Thomas Smale, Founder of FE International

Recently I sat down this Thomas Smale of FE International. Thomas and FE International helped me sell Sifter and made the whole process seem easy. He shares all the trends he has picked up on through years of selling SaaS.

Garrett Dimon: Hello. We are here today with Thomas Smale of FE International, he is the founder.

Thomas, well, first welcome. Can you give us a little bit of a background of your history, and how FE came about? What’s going on with you all.

Thomas Smale: Yeah, Garrett. Thanks so much for having me on. We started the company in 2010. At that time, we were buying and selling websites for ourselves.

Around that time, we launched an eCourse to teach people how to buy and sell websites for themselves. Off the back of that course, which got very popular, we had lots of great feedback from people.

Some people went through the course, and they said, “Hey, I read the content and it’s great, but can you just sell my business for me?”

Which wasn’t really something we have ever really thought about doing before. We thought we would just teach people, and continue doing it ourselves, which had been very profitable for us.

Off the back of that we figured, “Well, why not try selling a business for somebody?” We did our first deal back in 2010. For the next two years, we continued buying and selling ourselves. We continued teaching people. We continued brokering.

When we hit the end of 2012, we started to focus pretty much just on brokering. Since then, that’s basically been what we do. We do buy and sell some businesses for ourselves still. We still have a seven figure portfolio of SaaS and content-based businesses, but that’s very much not core from the main business.

It’s really just a cash flow thing for us in keeping up the industry. We’ve always found that clients prefer working with someone who has actually been there and done it. It doesn’t make too much sense to offer a service in an industry if you don’t actually do it yourself. That’s always what we’ve done.

Garrett: I love the story, because it’s the same thing when I talk to SaaS founders. So many of the businesses that are successful didn’t start out like, “Let’s go build a business.” It started out with one thing.

In your case, giving away education, and feedback, and learning, and then the demand pulled you in the direction rather than… You didn’t set out to do something. It just happened by virtue of doing what you were enjoying, and having fun with it, and sharing knowledge, and that kind of thing. The business just happened.

Thomas: Yeah, absolutely. A lot of businesses naturally pivot based on the demand that comes in. If you start with something like a course that’s quite open ended, and there’s lots of different ways you can go with the business. We just naturally went with what people are asking us for.

It certainly wasn’t what we thought we would end up doing, but there’s a lot of demand for it and we were quite good at it, so it made a lot of sense to focus.

Garrett: I feel like pivot’s one of those words, in a way, it’s gotten a bad name for itself because it’s basically more of a, “Oh, my idea is not working, let me try another idea.”

Whereas you’re not pivoting, like actively turning, you’re getting yanked in a direction because there’s just demand there and you’re filling it, whereas a lot of times it feels more like pivoting is like, “OK, this isn’t working. What else can we try? Quick. Hurry.”

Thomas: Yeah, I think the word does tend to get used interchangeably, but I’ve seen tons of successful businesses that have started out doing one thing. It’s the next step in the evolution of the business.

Garrett: I want to tell a quick story about working with you all before asking this question. One of the things that… When I first talked to you on the phone… I don’t know. This would’ve been, what, early this year? Or wait, no, sorry, or late 2015?

Thomas: Yeah, it would’ve been middle or the end of 2015.

Garrett: Somewhere around there. Talked to you, got on the phone with you and asked you some questions, and at that time just completely on guard, wary, not trusting at all, like, “OK, come on.”

The only reason I even considered calling was because I talked to Patrick McKenzie and he’d had nothing but great things to say. I was still on guard, and I talked to you and then you basically said everything I could’ve possibly wanted to hear.

I’m like, “This sounds too good to be true. This sales pitch is too effective.” All right, Patrick said good things. Everything they’re telling me sounds good. Let’s do this, and went into it.

Over time, you all definitely earned my trust and then especially once… We had our first deal which we walked away from on closing day.

At that moment, when you all were literally a signature away from getting paid, I would’ve expected some pressure to be like, “It’s OK. Let’s go ahead and concede this and close the deal. You may not get another deal. Take it.”

There was not even a breath of that from David or any of you all. It just was, “Yeah, that sucks. OK. You’re making the right decision. Let’s move on.”

At that moment, even though it was going to be a whole heck of a lot more work for you all, slimmer chances that maybe the commission was going to be lower because the value of the businesses ended up being lower, and it did.

That, to me, was just like, “All right, they get it. They’re not here just to flip the business and turn it and get their check and move on.” I really felt like you all stood by that.

