As no two business experiences are the same, no two sellers have also the same views on whom they would sell their business to. In this edition of “Deal Talk,” our guest, Diane Robbins who is a former owner of a Miracle Method franchise, decided to put her faith in the first interested buyer of her business. Did it pay off? Aside from sharing her experience in selling her business with host Jeff Allen, she also gives advice to business owners who are planning or in the process of selling their company.
When you have a buyer at the beginning, it doesn't mean that within a couple of months you have a closing. That's the message I want to get out to prospective sellers, that it's just a patience and waiting game.
- Diane Robbins
Jeff: No two business experiences are alike, even for franchisees. If you like hearing stories from real business owners like you who've recently sold their businesses and lived quite well to tell about it, you've come to the right place.
From our studio in Southern California, with guest experts from across the country and around the world, this is "Deal Talk", brought to you by Morgan & Westfield,nationwide leader in business sales and appraisals. Now, here's your host, Jeff Allen.
Jeff: Hello and welcome back to the web's number one content source for small business owners looking to build a business for eventual sale. Here on "Deal Talk," it's our mission to provide information and guidance from our growing list of trusted experts that you and all small business owners can use to help you build your bottom line and improve your company's value.
Experience is the best teacher, even if it may be someone else's experience that you're learning from. That could be, again, particularly true when you are a business owner who may be interested in selling your business. On this edition of "Deal Talk," we're welcoming the former owner of a franchise business who's gone through the experience of selling their baby and has agreed to share their story right now with us. Her name is Diane Robbins, and she is now the former owner of the Miracle Method franchise in Ludlow, Massachusetts. Diane Robbins, welcome to "Deal Talk."
Diane: Thank you, Jeff.
Jeff: Miracle Method, for those folks who may not be familiar with your company, provide a service that actually restores and refinishes surfaces, and that includes things like bathtubs, countertops, and things like that, is that correct?
Diane: That's very correct. We also do a lot of high-end colleges and big businesses.
Jeff: Really in the surface of making things that are old and worn-out look new again, and at a price that is maybe a little bit lower than what it might cost to have a contractor come in and just demolish everything and start over again with a brand-new countertop surface or a brand-new tub or something like that, is that right?
Diane: Correct. They save about 75% by going with our process.
Jeff: Which is huge, it's just significant. Miracle Method has been around for some time. We've had a chance to speak to other Miracle Method owners and former owners in the past who've shared their stories. But like I said, no two stories are absolutely 100% alike. And the reason we like to talk to business owners and former business owners like yourself, Diane, is to share your story. Tell us a little bit about why you decided to share a business that you had found quite a bit of success with.
Diane: We weren't going to retire. My husband and I were going to keep on going and maybe hire a manager. But a few years back, I ended up with some medical problems and my husband basically fired me because I was calling out too much. He acquired my part of the business problems, and it just got to be too much. He is not a high-tech person, and we felt that our franchise needed to go into the 21st century with iPads and other products going into the home. And we decided it was just time that we spend time away from a business.
Jeff: Understood. You were in a situation where, obviously, health at first was the main concern there that sparked all of this. But at the same time, you knew that it's in the company's best interest to move forward with respect to your particular location, in your part of the country, your franchise location, when you began to entertain this idea of selling your company and move forward with the idea of doing that, what did you do first?
Diane: We reached out to Miracle Method National in Colorado Springs and spoke to John Tubiolo, the franchise guru down there, and ask him about if they had any brokers that they dealt with versus us just putting something in a newspaper. And he did, and it was Morgan & Westfield.
He hooked us up, and I just felt that I was in the right direction. We answered their questions. They have a large questionnaire, and we answered all of their questions and did our contracts, etc. From there, he put it into the various magazines and small business ventures. And within four days, we had a prospective buyer.
Jeff: Wow. That is a very, very short space of time, from the time that you got connected with the folks at Morgan & Westfield until the time that you actually had a prospective buyer in your sights interested in your franchise location there.
You and your husband then, did you share equally in the role as far as being involved in the process, or were you still at that time getting better with respect to your health and he was working the process?
Diane: No. I was the one who dealt with the whole process. He was working away. I did everything. The only thing he did was help me answer the technical questions that Morgan & Westfield had provided. That was basically it. He would ask here and there, but it was all me.
Jeff: How long did it take for the entire process to play out from the time that you contacted the folks at Miracle Method Corporate to the time that things closed for you and the sale was completed?
When you have a buyer at the beginning, it doesn't mean that within a couple of months you have a closing. That's the message I want to get out to prospective sellers, that it's just a patience and waiting game.
Diane: It took one year for this whole process with the same buyer, that was within four days. We went through an emotional roller coaster.
Jeff: Oh my goodness. We want to get to that a little bit here. I want to talk to you about that. Once the buyer presented themselves to you, it took one year after that or was it a matter of things speeding up after that process or after that point?
