The best way to understand what it’s like to sell a business is to learn from someone who has experienced the process. Ed Antonowicz, former co-owner along with his wife of a successful ComForCare home healthcare franchise in Scottsdale, Arizona, discusses the process of selling a business and what it’s like to separate yourself from “your baby.” Ed also shares his philosophy on the importance of building customer relationships and the requirements for building up a business so that you can sell it at a substantial profit while leaving a legacy in the process.
Morgan & Westfield sat with us and said, ‘You know what, this is going to be stressful, but we have a process, we have a system and we will work together so we can achieve that goal, which is transitioning your business to the right individual to carry on your legacy,’ and that was the most important thing for us.
- Ed Antonowicz
Ed: Well, great Jeff! Thank you for having me.
Jeff: Mr. Antonowicz, first of all to start with, tell us a little bit about how you and your wife Mary got started in the Home Healthcare field to begin with and this goes back about to another 11 or 12 years ago or so now.
Ed: 12 years ago, in fact, I was working in high tech industry and my wife was an occupational therapist, working as an administrative supervisor in a rehab. The Health Care industry is going through ebbs and flows and it was downsizing that occurred and she was looking at some career opportunities, so I happen to see an article in newspaper about Home Health and she said to me, “you know I just was visiting a client and the gentleman had home health and I was an occupational therapist, so I went out and perform a service with him. I spent 45 minutes with him and I realize that once I was gone there was no one there to help the gentlemen.” And so we got talking about it and I said: "Well, let us investigate." So, we got online and we started looking around and Mary basically found four or five different opportunities and she went and visited those and spoke with all of those and we connected with the ComForcare senior services and we consumed our time with Mark Armstrong and his team, and we were just convinced that this was the right thing for us do, it was the right fit from an ethics point of view of what we both had envisioned and what we want to perform help as a service the community and a great business opportunity. So we actually, in December of 2002, signed up as franchise number 11. And the rest is history, as they say.
Jeff: Well, certainly for your wife Mary, it was a natural fit it seems but you know Ed, obviously you kind of come from that high tech background and I can see how there might be some of that. It kind of lends itself to the technology aspects that are involved with Home Health Care. But really, in your industry, it is kind of removed from that; how easy was it for you personally to kind of make that leap into the Home Health field, because as I understand it, from some information you passed along to meet plan or program today this was really something that Mary kind of really picked up the ball and ran with the first few years that you owned the business, is that right?
Ed: Yeah, that is true. She used to kid me that I would fly in and make my comments and then fly out again every quarter when I worked the financials. But yes, she started with a small, one room with a folding table, a phone and a laptop and at that is how she started the business. But what I did, what I brought into the businesses, even though I came from a high tech background -- I was in sales so I thought it was a natural transition from a sales position over to building relationships because that is really what you are doing when you are not an entrepreneur starting a franchise, starting a Home Health Company like we did -- nonmedical Home Health Company, it was really building those relationships and for me that is really where my fit was. I went out and I started doing community marketing, building strategic alliances and basically working that way. Mary did a great foundation for the business while doing it, she was franchise of the year, doing it on her own and I came in 2009 and pushed it, expanded, develop the business and we were very fortunate to be franchise of the year again; we got that award twice. So, I think the dynamics that someone from my background brings to the business is basically building those relationships and just establishing those contacts.
Starting a Home Health Company like we did -- nonmedical Home Health Company, it was really building those relationships and for me that is really where my fit was.
Jeff: And so it really did actually come more naturally to you than maybe we first might guess just by your background alone but in sales like you said it all kind of -- it does not really matter the industry, it is all about relationship building very important indeed.
Ed Antonowicz is on the phone with us from Prescott, Arizona and we are talking with Ed on Deal Talk today about the experience that he and his wife had. Not just owning and operating their Home Healthcare business franchise, but really the sales process too because they owned and operated their ComForcare Home Health franchise for a little over 10 years and then decided to go ahead and sell that business. Now, and I think it bears probably some repeating, your business was very successful indeed, can you give us some idea as to just how much it grew in such a short period of time because you reach these milestones as franchise of the year, twice, in a tenure period but, I mean, that really did speak very highly as to the growth of your business, did it not?
