In today’s modern world, technology becomes an integral factor of business whatever industry you may be in. Finding that perfect synergy between sellers and buyers before and during acquisition can be critical in ensuring success afterward. Founder of Leeward Business Advisors, Michael Polzin, talks with host Domenic Rinaldi about what it took him to take a leap of faith in starting his own business. Sharing the details of how his thought process when he dealt with his first acquisition that ultimately resulted in evolving his business, he instills the importance of customer service, and, even more, the importance of being consistent with your service in the grand scheme of growing together with your customers.
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Michael Polzin: Synergies Of Sellers And Buyers
Who doesn’t like to meet an entrepreneur that is as passionate about his business as he is about giving back? My guest in this episode, Michael Polzin, is the epitome of a socially responsible entrepreneur. As the owner and managing partner of Leeward Business Advisors, Michael is giving back to his community while overseeing a business that is rapidly growing. It’s nice to see good things happening for good people.
Michael and Leeward are involved with programs like Start IT, which creates IT career pathways for disadvantaged youth. He’s also a board member of Junior Achievement and these are a few of the many ways Michael and Leeward have made a difference in their community. Michael founded Leeward in 2014 with two other partners with the goal of bringing quality information technology services to the small and middle-market businesses. Over that time, Leeward has grown to nearly 30 employees supporting thousands of end-users. Congratulations, Michael.
Thank you, Domenic.
Part of this growth was the result of an acquisition that Leeward made of a small IT managed services company. Before starting Leeward business advisors, Michael honed his IT skills and his business philosophies while working for companies such as All State Insurance and Microsoft. After a while, Michael felt the tug to build his own business and help clients in a uniquely different way. Michael, welcome to M&A Unplugged. First, kudos to you for giving back to your community in such a meaningful way. I read a bunch of articles and stories. You guys are doing it in a different way than most others. I read some of those stories and you can’t help but love to hear that.
Thank you. I appreciate it. It’s a big part of our culture and a big part of our mission. Part of it is giving back and being present in our community. It does great things for us in terms of being able to bring more diversity into the industry of technology.
When you started the business, was that your basic tenet that you were going to give back or was that something that happened as you started to build the business?
It’s one of those innate passions to be connected and work with youth and provide opportunities. As we started to expand the business platform and having the luxury of being able to go out and spend our time philanthropically, it caught and escalated from there. We were fortunate to form a pretty early partnership with one of the local schools here in our area. That laid the pathway to grow and expand our engagement from there.
You started Leeward with two partners. Did you have some customers that you were able to start the business with or did you start with a clean slate and go out and try to win some business? How did you form the business?
We were in a unique position where we had some in progress relationships, no confirmed or committed business but definitely some high probability prospects that we had been speaking with. Fortunately, the bet paid off and they came on board as customers pretty quickly within 2.5 weeks. We had our first full-time employee. We had them on assignment full-time and we have been growing on a revenue redirected investment ever since.
Had you all left your previous careers and started this or did you germinate the business knowing that you had some clients and leave your corporate careers to do this?
It was a pretty close time, but it was more of a leap of faith than it was a smooth transition. I’ll tell the story of at the time my garage was too messy. We didn’t have one of those great IT startup garage stories. We sat around my dining room table, hammered out a business plan, took a step back and looked at what the opportunity was. We assess the risks a little bit but not too much. It’s a fine line between entrepreneurs being bold and being crazy. We took the step forward and it came together quickly.
We always say, “It takes a little bit of cowboy or cowgirl to be an entrepreneur and business owner.” You’re the second interview that I’m going to have of people taking a leap of faith. They left what they were doing. They had a vision and started the business. That’s not an easy thing to do. There are responsibilities out there and things to do. Kudos to you.
How has Leeward changed from the formation? You sat down, you had the drawing board and decided you were going to provide IT services. What happened over the course of that time? How have things changed to where you are now? Tell us, where exactly are you now?Financial statements don’t always tell the whole story. Click To Tweet
There are a couple of things. One is continued business growth. We grow on both the segments of our customer market. We have a number of small business customers and we have a number of much larger enterprise-scale business customers. We’re seeing growth in both of those areas. Our services continue to grow and mature as we listen closely and partner with our customers to understand their needs. Internally, as we’ve grown revenue and have growth opportunities, we’ve scaled up our staff to focus on promoting from within. We went from three of us doing everything to having a service desk manager, a full-time project manager and full-fledged back office that does our billing and accounting. It’s started to cross that precipice from small business to a full-fledged enterprise and growing from there. We’re just shy of about 30 employees and continuing to add a few hundred customers and a few thousands of various users across those customers and devices that we support and manage every day.
