When Jessica Fialkovich sold her first business a decade ago, she had no idea where to start. Fortunately, she was able to exit successfully and then buy her next business. For almost ten years, she has built the fastest growing and most successful business brokerage firm in the U.S. But she also realized that business owners that came to her firm to sell were often not prepared. Although thousands of experts will teach you how to start a business and how to grow one — very few will teach you how to sell. So she decided to pull back the curtain about how the business sales process works and give buyers and sellers the tools to successfully (and profitability) complete transactions, including acquisitions and exits.
Jessica is passionate about small business and the entrepreneur community, and holds board positions for Entrepreneur’s Organization and The Fight Back Foundation. Over the past 7 years, her team has completed $250 million+ in transactions. This includes working directly with over 1,500 business owners, being involved with 350+ deals, and giving over 10,000 entrepreneurs guidance about buying and selling businesses
Jessica grew up on a horse farm, and dreamed of being a large animal veterinarian. After experiencing blood, however, she realized she didn’t want to go into a career that involved surgery.
Eventually, she moved on to an early high school job as a telemarketer at a gym. She was able to close a few memberships, and was proud of her success. (She also remembers how scary sales felt to her at the tie!) Those are some of the first deals that Jessica remembers donig. It reminded me of some of my early deals with gyms. When they first moved to a 30-day subscription model, some people thought it was ludicrous. After all, they had previously had people locked into annual contracts!
It was a great move, however, because people were more open to entering into a contract that they felt they could end if needed….and hopeful enough about their habit changes that they would tend to maintain the membership anyhow!
Jessica started her first business in 2009, which was mid-recession. Her and her husband had seen friends do well with wine, and they decided to open a wine tasting bar in Naples, Florida.
They quickly got into luxury wine dealing, including bottles that sold for $25,000 each. In addition to being a great business, they got into at the right time. As online wine buying started to take off, they decided to close their physically located business and relocate to Colorado.
When she started asking around about how to sell a business, she was only able to find one person to guide them through it. Although it was a great deal (60 days, all cash, 2 weeks of training), Jessica also felt that she had done a lot of the leg work. The broker wasn’t that involved, and a lot of the process steps, like due diligence, fell to her.
A Whole New Industry
The experience showed Jessica that there was an entire industry that was going largely untapped and unnoticed.
After all the work to start, launch, and grow businesses (things there was plenty of support for in the market), there was little guidance for how to exit one well. No one seemed to be talking about it, which piqued Jessica’s interest.
Upon moving to Colorado, they launched their business brokerage firm there. In the process, Jessica decided to pull back the curtain about how the business sales process works. Her desire was to give buyers and sellers the tools to successfully (and profitability) complete a transaction.
I’ve seen this as well; too often, we’re not taught how to create enterprise value and position ourselves for a strong close.
Business Brokerage Market Research
In the process of doing her market research, Jessica found that the acquisitions and exits process always tended to be similar, but the experience could vary widely. She wanted to bring support and assistance to every level. After all, many business owner’s retirement was tied up in the sale of their business.
Jessica set out to deliver investment banking level services for small businesses. One way this was accomplished was by providing their brokers with a whole back office team, including buyer reps and other resources. This team approach was designed to offer the ultimate support and comprehensive services.
One reason that services had tended to lack in this industry is that larger deals are more lucrative for brokerage firms.
When the deals and organizations involved are smaller, Jessica shares that they have to be much more process oriented so that they can close more deals than a larger firm would. Last year, in fact, they closed over one hundred! One positive thing about this business model is that their risk is much more diversified.
Working at that scale also means that processes are key.The back office and admin team allow the brokerage team to do more deals, while still providing highly personalized services.
Starting as a Franchisee
When they got started with the brokerage, there was a defunct office in Colorado that they acquired. Their growth continued as a result of ongoing acquisitions. Eventually, it led to offices in Dallas and Vegas.
Jessica notes that the franchise’s owner had a very similar outlook in terms of where the industry was going. In addition, he emphasized process and resource pools as well. Being able to work with offices across the country has helped Jessica and her team access necessary resources and continue to position themselves well in the current marketplace.
Scaling and fast growth have been beneficial outcomes that have resulted from the systems and expertise of the network as well. Jessica notes that, whatever deal comes up, she knows there is something in her network that will be able to offer guidance if she wants extra support.
Once you understand how to operate a business within an industry, deal-flow naturally comes to you. Jessica notices that many opportunities have come to them as a result of their reputations as top-performing franchise owners.
A Tale of Two Markets
After the last year and a half of chaos and pivots, Jessica feels that she’s seeing two markets emerge.
On the one hand, it’s a buyers market in many regards. In terms of picking up second and third markets, or breaking into an industry, well positioned buyers are making gains. Because of low performances over the last 18 months, many industries are more accessible than ever. A deal that would normally cost hundreds of thousands of dollars for a buyer could happen today for fifty.
Alternately, industries that remained stable or performed well during the last 18 months are in a seller’s market. There is a lot of money being poured into garnering deals in industries that have proven to work. Lending has also been more available than it sometimes is, which allows sellers to walk away with much more cash than normal.
In terms of industry, Jessica notes that the winners and losers have been very clearly defined due to the current economy.
To hear more about her thoughts on acquisitions and exits, as well as on today’s market, listen in today!
Corey Kupfer is an expert strategist, negotiator and dealmaker. He has more than 35 years of professional deal-making and negotiating experience. Corey is a successful entrepreneur, attorney, consultant, author and professional speaker. He is deeply passionate about deal-driven growth. He is also the creator and host of the DealQuest Podcast.
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