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AZBBA Newsletter – November 2022

Lisa Riley

– Broker Spotlight – Lisa Riley

How did you get into the business brokerage industry?

After leaving academia and moving to AZ, my husband’s dream was to build a home. Since his career was the impetus for our move, I was the GC of building our home.  Throughout the process, we had a ton of assistance and others began asking me to help them.  GC license or RE license?  2+ years or 2+ weeks? Decided to get a RE sales agent license to remodel, fix and assist others. In addition to the courses, I attended the career night on what you can do with a AZ RE license.  Lo & behold – you can sell businesses!  Who paid attention to the 2 minutes in the entire 90+ hours of courses?  

As a researcher and having taught Demography courses, I dug in and interviewed both business brokers as well as business owners.  I thought, I can do this AND it really utilized all my skills better than house building/remodeling. Although both share the same basics – understand what the client wants & needs and ensure expectations are in alignment to increase the likelihood of a successful outcome. This was the same strategy I used in my prior Evaluation Company. 

Additionally, I had researched the top organizations and I immediately joined AZBBA and IBBA. Both organizations have provided, and continue to provide, invaluable insight and support.

What is your favorite thing about the industry?

The people! This industry is made up of generous professionals willing to share their knowledge and experience. I don’t have to make the mistake to learn from it. Thus, I always learn something new every day – be it from a colleague, a client or an opportunity!  There’s always a solution to every issue – it’s just at what cost and is the cost worth it.

What is the best or most interesting deal you have
worked on?

One of my client’s was negative $1M in EBITDA (yes, EBITDA not SDE) when we went to market. As it was a lower middle market deal, there wasn’t an asking price.  The key to this opportunity was finding a buyer in the same space – who could qualify for the government contracts, keep the long-term loyal employees, and grow back the business to it’s former $3-$5M EBITDA.  It took us 2 years and two private equity groups (PEG) (the first PEG was bolting my client’s company on one they had acquired the prior year).  In the midst of our transaction, 1st PEG sold that company to another PEG.  Thankfully, the 2nd PEG was a better fit for that company and its owner really, really wanted my client’s company. He & I kept the deal together with the new PEG. LOTS of lessons learned in this one!

What is the key to being a successful broker?

Listen and Learn.  Understand the needs of seller and buyers in order to create win win scenarios. Have a great deal team to work with (Bankers, Lawyers, Accountants, etc.).
Get Involved. As a member, volunteer, committee member, board member, and past chair of both the IBBA and AZBBA, giving back always increases your knowledge, bandwidth and bottom line.  As St. Francis of Assisi said, “…It is in giving that we receive…”

What is the strangest experience you have had while showing a listing?

As a relatively new broker, I had a client who owned and operated a small HVAC residential company.  He had a couple of crews and trucks, however, the owner was also active in the business. After reviewing his business, preparing him for buyer-seller meetings and ensuring that the right types of buyers were interested, Steve Ferber had an interested buyer who had reviewed the Confidential Information Memorandum and wanted to move forward with a meeting! YEAH!

During this meeting on a hot summer day, my client just kept repeating that he wanted to sell because he ‘didn’t want to die on the roof.’  Needless to say, he had NEVER said anything like that in any of my prior meetings with him. Steve’s buyer did NOT move forward with the purchase. Ask Steve about his perspective, although he may not recall it, I was mortified!  

My client & I rehearsed for future meetings, discussed what went well and what didn’t (a repeat of what we had practiced prior to that meeting).  It was now time for a meeting with a second buyer…which had a very similar result. When we struck out the 3rd time, I decided that the best path forward was to part ways as we were going to have similar results and our contract was ending. The likelihood of someone purchasing this business was slim to none due to the self-sabotaging of the owner, who may not have been ready to let go. 

Lessons Learned:  Get to True Motivation & Move on Quickly.

What do you do on your day(s) off?

I enjoy traveling, hiking, wine tasting and overall exploring with my husband.  We also enjoy woodworking (built cabinets for our home and found out, wow, we get exactly what we want) and gardening. There is never a dearth of activities to do or places to go!

As published in the AZBBA Newsletter – November 2022