MAU 7 | Having The Right People

 

Having a vision and strategy before undertaking a potential acquisition are key to being successful in the process, not to mention having the right people.  This is what Aaron Stahl insists on when acquiring a business. Aaron got his start in the cost recovery business in 2004 at the age of 22 when he started P3 Waste Consulting. P3 is a national cost reduction franchise that focuses on saving businesses and the government’s money on their waste, telecom, and utility expenses. Switching from a solopreneur running his lifestyle business, Aaron grew the company through the acquisition. He discusses the speed bumps that came up during the sale unrelated to price.

Listen to the podcast here:

Aaron Stahl: The Power Of Having The Right People

Aaron Stahl is the President and CEO of P3 Cost Analysts. P3 is a national cost reduction franchise that focuses on saving businesses and the government’s money on their telecom utility waste expenses. P3’s current structure is the result of a merger and acquisition that Aaron completed in 2014 that brought together two companies focused on different sectors of the cost reduction industry. Aaron is a graduate of the University of Arkansas. He has worked for himself since he was 21, starting, operating, and acquiring several businesses. Aaron is also a proud member of the Eagle Scout family. I imagine that an Eagle Scout training came in handy in that picture where I saw you climbing the volcano in Ecuador at almost 20,000 feet.

That’s right.

Aaron, welcome to the M&A Unplugged podcast. I’m curious, how has your Eagle Scout training prepared you for operating your own businesses?

I appreciate being able to join you. I’m excited. As far as the Eagle Scout training, that was a lifetime ago but it was a big achievement to get inside of the Boy Scouts of America Organization. I have to credit my parents with helping me stick with it. My dad’s an Eagle Scout so as my brother. More than anything, it taught me at a young age to learn to see things through to fruition and stick with it. You learn a lot of life skills in the Boy Scout program. More than anything, it’s becoming a well-rounded individual in life skills and learning how to stick with things and see them through to the end.

It sounds like it gave you a sense of adventure as well. You’re a pilot and you’ve traveled to 40 countries.

I definitely have an intrepid spirit. I love traveling around the world. It’s definitely one of my bigger hobbies. I fancy myself an adventure. I’ve done some fun things in my life. I learn to fly at age eighteen. I became a flight instructor a couple of years ago to teach friends and family how to fly. Any chance I get, I enjoy flying and traveling for sure. In college, I did a study abroad program called Semester at Sea. One of my business partners was on that trip. Six hundred students went on a small cruise ship around the world in 100 days. We stopped at ten different countries and took classes when the ship was en-route between countries. It was an amazing experience. I highly recommend that to anybody with children out there. It’s a lot more affordable than you would think. It’s an incredible experience.

You started your own businesses at 21. Have you ever worked for anybody else?

I’ve had two jobs. One was working on my parents’ farm, feeding the cows and doing odds and end jobs there. In college, I did some manual labor and a buddy of mine. I headed out to Montana for one summer in college. I became a dishwasher on a guest ranch. It was the best worst job I’ve ever had. Other than that, I’ve always been self-employed.

I don’t come across many people that have never worked for anybody else who’ve been entrepreneurs since an early age. I’m interested to hear about your journey and your story. Before we get into that, could you talk a little bit about P3? Talk about the company and what you do now. We’ll wind back to the beginning and talk about the acquisition that you did that now formed what is known as P3 Cost Analysts.

P3 Cost Analysts is a national cost reduction franchise. We focus on saving businesses, small and local government’s money on their telecom utility waste and merchant processing expenses as well. We do it all on a risk-free basis. If we can help our clients save money, we split the savings with them 50/50 each month. If we can’t, there are no fees. It’s a great value proposition and we get out there and talk to C-level executives around the country and offer our services. We’ve got a lot of expertise and brainpower in house and people that have been doing this stuff and auditing in these industries for many years.

MAU 7 | Having The Right People

Having The Right People: When you start chopping the pie up and see the opportunity long term, it’s attractive to want to acquire that strategic partner versus continuing that strategic partnership forever.

