Instilling confidence and use the advisor first and foremost and then the guy that’s going to be selling you the business is critical. Mr. Buyer. I had a call yesterday where I had to go through this process of; the first call I had with this particular buyer, first, he talked about the multiple and how high it was, and he only thought the business was worth X. It’s all right. Well, they’re not willing to sell it for even close to X, so maybe this one isn’t for you. He did move on. In the same conversation, he talked about raising funds. He didn’t have the capital for it. So two strikes did instill confidence in me that he thought the business was even close to what it was worth, close to what it was listed for. And two, he didn’t have the capital. And so he’s going to be raising the funds during a worldwide pandemic with a looming recession where banks are tightening things up. And from that, we had a good call. We had a call yesterday. I would say it was a good call, it wasn’t a great call. The first call was a great call because it ended with maybe this doesn’t make the most sense for you, but then he followed up with he really did a very thorough job reviewing the package and asked a lot of great questions. Yet there’s not confidence in me or I have to reveal who this person is in detail to the seller of the business and neither one of us have a great deal of confidence. So I had a good call with him yesterday where I had to be honest and I think I’m slightly offended him saying, look, man, it happens. You spend a lot of time on this, yet you don’t think the value is there and you’re trying to raise money. My question was what are the odds? Give me a percentage, in your opinion that you will be successful in raising the capital to make this purchase? He goes, I think the odds are better good than not. I’m like, really? Come on, instill some confidence in me. I’m sorry if you’re listening buyer, but I said some very nice things about you as well and I do have a lot of respect for you. I think it’s just; and we talked about that, the instilling in confidence. Chris, you’re human, right? I’m human. We’re spending time trying to help both buyers and sellers get to a successful transaction and we’re going to give both parties some advice that they’re not necessarily going to like. But it comes from a place of experience; crazy, been there done that experience, and sometimes it’s hard to get that across in a way that makes you feel warm and fuzzy when we’re telling you.

Chris: Oh definitely.

Joe: Yeah, it’s hard.

Chris: One of the things I tell sellers every time we get an engagement is you’re not going to hear from me unless I have somebody for you and I’m going to be spending 90% of my time with buyers. And a lot of the time they don’t like the sound of that right off the bat. But I let that sink in for a minute and say, look I’ve got to establish a relationship with these buyers. I’ve got to establish trust with them and that’s why I’m spending all my time with. And it’s for you, Mr. Seller or Mrs. Seller. That’s why I’m spending all this time with these buyers is establishing that trust and coaching them and letting them know what the process is and how we don’t deviate from that process. It’s the same thing every time. Every business is different and certain things will happen but we do not deviate from our process and the process is because of experience. That’s all it is.

Joe: Can you see, folks, why Chris is joining the team here? Bringing a great deal of experience and wisdom, credibility and a lot of credentials, as you can see, because of his insecurity to the team and helping us move in a direction on that buy-side that I think will help serve some of you in the audience to find things that are not listed. We as a company have never practiced spamming emails and reaching out to buyers to say, hey business owner, we’ve got a buyer for you when we really don’t.

Chris: Right.

Joe: This will allow us to go ahead and reach out to buyers in an honest, sincere, and ethical; I’m sorry sellers.

Chris: Sellers, yeah.

Joe: Honest, sincere, and ethical way with 100% of the truth. So I’m looking forward to that, Chris. I’m looking forward to having you on the team for many years to come. I appreciate your time today.

Chris: I’m so excited. I’m so glad to be with you guys and I appreciate the opportunity.

Joe: [email protected], we’ve got the Woz on the team, guys. Thanks, everybody. We’ll talk to you soon.

Chris: Thank you.

Resources:

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