Be an Ethical Entrepreneur, Marketer, and Business Builder

Knowing when to “move-on”, drop everything, and do something else

It is much harder to leave security than it is to take a risk.

In Thomas Stanley’s book, The Millionaire Next Door, he points out that the profile of your average millionaire generally includes getting FIRED from his previous job and starting his own business. That’s right, the ultra-risk-taking macho entrepreneur millionaire you know generally became successful because, quite literally, he had no other option. Of course their are the guys, like me, who seemed to have everything going well but that just wasn’t enough and we had to venture out on our own and forge our own paths in business and in life. But don’t kid yourself, that give-up-something-great-to-get-something-better mentality is the VAST exception.

Keep that in mind the next time you’re reading a book or blog by a successful person who just happens to be in the minority who was just naturally programmed to never accept “good enough”. If that’s not you, you need to learn how to get over your current “security” in order to venture out on a “risk”. (I put both of those in quotes because they’re often not reality, but just figments of our imagination.)

So for the majority of people who have a job, house, family, car payments and a steady income, how do you decide to make the jump and take the risk of leaving your steady paycheck behind and trying something else?

  1. Risk-taking is just a lack of knowledge. – If buying a business, writing a book, starting a band, quitting your job to take a new one or just being the first one at your work to try a ground-breaking new idea seems like a risk to you, then you simply need to study more. You need to make sure you understand how to take that business to a level of profitability before you buy it. You need to know how to effectively market your book or band and develop a following. You need to know that you have options for your livelihood before you tell your boss off and walk away (something I never recommend). And if you’re simply trying to get everyone at work to get out of their rut and change, you better be able to back-up your reason for the change with some hard evidence as you’ll undoubtedly be met with nay-sayers. Whatever it is, you can always trace an increase in risk to a lack of knowledge on the subject matter and vice-versa. Let me make this even more clear. If you consider a “standard” medical operation like removing an appendix as safe, would you consider the same operation under the same conditions safe if it was performed by your plumber? What’s the difference? The risk is mitigated when the procedure is undertaken by a knowledgeable doctor.
  2. Hedge your bet. – One of the cardinal rules of marketing is ONLY the consumer knows if the marketing is effective or not. They vote on their choice for great marketing by spending money. The same is true in almost any venture where you’re going out on your own. You really don’t KNOW that your customers, readers, listeners or coworkers are going to love the idea until it’s out there, right? Well then, in addition to becoming knowledgeable, make sure you have a backup plan… Or 2 or 3. Of course we all know of the stories of people overcoming impossible odds to make their ideas work. Heck, the entire 3m success can be built on the concept of passionate people overcoming all odds to bring their ideas to fruition. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team as a sophomore. Albert Einstein’s first 2 graduate thesis’ were rejected. A successful business owner friend of mine told me he was turned down by 27 banks before finding one who would loan him money for his first business. My point is not to throw the towel in because of adversity. My point is that consumers are impossible to predict, so if you’re going to bet the farm on an untried idea, you better have a few tried and true ideas in your back pocket to fall back on. Most entrepreneurs you speak with will tell you about their myriad failures that were necessary before becoming successful. They always had another plan and another way to succeed. Even at 3m where a culture of risk-taking and never accepting no is programmed into the culture, everyone knows there’s little risk of losing your job for pursuing that passionate idea. In other words, 3m developed that culture with a built-in hedged bet to encourage innovation.
  3. What is your time worth? – Though this is third item, this one is the most important. Most people grossly over-estimate what they’re capable of in a year but also grossly under-estimate what they’re capable of in 10 years. So what does that mean? We are likely to set goals for the next year that are unreachable but then either not set goals for longer-term or set drastically underestimated goals. If you always spend less than you make, you will never run out of money. But no matter what you do, you will run out of time. So how do you determine if you’re going to stay at your current job, position, or business? If you’re learning on a regular basis from those around you AND your given an opportunity to express your own talents and ideas then stay. The former is more important than the latter, but you should be able to do both. Keep in mind that you should be learning things that you couldn’t otherwise learn on your own. Notice, I did not say that you have fun at work or you have a reasonable wage with lots of perks. Those temporary benefits are important for someone who will live forever and so has plenty of time to find something better later on. However, if you’re not immortal, and you’re not learning at work on a regular basis, it’s time to move on. The reason for this is because with the knowledge you can be learning at an underpaying job, you can leverage that at your next job, business, or passion. That’s why people underestimate what they’re capable of in 10 years. It’s sometimes challenging for us to step outside of our situation today, whether good or bad, and view it as a step forward or backward in our 10 year goals because we’re just trying to make it day-to-day.

If after evaluating your situation, you’ve now determined that it’s most likely time to move-on, check out a few of my other blogs that might help you get started:

The most important life lesson, and the key to success…

Why not?

The first 3 steps to becoming wealthy

To your success, Bryan

P.S. If the concept of setting 10-year, or even 1-year, goals is a bit foreign to you, check out my blog on The 3 steps to become successful at anything

The fundamentals of Buying, Building, and Selling a business


To my knowledge, there is no other blog or book or lesson or presenter who shows someone the basic pieces necessary to generate wealth with real world experience as I will. It’s the nuts and bolts of the whole buy, build, sell process.

There are basically 4 steps:

  1. Preparing – What you need to know prior to getting started.
  2. Buying – How to find, value, negotiate, and purchase a business.
  3. Building – What you can do quickly to increase the value of the business.
  4. Selling – The ins and outs of selling your business.


Ironically, as my most recent blog has pointed out (it’s ironic because it took me 18 months to write the blog that I should have written first), the most important part is your mindset and your attitude. Next, you’ll also need to take the first 3 steps to becoming wealthy including, always spending less than you earn, understanding the difference between where you are and where you want to be is education, and framing your goals intoΒ  Do x Be = Have context. Possibly most importantly, you need to have a clear motivation for being an entrepreneur (even if it’s different than mine) and you need to appreciate that the ethical route is always the most profitable. And make sure you’re able to get over your fear of failure in trying new things.

It’s important to understand that there’s no better, quicker way to go from very little money (let’s say less than $5,000) to a lot of money. You can even take it to the next level and setup a business to generate $1,000,000 per year if that’s your desire. Recently, as part of another blog, I’ve outlined a basic plan for how someone can go from $5,000 or less to $1,000,000 primarily through business. To stress the point even further that buy, build, sell is the best way to generate wealth for the average individual, review my suggestion to skip getting your MBA and just buy a small business for your business education.