 

We have over 100 years of combined expertise on staff. Anytime you have that amount of expertise and you focus on these niche categories, you’re going to find opportunities for saving, whether be it errors, overcharges, etc. That’s the 10,000-foot view of what we do and who we are. We franchised the business. We’re looking to grow that way and scale going forward. We’ve got six franchisees and we’re actively bringing on other franchisees around the country.

You didn’t always operate as a franchise. You were direct to the client. What caused you to go the franchise route?

Previously, the company has started originally P3 Waste Consulting. We had salespeople that we work with and as most business owners know, it’s hard to find good people that can go out and do business development. We were lucky that we found a couple of good ones early on, but it was difficult to scale. As we’ll talk about more, part of this acquisition was acquiring a company that I already figured out that that secret sauce to having a sales force of business partners and affiliates that they worked with. Going forward, it made way more sense to franchise the concept under one brand and grow it that way. That’s how we got to where we’re at now.

What does your ideal client look like? Are you going after SME clients, small business clients or is it mid-market clients? Who’s your ideal client?

Mid-market is certainly where it’s at for us. We don’t want to work with the Fortune 100. There is too much red tape there and it’s not something that we pursued. Not to say that if a friend of ours was a CFO of a big company, we couldn’t help them out and be amazing to work with. As far as ROI on the time, getting out there and getting in front of business owners and C-level executives that can make these decisions quickly to engage our services on a risk-free basis, it’s definitely the mid-market. We also work with small businesses, but I usually tell people, “Anybody bigger than a mom and pop.” We don’t want single locations. We’re looking for multi-locations, high volume, single locations in any industry. We also work with small local governments, whether it be a Sheriff’s Department, a county or a city. Usually, those are smaller markets because of the red tape it involves. We’re looking for counties and cities with 100 or 100,000 people. We could work with the state of Texas or big places like that. It’s all about finding that sweet spot where you get in front of people and get a decision made quickly.

Let’s wind back to the beginning now. How did you get into this business?

In college, I started doing real estate and I caught the entrepreneurial bug at an early age. It was 2003, I convinced my dad to co-sign on some home building loans. I found a guy that knew how to build houses and formed a partnership. I did that for a little while and I saw the writing on the wall with the real estate boom. It snuck up and bit me a little bit, but I knew I wasn’t going to do that forever so I started looking for other business opportunities. There was a company out of Florida at the time that was training people to become experts in the waste industry. There wasn’t anybody doing that in the Midwest and so I bit the bullet.

I bought into that system, got trained and slowly built a book of business and became an expert in the waste and recycling industry, which I still do some of that now. From there, it grew, hired some people, and for a while, it was more of a lifestyle business. In 2014, my business partner bought in, I have three business partners. My employee at the time, I also gave him some shares and he became a partner. Our biggest salesperson bought in. The four of us created a partnership and it’s been going 90 miles an hour since 2014 and adding new services as far as cost reduction categories. We went from waste and recycling to waste recycling, shredding, medical waste. We partnered with the company that we ended up acquiring a few years ago and added telecom and utility consultants. That’s the story in a nutshell.

When you were first introduced into the waste industry, were you a franchisee of that company or were you more an independent contractor and you were building your own book of business?

It was an affiliation. You would pay a fee. They would train you and give you the blueprint of how the business model works. It was the shared savings model that emerged from a single point in time. It seems like it’s a small industry and everybody knows each other. The people that were doing this training, I’ve still got connections with a lot of people that have also done similar training. It was a blueprint and they would teach you the ins and outs of the waste industry and be on hand to support you as you grow your business. They would be available to work together if there was a large partnership opportunity, they would handle those with us. They don’t exist anymore. It’s a complete affiliation and got my foot out the door and started. Now, we’re taking it from there.