For me, it took some time to wear me down being a skeptic. I don’t know if it’s the terminology of brokers, or just the natural “the business.”

There’s probably a lot of people out there that have made a bad name for the industry. Is that something you encounter a lot? Is there any advice or knowledge and context you could give people about helping them understand the bigger picture, and see where you fit in and why you do things the way you do?

Thomas: Brokers in general, whether you want to call it a broker or an adviser, they do tend to get a bad rep, mainly because there are so many bad companies out there, let’s be honest. Calling yourself a broker or adviser, there’s no hard and fast rule as to what means you are a broker.

You could, technically, do it yourself from home with no experience, and from a seller perspective, you don’t really know the difference. I guess that was part of the inspiration for actually pivoting, if you’re going to use that word again, in 2012, and really focusing on it. We found that our general approach had meant we got a lot of word of mouth business.

I think if you get word of mouth business consistently, then that’s a pretty good sign that you’re doing things the right way. We certainly get a lot of resistance to people. Our approach, we are a company that we have to sell people, firstly, on working with us and then actually sell the business, but I wouldn’t say any of us internally, we wouldn’t describe ourselves as sales people.

We don’t do any formal sales training or anything like that. When we initially speak to sellers, it’s very much just a case of building credibility and being very honest with people. We’ve always prided ourselves in giving people the right advice, so whether that means walking away from the wrong deal or being very honest with a valuation.

Often people come in and they say, “We might value a business at $1 million,” and they might say, “We want $3 million,” or something like that. The temptation, particularly when you’re starting out and for a lot of the smaller brokers, the temptation is just to agree, try at that level, and see what happens.

We have a 95 percent success rate for deals we take on, and that’s only ever increasing. That’s really down to being very honest with expectations. If we don’t think it’s a good fit, then we’re going to be quite honest about that. I think that’s quite important.

Advice-wise, if you’re looking to sell a business, regardless of who you’re working with, be a little bit skeptical if there’s somebody you’re dealing with who basically agrees with everything you say.

Part of the reason you hire a broker in the first place is they’re the experts, so if they’re not giving you any push-back on anything, whether it’s valuation, process, sales time, other expectations, or also, anything related to process. If you work with us, we have a process, and we’re not going to change that process based on what the buyer or the seller wants.

That’s quite important. It’s pretty much impossible to consistently sell if you are constantly changing the process. It’s not very scaleable, it’s not very predictable, and in general, we’d be doing people a disservice if we just agreed to everything they said.

Garrett: Absolutely. Is there a threshold or key criteria that you would say if somebody’s thinking about, “Oh, can I get out of this?” For whatever reason, is it a revenues point? What’s that determination about whether a business is viable to you and be sold, or do you use a broker, to justify using a broker?

Thomas: We look at a lot of different factors. The caveat would be, it’s always worth a conversation. Most people will be pretty honest with you straight away if it’s going to be a good fit or not. Some of the main things we’ll look at is making sure the business is at least 12 months old.

We get a lot of people who come to us with a product they launched three months ago, and they say, “We’re making X amount, can we sell it?” While there’s always a possibility that that business could be sold, we’ve built our reputation on selling businesses that are profitable and at least a year old, so we tend to shy away from those.

In terms of size, we have a real range of experience internally, and a team that deals with businesses anywhere from $20,000 up to $10 million and above. Size-wise, as long as it’s profitable and making more than about $1,000 a month net, then we will usually take it on, at least from a size perspective.

One of the things that comes up, particularly with SaaS businesses, that means we quite often walk away, is where the business is super-reliant on the owner. Whether they’ve done all of the coding or the programming themselves, or the running of it. If they are full-time on the business, that can be quite challenging.

Particularly with smaller businesses without making, say, $5,000 a month, and the owner is spending 20 hours a week on customer support, 20 hours a week on programming development, then that’s going to be quite difficult.

That’s one of the situations where we then work with people, maybe on a 6 or 12-month plan, to transition themselves out, the day-to-day processes, documenting code, and making sure from a buyer’s perspective anyone can come in and run that business.

Those are the main things with SaaS businesses. We do a hundred of different variables, but those are probably the main ones that come up.

Garrett: That makes a good case for automation, documentation so that the business isn’t so relying on you. The nice thing about that is, all that work is useful to you whether you sell the business or not, it’s a great way to invest. I’ve got a whole chapter, I’m planning on writing about automation and documenting processes.