In the buy, build, sell strategy, the part that will have the greatest influence on your profit is the purchase price so learn as much as you can for this stage.

First, you’ll want to know some basic questions to ask the seller about their business and maybe even what questions to ask about any given business idea. Then you’ll have to understand how banks value a business in case you need to go to them for financing and also how EBIDTA can tie into business values (since sellers and business brokers may reference it). As you start looking for businesses, you need to have some ideas of where to find businesses for sale for little money down and how to deal with the business brokers once you find one you’re interested in.

Before you start making any offers, it’s very important that you get the seller (or broker) to like you since then they’ll be more likely to accept your business valuation. It’s very simple to turn someone down you don’t like anyway. Once you’re ready to make an offer, make sure you only purchase the assets and then put them into an LLC filing as an S-corp. If you do that, you won’t have to spend nearly as much time fighting with lawyers. But since you may need one anyway here are a few tips for getting the best rates from your lawyer.

When you’re just starting out you may be considering a partner but make sure you don’t take on a business partner unless absolutely necessary.


In the building stage you’re going to need to know what to do your first 2 weeks onsite at a business you’ve just purchased. If you don’t already know the difference between profits and cashflow, I’m sure you’ll learn very quickly.

Immediately you need to work on polarizing your company’s culture, improving teamwork, and communicating effectively. Right out of the gate you need to start setting up your business for running without you through the effective use of technology, incentives, and empowering your team. If you don’t do that immediately, you’ll soon be asked to do lots of things “in” the business that will take away from you working “on” the business. This is vitally important because if you’re not working on the business you’re not taking the time necessary to double profits, improve marketing, teach your team the importance of NLP, create systems, processes and scripts, or improve closing ratios. In other words, your primary focus for building value in your business is going to entail 3 parts:

  1. Increasing Sales – through new and improved marketing and better conversion rates. In other words you have to make sure your system for taking a lead and converting it to a customer is top-notch. Don’t forget that your back-end sales (sales to existing customers) will always be your most profitable business. With that in mind, if you can buy an already profitable business that’s horrible at back-end sales you can quickly increase its value.
  2. Cutting Costs – look at all of your expenses and simply cut those that aren’t needed. We reworked our accounting and phone costs alone to save thousands of dollars per year.
  3. Improving Efficiencies – this is primarily about scripts, systems, and processes for every aspect of your business.

Don’t make the mistake I did and wait until cash gets tight to realize that cashflow is king and then start building recurring revenue while looking for quick, easy, cheap ways to generate immediate cashflow.

Chances are you’re going to run into some issues with team members so it’s helpful to know the proper way to fire someone without having to pay unemployment and effective ways to get your team members to do what they do best.

As you’re building your business you need to work on getting it to achieve critical mass by, in particular, hiring or training the 3 leaders every business needs to succeed.

In summary, you need to have a game plan from day one including an exit strategy or else you might end up like one of the 300 businesses in NYC who failed because they failed to plan for success.


Since this blog is getting long and selling isn’t much different than buying I’ll keep this short. You need to basically understand 3 things:

  1. How to value your business just the same as discussed in buying so you can justify your price.
  2. Where to list your business which is again the same places where you’d go to find a business for sale (such as
  3. How to foster relationships so that when it’s time to sell, you have a few personal contacts in mind.

With regards to the 3rd, you may want to get to know other business owners in your area who have complimentary (or even competing businesses). You may also consider hiring a leader who would like to take over and own their own business some day. If you have a franchise like mine, you will also want to stay in touch with owners in other areas as they might want to expand their operations.

The goal with this post is to organize and direct the many varied posts I’ve written about my adventure buying, building, and now selling my business over the last 18 months. As I add more posts I’ll try to keep this summary updated so you can always reference it for new material.

To your generating-wealth-through-business success, Bryan

The quickest way to $1,000,000 – Stock Market? Real Estate? Business?

Unless you’re a doctor, lawyer, or work on wall street most people will never be able to become millionaires without one or more of the above methods for generating wealth. As a matter of fact, less than 12% of millionaires get that way by virtue of their “jobs” according to The Millionaire Next Door. So what’s the easiest/best path to becoming a millionaire? Keep in mind, that we’re not talking about a get-rich-quick scheme, but instead the old fashioned way to make $1,000,000 as I blogged about before.

The most important concept to understand is leverage. The goal is always to do more with less. Whether that’s make more money with less invested or more money with less time, the more you can leverage your current assets the more quickly you’ll be able to acheive millionaire status. Now which option – stocks, real estate, or small business provide the greatest leverage?

In reverse order:

  1. Stock market – Once you acheive $1,000,000 in your bank account you can put that into a CD at your local bank for 5% and live comfortably off of your $50,000 per year in interest. Also, once you acheive a net worth of over a million with income of over $250,000 your stock broker can get you access to buying public shares at wholesale prices. In other words, the more money you have to invest the cheaper your per share investment will be. The problem with stocks is that you have to have money to leverage the stock market. Unless of course you can convince a bunch of other people to invest with you in which case you can leverage their money. However if you did that you would no longer be an investor you’d be in business. πŸ˜‰ Typically a stock market investment prior to becoming a millionaire might look something like this. You invest $5,000 after doing your thorough research on EBB LLC and after a year manage a 20% return. That’s a VERY ideal situation but if you did that you’d cash out in a year with $6,000 or $1,000 profit. Not bad but not a whole lot of leverage there. If instead you invested $20,000 and you’re the next Warren Buffet who can sustain a 20% annual return for 21.5 years you’d be a millionaire. That’s before taxes of course.
  2. Real Estate – If you’ve been around real estate at all you’ve heard the often touted “statistic” that “real estate makes more people millionaires than anything else.” I say “statistic” because I’ve never seen hard evidence to back this up and even if someone produced it, I believe they’d be showing that people are paper millionaires. In other words, on paper their real estate is worth $1,000,000 if they sold it for a $1,000,000 but they don’t exactly have a million smackers in the bank. Real estate is beneficial however in that it gives you much greater leveraging power than the stock market. For instance if you buy a $100,000 property with $5,000 down (which would be tough these days) you would then have around a $600/month mortgage. If you then rent the property to someone else for $1000/month you now have a positive monthly cashflow of $400. Now here’s where the leverage comes in, if the property appreciates 5% in one year and then you sell it (by yourself of course since a realtor would take your profits), you would cash out with $14,800. Let’s say after insurance, maintenance, taxes and other expenses you actually walk away with $10,000. You invested $5k to begin with so you made $5,000 or a 100% return on your investment. Obviously this is an ideal situation however I’ve personally done nearly 100% in less than 22 months so it is definitely possible. If you were able to maintain a 50% return on your real estate investments every year by acquiring positive cashflow rental properties (with the first one worth $200,000) that appreciate at 5% annually you’d be a millionaire in a little less than 10 years. As a matter of fact, in Robert G. Allen’s book Nothing Down for the 2000s, he proposes just such a strategy to help you become a millionaire within 10 years. It’s actually a very good book that I personally credit for inspiring me to buy my first rental property at 21 while enrolled in engineering school. Obviously real estate offers quite a bit more leverage…
  3. Small Business – Here’s the bottom line, with around $5,000 out of pocket I’ve structured a business purchase that has yielded me in perks and compensation more than a 14 fold return on my investment within 12 months. That’s right, a 1400% increase on my initial investment in less than 12 months. Keep in mind, that’s on my very first business purchase and that’s without even selling the business yet. Since I’ve nearly doubled the profits in the business in my first 12 months, I would tend to think that my ROI will actually be well in excess of a 20 fold increase on my money. To make the math a little simpler, a 20 fold increase would be like investing $5,000 and getting back $100,000.

Now to make the comparison more accurate we need to take into account 2 more crucial pieces:

  1. Time
  2. Taxes

The only time I ever made money in the stock market required me to invest a lot of time in research before investing. Once I make those investments I should just be able to stick with them for years and so very little “maintenance” is needed. However that’s the get-rich-slowly method since we have little to no leverage of our money. So if your time is very limited this may be what’s best for you. However with capital gains around 35% your actual profits will be much smaller since when you cash in your stocks you’ll be taxed around 35% on the profits. There are creative ways to reduce that number but in the interest of simplicity we’ll leave it as-is.

When I had my rental property while studying engineering I was able to sufficiently manage my house, classes (while averaging over 21 credits per term), and racing so, though the time investment was constant and sometimes unexpected (like the time when the toilet exploded when I was a state away), it shouldn’t take over your life. Once you get 10-15 properties that’s a different story. As for taxes, real estate actually can be a great tax shelter however if you’re making money and your properties are appreciating you’re probably looking at close to 30% in taxes. I say that because capital gains on your profit will still be 35% however you have more deductions and, if you run it like a business, you can give yourself perks like business travel, laptops, mileage reimbursement, etc.

My business nearly consumes all of my time. Ironically, at the same time, I have more freedom now than I’ve ever had before as either a student or under the employ of someone else. In other words, I may have to trade a Saturday this weekend for skipping out next Friday for a long weekend but I don’t have to ask permission to do so. Overall my business is a full-time job that could still afford me the time for stock market investing and real estate speculation, but could not afford me (at this point) time for a normal full-time job. With 1-3 rental homes it’s very possible to have a normal full time job. The tax benefits of a business are so many and varied that I pay less than 20% of total income in income taxes.

If we take all of those into account here’s how our returns actually look:

  1. Stock Market – (after taxes and assuming a normal full-time job) $650 or 13%
  2. Real Estate – (after taxes and assuming a normal full-time job) $3,500 or 70%
  3. Small Business – (after taxes and deducting the salary I’ve been offered as an engineer) – $18,000 or 420%

So even after taking into account both my time investment (which wouldn’t be nearly as flexible working for someone else as an engineer) and tax consequences, investing in a Small Business as your first step to generating wealth is the best one because it offers by far the greatest leverage. Don’t forget that my ROI for Small Business still assumes that I make absolutely no additional profit when I sell the business. Obviously I don’t plan on that happening. πŸ˜‰

To your wealth generating success, Bryan

P.S. My original out of pocket expenses for my business purchase were all lawyers fees that were reimbursed by my new business shortly after buying it which meant my inital cash investment was tied up for maybe 90 days versus the entire year for both stocks and real estate.

Buying a business – Step 2 – The Broker

When buying a business for the first or even second or third time there are a few things to keep in mind to help you a long the way…

The first step is obviously finding a business. I’ve blogged before how I’ve found several offers to buy or otherwise acquire businesses in a short amount of time and even blogged about finding a business for little to no money down. In addition to those few examples, I mentioned 2 other great resources are:

Both have some easy to use tools to find the exact business you’re looking for. Keep in mind that the best businesses have a great Cashflow to Asking Price ratio. In other words, if a business has a cashflow of $100,000 you should want to pay as close to $100,000 (or less) as possible. Ideally you’ll pay less than 1 times Cashflow plus assets. So in our example with $100,000 in cashflow if they also have $200,000 in assets a price less than $300,000 would be quite a deal. πŸ™‚Β  Convincing the seller and a business broker of that might be a little more tricky so be prepared to justify your valuation. Keep in mind that business valuations can be quite subjective. In my experience, a broker can either be your best friend or worst enemy. If you are able to convince him you’re the man for the job, he’ll do his best to convince the seller you’re price should be accepted. Even though he represents the seller, he only gets paid if someone actually buys a business. It’s important to keep that in mind and use it to your advantage. Now how do you do that?