You don't just become an expert in the waste industry overnight. Click To Tweet

You use the term lifestyle business. I hear and see that a lot with people that we come across. They’re running the business for their own benefit. There is a switch sometimes that flips and it sounds like it did for you where you decided, “I could build something bigger than a lifestyle business.” What was it that caused you to make that change? That usually comes with a pretty decent investment or at least a pretty decent change in how you do business.

From 2004 when I started it to 2011 before partners bought in, it was a lifestyle business. In the first three years, I was pretty naive. I was only going after Fortune 100 clients, which was silly in hindsight. I went through a period of time where I didn’t have much revenue. I finally realized I needed to start small. I started landing some good accounts and built up a nice revenue. I got to the point where I was candidly making $150,000 and I was the only employee. It wasn’t too difficult to run. I was young and in my twenties. I wanted a free, nomadic lifestyle, which I was able to do. Finally, take some of those vacations and travel that I wanted to.

It was certainly a quintessential lifestyle business for a while. One of my partners, CFO now, I had approached him in 2011 about seeing what the company was worth. He was doing mergers and acquisitions in Dallas for a boutique investment firm. I approached him about that because I wasn’t sure if I wanted to keep doing it forever or sell the business and also I was curious. We talked about it and he approached me about buying the company. I told him, “I’m not going to sell you the company outright. I don’t think that’d be the right thing to do. There is a lot of expertise involved in this. You don’t just become an expert in the waste industry overnight.” He ended up buying in the business and that’s when I gave some shares to the first employee I hired. A sales guy wanted to buy into. Now, we’ve got four partners. It was that inflection point where it went from becoming a lifestyle business to being a real business and what it is now with fifteen employees and 30 total people working together and scaling it from here.

Are all the partners still actively involved in the business?

They are. One of the partners is a franchisee. He’s not on the payroll, but he’s still active. He’s the one that referred me to Strategic Coach, which is how you and I met. He’s active but he’s not on the payroll. He chips in and helps out, thinks big and inspires us when he can.

How did it cause you to run the business differently at that point in time? Things start to change. You’re taking investors in. I’m assuming people paid in to become an investor. Now you’ve got to run the business differently. It’s not solely for your benefit. What change did you have to make as the owner of that business to make that transition?

It was night and day for me. I’m not sure necessarily if my partners noticed the difference but for me, it was a massive change because if things went belly up, it was on me. I live a pretty conservative lifestyle. I was never right behind paying the bills or anything. It didn’t keep me up at night. As far as the success in the business because I didn’t have a whole lot of people relying on me. Once they bought in, it was night and day. I realized, “I’ve got people that depend on me. They need to see a good ROI on their investment and their time.”

As we’ve grown and added more employees, a lot of people depend on the success of the business. It’s changed dramatically in that regard, but it’s changed for the better. We’ve created a real business versus one that is a lifestyle business. There is a lot of wealth that can be created there, job opportunities for employees and saving money for our clients around the country. The more we get the message out, the more people we help. It’s been a net positive, but it certainly has been a big change in the amount of work that I do and the way that I work.

You touched on a key takeaway for the M&A Unplugged community. There are a lot of owners out there that are running nice businesses. They’re getting a nice living from it, but there is a big difference between running a lifestyle business and switching to a business where you’ve got real infrastructure. The value of your business will go up exponentially, but it requires no additional investment. You’re going to have to run the business differently and maybe take in partners as Aaron did. If you want real value somewhere down the road, changing from a lifestyle business to something that’s got real scale and infrastructure matters.

It seems to be the cool thing to do these days to take on investor money, angel investors, series-A round, or all that stuff. I would tell people to think seriously about what you want because it does change fundamentally. If you have a lifestyle business that’s working, maybe hold onto it. If it’s not working, that’s a good time to sell to somebody that can roll you up into a real business and something that they’re trying to grow into a bigger thing. It is a big decision and one that people should take their time. It’s a point where I feel that people should maybe think about selling honestly. They either sell or grow, but there is a big decision to be made at that point.

MAU 7 | Having The Right People

Having The Right People: When you’re buying a business and spending a lot of money, you can do all the due diligence that you want.