When did you first decide that doing an acquisition was going to be a way for you to grow the business?
Going into forming Leeward, my prior experience is in the larger Fortune 500 enterprise space and working for companies like Microsoft and All State. When I got the itch to be entrepreneurial within my own career path, I started to look into the mid-market space. That’s where we focused when forming Leeward. As we started to learn the market at this level a little more, we thought, “What does the small business side of the mid-market look like?” That’s when we decided as opposed to trying to go out there and directly doing the heavy lifting and building up a sales team to focus on knocking on all those small business doors. We surveyed the market. That’s where we came to meet you and find opportunities to acquire a similar style provider that had a focus on the small business. That’s where we’re trying to learn what that segment of the market would look like to us.
Were all the partners at that point in time on board with doing an acquisition or were there differing opinions?
We were well-aligned. We saw the success we were getting in the mid-market space. There’s a big blue ocean of small businesses out there and we thought, “Let’s figure out how to scale this?” Being a technology provider, we see every business is dependent on their technology. Cybersecurity and cyber threats continue to grow as a concern. Especially the smaller the business, the less budget there is to manage those things appropriately and that’s our strength. We come in scaled-down and be able to still provide that enterprise business-class security service and technology. We were aligned with that acquisition. It was going to be a great way to get our foot into that market quickly.
We see many small businesses challenged with how they’re managing their IT. They can’t afford those resources internally and sometimes going outside could be expensive. I could see where that made a lot of sense. What was the strategy? Do you have a strategy and goals set for an acquisition? Did you go in into this saying, “We’re going to acquire something and here’s what we’re looking for. Here’s the profile of what we’re looking for. Here are our goals and objectives of this acquisition?”
We did, but not too complex though. We wanted to focus on recognizing there was a lot of small IT providers out there that are 1 or 2 person shops. At some point, those individuals reach a stage in life where if they’ve not grown up big enough to have it carry on without them, they’re going to look to sell and exit as part of their path to retirement. What we were looking for is somebody that was established, had a good customer base and was looking to exit not because of a downturn or a business challenge but was looking to exit more from a retirement strategy.
Do you remember how many companies you looked at once you started to get out in there in the market? What exactly did you do to find these companies?
A few web searches here and there, asking around the network and few that we had seen come across our desk that we engage directly. In total, we probably looked at around fifteen. We had one before the acquisition we made that we were interested in and serious about. We got quite a way down the process. Unfortunately, up the second or third round of meetings and diligence review, we came to the understanding that the current owner wasn’t wanting to exit and was looking for a financial bailout. They’d run into some hard times and lost some of their bigger customer. At that point, it was clear it was going to be a recovery effort and not a smooth acquisition. We backed away from that deal and learned a lot from the conversations and the insights. That’s when we came across Sun Acquisitions and started talking about some opportunities we saw there. One thing led to another and we got the right introduction.
How did you come to realize that that owner wasn’t motivated to sell the business? Did he come out and say it or did you deduce from the conversations that he wasn’t motivated to sell and he was desperate?
He came from starting to immediately think about that owner as a future employee. He essentially interviewing as you would for an employee, talking about goals, aspirations, what he expected the future to be, what role he was hoping to retain and how you would carry what he’s done in the past forward. We started picking up on some little hints, insights and shifts in body language. It started becoming clear that his interest was not participating in the business but having somebody take care of it and him and make up for the mistakes that have led to where they were.
We talk about motivation being such an important piece of a transaction. Is the seller motivated and also, is the buyer motivated? Without that being present for both parties, it’s difficult to get a good transaction done. You talked about some other things that you and your partners learned in that first false start transaction. What other things did you learn from going down that path that ultimately helped you with the transaction that you did?
One was definitely to spend ample time with the ownership of any organization you’re looking to acquire. Another thing we learned that unfortunately we had to learn a second time because we weren’t quite able to execute with the acquisition we did, is it’s important at least in our business being service focused to get some time with the key customers. That can be a difficult line to cross when you’re in M&A and a nondisclosure trying to keep things managed. There are definitely different perceptions between how a company feels or thinks they’re servicing their customers and how those customers feel they’re being managed, serviced and worked with. That was something we were trying to get more insight into on the first acquisition attempt and couldn’t and unfortunately, we also didn’t get as much insight as we hoped to or thought we had on the acquisition that we did execute.