As good as if there was about that, in hindsight, with all due diligence, it’s like, “Oh, whoa. I really could have done better there.” That due diligence is a great process regardless of selling the business to when you’re forced to really analyze your business and look at it from a more quantitative perspective. Instead of, product owner looking at your baby, it gives you a lot more insight.

Thomas: You definitely get that raw feedback that you won’t get yourself from friends and family, it’s quite difficult to get that to actually have somebody doesn’t know you, and they are just looking into buying the business, say absolutely.

Things about systems and processes, basically, everything we advise people during the buying process. They are not selling the right way that will increase the value, and if it increases the value, it’s making the business better in general. Whether that’s making more money or spending less time, which I guess for almost every business owner is a goal.

Garrett: I could imagine it can also have a good impact on decreasing the transition time, and your need for involvement after selling the business, and make it easier to extricate yourself and move on.

Thomas: Yeah, it certainly helps like a training period. You’re much more likely to negotiate a shorter training period if everything is documented and you’re not really involved. If you are working 40 hours a week on the business and nothing is documented, then it’s going to take a lot longer.

It’s much better to do it once because you’re going to end up doing it at the end of the process. By that stage, you probably already had to take a lot load off that than the business owner who have already done it, and ready to go.

Garrett: Somebody is looking to sell their business… maybe we might have touched this. What kind of one or two key universal pieces of advice would you have for them to make a decision about, “Should I sell? Should I not sell? What should I be doing to help make that decision or prepare for it?”

Thomas: The first piece of advice is start a conversation. I always encourage people to get a valuation even if they’re not necessarily thinking about selling. It’s very difficult to make a decision whether or not you should be selling until you know what it’s actually worth.

Then from there, most sellers we do tend to have one of two goals, it’s either a time based goal, “So, I need to sell the business by December.” Or a value based goal, “I want a million dollars for my business.” Or some people will have a combination of the two, “I want to get as much as possible for my business in the next six months. What do I need to do?”

Once you’ve done that, you’re going to be in a much better position to establish whether or not it’s the right time to sell. Other than that, it’s very difficult to decide until you know where you are now and what you’re working on.

Through the valuation process, it’s also a pre-assessment as well, so we pick up a lot of things that people can be working on, so if someone decides, “Now, is not the right time to sell,” we’ll give them three to five things to be working on over the next 3 months, 6 months, 12 months, that means, when they do come back, that business is going to be more sellable or more valuable.

Garrett: Yeah, puts them in a better position.

Thomas: Yeah, exactly.

Garrett: What about on the flip side with buyers? What would you tell buyers to zero in on? What do you tell buyers when you’re working with them to focus on? What makes for a healthy recurring revenue business?

Thomas: One of the first things for buyers is figuring out what you can and can’t run. If you’re not a developer yourself and you’re looking to buy a technical business like a SaaS product, then you need to make sure you look for a business that either has a team already in place.

Or maybe you should partner with someone or hire someone quite early on. Particularly for the due diligence period, because from a seller perspective things might not be that well documented, and you really want to go through the code.

Or at least, a sample of the code that we usually give you the access to that period to make sure you have a good understanding of it. From there, it’s really the case of finding a business with a good fit with your skills there.

While you might not be a developer you might be a great marketer, and you might have a business where… particularly in the SaaS space, sellers below a million dollars, they tend to be very much developers at first, and marketer and business people second.

There’s often some opportunities for people who come in with a different skill set to improve that business. Figuring out what you’re good at and where you can add values is quite important, there’s no point buying a business where you don’t really understand any of it, and nothing you know about is going to be relevant to that particular business.

You could do that, but I always advise people to pick a thing that they’re interested in or they have skills that can be worked on. The other thing as well, particularly if you’re going to buy through a broker, is be quite clear and honest open on.

Much more of a seller, we encourage to speak to us as early as possible, if you’re looking to buy a business then be quite clear. First, on what you’re willing and able to spend; there’s no point saving a hundred thousand dollars and looking at a million dollar businesses, you’re just wasting everyone’s time.

Also, a good understanding of your time horizon. I never encourage buyers to rush through the process, and while we do sell businesses quite quickly particularly in the SaaS space. Doing a research, maybe that means looking at different businesses and prospects for six months before you make a decision.

I think that’s important as well, particularly if it’s your first acquisition or a large acquisition, there’s no real prizes to rushing through that process.