 

Let’s switch over to you’re running this business, things are going well and you’re growing. You decide that a potential acquisition is the right way to go to build the business and take it to the next level. Talk about when you first started thinking that an acquisition was the way to do that. Also, talk about what plans you started to put in place. What was the overall strategy that you put together to do the acquisition?

We started working with the company that we acquired a few years ago. Once we started working with them, we realize the opportunity in the telecom utility industry. There is a lot of money to save clients out there. We worked with them for about a year and had a few good accounts that we were splitting with the company we were partnering with, the company we ended up acquiring. When you start chopping the pie up and you see the opportunity long-term, it makes it attractive to want to acquire that strategic partner versus continuing that strategic partnership forever.

Furthermore, we offer waste and recycling consulting services. Before we did the acquisition, that was our piece. Whereas the telecom and utility piece was the company we were partnering with at the time. We thought there was a big opportunity to roll out the waste consulting piece to that strategic partner and their network of affiliates that we’re bringing in deals around the country. The problem was we would have to chop the pie up in many ways. It was impossible to roll that out. It wasn’t attractive enough to do that between the parties and the only way to implement that would have been to make this acquisition.

There were several almost arbitrage pieces in place that made it an attractive decision to pursue the acquisition. We were at that North Carolina office of the company we ended up acquiring and working with them. It all started to dawn on me that we needed to pursue this. I talked it over with the partners. We were wondering if the seller who we ended up selling would be interested. We approached him and went from there.

Was he receptive to the idea at first?

He was. This was honestly his first acquisition. I ran several businesses. Colby, one of my partners, he’d been in the mergers and acquisitions industry but none of us on the team ever approached another business center about selling. It’s not as hard in some ways as it sounds. We ask, “Would you be interested in selling? There are a lot of opportunities here.” I communicated the vision that I wanted for us working together and kept it simple. He was interested and he even had a premonition that 2018 might be the year that he would sell his business. He knew that it would always have to be from somebody that he was already strategically aligned with because it’s not necessarily a business that everybody is out there looking to acquire.

Could you share a little bit about what your vision was? What was the vision that you articulated to him and how did that match up to what his objectives were?

At the time, he didn’t have any of his children involved in the business. I knew the legacy of the industry was important to him. He’d been doing it since 1991. He was successful and passionate about saving businesses money on these expense categories and the expertise and the help desk that they provided. I’ll let him know that our goals were aligned there. We want to carry on that legacy and expand on it and make sure that as many people around the country get the services that they need in this regard. Furthermore, he wasn’t super old but I knew at some point he had to be looking at an exit strategy.

He enjoys business development and the sales side of the business. That’s what he’s good at, but whereas he’s running the day-to-day, doing the finances, payroll, HR, and all that stuff that a lot of business owners struggle with. We knew that wasn’t his strength, nor what he enjoyed doing. I communicated the fact that we’re going to expand on his legacy. We can work this deal to where he can get back to doing business development and continue to earn some revenue there and have it become eventually more of a lifestyle for him that he can also see his legacy carry on and still make a nice chunk of change on the sale as well.

Has he stayed on after the acquisition?

Think seriously about what you actually want because it does change fundamentally. Click To Tweet

He’s an active role. He’s one of the executive officers in the company and the co-founder of the business. He’s stayed on and become a franchisee himself and handles all the franchise support and training. People get to learn from someone who knows their way around the industry. We don’t know how long he’ll stay on. Hopefully, a long time because he’s good. If he wants to do the franchise stuff completely, that’s totally fine too. It’s been a great transition. I couldn’t have planned it any better.

You talked about something that’s important. You went in articulating your vision, but you also went in knowing what was important to that owner. They cared about their legacy. They did want to see what they built just go away. You went in a respectful way and communicated that. I tell people this all the time and for the people reading, this is important. If you’re going in to make an acquisition, you have to put yourself in the seat of that owner and understand what’s important to them. What’s their motivation for selling? Everybody wants to get the highest dollars, but there are many other things that are important.