What do you think you could have done differently there? I’ve been doing this for a long time and most owners talking to a key client is the third rail in a transaction. Nobody wants a potential acquirer to have access to their key clients because they don’t want them to know the business is maybe going to be sold. In that stage and diligence, it’s still a maybe. There’s still a lot to be done. In hindsight, what do you think could have been possible there?Consistency in customer experience matters. Click To Tweet
Some are more focus on our part in documenting the transactions in some specific performance expectations and goals. As well as perhaps better documenting our understanding/assumptions of some of the services that the other provider was performing and how well they were performing them. Also, tying that into some type of clawback or some other type of financial bonus system to make sure that if things did not come through the way they were discussed, there would be some leverage to decrease the expense of the acquisition or to possibly even backout or reverse the acquisition if those assumptions or expectations were not delivered on.
You’re getting to some complexities in a transaction that when you start to talk about performance, there are lots of ways to get there. Let’s put that to the side for a second, because we’ll get there when we talk about the actual transaction that you did. You looked at fifteen companies. That’s a lot of companies to look at. Were half of them interesting to you or three of them interesting to you? What was your experience in looking at that many companies?
Out of the fifteen that we looked at, 4 or 5 had good plausibility factors. They were in our geography. They were serving the small business scope or segment that we were looking for. They seem to have at least publicly faced, a good track record and good notoriety. From there it came down to which ones we thought were exiting more for retirement strategy versus clearly as we dug in were in trouble. Out of the five, we quickly cleared three off the deck and got down to the two, the one that we didn’t execute on and the one we did.
Let’s talk about the one that you ultimately went down the path with. What was it on the surface that interested you? What made that opportunity rise to the level which you thought, “This could be the one for us to integrate into the business?”
One owner was clearly already executing an early retirement and was trying to back away from the business. The owner struggled to find employees to come in and replace him so we had a team of employees ready to go and ready to serve us. That seemed like an easy win. The next factor was it was the exact segment of customers that we were looking for as we talked about typical customer, customer size, customer longevity and a good fit. Also, this is a little bit more deep into our industry domain. We are what we call a managed service provider. What that equates to is we take our knowledge, team, expertise. We import it into our customers and help to proactively manage their technology as well as service those that have support needs. We keep everything humming along on a proactive basis.
This acquisition target was trying to transition from more of a legacy break-fix or we’d call it the plumber IT model where you have to call them when it’s broken and they’re not around if it’s working and not necessarily maintaining it. It’s trying to make that transition into a proactively managed service space. We had already figured that out quite a while ago. We thought this could be perfect because it’s that segment of customers we’re looking to acquire, is following the legacy model but looking to make that transition to the new model. We thought we’d be able to get in there and bring our services to that customer segment and see that the customer segment escalates in revenue and profitability.
Ultimately, were you able to make that transition happen? That’s the perfect model. You described it perfectly. The plumber model break-fix. Can you be more of a partner to those clients and be there day in and day out and help them grow their businesses?
The answer is yes and no. For a number of the customers, absolutely. We were able to transition them into an advanced service model, but there was definitely a segment of the customers that we came to find out that the way they were being managed on was what we call in our industry, IT Heroism. They didn’t much have a good sense of the value they got from the services, but they had a good one-on-one relationship with the prior owner. Their affinity to the business was an affinity to the individual not because they had a clear understanding of what they were getting versus what they were paid. As we worked to move them into more of a team-based support model and more proactive services, that was far more of a whiplash moment for them than we had ever anticipated. The value would be lost to continue to service them in that legacy model and not gain that economy of scale by moving them forward into our model.
You gave the M&A Unplugged podcast community a real nugget here. If you’re a seller or a buyer reading this, we talk all the time about if the seller is the business, that presents a tremendous amount of risk in a transaction. If you’re the owner of a business, you need to understand that buyers are going to be concerned about that. Buyers, you need to be understanding in your diligence if you’re going down the path of looking at an acquisition, how close is that seller to the clients? Are they in the relationship? There are ways to mitigate those risks, but you need to all be aware of that. That is a key piece of any transaction. Michael, thanks for bringing that up. Am I correct in saying that you’d never done an acquisition before? This was your first time doing this.