Diane: No. The gentleman was very enthusiastic and had the money, etc. And we would hear from him, and then for one month we would hear nothing and we think, "Oh my god. He's gone. We lost our prospective buyer.
Jeff: And that was a concern to you?
Diane: Very much so. And then we hear from him. He's as enthusiastic as he was a month ago. And then he had to go through the process of getting an SBA loan, which was a nightmare for him, a nightmare for us. It took many months. And even after he was approved, it was still a lot of little things that we had to provide information for him, etc. And I think in some parts, his lawyers were not good lawyers helping him along.
Jeff: I see. During the time then, when you were concerned about this and you'd hear from him. He sounded enthusiastic and then he got you up to date on his status. And then you wouldn't hear from him for a month or so. Were you at any point in time talking to additional prospective buyers to see if there might be somebody else out there who is willing to step forward and maybe come through without having you wait any longer?
Diane: During the whole process, we had four other prospective buyers, but we did nothing with them because we had faith in the gentleman who was pursuing this and thought that it would be disrespectful to start another process.
Jeff: Fair enough. Diane Robbins on the other end here of our conversation. My name is Jeff Allen. You're listening to "Deal Talk." Diane Robbins, now the former owner along with her husband, of the Miracle Method franchise in Ludlow, Massachusetts. We're talking a little bit with her today about her recent experience in selling her franchise location there.
Would you say the most stressful part of the process, Diane, was just the waiting game, waiting for all of this to play out and wondering whether or not this was actually going to go through with this person?
Diane: Exactly. It was a mental nightmare, but it ended up to be a good ending.
Jeff: Very good. Really the ending is the most important part, right? It's how we finish the race that counts. Give me some sense of how much work was involved on your end in terms of getting your business ready to sell. Were you surprised at the amount of work that was required? Were you ready for it?
Diane: I think we were pretty well-prepared. Like I said, we had spoken to Miracle Method National and had been in contact with Morgan & Westfield throughout this process. And they let us through what was expected of us, and it really went fairly well on our end.
Jeff: You talk about a questionnaire that Morgan & Westfield provided you. What other types of things, what kind of role overall did Morgan & Westfield play in the process?
Diane: They basically got us started in the whole process. And once everything was going, they went into the background until he would call periodically to see if we wanted to update our information for other prospective buyers. And throughout that, I kept on saying “no” because we had this one buyer. And we just had the faith in the buyer that he was going to come through. And at the end, it almost didn't come through, and we were like, "Should we have updated everything and contacted other prospective buyers?" But in the end, it worked out.
Jeff: Did you ever have to meet with anyone at Morgan & Westfield face-to-face at a table during this process?
Jeff: Was the fact that you didn't have to meet with them in person, did that still work out for you? Was it convenient for you being able to stay in touch by email and by phone?
Diane: Totally. I did not feel the need to go face-to-face with him. And I felt that I knew him pretty well just by him being so responsive to everything.
Jeff: Let's go ahead and move forward a little bit. And maybe we're fast forwarding a bit, but we're getting to the closing process. You had mentioned that there were some concerns that maybe things wouldn't go through. Was there a point at the end where you thought, "You know what, we've waited this whole time, and now there's a pretty good chance that this isn't going to happen.” Did that ever cross your mind?
Diane: Yes. There were dealings, negotiations with purchase price that he had agreed upon at first, and then he was skeptical about the price. So we negotiated price, and that was a very, very tough decision on our part. And so now that we were so long involved that we gave in because it was time to sell. We did the right thing.
Jeff: Did Morgan & Westfield play any role at the closing table and that process, helping you with those negotiations or working with that buyer in trying to get the deal done and get it consummated?
Diane: No. They were in the background at that point. And it was just between the buyer and us.
Jeff: I'm getting then one of the more stressful parts of it that you talked about was the waiting game. And you mentioned that that might have the most stressful part of all but then we get down to the negotiation.
And everyone, Diane, I'm sure like you have bought cars, and many people have purchased homes and so we all know what it's like to go down... You get down to the end of the last few days or moments. You get down to the end of the wire. You've got that negotiation and you know that that's coming up and that's looming. Would you say that the negotiations were the most challenging aspect of selling your business or was there something else that caused you maybe some headaches, or you weren't exactly sure whether or not you would be able to get through it without some help?
Diane: No, I think it was the negotiations. But throughout the whole thing, I think you need patience. And that was our saving grace, that both of us were very patient. And we were not edgy with the prospective buyer and we just went along with what was going on. And to know that when you have a buyer at the beginning, it doesn't mean that within a couple of months you have a closing. That's the message I want to get out to prospective sellers that it's just a patience and waiting game.