The game plan is rather simple. The trick (like usual) lies in how well you’re able to communicate it. πŸ˜‰

  1. Make sure he likes you. – This is important because he’s the gate keeper. Heck, he may even be “screening” potential buyers ahead of time. Without his blessing, you don’t see a Non-Disclosure Agreement or ever meet with the sellers. Be comfortable but confident in your discussions and if you find common ground, certainly use that to build rapport. If you get along well with most people and can speak coherently (even under pressure) this becomes second nature and not a step that even requires planning. Check out How to Win Friends and Influence People and Persuasion: The Art of Getting What You Want for more details.
  2. Make sure he thinks you can do the job. -If he doesn’t think you have the ability to run the business being sold you’re not going to make it very far. Be prepared for questions like “Do you have any experience in this type of business?” (he’s making sure you can actually get the job done), “Are you looking at any other types of businesses for purchase” (he’s determining your commitment and passion to this field), and “Do you have management experience?” (he’s assessing whether you can take over and lead a team effectively especially with the nuances of a new owner/leader). I’ve spoken with enough of these guys that I generally have preplanned stories in mind to respond. Always remember that stories that illustrate your capabilities are the best way to get your point across. If this is your first business purchase and you want to sound like an expert, read my blog, the Best 6 books to teach you how to generate wealth, and practice “interviewing” a few business owners to learn how they implement “book lessons” in the real world. Explanations for leadership styles based on books generally do pretty well with business brokers since they’re in effect consultants themselves. They get to look at and evaluate businesses every day without getting involved with what’s needed day-to-day so the perfect answers that you read in books are what they want to hear. For instance, when a broker asked me if I had any management experience I explained my philosophy on being a Team Leader instead of General Manager. He immediately interrupted me and said it sounded like I was a big fan of the Deming philosophy and Six Sigma and I had a great leadership philosophy. Now that he was on my side I shot back “So do you think my style would work well in this business?” – obviously looking for additional details that could help me in my negotiating.Β  His response was that for liability reasons he couldn’t respond specifically about how my philosophy would work however “it’s a proven philosophy that would do well in any business.” You think he liked me and thought I could do the job after that? πŸ˜‰
  3. Make sure he agrees with your valuation. – You always save this step for absolutely last. If the broker and owner trust you, thinks you’re capable, and you’ve done your preliminary due diligence and you still want to proceed you start working on explaining why you think the business is worth less than they do. This is possibly the toughest part, but it doesn’t have to be. In one business I was evaluating the owner didn’t have any cashflow or even profit and loss statements. For that reason it was very hard for me to value the business. Obviously it made it even harder for the broker to value the business which was something that rather annoyed him. So he recommended to myself and the seller that this should be an asset only transaction. The transaction never materialized however it was kinda nice to not have to do much negotiating that time since my goal would have been an asset only purchase as well. πŸ™‚Β  You won’t always get that lucky, so you need to spend a bit of time educating yourself on proper business valuation models so you can “talk-the-talk”. Check out my blog on why banks don’t know what your business is worth and my other one on EBITDA for more information. Simply low-balling with no justification or explanation is a bad idea. If you’re dealing with an individual who is selling on their own, chances are they have no idea how to truly value a business and so will be more apt to agree with you if you know what you’re talking about. Beyond that, one broker told me there are about 12 valuation models that are “commonly accepted”. With 12 valuation models, do you think they all work out to the business being worth the same amount? Of course not. The bottom line is cashflow and assets so make sure you stick to that. Business growth potential aren’t worth anything and should never be something you pay for.

That’s your quick overview of dealing with a broker (or even seller without a broker) on a business purchase.

To your business buying success, Bryan

Buying a Business – Step 1 – Finding the right business with little to no money…

These days it seems you can buy almost anything without having any money upfront. You can buy your fridge, computer, car, and even house with no money down (ok, the house is a bit trickier now then it was in 2006). However, did you know it can be done for businesses to? Depending on the size of the business that is very reasonable option. However, the larger the business the harder this is to accomplish. If nothing else, consulting fees to your lawyer and accountant (whom you should always consult) could prevent a No-Money-Down transaction on larger (i.e. greater than $100,000 transactions).

So how do you go about finding a business to buy when you don’t have deep pockets and investors lined up?

The most important part of that is finding the right seller. The only way you can reasonably buy a business with little to no money down is to find a seller willing to finance the deal for you.Β  As funny as it may sound, people don’t always sell a business JUST to make money. There are actually a lot of other items that can factor into a sellers decision of whom they want to sell to and for how much. The biggest factor in getting a LOW PRICE and OWNER FINANCING is the seller’s time frame. What that means is if someone needs to sell quick, you can get a much better deal. The same is true of anything you purchase. If someone needs to sell a motorcycle because they’re joining the military and being shipped out in 2 weeks you’ll obviously get a better deal then if they have all the time in the world. When you buy a house, car, or anything from a small business the same can be true and the same is definitely true when buying a business. So what are some common “flags” that you can use for bargaining leverage?

  1. Divorce – This may be the best one. Let’s face it, when people are getting divorced they need to get rid of things quickly and sometimes for very little money if for nothing else but to not allow their spouse to get the business. I’ve heard of one instance where a business owner literally gave his business away for free just so his ex-wife wouldn’t get it. πŸ™‚
  2. Illness – Sometimes people get sick (or someone in their family gets sick) and they can no longer adequately run their business. Often that requires them to get rid of it quickly or risk losing it completely. In one instance I looked at a business with this scenario. A month after visiting that business the owner called me back and said she’d go down on her price and finance the business for me because she just needed to stop working right away. I passed on that business even though the opportunity for a no money down purchase was there.
  3. Retirement – This is a very common reason for selling a business and one that can be a great tool for negotiating the price down or toward an owner finance package. You first need to find out if they’re an S-Corp, C-Corp or LLC. If an S-Corp that you’re willing to buy the shares of, they stand to have great tax benefits by receiving small payments over time versus one large payment. The seller may not know of those tax benefits so you can use that as leverage. Another important point with retiring sellers is that they may be tied emotionally to their business. So what does that mean for us? Well that means they are motivated by more than just cash. If the seller is also the founder they generally feel a tight connection to their customers, employees and business as a whole. They don’t just want some well heeled corporate raiders coming in to sell everything off and make a mess. They’re looking for someone who can continue their vision. And if it’s important enough to them, they may even consider the buyer who is perfect in every way, except they don’t have the ability to come up with cash. From their perspective if their business is taken care of and they are still getting as much or more per month than when they were working why not take the deal?
  4. Cashflow/Bankruptcy – What I mean by this is someone who’s going to lose their house because they can’t make payments may be willing to sell their business quickly and cheaply. Obviously the strength of a business whose owner is broke should be in question, however keep in mind that the best businesses to buy are the ones that have problems that you can quickly fix. The owner with cashflow issues may need money upfront or may just need X amount a month to cover some bills.

So when you’re evaluating businesses to buy, it’s always important to ask “Why are you selling?” A lot of websites, like and, even list the reason for selling right in the description so you can more easily cherry-pick the right ones.