Ed: Yes, I think becoming, selected as a franchise of the year, the growth was there. It is more of an organic growth. I mean, my wife always telling me: "Anything in business we just learned that from the grassroots is: do the right thing and treat your clients and your customers as you want to be treated. We have had personal experience dealing with Home Health agencies and nonmedical Home Care from a personal family background. So coming into that personal experience, having the business ethics and values to move forward and really want to make a successful business; it is really a team approach. It is in our caregivers who are the front line individuals, all our nursing staff supervise and develop the care plans and make sure they are executed, and our office staff and the internals, making sure that the payroll, the accounting, and the billing is done correctly, that clients are satisfied, the employees are getting paid correctly, and the management team inside are making sure all those needs are met with additional training for our employees and giving the entire staff on the team the tools to be able to develop and build those relationships and actually provide a superior product, which, in the service business, is your people. And that I really attribute to the model and help we got from ComForcare corporation as a franchise. They have great tool set that enabled us to grow the business and gave us the flexibility to offer some unique product offering that are specific to our region of the country in our area and so, with that, having a nurse on staff, we grew our business considerably - doubled our business; when nursing oversight came on board so that we can help managed care plan to have good communication protocols with the family, the caregivers and the medical providers that are working with the families, so it really did explode the business by doing that after 2008, 2009.
Jeff: And so what we all want to know is: you and your wife had a great run and owned the business, operated for about the 12 years plus.
So why did you decide to sell then? It sounds like everything was going well for you and it sounds like Mary probably got some real satisfaction out of operating her own Home Healthcare business along with you by her side. What was the reason to go ahead and sell?
Ed: I want to stress that when you are an owner of a business, this is your baby, this is your child, it is living and breathing 24/7 and it is not like your owning another kind of service business where it’s 8 to 5, Monday to Friday, and then you have your nights and weekends and you are done. It is not being a plumber; it is not being a contractor. This is a 24/7 business. You are dealing with the most vulnerable of the population, who are stressed, either with medical changes in their condition, or a loss of a spouse and they need some help in their home, so it is a very high energy, emotional process and we are very vested in that process. We have clients for 2, 3, 4 years and when they pass it is like a member of your family passed because you get to know them so well, you get to know their family members so well. So, after 12 years we just found it, being on our early 60's, that we wanted to pass to the baton over to give another person the opportunity to grow the business to the next level. But for us, personally, it was time for us to have some time for our family because it’s all encompassing, it really is. It is very high energy business and after 12 years we just say: "Hey, listen we have grand kids, kids are getting older and I am still blessed to have my mom and dad at 91 and 92 and they are our clients. So it is so to like that hair clubs for men, it is how we use the product. My mom and dad use the product and they are our clients and there are still clients of the new owner and we just want to spend more time with family.
You are dealing with the most vulnerable of the population, who are stressed, either with medical changes in their condition, or a loss of a spouse and they need some help in their home, so it is a very high energy, emotional process and we are very vested in that process.
Jeff: Well, there you have it and I cannot fault for that. I do not think anyone can quite frankly, life is short and you have to be able to take your turns and that means you need to be able, as you said, to find that time that you can finally say: "Okay it is time to settle and enjoy family life. Ed Antonowicz, this is a delight I appreciate you joining us were to take a short break. A real life story of a successful business transaction from a business owner in his own words, that business owner is Ed Antonowicz along with his co-owner wife Mary. You are listening to Deal Talk, I am Jeff Allen and I will be right back after this.
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Jeff: Welcome back to Deal Talk, my guest is Ed Antonowicz and we are talking about his experience selling his and his wife’s successful Home Healthcare business franchise here on Deal Talk. Again, my name is Jeff Allen and so glad you are able to stay with us through the break. Ed, when you guys decided you were ready to go and sell, how did you decide who would help you to sell your company? I mean, did you have to do a lot of research, make a lot of phone calls to settle on an expert to help you?
Ed: Well, the process was pretty involved. We actually went to a corporate office and because we respect that team so much, we move back to Mark and his team and Phil, who is the individual and his team do the transition. And he has the whole transition team that helps franchise owners. So, we sat with them and talked, and said: "You know, we are getting close, we are looking to do that." So we asked them for some help and they gave us some guidelines and somewhere to go and Ashley gave us a Morgan and Westfield’s phone number and said: “there are a lot of people you can talk to, explore, talk to a lot of people but do yourself a good favor and talk to this gentleman.” So when I did, basically it was an interview. I asked him a bunch of questions and he came back and ask me questions and we went back and forth and being an all sales guy it is like, you want to do business with people you like and people you trust and filling a business is probably the most difficult thing you can do as for the stress level is concerned. And the team at Morgan and Westfield actually sat with us and said: "You know what, it is going to be stressful but we have a template, we got a process, we have got a system and we will do by working together we can achieve that goal, which is transitioning your business to the right individual carry on your legacy,” and that was the most important thing for us. Obviously, when you are a business owner, you want to sell to the maximum, you want to be able to get out of your business but, also, the other side of the coin is what your business really worth? What is the real evaluation of your business? What is the discretion your honor in owner income? What is the real number? Working with Jacob gave us the opportunity to find that number, to really go to the process. They made us really comfortable and we were excited about moving forward with Jacob and his team.