Jeff: Boy, that is an outstanding piece of advice. I think another way to put it is never take it for granted that you've got a deal done until the signatures are on the bottom line. And you've got your money in your pocket and the buyer has the business in hand.
Diane, really important advice, I think the key here is never to take anything for granted until you've got those signatures not wet but dry on the bottom line of that contract. I'm speaking with Diane Robbins, now the satisfied former owner of the Miracle Method franchise in Ludlow, Massachusetts, helping to give us the opportunity to understand what it was like for her to sell her company after owning it for so long.
She wants to share her experience with you so that you can be prepared for the eventuality, selling your own business whenever that may be, whether that's two years from now or 22 years from now. My name is Jeff Allen, and we'll be right back with my guest Diane Robbins here on "Deal Talk" when we come back after this.
If you'd like to share your knowledge and expertise on any subject related to selling businesses or helping business owners improve the value of their companies, we'd like to talk with you about joining us as a guest on the future edition of "Deal Talk." Interested? Contact our host Jeff Allen directly. Just send a brief email with "I'd like to be a guest" in the subject line. In a brief message, include your name, title, area of specialty, and contact information, and send it to firstname.lastname@example.org, that's email@example.com.
Selling your business may be the most important business transaction you'll ever undertake so don't go it alone. Work with an organization that has made it their business to sell businesses and that's all they do. Morgan & Westfield at 888-693-7834. At Morgan & Westfield, we know that selling your company is not something you should take lightly. It can be a stressful, difficult, even emotional process. That's why it's important to work with a team whose one and only specialty is selling businesses throughout the United States. And Morgan & Westfield will help you every step of the way, from helping you plan your exit strategy, to preparing a comprehensive appraisal, and locating the right buyers.
Without the right team behind you, you could be leaving money on the table. So don't leave your most important business transaction to chance. Call Morgan & Westfield for a free consultation at 888-693-7834, 888-693-7834, or visit morganandwestfield.com.
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My name is Jeff Allen and you're listening to this edition of "Deal Talk" with special guest Diane Robbins, the former owner of Miracle Method franchise in Ludlow, Massachusetts. The Miracle Method franchise location there. Miracle Method, of course, now all over the country. Diane Robbins, I appreciate you joining us today on our program, really enjoying your insight and your first-person's perspective experience in selling your company, your Miracle Method location there in Massachusetts.
I want to talk to you now a little bit at this time, Diane, about the emotional aspects of selling your business as it relates really to your employees, the team of people that you had working with you. Tell us about that. How large was the team, and how did you break it to them about your plans to sell?
Diane: There are eight employees, and one of them is our son who knew all along what was going on. He's very quiet and patient and non-verbal to anybody. So the whole year nobody knew what was going on. Two days before our sale, my husband told the employees that there was a new owner. Their mouths just dropped. And, of course, they were like, "Do we call you for problems? Can we do this, do that?" And Ray reassured them that the buyer was a very nice gentleman, and he was going to get this company going into the 21st century and just improve everything.
Jeff: How did the team take that when you tried to soothe their concerns a little bit about the transition? And once your husband talked to the team about this gentleman and what his plans were to help drive the accompany, its success into the future, what was the response? Did you feel that they had relaxed a bit and were feeling a little less stressed out about the situation? Just tell us, if you would.
Diane: No. They were all worried that they would not have jobs. And my husband reassured them that he had no plans on firing anybody, and everybody was going to be the team to start and prove themselves along the way and go forward.
There's no way that this gentleman would know the ins and outs of this business. It's not like walking into an office of some expertise that you knew about. This is just a different kind of business that you just don't walk in knowing anything about it.
Jeff: As far as you know, everybody's still there from what you understand?
Diane: Oh yes. They're all there. It's been three weeks and the transition's going smoothly. My husband is there along with our new buyer, giving him some instructions. And then he will go to Colorado for the main training.
Jeff: Very good. I think it's important to point out that this program will be heard probably months and then maybe even years if this transaction had all been completed. So I think it's important to point out at this time, Diane, that you and your husband agreed with the new owner of your Miracle Method franchise that you would stand by in order to help them or in fact spend a certain amount of time with them in the beginning to ensure a smooth a transition as possible, is that right?
Diane: That's right. There's no way that this gentleman would know the ins and outs of this business. It's not like walking into an office of some expertise that you knew about. This is just a different kind of business that you just don't walk in knowing anything about it.
Jeff: Did he have any kind of experience before with the Miracle Method process or doing something similar with another company?
Diane: We resurfaced his tub 12 years ago.
Jeff: Is that right?
Diane: Yes. And he loves his tub, and that's where he knew when he was looking for a business that this was the right direction, that it was a nice small business that he could get into that the product was reliable.
Jeff: Wow, no kidding?
Diane: Knew from firsthand that having his tub resurfaced himself from Miracle Method.