I’ve personally been a party to a number of complex M&A activities. As we were business advisors, we help our customers quite frequently on the technology side of M&A, but this was the first experience with Leeward Business Advisors going out and making an acquisition.
What else did you not know that you learned along the way or in hindsight came to realize as you had the transaction in your rearview mirror?
It’s looking at as much data as possible. We certainly had the financials and did all the diligence there. Those numbers were all valid. There were no issues with the financial data as it was presented as it was. However, financial statements don’t always tell the whole story. They may speak to the profit and cashflow but that doesn’t necessarily always speak to stability. It doesn’t always necessarily speak to future value or longevity. For that, we wish we could have more insight into the business operations. Being in the technology support world, there are transactions between the customers and phone calls for support. That data was not documented to the level of detail that we would have liked by the prior provider. A lot of it was much of high-level communications that were captured. It was difficult to truly get a database view of the quantity and quality of service that this provider was executing to provide to the customers.
Can you be a little more specific? What exactly would you have been looking for that could have given you more information or better information?
In our world, when a customer engages for a service need, as business advisors, we document that entire transaction so we know who called and why they called. We’re capturing all the notes or dialogues between our support resources and the customer. We can see timelines, follow-ups, all the actions and activities that our team performs to service that customer. What this prior provider was doing in their support model was taking the phone call, get in the car, going out to the customer, doing whatever it is that they did, jiggling cables, popping out hard drives, whatever it may be. Anywhere from a few hours to a few days later, coming back to their office, putting these notes into their service system, then issuing an invoice. By the time those notes were put in the service system, they were grossly summarized and simplified. They didn’t reflect the work that was or was not done when the owner himself was onsite doing the work.It’s easier to grow your business with your customers than it is to go out and get new business. Click To Tweet
A layman’s way to say it in IT terms is we got the CliffsNotes version of the business data. They didn’t have the full level of verbosity that we produce when we service our customers. What looked like a pretty good service transaction in their system had been in our system, we would have seen much more detail. We would have seen some issues, delays and some deficiencies in service quality that would have put up some more red flags and maybe drove us to another round of diligence before completing the transaction.
In hindsight, if that information would have been there, would you have had as much of an opportunity with these clients going forward to create? If those were all documented, could you have had the upside that you have now with those clients? Would it have been better or worse?
What we would have done if we had the insight into that data is probably bifurcated or split-up on how we service those customers. We would have identified those that were ready for a more mature managed service model and continued to work on transition with them. Those that are not ready and needed more of that plumber, break-fix, jump in the car and go do it model. We would have had a different team of our staff service and support them following that legacy approach for at least a while longer while we then continue to work on a different plan and strategy to see if we could transition them into a higher profit and valuable approach of managed services.
That makes total sense. I can understand that completely. One of the things that we talk to clients about all the time is there’s no perfect business. It doesn’t exist. I’ve been here for a long time and I’ve never seen it. I don’t think I ever will. Some of these blemishes are the upside and the opportunity for the new owner. It’s a balancing act. Is there a good enough foundation there that you can move forward and make enhancements or is there something broken and it’s a house of cards? Let’s stick with the transaction for a moment, and then I want to get to integration what evolved from this acquisition. You’re in the middle of the transaction. Were there any surprises or anything roadblocks that you hit along the way that would be good to share with the audience?
From a transaction perspective, things went pretty smoothly. We were able to fund and line up residual financing that we needed quite readily. The financial review aspect was smooth and all of that played out quite well. There was a little bit of a transitional hiccup. The other provider and their company had a part-time resource doing billing and invoicing. She was at arm’s length and hands-off so it took a little bit longer to do knowledge transition there because the owner himself didn’t know how they were invoicing. We didn’t find out until after the deal closed. We went to do that portion of knowledge transfer. That was a miss on our part. It would have been better understood before we signed the paperwork. As far as the actual transaction itself, it was pretty smooth.
