April 26, 2023

E116: Scott Duke: Founder Of Open Road - Navigating Business Transition And Building Sellable Assets

E116: Scott Duke: Founder Of Open Road - Navigating Business Transition And Building Sellable Assets

Scott Duke is an M&A advisor and the founder of eleven companies. He started his first company while in university to pay for school without taking on a lot of student debt. The company was a painting company, similar to College Pro. When it comes...

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Scott Duke is an M&A advisor and the founder of eleven companies. He started his first company while in university to pay for school without taking on a lot of student debt. The company was a painting company, similar to College Pro. When it comes to mergers and acquisitions, interest rates have a huge impact. When interest rates double, banks use a debt servicing ratio to determine how much they are willing to lend. This directly impacts the cash flow of businesses, as the same amount of money is needed to service debt. Scott's story is similar to most entrepreneurs as they start out small and then eventually get into larger ventures.

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Website: https://opnroad.io/
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[00:00:00] Ronald Skelton: Hello and welcome to the How2Exit Podcast. Today I'm here with Scott Duke. He's the founder of Open Road, which is a middle market m and a service company out of Canada. Thank you for being on the show today, Scott. 

[00:00:10] Scott Duke: Hey Ron. Thanks for having me. So much appreciated. 

[00:00:13] Ronald Skelton: Yeah, we're gonna have fun today. So, I always think of Canada as cold, and I realize that Canada is this huge country and it could be all kinds of climate and temperature.

[00:00:21] Scott Duke: For the most part it's cold. 

[00:00:23] Ronald Skelton: I was gonna say, for the most part it's probably cold cuz it's all north.

[00:00:26] Scott Duke: Anyway. Yeah. No, it's cold here, but I live on the West coast. So I live a little bit north of you and also in the woods, which is amazing. 

[00:00:34] Ronald Skelton: So talk about like, what is the differences real quick, because you're in Canada, do you service businesses in the Canada and United States and other places? Are you primarily Canada brokerage or?

[00:00:44] Scott Duke: Yeah, we're primarily Canada, about 90% of our business. We'll do some work in the US. We do have a fair bit of US buyers that are shifting some money into Canada just from a diversification standpoint.

[00:00:54] Ronald Skelton: Cool. And what type of companies do you get to work with? I mean, they're not all ski resorts. You're dealing with a full range of companies.

[00:01:00] Scott Duke: We don't do a lot of work in the town that I live in, just cuz our primary market that we work with from a size perspective is 2 million to 20 million in revenue. That's kind of our sweet spot that our team works on. I guess that's our, kind of our main category of how we decide. And then from there we have certain industries that we work with. So we have about 36 industries that we specifically work with. Uh, a lot of service based companies. So B2B service. 

[00:01:22] Ronald Skelton: B2B service stuff. Okay. So any of it like tech or is it all just?

[00:01:27] Scott Duke: Not as much tech. I mean, tech is obviously the hot button, right? Like everybody wants tech, people want SaaS companies, recurring revenue, that kind of thing. So from a buy perspective, if you're listening to this podcast and you have a SaaS company, you're in a pretty good spot from a sellability perspective. But no, we're a little bit more traditional.

[00:01:41] Okay. So we'll sell like HR recruitment firms, engineering, consulting firms on that kind of service base. And then you can think about HVAC companies, plumbing companies, excavation companies, landscape services. Like these are the businesses that we work with on a day-to-day basis.

[00:01:56] Ronald Skelton: So how are the interest rates? I know our interest rates have been going up and up and up cuz of inflation. Is Canada's economy pretty much mirror the United States? 

[00:02:04] Scott Duke: That's probably the best way of describing. It's fully a mirror. They'll look at what you guys are doing and adopt, copy, whatever you wanna say with. We follow the leader, I suppose. And yeah, no, the interest rates of course here going up as same as yourselves. 

[00:02:16] Ronald Skelton: And how is that impacting the, evaluations and the ability to sell some of these companies? 

[00:02:23] Scott Duke: This is a question I get asked on every panel I sit on right now. Any podcast that I'm on, and the answer's not what business owners want to hear because the cost of capital is the number one driver of business value and people think it might be otherwise, but that's really what it is. And when interest rates go up, the cost of capital goes up and it reduces the price of a business is gonna sell for. It's just the reality. Fundamentally, when you look at how a business is gonna be acquired, usually debt is gonna be involved in that acquisition and it could range from zero.

[00:02:51] I mean, people could buy with all cash, obviously. But, for the most part, debt's there and it's gonna be probably 70, 67% of the transaction. So that's a massive impact when the interest rates essentially double. 

[00:03:04] Ronald Skelton: So in, in banks all use this, what is it called? Debt servicing ratio. So they, you can only have so much debt. When they raise the rates, it directly impacts what they're willing to lend on a particular business.

[00:03:15] Scott Duke: It's like your cash flow in your business. If you aren't to do anything in your company, the cash flow in your business is gonna probably remain relatively static, moving forward. And that cash flow still has to service the debt that's being brought on when someone acquires, right? So if your cash flow is $500,000 a year, that's how much you have to service debt. If the costs of debt doubles, then you sell the same amount of money to service it. So the price has to come down. That's the piece that moves.

[00:03:41] Ronald Skelton: So let's circle back around and talk about like how you got into this space. I see in my notes that you've, founded over 11 companies. Tell me about those companies and then what led you to be a m and a, advisor.

[00:03:51] Scott Duke: Yeah. I mean, first people when I, when they say, so I found 11 companies, fine, but these aren't monsters. The reality is this is how most entrepreneurs get into the space. Is you start something small like this is how it goes. And my story is similar to most is that you're in university, you need to find a way to pay for school. You don't wanna take on a lot of student debt, so you go out and figure out a way to start a company. I don't know, some people do that. I did that. And I started a painting company. So people use College Pro and that kind of stuff.

[00:04:17] My brain works a little bit different, I suppose. Like I, I'm not the franchise guy and I wanna have a little bit of control over, the companies that I operate. So when we started this painting company, when I was in university, our niche that we went into was servicing cottages. I bought a boat and that way we could charge almost double on our hourly rate because we could service cottages that were on islands and no one else could get to them, so no one else was servicing them. 

[00:04:38] So that's what I did through my entire university, which was lucrative. And then I did have a stint where I lasted three weeks working in corporate and just making less than I made with my painting company. I knew I didn't wanna be a painter forever, but I knew that, running companies was a little bit more lucrative than what I was doing at the time. So, that was kind of the first real company that I started. I had a small business in university where we made fleece apparel or in, in high school, sorry. Anyway, and then after that we built the largest, when I say we, you always have people that are working with you and you always have a team that does stuff.