Working with Jacob gave us the opportunity to find that number, to really go to the process. They made us really comfortable and we were excited about moving forward with Jacob and his team.
Jeff: What kinds of things were you and Mary responsible for, in terms of bringing to the table, whether that be records of making sure that the books were up to speed in and everything was accounted for properly? Your responsibilities first of those things that Morgan and Westfield were responsible for. You do not have to go into any great detail but maybe you can give us a rough sketch.
Ed: Well, basically, the rough sketch and the first thing you have to do is, when you are doing a sale, is you have to have your house in order and that is a broad stroke comment, but it really is, when you think about it, what would that mean to have your house in order? You have to have your staff in order, which means you have to have your working team in the office stable, functioning and doing their job, like you were not there and that is really building successful management team. With that in place, we sat down with our professional team, sat and spoke with an attorney and worked very closely with the corporate office. We worked very close with our accountant and that is pulling together all of the financial information. We had Phil as chief since the inception of the current company. P&L's tax returns, all of those things have to be put together in the package and, basically, Jacob and his team put together a great document which basically went through a lot of that material for a buyer gave us a background. So, we were responsible to put the financials together, put together our profiles and work with corporate to get a good layout of the program, what the systems are offering, what our sales model is and what target markets are, so put it together a package. So with that, that was our responsibility and Jacob put it together an a great package was concise, it was quite lengthy, it was probably -- the document had to be 30, 40 pages long but it was very thorough and gave a good overview of the business baseline and the potential growth and to be able to go to that group of perspective buyers and make sure that that they had good information to move to the next level.
You have to have your staff in order, which means you have to have your working team in the office stable, functioning and doing their job, like you were not there and that is really building successful management team.
Jeff: Ed Antonowicz joins me here on the Morgan and Westfield Deal Talk podcast program. Thank you so much Ed again for joining us today. He and his wife Mary scaled a professional business owner's Home Health Care field; and have just recently completed the sale of their business and used Morgan and Westfield to help them do that. Ed, did you use any advisers, accountants, attorneys and so forth to help along with this process as well as working with Morgan and Westfield of course?
Ed: Yes and it was really a team approach. We worked with our corporate office, Phil Le Blanc and his sales team with the financial group at the corporate office and also RCPA and those were really the two teams. We also had an attorney in Arizona for an asset sale like we had, really was not necessary, I have them look over the contract and but the team really was the accountant and corporate to help pull all the information together.
Jeff: How would you compare the actual process of selling the business with your original expectations? Is it easier or more difficult, a lot of hoops to kind of jump through, just kind of in your own words?
Ed: It is like what you just said; basically a lot of hoops to jump through and there is a lot of emotional connection to it. I mean, because you are turning the page in your life, moving on to another page. So part of the process is finding the valuation and adjusting and dealing with what your perception of what the business really worth and what the reality of what business is worth. Being able to go through and have lunch. The potential buyers were vetted. They go through process, corporate gets them, Morgan and Westfield obviously talked to them first and then went to the corporate office and so, they all vetted in anyone that would meet us. And so the process is rather lengthy and it’s all ebb and flow. I mean, you may have a lunch with an individual and you might think it is great and they would not follow-up even though they are vetted. So, there is a lot of highs and lows and but I really do think that it was more challenging than I thought was initially.
Jeff: So it is not like selling a piece of personal real estate; nothing like that, but it actually kind of goes above and beyond that and you kind of touched on something I thought was interesting, you said that there is a lot of emotional highs and lows, it can be a very emotional process. Emotional really for you and your wife Mary in other ways in that you are dealing with a lot of human beings, people who are part of your team but not only that but all of those patients too that Mary, I am sure, probably directly touched and really became part of. Maybe in some ways like extended family, really when you get right down to it.
Ed: Yes, I mean you would really get attached to the client and you maintain a professional approach to this picture involving their lives and it is an emotional attachment too when you are very involved with your staff, I mean Mary worked with some individuals for 10, 12 years, with certain caregivers. So that emotional component and the other side of it is when you are selling the business on someone's perception of what the business is worth and what your perception of what the business is worth and so you get to a common ground of what the baseline is, but then going through the sales process, you have to be thick skin because people might look at and say: "Oh, I am not going to", there is that process. Sometimes, I thought that the process was this trying to sell a used car because it was back and forth, back and forth but then other times when we found the right qualified candidate, it flowed so much easier. So, just getting through that and that is just the process, you have got to get to lot of stuff until you get to right fit and the right candidate and then when that happens it moves very quickly.
That is just the process, you have got to get to lot of stuff until you get to right fit and the right candidate and then when that happens it moves very quickly.