Legacy is typically one of those things that matter. Articulating to the owner of the business how you’re going to carry on their legacy is going to resonate with them. It’s important to pay attention to that. It’s a key takeaway there. Let’s talk about the actual transaction now. You approached the owner and he’s interested. What transpired from there? How did the deal unfold? How did you ultimately get to a point where you all could agree on price and terms? Were there any advisers involved along the way?

It was an interesting process. Mainly because it was our first time doing it and we didn’t have any advisors. We didn’t have any business brokers doing it. That’s one thing that I’ve learned as a result of doing this. I would absolutely employ the help of a broker the next time we did it or do it for a lot of reasons we’ll get to, but we did it ourselves. Colby had a lot of experience crunching numbers and doing the EBITDA on the multiples and all the stuff that goes into figuring out what a fair price should be. He had experience in that regard.

As far as massaging the deal and working through those delicate questions and problems that can come up, we had to handle those head-on directly with the seller, which is an area that the business broker can bring a ton of value. That got difficult at times but from the get-go, we keep it conversational and say, “How much is the business doing?” We had to get profitability numbers on a nondisclosure agreement, get all the numbers that we could before we can make an offer. We made an offer and went back and forth quite a few times. Eventually, we settled on a number and went through a further due diligence phase from there.

Was it hard to get to an agreement on the number? Was there a fair amount of back and forth there? Talk a little bit about getting on the same page in regard to the numbers.

We made an initial offer and I don’t think we were too far off in what the final offer was. We looked at the seller’s discretionary earnings and factored in what we would have to pay this particular person to help run the business to get to a true net number. We thought about what multiple was fair of that number to pay. It was based on what we thought was fair. We didn’t have a lot of comps. It wasn’t a huge business. It was between $1 million to $2 million on the acquisition side even paying a multiple. I don’t know if many acquisitions are based on a multiple of that size, but we felt comfortable with it. We thought there were a lot of opportunities so that’s what we went forward. We ended up pretty close to the number that we started with.

Did the owner have anybody advising them? How did they get comfortable with the numbers that you were throwing out?

They had a business attorney that had done several mergers and acquisitions but certainly not a broker or anybody like that.

That attorney was adept at mergers and acquisitions and had a sense of transactions in this industry. It sounds like they were able to provide some guidance at least.

MAU 7 | Having The Right People

Having The Right People: Every little change that you bestow upon employees is hard, regardless of how small or how easy you think it is. As little as you can do there, the better.

 

I haven’t talked to the seller about the specifics. From my understanding, he was more of an attorney. He knew how to put the paperwork together and how to do an asset sale, etc. I don’t think he had any experience valuing businesses in this niche by any means. This is a deal where it would have been hard to find a lot of comparable or comps. We had to come up with a price that we all thought was fair, just old-fashioned free-market style.

You’ve got to an agreement. You did hit some speed bumps on issues that were unrelated to price that got a little sticky. Can you talk a little bit about that? What phase did those issues start to pop up?

As far as what phase, it was probably halfway through. Once we agreed on a price, we always had talked from the beginning to set the expectation that some of this was going to be upfront and some of it was going to be an earn-out. We all weren’t comfortable paying 100% of the price upfront. I wouldn’t recommend anybody do that. We ended up paying a pretty fair portion upfront. About 70% of the money was upfront and the rest was structured in an earn-out over several years. The sticking points were trying to figure out how to structure that earn-out to where it was fair and measurable because little nuances, words, and descriptions in a contract can cause major issues down the road.

Fortunately, the seller was astute and worked with us directly to make sure that we didn’t have any misunderstandings down there. Going back and forth and trying to define what was fair for everybody was a big deal and took some time. Also, he was concerned about his employees as it should be. They’re great employees and we wanted to make them comfortable and retain them. We talked a lot about that and how to structure that. The last thing was the employment agreement. He was going to stay on running the office in an executive position. We had to talk about what those duties were and what that looked like, salary, etc. It took a while to work through all those numbers, but we got there.