Here are a few other important questions to start narrowing down your business choices:

  1. Why are you selling?
  2. Is the seller also the founder?
  3. Is he involved in the business day-to-day? If so, in what capacity?
  4. Is an individual or investment company selling?
  5. What’s your time frame for the transaction?
  6. What’s the annual cashflow or profit?
  7. Is the business a S-corp, C-corp, or LLC?
  8. How many full-time sales personnel?
  9. Marketing budget?
  10. Current marketing projects?
  11. Is real estate included? If not does the seller own it and plan to continue leasing? (This can tell you a bit more about the sellers total monthly income without a business)

It can take quite a while to find the right business so start searching now. I’ll continue to walk you through the lessons I learn as I continue to work on business acquisitions.

To your business buying success, Bryan

Skip business school, buy your first business, and make it a franchise…

If you’ve never run a business before, no matter how many blogs or books you read, or seminars or classes you attend, you have a lot to learn. There are just too many things to deal with to pick it all up without actually doing it. For that reason, the first business you own should be purchasing an already established franchise.

Until I owned a franchise business I never quite understood why this is so important. Firstly, I’m assuming you’re buying the business to rapidly build it (less than 2 years) and either sell it or keep it for cashflow with minimal input from you, the owner. If you prefer the hardwork and pride of building your own business from the ground up over 20,30, or 40 years, then by all means do that. Based on that assumption, let’s break up your “building” efforts into 2 basic categories: Front-End and Back-End

  1. Front-End – This simply means your sales and marketing. What are you doing to generate leads, convert those leads to customers, increase the amount each customer spends with you, increase the number of times those customers come back, and get those customers to tell their friends? That’s a quick summary of the front-end of any business.
  2. Back-End – This is talking about what you do once the sale is made. It includes inventory management, delivery of product, servicing customers, dealing with customer service issues, paying billings, billing customers, collecting payments, leading your service team and everything else that isn’t directly associated with your sales efforts.

So when looking for a business to buy, the ideal situation would be to find one with a strong “Back-end” system but weak “Front-End” system. That means when they make a sale they do so consistently, accurately, and predictably. Every customer knows what to expect. Their inventory is managed well, bills are paid on time, customers are billed accurately, and money is collected efficiently. However the business is not real good at creating or closing leads. It’s even worse at taking advantage of referrals and letting customers know all of the goods and services they offer. They have a great, well-maintained, database of current customers, however they fail to know how to utilize it. Why is this the ideal situation? Because if you’re developing guarantees, Unique Selling Propositions, and other direct and specific marketing to set you apart from your competition, you better be able to back it up. For that reason, if you have a weak back-end that MUST be addressed first. If however you have a strong back-end, the only thing left to do is grow the business through improvements in your front-end sales machine. You can put in less effort building the front-end then the back and reap 2-3 times the reward in less time. It’s very difficult to grow a business while improving the back-end, however the whole point of improving the front-end is to increase sales and profits.

Ok, so let’s get back to a franchise. Why is it helpful to cut your teeth on business with a franchise? Well the reality of business is that it’s impossible to only work on back-end or front-end alone. You’re constantly working on improving both and that’s where a franchise comes in. Generally a franchise, through much testing and measuring, will tell you how to run your back-end very precisely. They’ll tell you what to say, what to wear, how to produce, order, install, and/or service your product. You’ll have a large support system of people to help you address problems when they arise. In other words, most of your back-end is already setup.

Moreover, a good franchise, is also providing the necessary resources for the front-end. They provide marketing materials such as radio and TV ads along with direct mail pieces or newspaper ads. They’ll tell you what to put on sale when and while you’re too busy working on your business to come up with new ideas they’re producing new and exciting products for you to present to your customers. Sure you may pay 2%, 4%, 6%, 8% or more in gross revenue to your franchisor but in most instances that investment in learning is well worth it. And that’s exactly how I would view it – an investment in your education. Where else can you make good money and learn all the ins and outs of a well run organization? In fact, if I had the choice between attending business school or just using that money to buy a well-managed franchised business, I’d buy the business every day of the week. They’ll provide me with the tools and certainly the experiences I need to learn about business. After 4 years of running a business do you think you’d be more prepared for the “real-world” than your counterparts with a business degree?

Obviously, that was a rhetorical question. Their is one last important reason to make your first (and maybe second and third) business(es) franchises – Name Recognition. As Brad Sugars says, the most expensive thing in business is buying your customers. That’s right, your marketing dollars are simply you buying customers. If you’re buying a franchise, someone has already been marketing to your future customers for 10, 20, 40, or 60 years. They know and recognize the name. If you’re buying an established franchise in your area (versus bringing one in for the first time) that investment of someone else into your customers and area will ultimately make your cost for acquiring new customers less. Does that make sense? All well-established, professionaly run franchises will provide that benefit. Don’t underestimate it’s power. In my personal situation, without that name recognition my business would be a LOT smaller then it currently is.

To your success, Bryan

Nearly half of Americans think 2008 will go down as one of the worst years in American history…

Wow. Were the past 12 months that bad for you?

As I was reading the Wall Street Journal on my Kindle this week I came across an article that references a Wall Street Journal/NBC news poll indicating that nearly half of the people surveyed think 2008 will go down as one of the worst years in US history. Since 90% of the respondents indicated that the economy has gotten worse in the last 12 months I’m going to assume that’s the primary reason everyone hates 2008. I must say, as a young entrepreneur who has put everything on the line to buy a small business and move across the country 8 months ago, I’m a bit shocked…

Here’s why I’m a bit shocked that people think things are so horrible:

  • I sold my house in Pennsylvania in about 3 months at a profit when I’d only purchased it 24 months earlier.
  • I easily got financing (at 95%) for my new place in New Mexico.
  • I’ve secured several commercial bank loans and still have access to low interest credit.
  • My business is about to have the highest grossing year of revenue in its 60 year history.
  • We’ve hired 3 new people this year and anticipate more growth in the next 12 months.
  • I bought and resold a motorcycle in less than 2 months at 30% profit this summer.
  • My personal net worth has increased more in the last 8 months then it has during the previous 25 years of my life.