Garrett: Yeah, for anybody for that matter. [laughs]

Thomas: Yeah.

Garrett: Is there a certain trend you see amongst buyers? Is that going to change over time? Do they tend to be less or fewer technical buyers, or people who aren’t necessarily technical, or is it all over the board?

Thomas: That’s a very good question. We have a real range of buyers, we have tens of thousands of qualified buyers and are less in there, the skills they have are really varying. Most people in the SaaS space will either be technical themselves, already have a team or they have a partner, like a trusted employee who is technical.

It’s quite rare to find someone buying SaaS spaces who has literally no technical experience or access to anything technical. One of the main trends as well is more and more formal funds, whether that’s like a venture fund, a private equity group, private investors coming into the space and probably lowering the size of businesses they are looking for.

Traditionally, a lot of investment groups won’t look at businesses below $10 million, say. We’re seeing quite a few sales, particularly 500,000 and up, where they are actually bought by investor groups that previously wouldn’t really have been looking at that level, mainly, because there’s just so much potential with a lot of these businesses.

They can be fantastic products but often just run by a single founder. With a marketing team, or a developing team behind it, some of these businesses can really grow quite quickly.

Garrett: What’s the biggest or most common mistake you see when people reach out to you and you’re looking over their perspectives after it gets put together, you’re talking to them. What’s the just the most common mistake or the most important mistake that people still make?

Thomas: Is that from a seller perspective or a buyer perspective?

Garrett: From a seller. As a product owner, I’m coming to you and you’re looking over my business, what did I do wrong?

Thomas: I’d say probably one of the most common ones that, regardless of business model, regardless of size, is not tracking financials properly. We usually spend a lot of time working with owners, preparing their financials. Whatever that means, they didn’t have their books in order at all, or they might not understand their finances.

Maybe there are some commingled finances from other businesses, which is quite like money, like wealth, and someone will have maybe three put up [inaudible]. If they are just selling one product, then there might be some cost, like for example, there might have a developer who works on three businesses. You got to figure out what the relevant cost is.

I’d say, anything finance related, it’s very rare to find financials where we have sent them, we use them as they are. There’s almost definitely some back and forth on various adjustments.

Another thing is metrics. I definitely see the sellers have gotten better than this over the last few years because there are various tools that they can use to track SaaS metrics.

Not knowing those wouldn’t necessarily stop us now, but we would definitely need to figure them out before we get listed. Otherwise, we’re off in very interesting metrics like churn, lifetime value, anything like that. The better you track those, the more transparent you can be, then the easier the sell process is going to be as well.

Garrett: Is it as simple as founders should get a bookkeeper involved sooner, or a CPA, or what would be your specific advice to help mitigate that, and how they could go about it?

Thomas: Generally speaking, particularly for the size of business that we do everything, not necessarily an accountant to be doing it. It’s really just bookkeeping. The accounting is more relevant when it comes to paying taxes at the end of the year, finding relevant write-offs, which isn’t really something we deal with in the sales process because we don’t take tax into account, at all.

A buyer might do from their personal situation. Really, bookkeeping is having someone who does your books on a monthly basis, keeping them up to date. Again, much like we were saying with processes, there’s almost no situation where tracking your numbers better on a monthly basis is going to be bad for business.

It might be an extra expense that you might have previously done every 6 months or every 12 months, but if you can do it on a monthly basis, then it just makes things a lot easier, and generally, bookkeepers aren’t a massive expense.

Accountants can be quite expensive, particularly if you’ve got quite a complex tax situation. We’re just preparing your financials for sale, really shouldn’t be that complex. It’s just a case of getting started.

Where it can get quite messy is if it’s not done for 12 months and then… like receipts and invoices, and you’re like, “Here’s my numbers,” which doesn’t really work that well.

Just get a bookkeeper involved early. It really doesn’t need to be complicated. It’s not like we do an extreme amount of detailed financial analysis down to the cent. It’s just a case of having it all in order.

Garrett: Anything that isn’t in order looks off, is going to raise red flags, slow down the sales process, it slips you in. Ideally, none of that slips through the cracks, but invariably things come up like, “Wait a minute. What was this about? Why is…”

I think it’s one of those things that it’s just… Like process, it’s going to pay off dividends whether you sell or not, but especially if you eventually sell.

Thomas: Yeah, absolutely. Things like documentation, we do as much verification as we can, free listing, but often there are things that might come up mid-prices, like a cost that’s been forgotten about or a buyer doesn’t like the way costs have been allocated in a certain way.