Were you doing that directly with the owner or was that between attorney and attorney? My experience is when the principals have to have those conversations, it can get uncomfortable. The goodwill that gets built up early on in a transaction can quickly evaporate if people are at odds on some of those terms. The devil’s in the details, especially when it comes to earn-outs. For people in the M&A community who are not familiar with earn-outs and earn-out, it’s a portion of the sale price paid in the future based on something happening like some milestones being achieved, revenue number being achieved, retention of a client. It could be on any number of things, but the payment essentially is something that’s going to come in the future. Earn-outs are fraught with a lot of challenges because if they’re not worded properly, you could wind up with some significant litigation issues and disputes later on. You want to avoid those. They’re not the easiest of instruments to negotiate. Aaron, back to the question, which was you had these negotiations directly or through attorneys. How sticky did it get?

We had those negotiations directly one-on-one with the seller and my CFO. You’re right, it did get a little difficult and awkward at times. That’s one of the reasons I would recommend everybody to employ a business broker. That level of insulation that you have between buyer and seller helps keep the warm and fuzzies and the goodwill intact. We didn’t lose that. We good people on both sides of this transaction. It wasn’t an issue ultimately, but there were certainly sticking points along the way. You can feel the awkwardness and the tension that didn’t have to be there if we had used a third-party intermediary. I definitely learned the value of that, not to plug your industry but there is a reason it exists and it’s valuable.

We had to do it all head-on and try to get it to where it was fair for everybody. We ended up getting there but it took a lot longer than it needed to and it wasn’t as easy as it needed to be. It certainly felt like a roller coaster at times probably for both sides of the transaction where it was deal-on and deal-off type of mindset. It ended up working out great. I would tell people to hire a business broker and make sure that people that you’re acquiring or going into business with were good people because you’re going to make many mistakes. It’s not even funny. At the end of the day, if you can fall back on the fact that you truly are acquiring a good business with good people behind it, it’s going to gloss over 90% of those mistakes.

We certainly don’t want this to be a commercial about us, but I tell people to have good advisors across the board, and it’s not just firms like ours. M&A accountants, M&A attorneys and people who understand transactions are critical. The broader point is well-taken. Aaron, anything else in the diligence or closing phase that you think are key takeaways that you’d like to share? If not, what I’d like to do is move to post-closing integration and merging the two together and the challenges and opportunities with all of that.

We can move on. If I think of something, I’ll add to it later.

Let’s talk about integration. How did it go? What were the unexpected challenges? What were maybe some of the unexpected advantages and things that you hadn’t seen that worked out well for you?

The little nuances, words, and descriptions in a contract can cause major issues down the road. Click To Tweet

It’s been an interesting process and a learning process since we completed the transaction. Looking back on it, when you’re buying a business and spending a lot of money, you can do all the due diligence that you want and you can have worked with these people for years but there is still clearly a lot of risks involved. You have to hold your nose and go for it. Once you’ve done all you can as far as your due diligence is concerned. Once we pulled the trigger and did the transaction, we got in there and started working on the integration. The biggest thing that I learned as far as the difficulty is the systems differences between the organizations.

I didn’t have a full appreciation for how big of a deal that can be. The company we acquired had great systems in place, but they were systems that weren’t going to scale or work with multiple offices, multiple services, franchisees, etc. We had to get in there and a lot of ways we did. That took a long time. Every little change that you’d bestow upon employees is hard regardless of how small it is and how easy you think it is. As little as you can do there, the better but you still have to make those changes in order to move forward. That’s been eye-opening for me. I think it’s been difficult and stressful for the employees at times, but they’ve had a great attitude and have done well.

That goes back to point number one, make sure you’re buying a business with good people because the wheels can fall off in a number of ways. If you have a shady seller or bad character anywhere in the organization, it’s not going to go well. That was a big thing that I noticed. It was the systems and a little change can wear on people. You have to be careful there. As far as net positive, it was the people involved. The culture was great. Everybody’s positive. They all work hard. We didn’t have any slackers. We got lucky that we have good people. That definitely made everything easier for us.