Now the news isn’t all rosy:

  • At last count my stocks, mutual funds, etc. are down about 33% this year. However that doesn’t really bother me since most of my money is invested in other areas. Now I have an amazing opportunity to increase my stock holdings and take advantage of severely discounted businesses on the stock exchange.
  • I haven’t been able to sell my sports car. It’s a 2006 G35 coupe. Bright red. Not exactly the vehicle people “hunkering down” for a depression would be buying.
  • My debt has increased more in the last 8 months then it has during the previous 25 years of my life. However, the right kind of debt isn’t bad as long as it’s used for assets and they are appreciating.

So what does this all mean to you? It’s very simple, are you bracing for a recession, depression, or worse? OR are you finding the opportunities that are now greater than ever out there.

Right now you can buy businesses, houses, stocks and mutual funds cheaper than probably in the last 20 years. Particularly with the housing market, if you have good credit, with the tightening restrictions on lending, guess what’s going to happen? More people are going to have to rent. Housing prices are down and rental prices are going to start going up (rental rates don’t seem to have changed much in my area yet). Is there a more perfect formula for residual income and profiting from rental properties then that???

As Brad Sugars pointed out recently – In Las Vegas, where the housing market has been particularly hard hit, he talked to a realtor who said he’s getting killed because no one is buying anything. Shortly thereafter he spoke with another realtor who said he has more work then he knows what to do with. With all of the foreclosures, banks are scrambling for good realtors to sell for them.

Which guy or gal are you? Is it all doom and gloom or are you picking out the opportunities that are abound?

The possibilities that are created in 2008 may be the ones that allows you and I to create more wealth more quickly than ever before. And what’s the worst that can happen? You could buy a business and fail? You could buy a stock that goes bankrupt and lose your investment? You could buy a rental property that doesn’t get rented out? Well, here are a few quick ways to minimize the chance of any of those things happening.

  1. Buy a business – Make sure it’s a staple that everyone will need no matter what’s going on in the economy. If you have few or no competitors, even better. If you already own your business, buy your competitors and/or complementary businesses that can benefit from your current facilities and customer list to spread overhead between several entities keeping costs low. What’s your company’s niche??? The most important part is the PURCHASE PRICE. Buy it cheap. Make sure you tell the seller that the economy is horrible and they better take your offer while it’s still on the table. πŸ˜‰
  2. Buy a house – If you’re looking for a rental property and you’re not too worried about tax deductions, single-family dwellings are always the best to start out with. Young families and couples are abound so there’s always a need. And with the current credit markets those people will need to rent. Keep in mind, just like with a business, what’s unique about your property that will make people want to stay there? Again, the purchase price is the most important part. If you can keep your costs down with a low mortgage then your profits will be that much better. Make sure you tell the seller that the economy is horrible and they better take your offer while it’s still on the table. πŸ˜‰
  3. Buy stocks – I’m not a big fan of mutual funds. I bought my first one when I was 14 and never had great success. In essence you’re paying extra to have someone pick stocks for you and put them in a nice, neat little package. Do your homework. Learn about the stock market and particularly business valuation. Read The Warren Buffett Way. Buy stocks that have more cash on hand then their current market capitalization and also have strong cashflow. If you want to be even safer, invest in ones that are still paying a dividend. Historically they generally fair the best.

Consider this for a minute – retail sales after Thanksgiving this year are up 7% over last year! That’s right, last year when the stock market was soaring and everyone was making money and unemployment was low we bought less stuff at Christmas sales then we did in this recessed year of 2008…Β  Hmmm… are you seeing the opportunities yet?

Don’t be that guy who remembers when Buffalo Wild Wings and Netflix were trading for $21/share and if you’d have only put a few bucks into those stocks you’d be rich now… If you still think I’m a bit “off”, since the sky is obviously falling, check out what the greatest investor in the world, Warren Buffet, thinks about the economy.

To your success in making 2009 your most profitable year yet, Bryan

Your business should be an LLC filing as an S-corp

*DISCLAIMER: I am a mechanical engineer. (Do I really need to say anything else to emphatically point out that I am not a lawyer or accountant advising you on legal or tax matters?)

So here’s the plan:

Buy the assets of a business, create an LLC that files taxes as an S-corp, and sell the LLC.

First a little background. You have a few options when forming a business entity:

  1. Sole-proprietorship – single owner as disregarded (pass-thru) entity
  2. Partnership – multiple owners as disregarded entity
  3. Sub-S C-corporation – up to 75 shareholders as disregarded entity
  4. C-corporation – unlimited shareholders with corporate tax on profits and capital gains on distributions
  5. LLC – unlimited members

However when filing your taxes you have to choose one of the top 4 OR an LLC (for legal purposes) filing as one of the top 4 (for tax purposes). So not including all of the types of partnerships (Limited, Family Limited, Master Limited etc. etc. etc.) or Trusts you have about 8 options when forming your business entity. Of those 8 basic options, the LLC filing as a Sub-S seems to be the best for our buy, build, and sell purposes.

Reasons why you want an LLC filing as an S-corporation:

  1. An LLC is the simplest legal entity requiring the least amount of corporate formalities.
  2. An S-corp is a pass-thru (disregarded) entity so all distributions pass-thru to the owner on his personal tax return and are only taxed on state and federal income (and in several states such as Texas, Tennessee, Nevada, and Wyoming there are no state income taxes).
  3. You only pay tax on your Net Profit in your P&L – not on the actual cash distributions.
  4. With Amortization, Depreciation, Interest on the loan you used to buy the business, and a Section 179 of your equipment expenses,Β you can have quite a lot of cash distributions with no paper income.

Taxes you won’t have to pay with your LLC filing as an S-corp:

  1. FICA – you only pay that on your “reasonable” salary, not on your distributions
  2. Self-Employment Tax – this is only necessary with a sole-proprietorship or a partnership
  3. Corporate Tax – currently around 34% on the profits of a C-corp plus another 15% capital gains on your distributions (is there any reason a small closely held business would be a C-corp???)

The reason you buy only the assets of a business is your depreciation and amortization schedules start all over again and with the numerous business valuation methods you can always come up with some “goodwill” to amortize. Keep in mind, that amortization is your best friend. It’s a non-cash accounting expense that can save you thousands in taxes. For a more in-depth analysis of Amortization and Depreciation check out my Business Valuation 2 – EBITDA can eat my shorts blog.

