What I Learned from Selling My Business

Back in January I decided to sell my baby, the local job board network AllCountyJobs.com. A company that I've grown and nurtured for almost 14 years. I had been thinking about selling it for the past few years but the Great Recession put an end to those dreams. 

My sales dropped over 50% by 2009 from their highs in 2007. So I was stuck with nothing left to do but keep at it and try to bring them back to their 'glory days'. I was determined not to let the economy dictate my sales so I worked day and night to do just that.

By 2011 I had brought the business back to within 50k of its best year ever. And I did it in less than ideal economic conditions. When January 2012 rolled around I knew it was time. The country was creating jobs again, hiring was picking up.

I created a sell sheet that described the business/expenses/revenue and announced the sale on my blog. Then I waited for the phone to ring.

The calls came in rapid succession. I spoke with job board after job board and made my pitch. Then I started to get calls from non-job boards such as recruiters. They were also curious about the business. All wanted to know how I built a six figure revenue stream working just a few hours per day (from home).

But by mid February things had cooled off. I started following up with the original callers to see if they planned on making an offer. They either couldn't meet my asking price or tried to lowball me.

I began to feel like it wasnt going to happen.

Not being able to sell would have become a burden I think. I was ready to get out of the local job space and work on something bigger that would be nationwide. I just had to find a buyer. But alas, the calls stopped coming.

Then one day I got an email from someone who I thought wasn't interested. He (bidder #1) wanted to meet for coffee. We began to discuss what the deal would look like and kept in touch. He had to speak to his investor partners.

Two weeks later I happened to mention the sale to an existing client of mine (bidder #2). He was interested. So I sent him the info he requested and waited to hear back.

In the meantime I was also reaching out to my network looking for people to invest in a new idea I had called CareerCloud. I was able to get a meeting with a former client (bidder #3) who had sold his company a few years back and who now spent his time angel investing in the NY/CT region. During that meeting I told him the tale of how I had this very profitable business that I wanted to sell and start CareerCloud. A week or so later they made an offer to buy ACJ and invest in my new startup.

Suddenly things were looking up.

It was now late March and I had three offers to choose from. Each one was from very different people..angel investors, HR consultant and a Recruiter. I had to choose. 

In the end I chose OperationsInc, the HR consultancy based in Stamford CT (view press release). They seemed to be the best fit and AllCountyJobs really complimented their existing product lines and geographical footprint. I signed the Letter of Intent and we moved forward on the deal which took another 2 months to complete.

This entire process was a massive learning experience for me. There were times when I was on cloud 9 and times where I got depressed. It was a roller coaster ride to say the least. But I did come away with some valuable lessons.

Lessons Learned

  • Trying to sell a business to someone who doesnt know you is difficult. I ended up with 3 offers all from people in Connecticut, all of which I knew already.
  • There are still plenty of people who would love to own a job board.
  • Having multiple offers gives you lots of leverage. Spread the word about your intent to sell far and wide.
  • Lawyers are freakin' expensive. Try and negotiate a flat fee. Find one BEFORE you need one.
  • Internet businesses, especially profitable ones, should be valued differently than traditional ones.
  • If you want to sell your company make sure others can run it without you. Dont involve yourself to a point where a new owner still needs you to run it.
  • Being able to say I SOLD MY COMPANY is just as important to me as the money I got for it.

So thats my story.

And now its on to build the next company. I think it will be bigger and better than anything I've ever built. 

Hopefully in another 3-5 years I'll be able to write another post just like this one.

Views: 504

Comment by Jim Murphy on June 11, 2012 at 7:43am

Hi Chris,

Thank you for sharing this very useful insight!

Best wishes for your new venture.

Rgds

Jim

Comment by Noel Cocca on June 11, 2012 at 10:41am

Great post Chris and congratulations!  Everyone learns from making, and not making deals happen....lets meet up again soon...

Comment by Tim Spagnola on June 11, 2012 at 10:57am
I agree that this was a great post Chris. Thanks for sharing your story an best of luck to you moving forward.
Comment by Suresh on June 11, 2012 at 2:42pm
Thanks for sharing..
Comment by Chris Russell on June 11, 2012 at 5:49pm

Thanks everyone, if you ever need advice about selling dont hesitate to ask

Comment by Joshua Lee on June 14, 2012 at 10:21pm

Chris thanks for the story dude...great info to help prepare ourselves should we ever enter that season of our lives.

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