Jeff: I wish I would've led with that question, kicked off the program here with that question because I don't know if you remember the old commercials for the Remington shaver back in the ‘70s. Victor Kiam who bought himself a Remington shaver, he liked it so much he bought the company.
Diane: Exactly. That's what this man did.
I think buying this business was just as nerve-wracking [as selling it].
Jeff : That's a great story, and it's one that you can turn around, I'm sure, and start a conversation about. I think it's really heartwarming to hear that the employees have obviously continued. And that the new owner is really inter-directed and very convicted about making sure that he can lead the company and continue to lead it into the future. And upgrade the technology a bit, as you said, that you and your husband were a little bit uncomfortable with doing, but that he has made that commitment to help improve the business and to help make it even more profitable than it already is in terms of being able to look at other types of things that you've done in your life.
Selling your company, is there any comparing it to any other type of situation that you have been involved with in terms of whether it be the emotional roller coaster that you've been through or the amount of preparation that you had to do in order to get your company ready for sale?
Diane: I think buying this business was just as nerve-wracking.
Diane: Because we knew nothing. I was a nurse for many, many years, and my husband was a meat manager at a grocery store, and also a special police officer in our town. There was nothing. We knew the old owners, and my company was folding. My husband had had enough of the food industry, and he had 35 years there, and so he basically retired from that business. And we just up and started and it was very nerve-wracking.
Jeff: Amazing. Really, you're talking about people. If you could find professions or occupations that were the opposite of one another, you hit it there. Police officer, nurse, and meat cutters, that's completely different from folks who can go in and resurface a countertop, if you will. It's an unbelievable comparison. It's a contrast is what it is. Now that everything is done, now the signatures have dried, you have your money, the new owner is working with the business. He's trying to get up to speed. And you've got the employees there. Everything's been done. They understand the new owner is in charge now. What's it like? How do you feel about the process being over and just share with us the feelings afterward?
Diane: I think I'm okay because I've been out of the business for two years. I know what's going on, but I'm not there. But my husband is having the "this was my baby and I'm leaving my baby." But he feels that it’s in good hands, and each week is getting better.
Jeff: What are you both going to do now, Diane Robbins? You and your husband, share with us any plans that maybe you're making post-business ownership?
Diane: I have lots of honey-do-lists here.
Jeff: And how active a role will you be playing in that?
Diane: I will be writing the honey-do-list.
Jeff: True to form, Diane. Spoken like a loving spouse, and I have experience with it from the other side of the list, shall we say. You're going to have some fun, right? You've got some other things that you're going to be doing, right?
Diane: Of course. We're going to travel here and there. I have difficulty walking so I'm not going on the big tours of any sort, but locally and not airplanes. And I have two wonderful grandchildren that I can spend more time with. And I'm looking forward to that.
My advice to anybody is you have to have patience. This is not something that goes to market right off the bat and you're signing papers in a couple of months. It's just patience.
Jeff: Very good, let's, if you would, take just a second as we close our program with a couple of final questions with respect to any advice that you're able to give. If you had to do it all over again is there something that you would do differently that you might urge members of our listening audience to consider when it comes time to sell their business?
Diane: I think I would not do anything different. I had faith in the first prospective buyer. And my advice to anybody is you have to have patience. This is not something that goes to market right off the bat and you're signing papers in a couple of months. It's just patience.
Jeff: Patience is a virtue and it will be rewarded. And in terms of preparing your company for sale, to making sure that it is ready to go and that it is marketable to somebody else out there, so that you actually have people coming in and interested in what you're doing, sitting down with you saying seriously “yes”. Is there any anything at all that you might be able to say in terms of making sure that you're ready when it comes time?
Diane: You have to have profitability in the business itself and showing that... obviously, he knew what the company was about because he had his tub done. But we had to basically just put ourselves out there and do our thing because it is a good, small business.
Jeff: It sounds to me that you found, overall, the process while it was stressful and there was that emotional roller coaster, you were satisfied at the end and able to let your hair down at that point. And now that you're looking forward to new chapters I want to thank you so much for joining me on this program, sharing your perspective, all that you went through, and your plans for the future. Diane Robbins, thank you again.
Diane: Thank you very much, Jeff.
Jeff: That's Diane Robbins, the former owner along with her husband of the Miracle Method franchise in Ludlow, Massachusetts. I hope that you got a lot out of our discussion and enjoyed it along the way too.
Let us know how we're doing. I'd love to hear more from you, and we'd appreciate your comments. Just send those comments, compliments, criticisms, whatever to firstname.lastname@example.org. "Deal Talk" is brought to you by Morgan & Westfield, a nationwide leader in business sales and appraisals. Learn more at morganandwestfield.com or by calling 888-693-7834. I'm Jeff Allen, here's to your success.
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