The reason you sell the shares of the S-corp is that you can provide vendor financing to the new owner and only pay capital gains little-by-little every month as the payments come in. However if you sell the assets out of the S-corp, you have to pay the entire capital gains up-front EVEN if you’re carrying a note for the new owner. This obviously is the worst part about an S-corp. I believe the only way around paying all of the capital gains up-front on an asset sale would be a Like-Kind exchange. This could be very tough if you’re selling a business to buy another one because it would have to be an extremely similar business and you’d have to meet all the strict deadlines for the transfer (usually less than 90 days). And of course if you’re carrying a note then you may not have the cash to buy that other business. Is there a better way?


  1. If you’re never going to have any income (such as with a rental property or if you have a great accountant) you might as well file your LLC as a partnership or sole-proprietorship. Without income you won’t have to worry about taxes and when you go to sell, you can sell the assets, carry a note and still not have to worry about immediately paying for all of the capital gains. In other words it gives you a bit more flexibility when you go to sell.
  2. If you have multiple owners/shareholders and you don’t want the distributions to be evenly split along ownership percentage lines you can’t use an S-corp.
  3. If you’re going to buy, build, and sell very quickly (i.e. less than a year) you’re probably better off filing as an LLC sole-proprietor or partnership. I say this because if you can flip a business that quickly you’re probably able to grow it extremely rapidly and your biggest tax concern would be the capital gains on the sale. With the sole-proprietor or partnership you could be flexible and either sell the assets or LLC with vendor financing and not have to pay all of the capital gains up-front.

Unfortunately, I can’t claim that I learned all of this from a single book. As a matter of fact, it took about an hour with my accountant which will cost me about $55. Money well spent! πŸ˜‰

To your success, Bryan

What it takes to be an entrepreneur

Are you an expert at business like these guys were at building houses in the sides of cliffs???

Are you an expert at business like these guys were at building houses in the sides of cliffs???

An entrepreneur is someone who is an expert at business. More specifically, buying, building, and selling businesses. An entrepreneur is not the same as a capitalist. A capitalist creates wealth out of nothing. A capitalist creates capital with just an idea or knowledge. That idea could be a book, a talent, a business, real estate, a security or almost anything that can be converted into capital.Β  An entrepreneur, however, by definition (at least by my definition) deals entirely with businesses. He or she is a master at them…

At this point I’m not a capitalist, however I’m an entrepreneur (successful hasn’t been proven yet, though).

It amazes me at how many business opportunities have come my way since I decided to become an entrepreneur. At least every week someone approaches me to help them with a business, to buy a business they are selling, or to a buy a business they know is for sale. Some are not good ideas… Others are… Keep in mind, out of 50 businesses you evaluate, 1 will be good – so you better always be evaluating.

So what does it take to convince people you are the entrepreneuring genius that they should be talking to before ever considering a great (or not so great) business idea? Actually it’s pretty simple. You just have to convince everyone around you that you know more about business than they do. Here’s the quick process for doing that:

  1. Tell everyone your expertise is business. Not the product or service of a business – just the business – any business.
  2. Be an expert at business.
  3. Let people know you’re always looking for new business opportunities.
  4. Learn how to evaluate business’ quickly and ask the right questions as soon as you’re presented with an idea.

The first 3 are pretty direct and/or have been addressed before so we’ll skip past those.

Number 4 is so important because it immediately affirms what you’ve told people – that you’re an expert. Experts know the right questions to ask because they know what answers they need to hear. In other words, a great entrepreneur knows what that “perfect” business opportunity looks like. Make sense? Ok, so what are a few questions I ask as soon as I learn of a business? My questions focus on a few basic categories and vary by business type. For instance some of these things will vary depending on whether it’s a service business or a product based business.Β  Generally I would prefer a product based business because it’s a lot simpler. Service based businesses genrally require people with specialized skills. Now if finding people with those specialized skills is easy then a service business could be a great investment.

  1. Growth Potential
  2. Profit Potential
  3. Worst-case scenario
  4. Complexity
  5. Up-front Cost

Growth Potential – In essence we’re determining current market and wallet share compared with total

  1. How many customers do you have?
  2. Are they all in a database?
  3. What are you doing to cross-sell, up-sell, and add-on to existing sales? (remember it’s always cheaper to have a current customer buy from you again than to have a stranger buy from you the first time)
  4. What’s the population in this area?
  5. Why do people do business with you?
  6. What kind of marketing are you currently doing?
  7. How are your salespeople trained?
  8. What products do you sell?
  9. Have you tried to sell X (similar or complementary) product to your customers?

Profit Potential – trying to figure out where to cut the fat while growing the business. More sales does not guarantee more money in your pocket.

  1. What are your profit margins? (Gross and Net)
  2. What is your total take home? (i.e. company cars, travel, meals, etc.)
  3. How have you negotiated prices with your suppliers?
  4. How do you manage the office, inventory, payables, receivables, service, etc.? (in essence i’m looking for inefficiencies that can be replaced with technology and automation to save time and money)

Worst Case Scenario – Ideally the business is currently existing in a worst-case scenario and still surviving which presents you with the maximum upside potential. Also, I need to know if I could possibly make it any worse.

  1. Do you have any competitors? Who? (monopolies are always nice)
  2. Why do people choose to do business with you instead of them?
  3. What are your daily goals for each employee?
  4. Do your employees know at the end of the day if they had a good day?
  5. Is anyone paid an incentive such as commissions, bonuses, etc.?
  6. How often do you perform employee evaluations? (the employee questions help me determine overall business efficiency by guaging employee effectiveness)
  7. What do the owners do for the business?
  8. Are the employees happy and effective? Do they plan to stay?

Complexity – Since I don’t want to be personally involved in the product or delivery of service for a business, how hard would it be to teach someone new? Additionally, is the business too complex to manage remotely? Most of this is common sense. You can look at most businesses and determine if they’re simple or complex.

  1. How long has each person been working here?
  2. How long does it take to train a person for x positon?
  3. How do you find new people for x position?
  4. Do you do any work or sales online?
  5. Do you have any business management computer systems in place? (not just accounting software, but software that will allow me to get a snapshot of the whole business across the globe)

Up-Front Cost – This is basically supposed to tell me 2 things: How much money do I need out of pocket and how much can I pay for the business versus what I can sell it for?