The one thing that we did learn that was counter to our strategy, as I mentioned, we’re looking for companies where the owner was looking to exit primarily for retirement opportunity, was either we underestimated or the seller understated was how quickly they were ready to be done. Whereas we had an agreement and intent for that individual to continue with us for a much more considerable amount of time to help ease the transition of the customer base through the different service models. That didn’t quite play out. We quickly saw some disengagement and disinterest. Quite frankly, this individual was already in semi-retirement. I think they had hit their burnout point. Maybe that didn’t come through as clearly as we could have dug for it before the transaction. Once they knew somebody else was answering the phone, they could sleep through the night and it wasn’t their cell phone ringing at 2:00 AM when somebody’s server is down, they step back a little faster and a little further than we anticipated. Because of that mismatch in how our delivery model is compared to their delivery model, that’s where we ran into that transition snag with some of those customers.
How did you deal with that? Once you realized that maybe the owner wasn’t going to be there and was checking it out, what did your team do to handle that?
From the customer perspective, we continued to engage and do anything and everything we could to service the customer. At that point, there’s a bit of a knowledge gap, the service quality was a little harder than we anticipated. A lot more effort went into it. From there, it was working with the customers and learning their environments as if they were a new customer which is a customer that had longevity with a prior provider. It’s not a great experience for them coming in post-acquisition and rightfully feeling like they were a brand-new customer and we didn’t know their environment. It was not the smoothest transition we would hope for.
You get the transaction done at this point and you’re ready for integration. Let’s talk about how you integrated the business into Leeward. What were some of the things that you hadn’t anticipated? What are some of the things that went well?
One of the things that went well for us was a relational and relationship-driven business that we bought. We are a relationship and relational business and business culture. While we have far more than one employee out there providing service, our employees are all personal and personable with our customers. They get to know birth dates, vacation plans, travel and anniversaries. When they’re working with customers over the phone for support, they’re having conversations that are a lot more meaningful at a personal level and also understanding their business and business processes. They’re helping them manage and support the technology in a way that’s aligned to the required business value. That piece worked well from a relationship perspective. We were able to sit down and have wonderful conversations with the customers and their owners. We had great alignment there. The integration piece that didn’t go spectacular was because of the variance in the service model and what we learned along the way was the inconsistencies in how the other provider that we had acquired was servicing their customers. The good news is that gained us some insight that led to a pretty cool a-ha light bulb moment for us.
Tell me about that. I’m excited for you to share this with the M&A Unplugged community.
One of the things that we came to realize is these small businesses, as they were being serviced over the years, there was no consistency. This customer had two Dells, one HP and Lenovo, all kinds of different computer equipment, different software, different versions and a lot of inconsistency in their environment. In that break-fix plumber model, the more inconsistency and things like selling refurbished equipment and try and Frankenstein back together an old PC to do a quick fix mean higher support costs. That equipment’s breaking, applications aren’t working right, performance isn’t there, the list of pain points goes on. As we sat back, we said, “Break-fix is not a high value to our customers. It gets expensive quickly.” If you think about it, it’s a challenging model. You’re using your computer now to run your business and all of a sudden it stops working. Now you have to pay somebody to come and fix it while you’re not able to run your business. It’s not a great warm fuzzy from your technology and you need it to be working.
As much as we all rely on our technologies these days, that puts you out of business.
That’s right and the double whammy of, “Now I’m having trouble running my business because my technology is down and I’m going to get hit with this big support bill to fix up.” We said, “This is not the way we were to do it.” It’s not in the way I’ve done it 25-plus years in the Fortune 500 space. We need consistency, manageability and these environments need to be supportable. We need to be able to do it at scale and do it efficiently. We took a step back. We looked at a couple of different factors and what came out of that was the development of a new service line called Leeward Elite.Don’t strain your customers for cash; enable them for success. Click To Tweet
In its simplest terms, it’s everything all wrapped up in one. It’s the complete package for a small business to provide support and manage their technology for a flat fee per month. For employee, we provide desktop or laptop, whatever form factor is best for their use case. Enterprise business class creates networking equipment that’s your firewall and your switch, wireless to make sure that everything is properly connected, encrypted, protected from viruses and intruders. All of the service and support behind the scenes, unlimited storage for backup and the ability to call our quick answers support team 24/7 as early on as often and as much as needed for any and all support needs. To drive home the value, we wrap that with a virtual CIO service, Chief Information Officer. That business owner can call and spitball questions, “We’re thinking about acquiring another branch,” or, “We might move to a different location,” or, “This accounting software isn’t quite cut for us anymore. What’s hot in the market? What else should we be looking at?”
