Updated: Jul 7
The first thing you need to know about me is that I’m not in it for the money. I’m a deal junkie plain and simple. Second, I believe that you can solve the world’s problems by buying a business! I’m passionate about sharing what has worked for me to help you achieve your goals. Stay with me over the next several weeks as I continue to share more of how I buy companies for no money down. The framework I’ve come up with works.
A little history to start. I’ve always been business-sector agnostic. The first several businesses I bought were in a wide range of industries, including telecom, IT, a health club and spa, and a music school. All of these deals happened without using any of my own money or borrowing from banks. After a dozen or so deals, I started to get a bit of a reputation.
This reputation led to people chasing me to work for them, either as a non-executive director or on a consultancy basis, to help them acquire companies for no money down. When I find a company, I can buy for $1, and I buy it. Why would I want a salary to do that for someone else?
While I was clear about not working for anyone, I found myself in a quandary, thinking, “There must be something I can do with these guys.”
The answer appeared in the form of an opportunity to buy a seminar company. This company ran two- to three-day events with various speakers who shared excellent business insights. In the end, the audience gets an offering for a training course to implement the techniques learned in the seminar. Either some done-for-you service or a deeper level of learning and understanding. (You’ve probably attended something like this at some point.)
Most of the training related to sales, marketing, mindset, leadership—the information taught in all the traditional books and seminars. I started thinking an educational program could be a way to answer the question about how to help aspiring dealmakers by giving them the tools and tactics needed to acquire companies themselves. I realized that creating an educational course would also create potential future partners. Because they paid for the information, they’d have no qualms about making deals on their own using my methodology.
So, I bought the $3.5m revenue training business for $1.
Learning by Teaching
So, now I owned a seminar company with an idea for a course but did not know what I should be teaching? I was sitting in the back of one of the seminars trying to figure it out. Entrepreneurs are constantly asking about how to find deals (opportunities), so it seemed like the first logical course to teach. There was one problem. I’d been like a butterfly going from flower to flower, or in my case, from deal-to-deal. I’d never stopped to analyze what it was that I did to make the deal happen. I didn’t know how to teach buying a business even though I’d done it dozens of times.
You only really understand the topic when you have to teach it to someone because you have to granularize it, break it down into its core components, and then put it back together to explain it to someone. Sitting down and working out exactly how I made deals was an eye-opener.
I started by making a list of things that would make the course interesting for me and another list of things that would make it interesting for the people learning from me.
Next, I had to go through each deal, exploring what worked, what didn’t work, and how to systematize it. This experience was fascinating. I found quite a few things I had done that had worked, but I had never done them again! It was like I stuck a bucket down a well and was so excited I found water that I forgot to put the bucket down the well again.
I wrote down all the deals that I’d done, plus a few memorable ones that had gotten away and noted the commonalities:
How did I find them?
How did the meeting go?
What did I say?
What did I think was the clincher?
What were the motivations of the person I was doing the deal with?
Harbour Club Is Born
By analyzing what I had been doing, I created a framework of processes and systems that I felt confident in teaching. I did my first-ever Harbour Club course in 2009—an intensive three-day, two-night seminar. As part of the event, the attendees and I did a deal together that added to the learning and helped to evolve the course. We bought a cleaning company.
Harbour Club provides a few courses every year since and has completed hundreds of deals. I refined the teaching methods and evolved it step-by-step over the years. The goal has always been to make each Harbour Club seminar a little better than the last one. The people who attend leave rave reviews and more people come to the next course, which is very gratifying.
How Did I Find The First Members Of The Harbour Club?
Let’s go back to that day I was sitting in the back of that seminar. A guy came up to me and asked me what I was writing. I explained that I was designing a course on how to buy and sell companies. He said, “Well, that’s interesting. I sold my IT company a year ago, and I‘ve been trying to buy a company ever since. But I keep emailing all these brokers and reading all these financial reports, and I’m just getting stuck over what to do next.”
After a 10-minute chat about why you shouldn’t use business brokers, he became my first Harbour Club member. I designed the course right there on the day, and I quickly got another three people to come along, so we had an initial group of four. Since the private jet had six seats, I brought a friend along to teach how to protect your wealth after you’ve made it. The six of us comprised the first Harbour Club meeting.
In my next blog, I’ll share more on business plights, glass ceilings, and growth by acquisition.
In the meantime, have you ever bought a company before? What was your experience like? Was there anything during that process that surprised you?