Were you able to keep most of the people in the acquisition?

We did. We retained everybody post-acquisition and we made that a priority. In fact, in the deal itself, we made sure that the seller knew that this was part of it. We needed to retain the employees. We talked to the employees directly quickly after it was official. We told them how important they were and how we wanted to keep them and even put some financial carrots out there to make sure that they stayed on board. That’s about communication and making sure people know that nothing’s going to change as far as their job’s concerned. We want them to be here. We’re making sure that they’re comfortable with that.

That’s the right way to handle that. I tell people all the time that people are important in this. They’re probably the most important. Clients are important without a doubt and the service and the product are important but the people that have the knowledge and had been there and doing it, making sure that they are taken care of and come along, ensures the success of any acquisition or merger. You make the acquisition. You’ve got some challenges in integration. You’ve got some time now behind you. Is the original vision that you had laid out starting to come to fruition for you?

Absolutely. The company that we acquired had an affiliate program that they’d been doing for a decade. They’re bringing in affiliates all over the country to expand on the business model so they could go out and market to more businesses. Our company now would provide the backend expertise to deliver on those results. That was a great model and it worked out well for the seller for a while and helped him grow but it wasn’t scalable long-term for multiple operational reasons. The vision that we had, we discussed this with the seller during the transaction, was we wanted to franchise the concept and bring it all under one brand and grow it from there. We’ve been moving forward on that since day one and we franchised that at the end of 2018. We’ve got six franchisees and we’re looking to grow from there. Hopefully several hundred over the next several years.

Congratulations.

Thanks. It’s working out. We’ve gotten lucky.

It sounds like potentially there may be some other acquisitions in your future. You referenced it there earlier. Tell me and tell the M&A Unplugged community, if you were to go down this path a second time and if you were to take one big takeaway that you could share with everybody else and something that you’ll use in future acquisitions, what would that be?

MAU 7 | Having The Right People

Having The Right People: How to Win Friends and Influence People

We’re absolutely interested in future acquisitions. There are plenty of cost reduction categories out there. We’re actively looking at acquiring the expertise to help our franchisees and affiliates be able to make more money. That’s definitely one of the areas that we’re looking to do acquisitions in. The takeaway that I have is we’ll employ the services of a business broker. My CFOs capable and does well, more than capable as far as valuing businesses and understanding the finances. As far as that insulation between buyer and seller and going out there and sourcing deal, that’s an entire industry and career in and of itself. We don’t need to try to do that again. That was a good learning process, but I would definitely recommend that people don’t try to go in alone. It’s not worth it. That would be my key takeaway.

Thank you for that and congratulations on having a successful transaction, getting through the integration and now fulfilling and seeing your vision come to fruition. One last question before I ask you to share your contact details. Do you have any favorite business books that you’ve read? It doesn’t have to be recent, but at any point in time that left an impression on you. It doesn’t need to need to be a business book, but any book that you’ve read that’s left a big impression on you.

I’ve got a couple of things that I’ll leave your audience with. I’m sure everybody’s heard of or at least most people that do business have read this book. It’s How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. It’s one of the best books ever written. It’s also one of the worst titles ever written. You feel like a loser reading that in public. People think you might not have friends but it’s an amazing book and I tried to read it once a year to help me continue to deal with people in my life. Whether it be employees or friends and be a good person and a good human being. There are many amazing lessons in that book. It’s reading number one for anybody and certainly business executives and employees.

I enjoy the podcast, Built to Sell Radio. There’s a dearth of information out there on the acquisition front for both buying and selling. Your podcast is doing a great service to people and the Built to Sell Radio. Those podcasts are interesting because they’re almost all from the seller side. It’s fascinating to hear all the different reasons why people like to sell. They also get into good detail about why they structured an earn-out, how they structured an earn-out, how it worked out post-transaction. You can hear the emotions that the sellers have and understand what they’re going through and what they’re going to go through both during the transaction and post-transaction. Listening to that and understanding that will lend itself to helping you have a better outcome on your deal.