We’re not billing hourly for consulting. We are providing that as part of the package service to help our small businesses make the best possible decisions and investments in their technology. All the while, our entire team is managing, supporting, monitoring, maintaining security and helping them with their day-to-day technology issues. Now they’ve got the right type of business class equipment, things like Amex Business Day Onsite Warranty. If that laptop flakes out and the screen blanks, we’ve got a technician from the manufacturer onsite the next day with a replacement screen, swapping it out and getting you back up and running. The price point at which we can do that completely blows it out of the water compared to trying to go out and make your own hardware acquisitions and trying to work with 3 or 4 different vendors for support and software. It’s a one-stop concierge-type experience with Leeward Elite.
That sounds like an amazing service. I would deal with small business owners and mid-size business owners all day long and I’d say IT is one of those areas where people fumble, “Something’s not working. Who do we call? How much is it going to be? Do we have to have a tech come out?” This sounds like a tremendous service. The acquisition led you to this service, which is what we talked about. No perfect business and if there’s a decent foundation there, how can you take it to the next level? How is the service being received in the marketplace?
It’s phenomenal. First off, a number of the customers that we acquired through the acquisition have been converted to that model now. We got rave reviews and a handful of testimonials up on the Leeward Elite website that speaks to the change in their experience going from that break-fix model into this Leeward Elite concierge model. The dollars and cents aspect of it keep proving themselves again and again both the host and the customer. We sit down and we go over their numbers, what they had been spending with the other approach, the money they’d been spending buying PCs from online and local electronic stores. We tally all that up and we look at it. We show them the monthly rate for Leeward Elite. We’re like, “Why didn’t we do this before?” The simple answer is, “We haven’t brought it up before.” The model in its foundation is something that has been around for a while but not packaged quite the way we have packaged it together now. It’s a great value for customers. It brings them consistency in their technology experience.
One of the most powerful aspect of Leeward Elite is our customers now have a full trusted advisor. They don’t have to flip through their Rolodex to call three different people. They don’t have to wonder or worry about, “Is the data backed up? Is my antivirus up-to-date? Does my firewall pass my credit card processors scan when they do a PCI compliance check?” The answers are, “Yes.” It’s taken care of. It’s managed and reported. They can see the value being provided and they can focus on what’s important to them. Technology is pervasive. It’s critical to every business but not every business is a technology business. If you’re up at 3:00 AM to start heating the dough to get your baked goods up and rolling, you don’t also have time to be fidgeting with accounting software updates and Windows updates. That’s not where you want to spend your time. If you don’t, unfortunately, because of the state of security and the cyber threats, those things don’t get done. You might not have a business if you get attacked by crypto viruses, hackers and all these guys get in there. They make quite a mess of things.
It sounds amazing. I love the CIO component of that. It goes beyond managing their platforms and their devices. Now you’ve got somebody who can help you with a strategy for the same one price. That’s something. I’m glad to hear that the acquisition led you to this.
The acquisition goal was learned that small business segment and it was successful in accomplishing that. It got us a pool of customers where we learned from and piloted the service. While we didn’t retain all those customers, it certainly got us a subset of that. We were able to convert through the pilot to the Leeward Elite model and rapid prototyping. We very quickly prove out the value and make a few tweaks along the way. We’re always learning and improving, a few quick adjustments to the service and approach and we’re off to the races.
Domenic, my next comment ties our culture back together where we’re talking about how we’re philanthropic with our time. You would go out to schools, middle schools, high schools and some of the workforce solution efforts that we do to create opportunities and technology for individuals. As we talk about Leeward Elite and the Leeward Model with some of our customers, we’ve had a couple of them that are like, “I’m not quite getting it. Why do you want to save me money? What’s in it for you to lower our monthly bill?” I look at them squarely and say it straight, “If I can make your technology less of a barrier and lower the money that you spend to operate your business, I’m hoping that you’re going to invest and grow. I’d rather meet you now as a 5, 10, 15 employee company, give you a much better technology operating a platform that lets you grow to 30, 50, 100, 5,000, however far you want to go, as far as they want to go.” We’re now the trusted advisor with a deep relationship and we’re growing with them.
It is much easier to grow our business with our customers than it is to go out and snag net new business. It’s a much different sales cycle and marketing cycle. Why wouldn’t we provide that type of comprehensive service and embed that virtual chief information officer into it and not sit here and try to nickel and dime? I don’t want our customers to be streamed for cash. I want our customers to be enabled for success. We all win and grow together. I don’t know a better way to do it.