  1. Are you willing to vendor finance?
  2. Are you willing to sell or lease the property that houses the business? (if selling I can always get a bank loan for real estate to provide instant cash to the seller making a vendor finance more attractive on the balance)
  3. Why are you selling?
  4. What’s your time-frame?
  5. How long have you been selling? (This tells me if I’ll be able to quickly resell)
  6. Have you ever had your business professionally valued? (tells me if they understand business valuation or I can “educate” them on the true value of their business)
  7. How did you determine your asking price? (give me more insight into their business valuation knowledge)

Obviously there are more questions you ask when evaluating a business. When I’m actually sitting down with a business owner who’s selling their business I might spend 2-3 hours asking questions. At this point in my entrepreneurial career I do that partially to learn of the business opportunity and partially to see if that owner knows something I don’t.

As a warning, you never talk about the asking price or negotiate down from that price without ensuring that the business owner likes you, trusts you, and knows you can make their baby succeed. We’ll get more into negotiating the best price for your business in another blog.

Notice that I highlighted the top 2 questions in each category. If you want a super-quick way to evaluate a business in just a few minutes, ask those questions and make sure you know the “perfect” answer ahead of time. When you start asking those questions off the top of your head when someone mentions a business idea, I guarantee they will respect your knowledge and start viewing you as the business expert you claim to be. Once everyone knows you’re a business expert the opportunities just start flowing your way.

To your success, Bryan

Why do I buy, build and sell businesses???

Freedom. I could stop my blog there, however I like to write too much… πŸ™‚

Freedom to do what I want, when I want, how I want. If I find a motorcycle for sale 1500 miles from home (as I just did) and I want to take off a few days to go pick it up and ride it home (as I’m doing this week) then I want the freedom to do that. In other words, freedom with my time. Nothing is more important then that. You can always get more money, you can never get more time.

Financial freedom. This one should be simple to understand. After all I can only do the things I enjoy (traveling, photography, motorcycling, coaching, reading, writing, adventure-sports etc.) if I have the money to afford those things. Is there a better way to get both financial freedom and control of your own time than being a business owner?

So that explains the Buy and Build portion, but what about Selling? What does that have to do with freedom? Most businesses have a certain point at which they’re about to hit “critical mass”. Simply put, that business is ready to explode and just needs the right leader at the helm to guide it along. Rarely do businesses have 2 different points of critical mass, however. In other words, if you find a business that has a great need, is in a great market, and has the potential to double or triple in under 2 years, the chances of doing that again at the end of those 2 years is very slim. However, there are always other business’ available where that is true. You just have to find them before the point at which they hit that critical mass and then sell them at their peak (since the sale price will be based on that most recent sales history).

The other reason for selling is that it gives you complete freedom with your time once again. If you buy, build, and sell a business and cash out a short while later with a few hundred thousand dollars (which is very possible) now you can go buy another business, do the same thing all over again, and make more money… Or you can take a vacation. A trip around the world. A missions trip. Buy that car you always wanted, etc. etc. etc. As Timothy Ferriss points out in The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich, the New Rich don’t save their whole lives so they can hopefully retire and, at 65-70 years of age, start enjoying life. The New Rich understand the goal isn’t a certain amount of money in your bank account, but the amount of freedom you have with the money you make. The New Rich don’t save up for retirement because they take mini-retirements all the time. It could be every year, every 6 months, or every other year. That mini-retirement could be for a month, a year, or 10 years. Now is the time to live your life. Not when you’ve saved up enough vacation days or have $1 million in the bank.

Since buying my 2 most recent businesses, I’ve taken trips to Pennsylvania, Florida, Texas, and am taking another cross-country trip this week. All of those trips required me to be out of the office for anywhere from a day to 7 days (the total will be about 3 weeks). They’re all within 5 months of me buying my first business. In the interest of full-disclosure, when I have been at the office, 7 day work-weeks with 14 hour work days are quite frequent.

So how does one setup their business and life to have those freedoms?

  1. You have to be willing to step away from a mistake.
  2. You must never lose track of your goal.
  3. You must be able to work remotely.
  4. You must empower your people.
  5. You can NOT be the expert at the product or service of your business.

In a bit more detail:

  1. If you buy a business, work 60-80 hours per week, and 6 months later haven’t made any significant progress, you need to get out. Take from that experience what you’ve learned and apply the lessons to the next one. Don’t toil for years. It doesn’t take that long to start seeing specific improvements (i.e. more cash in your pocket and more freedom with your time).
  2. For me this is easy. When I was 19 I was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma. I didn’t think it was that big of a deal. I went through chemo for 6 months and radiation for 3 weeks. It wasn’t fun, but I survived. It never felt to me like it was a near-death experience until 3 years later… My friend, Lindsey Popelas, was 17 at the time of her diagnosis which came within 2 weeks of me learning the same news. After battling for 5 years, it took her life. Why didn’t it take mine? For whatever reason, the Lord wants me here and I KNOW its not to work for 60-80 hours per week for the next 40 years to save up $2 million to retire. Lindsey reminds me of that every day. For that she may be the most influential person I have ever met. That’s a lesson I will never forget. My goal is to have freedom – not job security. Don’t wait till you acquire a deadly illness to resolve to start living your life.
  3. Blackberry’s, servers, ubiquitous internet, GPS tracking, Virtual Assistants, IP phones, etc. etc. etc. make working remotely on almost any business a reality. Start making it your reality.
  4. If your whole team must look to you to take care of every customer complaint and handle every supplier issue and tell them what to do every day, then you have no freedom. Empower your people to make decisions they can effectively make and then use technology to encourage and monitor them.
  5. If you’re the salesman, serviceman, customer service specialist, designer, engineer, doctor, lawyer etc. for your business then what happens when you’re not there? The goal is to leverage the talents of others so that you don’t have to be an expert at anything – except leading and leveraging the talents of others. πŸ™‚

The only exception to selling your business is to keep it if your business is on auto-pilot and can work without you or with very minimal input from you. Neither of my businesses are at that point yet. However if I can’t get them to that point then you can be certain I will sell them, take a mini-retirement, and keep my eyes open for the next opportunity.

To your success, Bryan

P.S. In previous jobs of mine I have earned the ability to work remotely from my basement, take vacations when I want, travel extensively, and still make a considerable living. The hardest thing for every business owner is to find and rely on great quality team members. If you’re one of them, then you’ll be amazed at the freedoms your boss will be willing to provide for you.