Shutterstock When Thomas “Tif” Joyce turned 55, he started thinking seriously about retiring. Creative vf0010 drivers for mac. Joyce loved running his California-based firm, now known as Sonoma County Wealth Advisors, and had built close relationships with his clients but as a financial advisor, he knew that everyone should be ready to retire at age 61 in case he or she can no longer work.
Joyce faced a big challenge, though: He ran a very small practice, where he was the only advisor. Finding a buyer for a service business that revolves around a single owner isn’t easy. Joyce managed to beat the odds. In January 2015, he handed over the reins of the business to financial advisor Ken Weise, now 49. Weise purchased the business for a little over two times the prior 12 calendar year’s gross revenue. Joyce, now 64, still works in the business he started 30 years ago part-time and now has the freedom to retire when he is ready. This year is an ideal time for many owners to sell a business, even better than the year Joyce sold.
Annual small business transactions jumped 27% from 2016 to 2017, the biggest increase since 2013, according to new survey from BizBuySell, an online marketplace for small businesses. There were 9,919 closed transactions in 2017, up from 7,842 in 2016, which BizBuySell deems a “significant” increase. What is driving the trend? When BizBuySell surveyed over 5,000 business brokers, they pointed to an improving small business environment where revenue and profits are rising, the increasing number of owners looking to sell and the rising number of qualified buyers on the market.
However, there were still many businesses of all sizes that didn’t sell. The site has an inventory of about 45,000 businesses. So what helped Joyce stand out and succeed?
He went into the selling process with a careful strategy to find the right type of buyer. Think “local.” Although many sellers think they will sell their businesses to a big conglomerate or someone from out of town, the majority of buyers for businesses with under $1 million in annual revenue live with in a 20-mile radius of the business, according to the Q2 2017 MarketPulse report produced by the International Business Brokers Association, M&A Source, and the Pepperdine Private Capital Markets Project. That finding is pretty consistent from year to year. And generally these local purchasers are acquiring a business for the first time, either because they are looking to buy themselves a job or to expand. Aware of this, Joyce began talking with colleagues in the community about his desire to retire someday several years before he actually put it on the market. “I told everyone I was looking for a successor,” he says.
View your firm through the eyes of potential purchasers. Joyce also positioned the business so it would be attractive to buyers.
After running it from his home in Western Sonoma County for years, he moved it into a small office in downtown Santa Rosa, Calif., to make it easier for potential buyers to picture themselves at the helm. Two full-time and two part-time employees now work from that office. Eventually, one of his contacts introduced him to Weise. They hit it off. Both love gourmet food and wine. In fact, Weise is the son of a well-known local chef and restaurateur.
“As I got to know Tif, it became clear in some ways we’re very similar—and it could be a great fit,” Weise says. Weise was looking to grow his business at time. He had worked for Edward Jones previously, but left the firm in 2012 to go independent. When Joyce put the business on the market in 2014, Joyce had about $105 million under management, while Weise had about half that. Weise saw an opportunity to grow his business by acquiring Joyce’s firm. Evaluate potential buyers carefully.
Initially, Joyce wasn’t sure Weise would be his buyer. There were several others who looked strong at first glance. Then we looked at Weise’s financials. He was in the best position to buy the business and emerged as the strongest candidate. Beyond that, he was experienced, having entered the field in 2001—but not so experienced he would be thinking about retirement himself. Still, Weise needed financing to buy the practice.
In a transaction my firm arranged, the financing included a down payment, a note that extends over a seven-year period, and a five-year employment agreement for Joyce. Under the employment agreement, Joyce would continue to work for the firm part-time during the five years.
From Weise’s point of view, this would ensure a smooth transition for Sonoma County Wealth Advisors’ clients. From Joyce’s, it meant he would continue to reap financial rewards from the years of effort he put in.
“What was important for me was I worked really hard around here a long time and expected referrals to come in,” says Joyce. “I didn’t want to completely lose those. If there was growth in the business, I got some of that.” The relationship was tested when Joyce’s father passed away 90 days into the deal. “All Ken said was, ‘Go and take care of your mom,’” recalls Joyce. “I knew we definitely had the right guy.” Five years into owning the business, Weise says he is glad he bought it. “The main reason our deal went so well was the fact that Tif did his homework on who would be the successor,” says Weise. Joyce has made Weise’s job easier by explaining to clients all of the compelling reasons he wanted Weise to lead the firm.
“It elevated me out of the gate,” says Weise. “It made my job a lot easier.” And now Joyce doesn’t have to worry about what will happen to him or his clients when he is ready to retire. Thanks to his success in finding a local buyer, he knows his future—and theirs—are in good hands.
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