Yeah, the earlier that can be flagged, ideally we will figure all of that out pre-listing, which is why… A lot of people do work with us often, and some of the feedback they said is they spent a lot of time with us up front, but that’s very much intentional to make sure that they’re in a good position when it is listed.

There’s nothing worse than getting halfway through the process and finding out there’s problems. Much better off figuring that out at the beginning of the process.

Garrett: Is it fair to say that more often than not, the buyers are going to be more financially savvy than the sellers and be better at spotting those things just from their history and the nature of the fact that they are on the buying side?

Thomas: Yeah, I’d say so. I’d say the majority of buyers probably have an investing background, so a lot of buyers who we deal with might probably invest in real estate. It’s quite a common profile we see.

Often, bear in mind, if you’re buying a business, let’s say you are buying a business for a million dollars, chances are a million dollars isn’t all the cash you have in the world. Maybe we’ll have say, 10 million in invested assets, which is often a lot more than sellers.

Thomas: To build the business themselves where when they set up the business. Most people are really just out there to make a living, and quit their jobs, not have to do freelancing anymore, say $10, $20, $30,000 a month, it’s a lot of money. It can sustain whole families.

Whereas from a buyer perspective, particularly if there are looking out from an investor point of view. Chances are they have a lot more and are more financially savvy in that respect.

Garrett: One of the interesting things for me going through selling Sifter was that it can actually be a little more challenging selling a smaller business than a larger business. Is that something that’s held true, and if so, what’s the threshold for that and why is that the case?

Thomas: I’d say, in general, sales time for small businesses are a lot faster. Valuations can often be higher just because there’s so much demand at that level. There really is a real range.

I’ll tell you the main reason they can be hard to sell, is in an advanced, that’s where you can spend a lot more time, because usually… Let’s say, a small business is $100,000 versus $1 million SaaS business.

Generally speaking, people who run a $100,000 business is probably a side project for them. If it’s not a side project, that’s all they’re working on, then they might not be particularly financially savvy. Not having their books in order is extremely common. Whereas for an a million dollar business, it’s less likely.

Things like metrics, again, most owners of smaller businesses won’t track that as well as larger businesses. Let’s say, in general, they’re not necessarily harder to sell. They can often just take more time proportionately than bigger businesses. That’s really just a lack of initial preparation or, I guess, sophistication.

Garrett: Yeah, which makes sense. I think most developers on those smaller projects… Even for me with Sifter, I knew enough to keep up with bookkeeping, but it was the least exciting part of it all. It was not the place where I wanted to spend my time. Although in hindsight, now it would definitely be something that I would give a lot more attention earlier on.

With buying and selling SaaS, SaaS is obviously, in its own way, a very unique business, especially with recurring revenue. They don’t just start shrinking overnight, like churn and stuff. As long as you… You generally will have a healthy plateau where the business can go on fairly indefinitely.

I experienced that with Sifter and going through three years of working on it really inconsistently depending on what I was juggling. How does that translate into making SaaS different in terms of buying and selling, and maybe how it affects the valuation, how it affects the perception or…

You mentioned a couple of times that it’s becoming a more common thing for people to be interested in, and want to buy, and funds coming down market, and buying smaller companies. What would you say makes it different than other investment vehicles or other businesses that aren’t necessarily recurring revenue ways?

Thomas: The other main business models we focus on are e-commerce businesses and then content-based businesses, wherever that’s Amazon, or affiliates , or AdSense. Compared to those business models, one of the main things is valuations are almost always higher than all of those models in almost all situations.

One of the main reasons for that is just the barrier to entry, to building a SaaS product and getting traction is a lot higher and harder than some of the other business models.

Naturally, it’s like a more defenseful business. I always say to people with a SaaS business, you can often just close the doors for any new customers, and that business is still going to make money over time.

Whereas you do that with almost every other business or business model, then it’s not. The valuations are higher and I definitely don’t see that slowing down anytime soon. From a buyer perspective, it’s a very competitive space at the moment for buying, particularly in the last 12, 18 months.

Whether that’s because, we’ve got better and built a bigger list of buyers, which is definitely true, but also, I think, more and more interest from people in buying SaaS. Whereas previously, maybe not quite as popular of a business model. Maybe, due to lack of understanding, or say, some funds that can get big in businesses that they do now.