Jeff: What was it about working with Morgan and Westfield, Ed that you like the best? Is there something in particular that you really liked in terms of the experience that help things go more smoothly for you, that made you think that the into day: " My gosh I am really glad that the corporate guys recommended these people to use?
Ed: Yeah and I think Jacob and just his persona, his ability as we had a challenge or question that would come up how should we approach this, he always had a good tool set that gives us good suggestion so that we can say: "This is an unreasonable request and it is good, once you follow the program and work through those issues and those questions that come up and he was invaluable, if I ever would buy another business and do it again and want to sell again, I would like him on my team because it really is a team and I felt that he was there to assist and make sure that on our legacy was put in the right hands and it was between corporate and Jacob and his team and my wife and myself to make sure that we found the right individual that had the right set, tool set, emotional set and commitment to carry on the legacy and it was invaluable having him as a resource.
Jeff: And we only have a couple of minutes here and so go ahead and we will wrap up with two last questions here quickly. If you kind of think back about the process of buying a business going back 12 plus years or so ago back when you get into the into the Home Healthcare field with your wife, whether it be Home Health Care or in a dry cleaner or whatever the case may be, what kind of advice would you give to someone, maybe an entrepreneur or someone who is coming in and buying their own business for the very first time, what kind of advice could you give them?
Ed: I think the most important thing is to understand when you go into this field and go to work to yourself that it is 110% commitment. It is not like I am going to do this and I am going to do it part time or it is really got to be all in and mentally and emotionally. And part of my process is Mary started the business, worked on it for a while and I came in later because that was our choice because of financial situation and maintaining our household because to start up a business and to get it profitable and it takes time and with that just have resources and so you really have to go in and do your homework, make sure you understand the market, understand the industry that are going in to, understand the competitive nature of what industry that you going to and really get advice of a business consultant so you would understand what capital is going to be needed and a good account. So, it is really like I mentioned earlier, selling or buying, it is really a team approach you should go to the professionals, you should sit down and do your homework and do your due diligence to make sure you make the right choice and for me a franchise gave it a lot of tools and it gave us a template and it gave us a skillset that we would not have been able to learn on our own, we could have probably gotten there but it would have cost us more money and a lot more time. So, depending what type of business you are doing look it up if it is going to be a franchise or if it is going to be an independent operator and you are going to do it on your own but just do your homework.
I think the most important thing is to understand when you go into this field and go to work to yourself that it is 110% commitment.
Jeff: So you really had kind of a springboard for success by deciding to go the franchise around and I can kind of see exactly what you mean having the benefit of having the corporation behind the scenes ready to help you and provide you with a necessary support was very, very important.
Now, final question for you Ed and it will really provide us, I think, a nice way to kind of cap this discussion off. What kind of advice you have for those people who were out there now, maybe there on the fence, maybe they are in the beginning stages of the process of selling their business, maybe they don't know exactly what they need to do, they have got questions, what is it that you would tell them in terms of maybe some helpful advice to help them get through the process and make some decisions to help them kind of move things forward?
Ed: I think number one is, like I mentioned earlier, have your house in order. So, have your financials up to date and have all your sales data up to date and make sure you can articulate, understand your market and go to a professional, go to a business broker, go to someone that can assist you, go to your accountant, so again I think it is a team approach, start making some phone calls, talk to your accountant, talk to a business broker, understand what your market is, certain markets have higher resale than other markets, do the evaluation sales or maybe if I grow my business another 20% and I would maintain its market share or grow this market share, I can get a better outcome if I would decide to sell in a year or two why not do it now. So, there are a lot of components to make that decision and again as I mentioned earlier that team approach, talk to your business broker, get a good evaluation, make sure your financials are in order and release it down and crunch the numbers and see if it is appropriate to do it now or wait.
So, there are a lot of components to make that decision and again as I mentioned earlier that team approach, talk to your business broker, get a good evaluation, make sure your financials are in order and release it down and crunch the numbers and see if it is appropriate to do it now or wait.
Jeff: Ed Antonowicz and his wife Mary both successful, business franchise owners with the ComForcare business franchise and now enjoying retired life in Prescott, Arizona and I want to thank you so much for agreeing to join us today on Deal Talk, thank you again for being with us, it is good to talk with you.
Ed: Well, thank you so much. Have a wonderful day.
Jeff: That is Ed Antonowicz, business owner along with his wife Mary Antonowicz on their experience selling their Home Healthcare business.
Deal Talk has been presented by Morgan and Westfield, a nationwide leader in business sales and appraisals. If you like more information about buying or selling a business call Morgan and Westfield at (888) 693-7834 or visit MorgansndWestfield.com, and make it a point to check in with us again soon for valuable information and insight from our growing list of small business experts on Deal Talk, until then, my name is Jeff Allen. We will talk to you again soon.