[00:05:06] But we built the largest Wake Port facility in North America. So for those people to know what that is, it's kind of essentially a water ski facility. But we did that in Canada. That didn't sell. So that shut down and that, that's really what started me down the path into this m and a. Was figuring out, okay, if I just put five years of my life into building this pretty, impressive company. At least we felt it was that way when we were running it and it wasn't sellable. That's kind of a miss, right? It's unfortunate. So after that, my next goal was to build something that had sellability in it. So I started a radio station. The goal of that was just to make, have it transferrable, right?

[00:05:40] Off the cuff, we were talking about sound and audio and stuff like that. So I kind of learned all about that when I was building this radio station. But anyway, that business actually transferred, so that was good. It transferred to the directors and the employees of the company. So that's kind of where that one went. And then after that, I bought a property management company, and then we grew that property management company to the size where we could sell to a private equity firm outta the US. That was a little bit of my journey in some of the businesses that I did along the way. But I also had hot dog carts and I had boating and boat detailing companies and cottage rental companies and all this kind of stuff.

[00:06:08] Nothing massive. Being in the space, most businesses in general do under a million dollars a year, and that's kind of where 87% of the businesses live in North America. And that's very much where I was at that point in my career. 

[00:06:21] Ronald Skelton: I love that you did the boat thing and it shows you're innovative and, like coming up with solutions other people can't do. Now you're in this, you're advising companies, you're helping other companies and stuff. You made that switch over because you built one that couldn't sell and you really, I bet you took a real deep dive into like, okay, how did I do that? I take my deepest dives into, when I screw things up, I look the deepest into it. It's like, okay, how did I do that?

[00:06:42] Or especially if somebody gets one over on me, like I had a bad business partner once, it really hurt cause I didn't see it coming. Ended up like there was lawsuits involved. Like they sued us, we sued them, I won kind of thing. It didn't go very well. And you start thinking like, how did I let it go that far? And you really do that deep dive. So out of that deep dive, what was the, you know what, I should just help other people do this right. What was the deciding factor that made you go into the advisory role? 

[00:07:09] Scott Duke: Pain. Like, that's it. The pain was the biggest thing. If you build something fantastic, or even if you're mind, you think it's fantastic, and then you watch it wither on the vine and die. That's a painful thing and it's, I just want other entrepreneurs to honestly avoid that one. Maybe we have to all learn these lessons the hard way. I don't really know. But it sure is like mistakes were made but not by me is maybe the better way to go about it.

[00:07:31] And I think that a lot of us choose our, or end up on our paths and our journey because we've gone through some kind of pain in our life, figured out how to solve it because of that. And then we feel that we need to give back to make sure other people don't kind of step in that pothole. That's certainly without question my story. And as having talked to, countless entrepreneurs and people in this space. When we build businesses, they end up being part of our identity. And when a chunk of your identity dies, it's a tough one mentally to get through too. Like it's not easy. And even like the entrepreneurs that we deal with and business owners that we work with, that are in their sixties, in their seventies, like my oldest client right now is 76, that are looking to exit at that point because of retirement. Their companies are more of their identity than anybody cause they've been running these for 30, 40 years, that kind of thing.

[00:08:18] Part of the difficult part of transition is really just kind of decoupling yourself from your business. And if you can do that over a slower period of time and you can plan for that. It makes it a heck of a lot easier than it being kind of ripped away because you don't have a sellable asset and it just ends up shutting down. That's definitely why I'm on my path. And as far as the biggest lesson that I learned from that, was, okay, if I'm gonna build more businesses throughout my career than I sure as, like I said earlier, I sure as heck, better learn how to make them transferrable if I want to exit.

[00:08:45] But the biggest lesson was just owner dependence. Like owner dependence is one of the major things that every buyer looks at because when you think about a business success and its operations, a lot of that comes from the founder. And most businesses, and again, we work with companies that are in that two to $20 million range. A lot of companies that are in that size range, their businesses are still heavily dependent on the owners. It's just a reality, right? They haven't grown to the size yet where they have a managerial layer in them and they can transfer some of that to a general manager, some of their knowledge.

[00:09:14] Because of that, that creates a massive risk in that business because if the owner is doing a significant amount of the work, especially if they're doing a significant amount of the sales and have the client relationships, and you pull that owner out of the business. What does it do? Like it's a big question mark. And the buyer who's buying it, are they gonna be able to run at the same quality or they have the same relationships built with those clients? Of course not. It puts more risk into the business. It drops value. And if the business is so dependent on the owner that it, that increases the risk to the point where it can't be purchased, then it drops the value to zero.

[00:09:44] And that's actually what happened in that business I was telling you about. But it's called base camp, the Wakeboard camp that we built. It was way too dependent on me. Like I was the person that was out there. I was the face of the business. I was greeting the customers. If there was issues I was dealing with client support, customer support. Like I'm doing all the hiring, like classic, classic, classic hub and spoke. Where I'm the hub and every spoke comes out from me. I leave inside, leave, it's over.

[00:10:10] Ronald Skelton: Well, yeah. Was it already like fairly profitable or was it still really a passion project? 

[00:10:16] Scott Duke: No. That business had 25 staff. We had four locations. It was making good money. And it was at the time in our industry, which is a very small industry, the wakeboard space, it was world renowned. Like we had people flying from Japan, from Australia to come to this place was 250 acres. We had our own private lake full of all this stuff. Like, it was a machine. But there was no one else that could run it. That's a problem because it hadn't been systematized. 

[00:10:37] Ronald Skelton: Now I've seen some of those. Some of 'em run with like, there's some in Texas. Some of 'em run with a boat and some of 'em run with like this cable-pulley system. Were you guys using the cable system or?

[00:10:46] Scott Duke: Yeah, so cable, the primary one's called Sissy Tech, like that. And that came out near the end cuz that, my camp ran and my facility ran until 2010. Like that's when started. Now cable was really becoming prominent at that point. And Texas is big. Texas and Florida are big. Like we would go there every single year to train in the winter as Canadians. We'd go down to Texas or Florida.

[00:11:05] So yeah, you'll see those facilities in those states and that was similar to ours. So that's what ours. But at the time we were pulling with jet skis in our private lake and then we obviously had boat campaign and we had, I don't know, at the end I think we had eight boats, something like that.

[00:11:19] Ronald Skelton: Interesting. Now you just told me how cold it was in Canada there. I'm curious, how long was your season where people would actually get in the water? 

[00:11:26] Scott Duke: July and August. So you could run outside of those months, but you're running in September. Our business primarily happened in July and August. Like that's when the sun shine and that's when you make hay. Right.

[00:11:36] Ronald Skelton: So for eight, or, is that 10 months out? Nine and a half months out of the year, you guys are just planning and marketing and doing other stuff.

[00:11:44] Scott Duke: Other stuff, yeah. Again, I ran this in my twenties, right? So this is going back a little bit. But in the winters, I would come out west and snowboard. It worked well for me, from a lifestyle perspective at that age.

[00:11:54] Ronald Skelton: I was like, what do you do with all that? Like, there's gotta be, I don't think the lakes freeze hard or the lakes freeze hard enough you have ice fishing out there? Ice fishing where you guys were, was wakeboarding. 

[00:12:04] Scott Duke: Yeah. It turns to ice. Like that's the reality. It's okay. 

[00:12:07] Ronald Skelton: I don't know what you could do during the winter there to convert it to be useful, like to expand it. Like these seasonal businesses are, they're difficult to start with. And I can see where it'd be difficult to sell. Number one, you're the key hub in spoke. You're the key hub to the whole thing. Number two, for nine and a half months out of the year, they gotta find another source of income. Right.

[00:12:25] Scott Duke: Yeah. They're tough. And I mean, I don't know if I would guide a new entrepreneur into doing that work. But sure as heck was a nice way to spend your twenties.

[00:12:34] Ronald Skelton: So let's go into like, talk about these businesses that you're helping with and stuff. One of the conversations we've been having on a lot of the, recent podcasts, and I think we should carry it on here cuz you have some experience on that, is what happens when businesses are sold? How do you keep employees around, employee retention after the sale and stuff? What is your experience and how do you guys help advise these firms? Either are you buyer side or seller side, or both?

[00:13:03] Scott Duke: We do both. Yeah. And we do general advisory too. We do everything. So that's the idea. And we started, we just did sell side. That was it. And then basically as we built our team and built our product offering and into whatever people were needing, we were adding that on. As long as we were staying in our lane. Cause I've certainly learned that before too, cuz the entrepreneurs have the shiny object syndrome and you can certainly get off path pretty quickly.

[00:13:24] But anything that is m and a focused will do. As far as the employee retention side goes, a lot of acquisitions are being done right now to basically acquire employees. Cause employees are difficult to get right now. And obviously everyone knows that's in the space. It's in retention's a huge component of, having a successful sale. This is the deal, like in general. A lot of businesses when they transition will end up losing some employees and some of them will lose all the employees, including my company. When we sold our property management company about a year and a half later, there wasn't one employee that was there when we were working there.

[00:13:59] And the reason why this is mostly because of culture. I did my M B A through the Jack Welsh Management Institute when he was still alive. And one of the conversations that I ended up having with him was, around employee retention. But was mostly around like, okay, they did 300 deals one year. Literally 300 acquisitions. Almost one per day. And I said, what did you learn outta that process? And what he said was that, we finally figured out that the ones that we were acquiring, where we had a cultural fit, were gonna work. And the ones that we were acquiring that did not, were going to fail.

[00:14:27] And so then we started looking for a cultural fit perspective. And that's cuz people are working in a business because they like working in a business for the most part. And a lot of that is the culture. They're coming to it day to day. They're investing their life into it. And those that are just working there for the money and that's the only reason why they're there, are probably not gonna stay regardless. And what they'll see is, when there's that transition period to new ownership, that might be their time to exit. And leave that business and look for somewhere else to work. But if they like the culture and the culture remains the same, then great.

[00:14:54] They're likely gonna stay. So that's a big piece, and I'm sure you've heard that before from people. Culture is gonna be a huge one. If you don't know your culture, maybe don't get into acquisition quite yet. Like refine what that culture is. In your own business before you go and try and acquire another one. Because, if your culture is different, you're gonna lose those people. And if you dunno what your culture is, you can't see if there's a match. So I would say that's important. And then the other thing that I'll say to my clients when they buy is, what you really need to do, what the employees are looking for is to ensure that their job's secure.

[00:15:22] And everyone has this idea that when a business acquires another business, they're gonna go lay off all the people. That's not the case. Like there is some redundancy. You don't need two accounting departments. You may be able to get rid of some people from a finance perspective. You may not, you don't need two HR departments for the most part. These kind of sides of a business, there may be overlap and those jobs may be redundant. But for the most part, the people are trying to acquire, they're acquiring the business, or trying to retain the staff.

[00:15:47] That's their objective. Anyhow, what you wanna know is you want to know what is it? Keep things the same as much as you possibly can. Like let people know they have security, their job's not going anywhere, nothing's gonna change. That's really what people are most nervous about is change. So ensure that they're, they know that that's not gonna happen. And then what they have probably lacked in their life before is somebody actually figuring out what their actual goal, personal goals are. Like, what are they trying to achieve in this role? Are they're everyone's always trying to improve? Make themselves better, grow their career.

[00:16:14] So if you can show them a clear path to that growth, and for the most part, when a company's acquired, it actually gives them more opportunity. They're being acquired by a larger business. So they now have more growth potential than they did before. So you can showcase that to them and showcase where they can move forward. They're gonna be excited with that. That's gonna help with retention. And then of you just show that you care. It's like, all right, what is it that you actually want outside of this business? What are you trying to achieve in your personal goal, in your personal lives? If you actually give that care to them, that helps the retention as well. Those three things, you won't lose your staff when you're acquiring.

[00:16:47] Ronald Skelton: I think that's, right now it's the number one killer for some of these deals. I think I was reading a statistic somewhere like 60 to 70% of all m and a transactions in the middle and upper markets fail. And they fail because they deem it a failure because of loss of employees and failure to integrate. And it all comes down to, be honest, it all comes down to communications. What's said before the, before the transaction, what's said during it, and then setting expectations.

[00:17:16] I always make the joke, what's the number one cause for divorce? Well, that's marriage. The number two cause for divorce, cause you can't get divorced if you're not married. But the number two cause for divorce is unmet expectations. And when two companies, merge, there's East Side and every employee in each one of those companies has a set of expectations. Whether they're correct or incorrect or total fallacies.

[00:17:40] They have a set of expectations in their own mind. And they either came about those from fear and uncertainty that they developed in their own set of expectations. Or from the way you communicated with them. And the only way to deal with it is through communications. I honestly see that, happening even in the small deals. I was talking to somebody, here recently and he's like, we're closing next week. I said, cool. You got 55 employees and 60 employees? He goes, yeah. How many of 'em have you talked to? Only the owner and the two VPs. I was like, okay. What are you gonna say to the employees on day one? I don't know.

[00:18:18] We'll say something. Like, no. What are you gonna say to the employees on day one? As an engineer, there's a bunch of engineers. I was like, you really need to know, what are you gonna say. Because it's important. It's important and you didn't get it. You didn't get how important it was. I said, what are you gonna do when 45% of those guys find another job in the first six months? Most of those guys have been working there for 15 years. They're not going anywhere. I was like, they've been working there for 15 years, cuz it's that. It is what it is. It's the people they're working with. A lot of those guys like, other thing he didn't look at is the aging demographics of the employees.

[00:18:47] A lot of those guys working there for 15, 20 years are getting close to retirement age themselves. They were still working, I think six of his lead guys after we, I talked to him for a few minutes, I think six of his lead guys were over 60 years old. Two of 'em were only there, like, I had him go out and talk to these guys and, two of those guys were only there, like hanging around outta loyalty to the owner. Cuz the owner was 70 something and still working. He was just hanging around cuz he's like family. He's like, I've been ready to retire, telling my buddy, he's like, I've been ready to retire for six years.

[00:19:16] I'm just waiting for him to, to do this, so I can't. There's sometimes you just, there's nothing you can say or do. They've been ready to go for a while and now it's time to go. And they've been only been hanging around outta loyalty or whatever, and you're not gonna walk in the door with that same amount of loyalty. But that's not the majority of the time. I honestly think the majority of the time is failure to communicate. If you really analyzed, I did a lot of research on this because I was thinking about creating a little startup around it. I was telling you about it before the show. If you really analyze what was said before, during, and after that, after a merger or an acquisition of another company, they really failed to like, to ensure those employees are in a new, safe pair of hands. They might have convinced the owner of that, but they didn't. 

[00:19:59] Scott Duke: Employees have to know their lives better. But if you take the example that you just gave of your buddy that's buying the company, the 55 employees. 55 employees is not so many that you can't individually meet with every single one. And if you look at the asset that you're buying, that is, especially if it's an engineering firm, like, oh my gosh. The asset that you're really buying is the knowledge inside the engineer's heads. So if you lose that, it's like buying a manufacturing firm and just losing your machines. Right? Like, forget it.

[00:20:22] So it's certainly worth the time and effort to go and communicate directly with every single one of them. Just doing that will reduce the risk of that acquisition substantially. 

[00:20:29] Ronald Skelton: I love what you said. Figuring out what they wanna do next. That was my favorite thing to do as a manager in the tech world. Is sit down with, all the people that reported to me and go, cool, you're doing X, Y, Z. Now, what do you wanna do in six months? Are you're going to college? What are you going to college for? And then a lot of times I could actually help. Like I had a, administrative assistant. I'm worried about the, politically correct word.

[00:20:47] I almost said secretary. I mean, you're virtually smacked for that one these days. But, administrative assistant. And, when we sat down, she's like, well, I wanna learn. I'm going to college and learn how to do software. I was like, all right. I said, I've got, 189 employees here that were reported to me. I said, most of them know how to code. How would you like at least one or two junior programming projects, a month to actually take what you're learning in school and work with one of these guys and have 'em oversee it. Cuz I had two. At this time, we were big enough at 180 something employees.

[00:21:17] I had two administrative assistants. Like, I'll take some of the tasks I gave you off your plate. We'll free up, 10, 12 hours a week and start learning how to code. And by the time I left there, cuz the company, I don't wanna say too much cause I don't wanna give out away who the company is. Cuz it might give away who she was. But, by the time I ended up needing to leave, a lot of people needed to leave that company. She had already been like, she wasn't an administrative assistant anymore. She was a junior programmer. And that's what she wanted to do. She was really good at it.

[00:21:43] That's where her passion was. So you can do that with these mergers and acquisitions too. Sit down and people and go, where do you really want to get to? Especially, I had a gentleman on here last weekend, that's all he does is integrations. And, he said, one of the things he likes to tell everybody, he's like, yeah, you're in HR. We have two HR departments. But if you're willing to learn something new, we're implementing this new in, HR management software. If you're willing to learn that, there's a role for you, and like he does hospitals and stuff, like there's six hospitals. We gotta institute this, this new stuff into it.

[00:22:12] You're willing to travel, we can train you that, and that's a higher paying job than what you got right now. He would find stuff and say, if you're willing to, learn something new, we're willing to invest the time and energy into making you the person to do it.

[00:22:23] Scott Duke: It's like the coolest thing about being a leader and owner. You can give people paths and give people opportunities that wouldn't exist prior.

[00:22:29] Ronald Skelton: What are the other, I mean, do you see any other ways to, we already talked about culture, talk about understanding where they want to go and help 'em get there. I know that some situations in the mergers and acquisitions, there's kind of the, if they had stock options or any type of ownership, there's kind of a golden handcuffs type of situation. Where they get part of their shares of the new company. Especially in the tech world, they'll get a piece of the new company, but they only get vested over a certain period of time, so that it keeps 'em around.

[00:22:55] What other ways have you seen, acquiring companies help keep the employees around?

[00:23:01] Scott Duke: You have to, again, the space that we operate in, two to 20 mil. These companies have 20, at max 50 employees. That's just the reality of the world that we operate in. And for the most part, companies that size, some will have an ESOP plan that's in place like an employee share option plan. Some will have some employees that have a minority share in the business. But for the most part, these companies are solely held by the shareholders that, and the founders. So 1, 2, 3, like shareholders that are at the top of the, that own the business that are business owners. You can use the transition period of transitioning to new ownership, to give some kind of shares to employees.

[00:23:40] The ones that you wanna retain. It doesn't happen a lot. To be honest with you, in our day-to-day operations. Because it complicates the transaction a little bit. I don't know. And you wanna make sure that if you're dangling that carrot out there, that if you're telling somebody that is inside your team that you're gonna be selling the business and you're gonna work with the buyer to give them some of the shares in the company. That's a risk because you don't know if that's the buyer's plan, right?

[00:24:03] They may not be planning to, give some of the equity at the beginning to the employees. And then the question becomes, all right, well how are these employees getting the equity? Are they buying into the equity? Or then they being given it and then they're giving some of their, their dividends over time to actually buy? That's a different ball of wax. So I may suggest like that if you are in a company range of like this size, that there's some complexity that's added there, and that might be better to leave to the new buyers for their retention plan if they want to, if they want to use some kind of ESOP.

[00:24:35] Ronald Skelton: How do you get the conversation going as far as like, what's gonna be said to these employees? Do you actually encourage the two companies? Like, okay, what is your communication plan to do retention? Now it's more important on the buyer's side. He's the one trying to retain the employees. Do you spend a lot of your time on the buyer side too? 

[00:24:56] Scott Duke: It depends on the sophistication of the buyer. Like if the buyer's gone through, 5, 10 of these acquisitions, they have a playbook. They've already put that together. I do find that I spend a lot of time with the sellers on this. And it usually happens after LOI has been signed. We've gone through some, an LOI for, it's like the letter of intent, which is the offer that's been agreed to by both parties. After we're in diligence, so you're part of the way through diligence.

[00:25:18] All of a sudden it starts to become real for the seller. Usually like a little bit becomes real at the LOI. But once you've been through a part of diligence and everyone seems to be happy, and then you've also got to the point where the share purchase agreement. Or the asset purchase agreement, like the definitive agreement that's been put together by the lawyers is about to be signed. It gets really real at that point. And at that point, that's when the seller thinks, Ooh. Now I really have to think about communicating to my team about this change. Because prior to that, the deal is not secure enough for them to go and communicate with their team because the deal actually might fall apart.

[00:25:51] And that'll be terribly detrimental to their culture and their business because they're, oh, we're selling, and then in the deal doesn't go through. Because you are selling blue sky to the team that their life's gonna be better after the transaction and then all of a sudden the transaction falls apart. So you have to be very careful when that communication happens. So usually I suggest that you can nearing to the end of the deal, if not after the deal's been signed and completely inked, but nearing to the end when everyone has confidence, buyer's confidence, sellers confidence that there's like a 95% chance this deal's going through. Then communication can start happening with the team, right?

[00:26:22] And it can happen at different levels. So people that are your executive are the ones that you're working closely with. They're gonna find it maybe a little bit sooner. But you need to have, they need to, and this is what I suggest to my sellers and what I say to the sellers is that, when the bulk of the employees, call it 90%, when they learn about it that day, that is the same day that they need to be introduced to the buyer. And that is the same day that the handoff needs to happen. And they need to learn that this buyer is a good buyer and it's a good person to carry them forward and their careers forward. What you don't want is you don't wanna say, Hey, we're selling the company and there's these great buyers that are purchased in the company. And the employees don't get to meet the buyer for like a week and a half or something. Because that gap in just talking about communication, that gap just breeds fear and uncertainty.

[00:27:04] So you want to tell 'em the news, and then immediately it's like, here's the new buyer. And they're gonna be great, and they can, they take it from there. So that's the way that I suggest it gets handled, and that's kind of the timing of when it should be handled. 

[00:27:16] Ronald Skelton: So it's, real or not? When somebody hits a point where they've got a set mind on how they expect things to happen, it becomes an obstacle. Whether it's real or not, whether it was just fear and uncertainty that it created that expectation. It's really hard for somebody to dissolve it. So you leave that time gap you were talking about and let 'em stew for a week and they've built all these, expectations of how things are gonna happen. Now you've got a bunch of things that, roadblocks or mental blocks on, with those in individual employees, each one of 'em is different.

[00:27:48] Each one of 'em have their own expectations and you have no idea what they were. And I see where that's a huge stumbling area. I'm looking at our show notes. One of the things you mentioned was unlocking capital, private capital markets. What do you mean by that? And let's talk about that for a few minutes. 

[00:28:03] Scott Duke: Yeah. So I say that as something that we do. It's like unlocking the private capital markets. And I don't know, I, may I put it on there just cuz it's worth having a minor conversation about. The market really breaks down into, we have four stages that the market breaks down into. And stage one is basically it's my hotdog cart, it's my radio station. It's like the painting company. It's these businesses that kind of make it to the million, million and a half revenue mark. They're doing, they have earnings of, call it a 100 k, maybe $250,000 a year. They're stage one businesses and they're not bad businesses.

[00:28:37] And like I've had a handful of them. They were good and they employed people and they, that supported me through that point in my life. But they're stage one from a sellability perspective and you're stage one from a transferability perspective. Those businesses are transferring to other owner operators. The individuals that are maybe entrepreneurs for the first time, maybe they own, have owned a company before, but they're buying a new company cuz they want a new cash flow stream. That's where those companies are gonna sell. Stage two companies, and when you move to stage two, it's really 6%, 7% on the marketplace. It really kind of is a cliff that drops off of how many businesses make it to that point. But, these are businesses that are now earning, like cash earnings of profits. Somewhere in the 300,000 kind of $750,000 range.

[00:29:16] That is where I call the door to the private capital markets opening. That's where private equity companies, search funds, family offices, will get interested to buy those businesses as add-ons to businesses that they already own. And that is kind of our specialty cuz that's where we live. It's okay if a business has gotten to that point. Then how can we set that business up to ensure that those strategic buyers who have capital, who probably aren't worried as much about the interest rates and are looking actively looking to buy in certain categories, are going to be attracted to this seller, this person's particular asset.

[00:29:52] What makes that business different than the one that you know isn't attractive? So, ~There's, ~there's always the screen as far as earnings that these businesses are generating. And that stage two is kind of where ~the, ~the door starts to creak open and where people can really move the needle as far as, ~you know, ~the multiple that they're getting on their business by selling to a strategic.

[00:30:09] Ronald Skelton: Awesome. And then, so are the family offices investment making stuff, are they buying it or are they funding or somebody out raising capital using those and is it a or both? 

[00:30:22] Scott Duke: Yeah. Family offices usually have their own capital they're deploying. The private equity firms are going out and they're getting investors to then create a fund to then go and deploy that fund. Fundamentally, they look the same as far as what they're looking to acquire. They're looking to acquire businesses that have reduced the riskiness of their company, that when an outside investor buys it, it can still continue to scale. And scale may be the wrong word cuz a lot of these individuals are just looking to grow.

[00:30:46] Like scale is more of a tech thing where it's like, all right, we're gonna take it from zero to a hundred. Where for the most part, people that are in the acquisition space are really just looking to take it from like two to three. Like that's kind of what they're trying to do. Like stage two to stage three, right? So anyway, but they're looking for the same stuff. They're looking to make sure that this business has at least at a certain amount, gotten rid of the owner dependence. So there's maybe a general manager that's in that business that can continue to operate on a go forward basis after the owners maybe worked for a year, two years to transition.

[00:31:14] And they're looking to make sure there's no specific risk that's in that business that's gonna be cataclysmic. Is there anything, is there customer concentration issues that are going to, you lose that one customer in the business. I had a call with a guy yesterday that was looking to buy a company. 95% of the business is one customer. Like, you lose that customer, you don't have a company anymore. So they're certainly looking to that. They're looking into the key employee dependence. They're looking into the software and how it's set up from a pro, if they can actually grow moving forward with that software cuz the processes are set up in the business.

[00:31:43] So these are the kind of things that they're looking into our customers on contracts. We have another business they're working with right now. And the vast majority of their customers weren't on contracts. So to get the business across the finish line, everybody's gotta get on contracts, right? Has this work been done essentially? We're doing a deep dive on businesses to make sure that, actually a good way of putting it is that makes it a little bit lighter. We've all watched Shark Tank, we've all watched Dragons Dan, and when we see them, at least entrepreneurs have, and they do the handshake deal on the show and then afterwards, like what happens?

[00:32:09] Well, diligence happens after that. And 50% of these deals, if not more, don't make it through diligence. And so while they're happy on the stage with the sharks that they got a deal, they didn't really get a deal because that's like the LOI stage essentially. And now they gotta go through diligence. So we're working with clients that are of that size range to make sure, alright, we're gonna be dealing with real players. Like these aren't sharks that are on the tank, they are investors that have the same kind of amount of money, right? So they're still doing the diligence on the backend, and a lot of businesses aren't making it through that.

[00:32:37] So what we do is we just sit down with people and go, okay, let's do a pre diligence. Let's actually just get out on the field and do some practice. And that's basically it. 

[00:32:46] Ronald Skelton: Okay. The notes show that they're, one of the things you want, gonna talk about is you call it the number one deal killer. So what most businesses stumble upon on exit. In your experience, what is that? What is the number one deal killer? 

[00:32:58] Scott Duke: Okay. So, January of 2021, I ran an event and it was called the Exit Plan Summit. And I took every country, like English speaking country, and every, the largest m and a firm from each one of the largest players in the space, and got them all into an event. There was 30 speakers. It ran for three days, and I asked each one of them the same question. It's like, all right, what's the number one thing that's, I framed it differently. Cuz really I was asking what's the number one thing that kills deals? But I said, what's the number one thing that people can do to guarantee success?

[00:33:26] And kind of use it in the positive form. But it was different. I thought it was gonna be consistent across the board that people were like, oh yeah, this is exactly what it is. Everyone had a little bit of a different frame on it. But the number one that bubbled to the top, and then I actually have the stats and what actually is the number one, but the number one that bubble to the top from people's minds, was financial. So it's like if your financials are not in shape, you're not gonna make it. And a lot of people, that may be the case, right? Because it's certainly the stage one companies, it's something that we use our companies, and myself included when I was running these, like we use our companies as our own piggy bank.

[00:33:57] And that, that can be difficult from a sellability perspective. As companies get larger and a little bit more sophisticated they have finance people that avoid the owners from doing that kind of stuff, right? Anyway, it cleans up over the course of time, naturally. But anyway, that's the one thing that you wanna watch out for. In reality, the number one killer that actually, and this is the last quarter. Cuz m and a source publishes this date every single quarter, that killed deals was seller's expectations. Being unrealistic. So, number one deal killer. So I think my business is worth 5 million and the reality is, it's worth three. That you're not gonna make the finish line if you keep thinking it's worth five, when it's not worth five. That's the reality. 

[00:34:35] Ronald Skelton: I lay the blame on that onto you guys. 

[00:34:38] Scott Duke: A hundred percent. A hundred percent. 

[00:34:39] Ronald Skelton: All the advisors. Not in the fact that you helped set that expectation is that you reinforced it by not you in individually, but advisors, brokers and stuff. Not having the cahones to say, look, this just isn't gonna get there. I know you want 5 million, but the way the market is right now, and the way your books are right now, and the way your customer concentration level is right now and all the elements in, the best valuation, I can come up with is three.

[00:35:05] You want five here's three. Now the cool thing is you can always go back and say, work with me for two years, we'll get you to five. But they don't. And it's even worse. So we talk about this over and over again on the show. Seller goes to broker number one. Broker number one, says, well, what do you want for your business? And he goes, my CPA said I need 1.5 million to retire. Okay, we'll get you there. And before he even seizes the number, he's made a commitment to try to get 'em there. Now this guy's, trying to create something. He gets 'em there. It's never gonna sell at that. But then he goes, well, I've got two more appointments to see, two more brokers.

[00:35:34] And then he goes, the next broker. He goes, the last guy said he can get me 1.5.

[00:35:38] Scott Duke: Ron, I had that call. I had that call two weeks ago. It was hilarious. And we do it really deep dive and yeah, we have access to all the data in whatever industry that you're looking to sell your business in, of exactly what stuff sells for. And if you're curious about that, pin me, and I'll shoot it off to you. We know. Like we know for the most part what things are gonna sell for. Part of the seller's expectations of why stuff was killed in the last quarter was the people were setting expectations as to previous interest rates.

[00:36:04] Well, that, that's changed. So maybe they went to market like six months ago and maybe that would've worked six months ago. But now it's a little bit of a different world. The part of the challenge is like some people will, some brokers will, they'll say, sure, I'll get to you the five mil. Get the listing, right. This is not my philosophy. Because you're just gonna have to go through this process of a two year pain period until you actually get down to what market reality is, and then it's gonna sell. In real estate this works, because the tangible asset is always gonna sell at some point.

[00:36:34] And the financial institutions behind the scene from like lending for mortgage lending is so much more robust than business lending. So all you need to do as a realtor, and this is like to throw realtors under the bus, but is that you get the listing at whatever price, and then you slowly move that price down as the seller's expectations move down over time. And then eventually it'll come to a point where that'll sell. It will always sell. Real estate will always sell when the price gets to the right point that the market says, okay, this is the risk that you can't run in business sales. Because in business, like some of the assets aren't sellable. That's a thing.

[00:37:08] It's not always gonna go. And there's only a limited pool of buyers. Like the world of buyers for real estate is so much larger, especially residential real estate, than it is for businesses. Like the pool of business buyers is like very shallow actually at the end of the day. Anyway, I don't wanna like throw at numbers, but you're really probably talking about 5,000 players, in any specific sector. When you go out there and you're completely out to lunch, they just write you off and they move on to the next deal and you don't get a second time at bat. That's the biggest risk that business owners have. So going to market at, sure, you can go a little bit over what your company's actually worth, when it comes to negotiation room, but if you go like way over, you're just not, you're not in the game. You're never gonna get an offer. 

[00:37:47] Ronald Skelton: I have to tell you, out of all the businesses I've looked at, there's only one time where I looked at something like that is way off. But it was intriguing. It was so far off, it was intriguing. Like, what am I missing? I did a little bit of a dive into it because I was like, he's got something that the rest of the world's not seeing, or he wouldn't want that number. Turns out he didn't. But it was intriguing. It was like, okay, the best I could guess with the, with your subscriber rate and your revenue model and everything else, you should be at, one and you're saying you're worth three million. What's going on here?

[00:38:16] And It's like you have a couple big contracts lined up. Or you know what, it was nothing. But, sometimes it's intriguing. Most of the time it's like pass. And especially after you've spent some time on those, I'd probably pass quicker the next time than I would, that time because it intrigued me the first time. Now I kind of got this callous back there that says, ah, the guy's probably an idiot. 

[00:38:34] Scott Duke: Oh yeah. And you can go through, I mean, BizBuySell is the largest marketplace online for smaller businesses, right? And you can spend a day on there just scrolling through unrealistic expectations. Like all day. 

[00:38:44] Ronald Skelton: I'll tell you what the number two is or third one. And a lot of people miss this is, the psychology of the deal. And that's because, we were talking earlier about the seller's identity being tied up in the business. If you don't address that and have that conversation of what they're gonna do the day after the sale, they'll come up with the littlest thing. I've talked to 130 advisors, a hundred plus. Probably well over that and business owners. Especially during, we did our roll up. We did over 200 marketing firms where we talked to 'em. And not understanding what they're gonna do next, is the fastest way for them to pull the plug, before it gets done.

[00:39:19] Scott Duke: And that is still the case, even with people that are gonna retire. They go, oh yeah, I know what I'm doing next. I'm retiring. It's like, what does retirement actually look like? If they haven't thought through that, the entrepreneur that I like the best, is most secure for guys in my position that are looking to actually transact a company, is the entrepreneur that knows the next business that they're starting. Or has already got it started and is now the pain point of their old business is slowing their new business growth down.

[00:39:43] They know exactly what they're doing cuz they've already got the next machine going. But if, yeah. I couldn't agree more. If people don't know what they're doing next, it's very difficult to, to sell.

[00:39:52] Ronald Skelton: The other one that's good is like, somebody's retiring and he is only coming in two days a week. He's got it, fairly well run already. And he's doing what he wants to do and retire. He's playing golf with his buddies and spending time with his grandkids. And he actually been doing that for the last 12 months and he likes it. I'll tell you, there's some things you think you wanna do something.

[00:40:08] When I got outta real estate, I thought I was gonna semi-retire for a little bit. I thought, I'm just gonna go fishing and volunteer at a self-help type of company that helps adults get past, get out of their own way. The best way to put it. Kind of Tony Robbins saying, but not Tony Robbins. But I was volunteering there and I was actually taking some other courses myself and, participating in some of those. I won't say who it is. But, anyway, so I was down in Dallas and I thought, well, I'm just gonna go fishing every day, do this thing, and have my real estate and I'll do some side projects.

[00:40:32] You can't go fishing every day, especially in the hot Texas sun. After about three weeks of doing that, it was like, okay, I gotta find something else to do. But I, I kept doing my thing. And then before too long, COVID hit and the wife got furloughed where she couldn't go to work, and she looked at me one day and she said, if you don't find something more entertaining to do, I might murder you. It's like, get outta my house. Now we live in a tiny home, so it's like, it's probably a shorter timeframe to get inside's hair, when you're locked inside 320 square feet with four people than it would be in a big, big house. But, as a matter of time, not knowing what you're gonna do next, or thinking, I'm just gonna, I'm gonna spend time with the grandkids.

[00:41:11] If you get your sense of identity and your sense of purpose around something you've built in the, you're contributing to your community and society and a bunch of other stuff. It's just not gonna work. I think most entrepreneurs, especially guys have been doing it for 20, 30, 40 years. They better have a significant plan. Right. 

[00:41:28] Scott Duke: I would say it takes about two years to rebuild your identity. So you can either do that on the road to exit or you can do it afterwards, but afterwards it's a little bit more challenging. And afterwards also, uh, increases the riskiness of you actually being to sell your business. And people get up in the morning, oh, I don't know what exact I'm gonna do afterwards. And then they come up with reasons to not sell the business. For whatever, it's like price. It's like, I don't like the guy that's buying it. The reasons are endless for that. But if you actually dig to your core, like it's cuz you don't know who you are after you sell. 

[00:41:57] Ronald Skelton: Yeah. That happens a lot. They'll come up with something. Well, the last one I heard was, I guess it was a winery and the guy had a big sign that was custom made behind the, the tasting bar at the winery. The conflict that ended, it was the owners decided the last second, he's taken the sign. Well, it's part of the nostalgia of the building. And it was big, big, long story. The short was, when they really dug down into it, the owner didn't want the sign. He was gonna put it in his man cave or something. He just didn't wanna sell to that guy cuz he didn't know what he was gonna do.

[00:42:24] And his wife wanted him to retire, wanted to travel. He didn't care to retire or, travel. And he didn't know what he is gonna do the next day. Like, what am I gonna do tomorrow once I sign this paperwork? I think that's critical in a lot of these deals, if you're a buyer. Even if you're the buyer, understanding what the seller wants to do next, a lot and, 

[00:42:40] Scott Duke: Help them on it. Like, that's the thing too. Especially from the buy side. If you give them purpose within the company, if that's what they need, moving forward, great. Like that's all good. We don't need to be there on a, all week, every week. It's like just giving some strategic advice here or there gives them purpose. 

[00:42:54] Ronald Skelton: A lot of times they wanna stay around and they just, they don't know how to vocalize. Like, Hey, I would like to stay around and just do cells. We were talking to one of the companies there and, the guy was leaving to become a pro golfer and like, he doesn't wanna totally leave. And he is like, well, what do you do now? He goes, well I get most of my clients from the golf course. He's a semi-pro. He's a pro at one of the local golf courses. He's semi-pro, he goes out and does the tournaments. I said, well, neither one of us play golf, so if we buy this, yeah.

[00:43:19] You can hang around and still take clients to, to play golf and still be the sales reps guy, because neither one of us know how to play golf. And neither one of us are interested in learning. I had a point in my career where it was either go get, if I wanted to go higher up from that senior director to VP, I needed to go learn how to play golf. I literally came to the decision, I needed to learn how to go play golf or I need to go get an MBA. I went and got an MBA because I was thinking I like, it's probably cheaper and a lot less, a lot more entertaining than actually going out in the golf course.

[00:43:46] Scott Duke: I certainly come to that conclusion myself. And so, but I might play a little bit of golf this year. I've done a fair bit of business on, in the ocean surfing and certainly enough on the hill here in Rebel Stoke. But, I'm like, I gotta maybe learn how to do golf. Like learn how to play golf cuz I'm awful at it.

[00:44:00] Ronald Skelton: So the last time I played golf was in the Air Force and I won a free bowling pass. But basically, they basically told me not to come back to the golf course anymore. Well, I think that we covered quite a bit, so I asked you a bunch of good questions and, you answered them expertly. What should I have asked? Did we miss anything?

[00:44:17] Scott Duke: Yeah. I dunno. Of course, this is like a monster, right? And I think people in the beginning think that, selling their business is just an eventuality and that it'll just happen. That's not the reality. And if they've started digging to this, they probably have got that message. It's a tiny bit of work. Like this is the problem. It's like, and this is the thing that I learned in my twenties, thank goodness. So I haven't been able to resolve it for every company moving forward. It is not that much that you need to do. Like you're probably looking at 15 things, takes time. That's the thing. It takes time. Like you can't do these things in a week.

[00:44:49] You can't do them in a month. Like, they really probably takes a year, two years, to really get the house in order. Of course, people always ask, how quickly can you sell a company? The average is nine months. Like, that's how long it takes to sell. The difference is the ones that sell for a 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 times multiple have thought about the sale three, four years before the sale. And they're the ones that are really making the major impact in their life. That are making generational wealth. So it's worth it. It's worth just taking a tiny bit of time and looking into those things. Cuz on a podcast, we can't cover all the ground. It's literally impossible.

[00:45:21] And every company is unique. But there's lots of people that are available out there. I mean, the exit planning industry's exploded in the last little bit. So there's certainly people out there that are looking to help and you really need to invest. Call it two hours in the beginning to kind of just audit your business and see where things are, need to be tuned up. If you're looking to sell, that's it. Like, if you aren't, fine. Doesn't matter. But if you're trying to, if you're thinking that part of your life is going to help fund retirement, help fund the next thing, whatever, then you gotta think about it like a real asset. And you need to, you just need to clean the car before you take it to market. That's the big deal. 

[00:45:55] Ronald Skelton: Yeah. A lot of people say like, how fast can you sell my business? Like, I don't know. How good are your books? Because, any buyer on this planet is gonna look at your last three years. Last year tax return, last three income statements, bank statements, cash flow analysis. Whatever they wanna see the last three years of it. So a lot of people goes, how long does it take, to maximize the value of my business. Well, if you're gonna change the way you do your accounting, you're gonna run, try to produce as much profit as you can to maximize the exit value. We're gonna look at the last three years. So how long do you wanna wait?

[00:46:23] Usually it's gonna be close to that three year mark because you want a full three years of showing your best foot forward. In some industries that are hot, you can get away with like, shorter timeframes and show that you made the corrections, everything's running well and everything else, and here's what you're on now. I'm thinking like tech a lot. Software SaaS and stuff like that. They're gonna forgive that you were, trying to run tax advantage wise in year one. When they're looking even year one and a half. Cuz the last half, and year and a half, you've shown that. They'll give you more leeway, I think. 

[00:46:53] We give more leeway and I'm looking at media assets, newsletters, podcasts, uh, software review sites, that type of stuff. If you've got the last 18 months of your stuff is really good and you've been around it for three or four years, I get it. It took you a little while to learn how to sell. And most, and the evaluation of this world's totally different. We do an average of the, a monthly average of the trailing 12 months. Trailing 12 months, divide that by 12, see what your monthly average is now. And then we do a multiple of revenue off of that because it's mostly profit.

[00:47:25] It's a totally different world. But I appreciate you being here. If somebody could remember two or three things from the show, what would you be like, what were the key takeaways you want somebody to have for from you? 

[00:47:34] Scott Duke: Yeah, just solve owner dependence. I call it every day a step away. That's the biggest thing, to improve the quality of your life and teach yourself to be a delegator and a leader. That's the big, a big thing to making a sellable asset. So that would be number one. Number two is make sure that you get evaluation. I don't actually care who it's through, but it'll give you some kind of grounding. If you want one that is like really gonna show you what it's like selling to a third party.

[00:47:56] Use someone that's like myself, like an m and a person that actually knows the real world. Cuz getting a valuation done by an accountant versus getting someone that does it in the real world on a day-to-day, is a completely different ballgame. Like, if you want reality, go to the m and a guy. If you want fabrication, if you want the academic version, then you can go somewhere else. So I would say that. What would number three, the biggest one be? I guess the number three from this is just actually, go to the doctor and get a checkup. Like it sucks. Like we all hate doing that because we know it's gonna cause us like a little bit of work. You stop smoking and get more exercise.

[00:48:26] I get it. Like everyone kind of knows what they need to do. But it certainly helps when you can sit down with someone and go, alright, this is what it actually does for you. You make an extra $3 million when you sell. Is that worth spending two months of planning and then just having it roll out? Because we don't, like, at the end of the day, if your company's the size that we work with, we're not doing the work day to day anyway. We're setting the strategy, we're putting the plan together, and then you know, the team's doing it. So it's worth the work. I guess that's all I have to say. That would probably be the biggest takeaway. It's worth the work. 

[00:48:56] Ronald Skelton: Awesome. So let's wrap up by doing this. Tell me, demographics, like who's your target customer? Like what region you, you already mentioned a couple times, but to wrap this up. What region would you wanna work with people? What type of businesses? The size of business and then how do they reach you? Like how do they, how do they get to you, or your company? 

[00:49:15] Scott Duke: Yeah. Easiest to get to me is just type my name into Google. Like that's it. Just type Scott Duke in, I'll pop up. So no, no stress there. If you type in Scott Duke or Open Road and like, you'll get there. So there's no stress in that part. As far as who we work with, anybody who has a business that is cracked through that two, two and a half million dollar in revenue range, that is trying to figure out and chart a path to their eventual transition. That is, it is extremely broad, but those people I'm trying to help. Like if they're, if you're out, there're like, I just don't know what all my options are.

[00:49:49] It's like transferring to staff, transferring to third party, selling to a private equity firm, doing an ESOP, selling to management, whatever it might be. Like all the roots and you're trying to figure out, just give me some clarity. That's our client. 

[00:50:02] Ronald Skelton: Any geographical zones, because we have listeners and everything from Dubai to, I have people showing up to our meetings. Like we do, virtual meetups. They come in from London and Australia and Dubai, you name it. 

[00:50:13] Scott Duke: Anyone, there's someone from Dubai who wants to work, that'd be great. I've never done it before. Right. But we've worked with people from the UK, people in Australia, New Zealand and that thing, any English speaking, we're good. The bulk of the work that we do is in North America.

[00:50:23] Ronald Skelton: Awesome. Well, I appreciate having you here today. Hang out for a few seconds and we'll call that a show. 

[00:50:27] Scott Duke: Awesome, Ron. Thanks so much. Great to be here.