That’s awesome advice. It’s funny you mentioned How to Win Friends and Influence People. I was a guest on a podcast, Breakaway Wealth and they asked the same question. That was a book that I gave. I read that on my 24th birthday. I’ve always told people that 24th was the birthday that had an effect on me more than anything else. I’ve never had a birthday that’s had any impact on me other than my 24th. I happened to read that book on my 24th birthday cover to cover and it changed the trajectory of my life at that point in time and went on to do some different things. It changed everything. I recommend that book. Aaron, thank you so much for being our guest. If people would like to get in touch with you in regard to P3, maybe becoming a franchisee or in general, they want to get in touch with you to understand about cost reduction more, how can they reach you?

The easiest way to be a fire me an email at [email protected]. I’m not big on Twitter or anything else. That’s probably the easiest way to get me.

Thank you. For the M&A Unplugged community, let me summarize a few of the key takeaways that Aaron shared with us. One, if you noticed, he talked about having a vision before he went into his acquisition. We talk about this with all of our clients. It’s important to have your vision and strategy. What do you want to accomplish? I read an article this morning about Amazon and Jeff Bezos and how he makes all of his people write a press release well into the future about an initiative or a business or whatever they want to do. They would write that press release as though it’s been a success. This falls in line. You need to know what your end game is before you undertake a potential acquisition. He also talked about understanding the seller’s motivations and taking care of their legacy.

They’ve built this business over many years and if they’re not passing it on to the next generation, that matters to people. They want to know that their company, their clients, their employees are going to be taken care of. If you go in understanding that and communicating that to owners, you’re going to build the goodwill that’s so necessary for getting transactions done. I also mentioned how difficult it is to negotiate directly with owners and having intermediaries in the middle to shield and buffer what can happen in a negotiation. We’ve seen some where that’s happened and the deals have fallen apart because the issues have gotten sticky. It’s eroded all the goodwill and now there is not a transaction to be done. Aaron also talked a little bit about integration and some surprises that he was hit with. We tell people the time to start planning your integration is the day you decide that you’re going to make an acquisition.

Start thinking through what are all of the integration issues that are going to come up? What are the phases of integration? Do you have the internal resources to handle integration or do you need to bring in external expertise to help you along the way? The last key takeaway that Aaron shared and I can’t stress how important this is, it’s the people. People in my view are the most important asset that you’re acquiring when you acquire a business. That’s not to diminish the value of clients and the product or the service that’s been built but people make it tick. Unless you have a plan for the people and you take care of the people, the value of your acquisition is going to decrease. Have a good solid plan around the people.

I want to thank Aaron for being a guest of the show. If you would like to learn more about the process of acquiring or selling a business, please visit our website. It’s SunAcquisitions.com or feel free to reach out to me at [email protected]. I look forward to seeing you again on the next episode of the M&A Unplugged podcast. Until then, please remember that scaling, acquiring or selling a business takes time, preparation and the proper knowledge.

Important Links:

About Aaron Stahl

MAU 7 | Having The Right PeopleAaron got his start in the cost recovery business in 2004 at the age of 22 when he started P3 Waste Consulting. After helping numerous clients save money on their waste expenses the business grew from there to become what it is today. Aaron is an expert in the waste and recycling industry and has been the CEO/President of P3 since the beginning. Aaron splits time between the Northwest Arkansas office, Greensboro, North Carolina office and New York City.

In his spare time he enjoys flying airplanes and is an instrument-rated pilot and certified flight instructor. He also enjoys traveling abroad, hunting, hiking, mountain biking and attempts to surf whenever possible. He is an Eagle Scout, avid Arkansas Razorbacks fan and holds a degree in small business/finance from the University of Arkansas.

 

Love the show? Subscribe, rate, review, and share!
Join the M&A Unplugged Community today: