The Green Condor

The Green Condor

The Green Condor

Hello $wanigans! Thanks for checking out The Green Swan. Today I want to give an update on my small business venture with my siblings. For the sake of everyone’s privacy and to avoid calling it “my small business venture” all the time, I’ve coined the name “The Green Condor”, or “Condor” for short, to reference the business.

Why The Green Condor? No real good reason. Green I suppose just to keep with The Green Swan theme and Condor because it is an awesome bird making a phenomenal comeback after being extinct from the wild as of 1987. It has the largest wingspan on any bird at over 10 feet! Its resurgence in the wild and large wingspan is something I’d like for our business to achieve…strong growth and over time developing a larger and larger wingspan as we grow and become more acquisitive!

If you missed my initial discussion on the Condor, check out My Small Business Investment.

So I have just a few things to update everyone on with this post:

  1. The acquisition formally closes on August 19
  2. Business performance update
  3. Regular operating update calls
  4. Relationships with my siblings

So let’s jump right in!

Acquisition Closing

After a long closing process, we are almost there! The acquisition will close tomorrow. One of my siblings, James, will be there in person to complete the process. He will be the sibling primarily responsible for operating and running the business. There have been countless documents to sign, a few that had to be notarized, and also the other legal aspects such as creating LLCs, operating agreements, checking accounts, etc. Thankfully all of that is done now and we are setup and ready to go. Everyone is excited to get into it and start ramping up!

James and my other younger brother, Jon, met and formally announced the acquisition to the employees a few weeks ago. They said it couldn’t have gone any better. The current owner was very gracious to us when making the introductions and will be very helpful in easing the transition. And when James and Jon met with the employees in small groups later on without the current owner, the employees couldn’t have been more excited about our plans for the business. As previously mentioned, the current owner has not been in good health and he has lacked focus and energy on the business. With us as the new owners, we will give the business new direction with growth plans that the employees were thrilled about and in complete agreement with. The introductions went great and from the sounds of it the employees are just as eager for the acquisition to close.

I sent my wire to the business at the end of July. I was in the process of liquidating the necessary funds throughout July, as I outlined in My New Target Allocations which went fairly smoothly. Rather than selling a whole bunch of my mutual funds at once, I spread it out in $10K to $20K increments throughout the month. I must admit, the Brexit at the end of June vote scared me pretty good! At that point, I hadn’t started to liquidate anything yet. You can imagine my nervousness as the market dropped precipitously in the following days after the vote. Fortunately, they bounced back just as quickly and continued to climb throughout July. All-in-all, it was not a bad time to liquidate a portion of my investments.

It would be fun to celebrate the closing of the acquisition with all my brothers. Unfortunately we all live in different cities across three time zones. While the next chance we will all be together is in just a couple weeks for my older brother MJ’s wedding, I think we will focus that celebration on his special day.

Business Performance Update

Not the best news to report here. Unfortunately business has been really soft through June with revenues off ~12% compared to the prior year period. We haven’t seen July numbers yet. This was a huge concern when we saw this. We all wondered what the current owner was doing! We had tons of questions we needed to bounce off him and this is what we ultimately found out:

  • The business is weather dependent (we knew this part) and that was the primary driver to the decline in revenue.
  • While they had lost a few technicians, the owner assured us that no business was turned down due to inadequate staffing.
  • This degree of revenue decline has been experienced once before a few years back (also due to weather). In that year, the back half of the year was strong and more than offset the initial decline.

This helped provide us some comfort, but we still had concerns which we clearly communicated to the owner.

  • We wanted to remind him that per the purchase agreement the business needed to continue to be run in a similar manner with appropriate staffing. We urged him to make staffing a priority and within a week he was able to find and hire a new, well qualified tech. We felt good about this.
  • We wanted to renegotiate his consulting agreement for which we have agreed to pay him $200K, a meaningful piece of the overall purchase amount. He obviously opposed this. Eventually we were able to come to an amicable agreement, basically where we would cut it in half to $100K if 2016 year-end revenue didn’t meet a certain level. This tests him and his belief that the business will bounce back just like prior years, while also recognizing he wouldn’t be able to sell the business as much today based on 6/30 financials as he was when we agreed based on 12/31/2015 financials.

Regular Operating Updates

As mentioned above, us four brothers all live in different cities across the country. Staying organized and keeping everyone up to date will be a challenge. This is especially important early on in this process and after acquisition closing given the number of moving parts and things to address with Condor.

James and Jon are owners, but also are more involved in the day-to-day operations while MJ and I are just owners. So one of the challenges are keeping MJ and I up to speed on all important issues and decisions, but not bogging us down in minutia that we don’t have time for.

What we are doing to primarily address this is keeping a file of things to address, color-coded based on priority, and updated as things are resolved or new items are added. Not only is this file available for all to see (saved securely in the cloud), but we have weekly calls on Sunday to discuss. Given how busy we all are in our daily lives, the challenge here will be keeping them as efficient as possible.

While this will always be a challenge, we hope weekly Sunday calls will suffice. We’ve started this already, but given how hectic things have been at times we have sprinkled in a few spontaneous mid-week calls in the evenings.

Our Relationships Are Priority

The other major challenge that will be ongoing is keeping things amicable between all of us. A number of issues have and will continue to be addressed to avoid conflict. While a few sensitive issues have already come up, keeping communication open and honest has helped. And fortunately, when conflict brews between two of us, the other siblings are there to help mediate. All-in-all, we do not have any challenges in being frank with each other. Growing up together over the last 20 to 25 years, we’ve encountered a lot together and have plenty of experience in conflict resolution…for better or worse.

Us four are close and I don’t see anything ultimately coming between us. Famous last words though right…? This will take work and everyone’s attention. And as mentioned in the previous post on Condor, my ownership interest is unique in that I may want to liquidate in 5 to 10 years as I move into early retirement. This has been built into our operating agreements and everyone understands my situation.

Do you have any thoughts on Condor? Do you think we managed the sales decline appropriately? Any tips to help us keep our weekly updates as efficient as possible? Let me know in the comments below.

Thanks for taking a look!

The Green Swan

Work Harder, Work Smarter, Retire Earlier and Find Your Beach

 

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42 Comments on "The Green Condor"

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Jon @ Be Net Worthy
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GS, congratulations! I’m sure you and your siblings must be super excited! As you know, I previously purchased a small business and was looking to purchase a bigger one when I was laid-off at the end of 2014. Ultimately, I chickened out and went back to my Fortune 50 company. I have to say that I am very jealous. I think you handled the sales decline well with the earn-out provision and I know that this type of situation is very common. It’s nice to have the former owner with some skin in the game for a little while after closing. I think that many people underestimate the power of small, low-tech, and enduringly profitable businesses to build wealth. Everyone is too focused on starting… Read more »
Vicki@Make Smarter Decisions
Guest
This is such exciting news and it is impressive that four siblings are taking this on! It sounds like you managed the sales decline issue well by addressing the consulting contract. I was interested in your comment that since there are four of you – if two of you have an issue or disagreement, the other two can help smooth the waters. At first I thought four of you would be a tough number to manage, but that certainly makes sense now too (not that you will be teaming up against each other). We own a small and not glamorous rental apartment complex. We keep our clients (tenants) happy and we will do very well with this investment when we pay off the mortgage in… Read more »
Thias @It Pays Dividends
Guest
It was a good idea to build a performance clause into his agreement. Did you establish any sort of escrow as well with the purchase price where the money is held in a separate account for 6 months or a year in case the business wasn’t as presented to you? I guess the performance clause is the same sort of thing so at least you added something to protect yourself a bit. Obviously the business is weather based, as you discussed above, are there any other factors that can push sales down as well? I know there has been a lot of softness in different areas right now so I’m curious if there are other factors out there besides weather for the sales decline. Deal… Read more »
Apathy Ends
Guest

Thanks for the update – it is very interesting to hear how these transactions go down and I appreciate the insight.

I think you handled the revenue drop appropriately, if it is truly due to weather it shouldn’t be an issue for either party.

Not a bad time at all to liquidate some investments, record highs make selling easier

Matt @ Optimize Your Life
Guest

This is a really cool read. I’m looking forward to further updates as you progress. I have always been cautioned against working with family so I would love to see how that working relationship continues to develop. Congrats and best of luck!

Mr. SSC
Guest

Nice negotiaitons on the consulting deal, and like you mentioned it tests his claim, and doesn’t stretch your financial obligations thin either.

I’m looking forward to read more as it begins to grow and take on a life of its own in your “investment family”.

Dividends Down Under
Guest

Sounds like you’ve got things under control JW – you did the right thing by negotiating the price downwards. I hope you’re all able to work together on this project successfully. I don’t have much/any business running experience, but just make sure you keep the key people in the business on-side, they’re extremely important to how successful you are!

Tristan

Mr. PIE
Guest

Great news and congratulations!!

I have a question on the organizational topic and decision making. In terms of the siblings, who makes the final call on a critical decision? Do you have a process for alternative dispute resolution!!???

Stefan - The Millennial Budget
Guest

As somebody who wants to run their own business I love the insight you gave. I think the performance clause is a great way to light a fire under the old owner to perform, kind of like the golden handcuffs of stock options. Hopefully the second half is like the previous time this happened!
While I may never have the chance to work with siblings on a business (my brother is studying medicine) I think being honest like you and you siblings are is a successful habit. Hope all goes well and can’t wait to read more!

EL @ moneywatch101
Guest

Good luck on the new business venture. Mixing family and money can be a good thing or a bad thing, hopefully it will turn out great. I have been thinking of starting a real estate venture with family, and hopefully I can set it up. Good Luck.

Harmony@CreatingMyKaleidoscope
Guest

Very exciting news! I wish you the best of luck in this new venture. Also, I’m very impressed by the family cooperation. My siblings are not very dependable/business savvy. I don’t think we would ever be able to handle something similar.

ESI Money
Guest

Congrats!! I’m excited to hear how it goes.

I’m keeping an eye out for potential business to buy as well and am hoping I’ll learn something from your situation.

Good luck!

Kelsey @ Tealmama
Guest

This is so interesting. I’m also going into business with my sisters (we are a ways away from launching). And we made sure to outline expectations up front (with the operating agreement, RAAs, etc.) while making relationships a top priority. We’ve witnessed family businesses ruin relationships and plan to make sure that doesn’t happen. I look forward to following future updates on the Green Condor. 🙂

TheMoneyMine
Guest

Glad to see that the acquisition went well!
This sounds like an exciting business venture, I’m looking forward to reading more about it.
If you are a non-operating owner, I’d suggest that you (as a team) have clear objectives for the business that you agree on and what are the metrics you want to follow. This will necessarily make the weekly updates easier and make you better aware of what is going on in the business, even if you’re not involved day to day.
That’s exciting, can’t wait to read more!

Finance Solver
Guest

Fantastic and exciting times ahead for you, I’m wishing nothing but success. I really like the last point about keeping it amicable to maintain the relationships you have with your siblings. It’s hard sometimes to separate the personal from business and the fact that you were able to do so through open and honest communication is fantastic. It’s fascinating how talking and communication can make a huge difference. The seasonality of the business should also be an interesting angle for you guys to manage.

Here’s to success!

Ty @ Get Rich Quickish
Guest

Quite the roller coaster so far, starting with Brexit, a 12% decline, renegotiating worth the previous owner. … what a ride!

Hope to see more updates on Condor in the future. I hope you find success, but not at the expense of your relationship with your brothers. Family first!

Francesca - From Pennies to Pounds
Guest

Oh wow, how exciting! I hope you will let us in on some more details, as I am nosy 🙂 best of luck with it all.

Jacq
Guest
Jacq
Congrats! I’ve watched my mom and associated parties set up an llc for her retirement property, their summer house property. It sure takes a lot more than you would think. From my experience listening to conference calls & board meetings I’d suggest an agenda. In my corporate world, our monthly dept meeting has it broken down into times (5, 10, 15 min). The person running the meeting is responsible for keeping the speaker on track. It can be easy to get off track, or get pulled into 1 topic. With the dept meetings a new person volunteers each time to run it. We also use slides in a ‘5 up’ format. It summarizes up coming tasks, current/ on going topics and recent successes / completed… Read more »
ZJ Thorne
Guest

I’m impressed at what you were able to negotiate with the previous owner. I’m looking at the flooding in Louisiana right now and hoping that weather volatility slows down for all of us.

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[…] The Green Condor […]

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[…] brothers and I went in together on the purchase of a small business that James is running day-to-day. This is something that had been in the works for a while, but […]

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[…] Back to The Green Condor. As a quick reminder, or intro for new readers, my siblings and I bought an industrial services company recently. While we reached an agreement for the purchase early in the summer, there were a number of things we needed to do in order to actually close the acquisition in mid-August. For more background, check out the previous articles titled My Small Business Investment and The Green Condor. […]

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