It can be challenging for a first time buyer to get a deal below the line in the SaaS space. Some of the things we we’re talking about earlier, making sure you’re well prepared with exactly what you want, when you buy it, and what you’re willing to spend.

Building a relationship with a broker, or adviser, or advisers, or brokers, and letting them know what you want. It means you are going to be in a much better position because they’ll be able to send you opportunities that could fit as soon as they come out, and then you are going to be probably competing against less buyers.

From a broker perspective, while we represent the seller in the transaction, it’s in our best interest for a deal to get done. If we think a buyer is particularly serious and they’re actually are going to buy a business, then we are going to spend time with that person to make sure they do buy a thing that’s a good fit.

I’d say that’s really important. A lot of buyers come in and they might be a bit worried about the fact they’re a first time buyer or be a little bit intimidated by the process but ultimately while we don’t work for you, we’ll still work with you to make sure that you can successfully buy a thing.

From the sell side, I say one thing a lot of SaaS can underestimate. That’s a lot of feedback people get about us, is the process is quite complex and does take some time. SaaS businesses really aren’t that easy to sell, which is part of the reason we’ve done so well in this space.

We put so much time and resource into learning it, building our relationship to people in the industry, and our knowledge. There are a lot of other brokers, and advisers, and people trying to sell themselves who really struggle, because it’s not very simple businesses at all.

Having that specialist knowledge is quite important. I’d say also, selling a SaaS business is not really something you can do with one or two pages of information.

There’s a lot of data gathering required, whereas with an affiliate site that gets search engine traffic, you buy that business with a few lines of information if you’re an experienced buyer.

Whereas with a SaaS business it’s basically impossible, because there’s the complexity of operations, you’ve got the back end code, most likely some unique IP there, so the due diligence and general things you need to know, there’s a lot more.

That’s offset by the fact valuations are higher, so you probably spend a little bit more time on the process, particularly upfront. Once the process starts, SaaS businesses are probably one of the quickest business models we sell now, and also valuations, like I said, consistently outperform most of the other main business models, too.

Garrett: Right on. That brings us towards the end. Is there any other key advice or parting ideas and concepts that you’d want to share with people? Other than… At least talk to a broker, because you have nothing to lose. What would you tell somebody, on either side, buyer and seller?

Thomas: We’re being quite comprehensive with the Q&A, so far. From a seller perspective, other than the obvious, “Start a conversation early,” be aware of the timing of a sale.

A lot of people come to us, maybe when it’s… not necessarily too late, but they come to us if it’s a side project for them, or maybe they’re a bit out of their depth and the business is beginning to plateau or maybe even decline.

That’s when they start the conversation or start thinking about selling, but from a valuation perspective and just a saleability perspective in general, selling at the right time, ideally, when the business is still growing.

While that might seem counter-intuitive, people say, “Why should I sell a business that’s still growing?” and that certainly makes sense, but from a saleability perspective, valuation perspective, sell it while it’s growing.

It’s going to be worth significantly more and sell faster than the business that’s declining or plateauing. I’d say my main advice there is don’t be afraid to sell when it is still growing. That really could be the best time.

From a buyer perspective, I’d say one of the main mistakes I see buyers make, particularly in a very competitive buying space that it is, or buying through a broker or adviser like us who has pretty large lesson of reputation, we do get businesses sold quickly, and at very good valuations.

A lot of buyers come in and their main criteria is just getting a good deal financially. They like to feel like they’re paying less than market value for a business. To be perfectly honest, if you’re working with us, it’s highly unlikely you’re ever going to pick up a bargain for a business.

I think the areas you should be looking at when getting a good deal is not really in the price, but looking for a business that’s a really good fit for you.

A business you can grow, a business that has synergies with anything else you might have in your portfolio, if you’re a buyer like that, rather than just focusing on price, which, to be honest, if you manage to grow a business or you can add value to it, then what you’ve paid is pretty much irrelevant.

Bargain shopping is not necessarily the best way to go, particularly through a broker. There’s always possibilities to pick up fake projects from people, but that’s not really what we focus on. There are much better opportunities buying a business that’s growing, even if you do feel like the valuation is high.

Garrett:That’s good stuff. All right, well this has been awesome. Thanks so much for taking the time. I appreciate it and obviously appreciate all the help with Sifter, back when.

Thomas: Cool. Thanks so much.

Garrett: Thank you.


This is interview is one in a series of interviews about small software businesses, how they got their start, and how they continue to operate. You can follow along here on Medium for new interviews or visit the interview archives.

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