You’re spot on. What a great way to run a business with purpose and you’re starting from the most important place, your clients. You’re putting yourself in their shoes and trying to figure out, “If I was them what would I want? What do I need?” It sounds like you’ve come up with a service that’s a home run. Congratulations. That’s awesome. If you were going to give somebody advice that was looking to acquire a business, if there was one key thing that you learned from the process, what would you tell that person?
I’d go back to spend the time and make sure you have all the insights you need to be comfortable with knowing the details of what their current customers are being served with and how they’re being served. You want to make sure that either fits your model or you have a specific plan in place to continue to service them using the other company’s model until you can finish sorting those pieces out and smooth out the integration. Don’t assume that because another company looks like yours, that it is like yours. Take the time to roll up those last few layers and get in there.
Have you read a business book or any book for that matter that has left an indelible impression on you? Something that you read and said, “This is life-changing for me.”
Probably one of the most pervasively impactful books I have ever read is a pretty short and simple read and I highly recommend it. It was written by a former FBI profiler and I believe the title of the book is What Everybody Is Saying. It’s a wonderful and insightful way to make sure that you are in tune with an understanding of body language, especially in complex or difficult conversations. It can be easy in business transactions to focus on the words, get caught up in email, ping-pong games, but to sit across the table from somebody, see them, look them in the eyes, understand what they’re saying, why they’re saying it and where that feeling comes from. It’s an insightful book to tie all that together. I love it.
I’ve never heard of that one. It sounds a little chilling to me but it’s interesting. I’m a big believer in having that human connection. That sounds interesting. Michael, if people needed to get ahold of you or wanted to reach you and talk about Leeward, how can they get in touch with you?
We’re accessible. I don’t know that I could hide if I wanted to at this point. By all means, anybody in the room is welcome to call our office here in lovely Kenosha, Wisconsin right off of the Lake. Our office number here is (262) 358-4116. If anybody’s interested, especially small businesses with 5 to 50 employees and they want to learn more about Leeward Elite, head on over to LeewardElite.com. Take a look at some great explainer videos we have up there and peruse through the customer testimonials. Feel free to drop us a link through the contact form there. We’ll be happy to get engaged and get your information and explain how Leeward Elite can help excel your business.
Michael, it’s been such a pleasure. Thank you much. If you need to get a hold of Michael, he’s given you all of his information here. To summarize a few things that Michael hit on. The key takeaways are one, spend time with the owner of the business. If you’re looking to do an acquisition, spend time with that owner. Get to know them, understand their motivations, who they are and how they’ve operated the business. It’s important to develop that relationship. It’ll make for a much better transaction.
The other thing was you have to be careful of, is the seller the business? Are they the ones that are out with the clients? Are they the one that’s handling all the issues? Are they the funnel or the choke point in the business? It doesn’t mean that it’s bad business. It means that there are some risk factors that need to be thought about and mitigated, which can be. It’s certainly something to be looking at. The other thing that you heard here is there is no perfect business. Michael did a transaction and there were some surprises post-acquisition, but he had a good enough foundation. What came from that solid foundation is now a whole new business line and a new way to support small to medium-sized clients for their IT needs.
We say this all the time, no perfect business. As a buyer, you want some issues if you can envision the upside. It’s tremendous advice there and kudos to Michael and his team at Leeward for developing a new product out of that. The last thing he mentioned was synergies. Making sure that there are all of the synergies there on the surface. Just because someone does what you do or they’re in the same business does not mean that there’s a good synergistic fit there between your two businesses. That’s hard work, diving in, diligence and learning all you can before you make that final decision.
If you would like to learn more about the process of acquiring or selling a business, please visit our website at SunAcquisitions.com or feel free to reach out to me at [email protected]. I look forward to seeing you in 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.
- Leeward Business Advisors
- Sun Acquisitions
- Leeward Elite
- What Everybody Is Saying
- [email protected]
About Michael Polzin
I am a seasoned business leader with a breadth of experience in business management, IT management, cloud services (including IaaS and SaaS), customer service, program management, organizational redesign and metric driven process improvement.
I have a strong passion for leadership, measured results and continual improvement. I strongly feel the separation between a great business and a good business is the willingness to continually analyze and act upon improvement opportunities. I believe the same is true of individuals. Those willing to reflect on their own opportunities for improvement and dedicate time to take action upon them can achieve greatness.
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