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Dec. 21, 2022

How2Exit Episode 80: Jonathan Jay - CEO of Dealmakers Academy and Serial Acquisitions Entrepreneur.

How2Exit Episode 80: Jonathan Jay - CEO of Dealmakers Academy and Serial Acquisitions Entrepreneur.

The Dealmaker’s Academy

At The Dealmaker’s Academy, our team of business experts have a wealth of knowledge regarding business mergers and acquisitions. Our team is led by Jonathan Jay, a seasoned businessman with a host of successful business...

The Dealmaker’s Academy

At The Dealmaker’s Academy, our team of business experts have a wealth of knowledge regarding business mergers and acquisitions. Our team is led by Jonathan Jay, a seasoned businessman with a host of successful business purchases to his name.

With more than two decades as CEO of The Dealmaker’s Academy, Jonathan not only has the experience and skills to masterfully handle acquisitions but the know-how to teach it. Finding someone with business acquisition track records as successful as our teams is extremely difficult. And finding a team that also have our same level of experience teaching the tips and strategies behind our successes is an even greater challenge. With The Dealmaker’s Academy, you are getting the best in acquisition and merger knowledge, and strategies from people with real-life experience delivered that also understand how to effectively and cohesively teach their methods.
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Ron Skelton: [00:00:00] Welcome to the How to Exit Podcast. Today I'm here with Jonathan j Jonathan is the c e o of Dealmakers Academy, a serial acquisition entrepreneur, and he's joining us from London, England. Thank you for being on the show today.

I really appreciate you joining us. Let's just kind of jump in. 

Jonathan Jay: Well, thanks for the invitation, Ron. Looking forward to this. 

Ron Skelton: Awesome. You're London. The funny thing is, I guess that the sunlight just broke out cuz you're lighting on your, camera, just the whole room just lit up.

And so I take, it's a typical cloudy day there. 

Jonathan Jay: It's chilly. It's cold. It's a typical London day. A little bit miserable, a little bit gray. Yeah. 

Ron Skelton: So I'm living right now in what I refer to as, The closest thing to Paradise. I know I'm in the Redwood Forest of Northern California, so it's cool here.

It's 40 degrees this morning, but, like there's a misty fog that lays in the valleys in the morning, so you get to drive, a lot of times I'll get up in the morning to drive up the mountain beside here and set above the fog and like, look at it like a, it's like cloud over the whole town here and stuff.

I was just seeing the lighting in your room was changing off and on. I was like, okay. It's gotta be [00:01:00] foggy and the sun's trying to break through there. Let's start off with just, kind of getting people to know you a little bit. Let's start anywhere you feel comfortable.

Tell us about yourself, kind of how you got, started in business. Looks like you started at a young age like myself, but then how did you end up as an acquisition entrepreneur and what do you've got going on now? So let's just start. 

Jonathan Jay: Yeah, sure. I've been in business a long time. I dropped out of university, when I was 19 years old to start a business.

I don't think my parents were too happy about that. Only lasted one, one term. But even before then, I was, I was the guy who, went to the school with the idea of running what we call a tuck shop. I'm not sure what the equivalent is, like a sort of a, with sort of snacks, at the break times.

And I was always sort of doing things at the evenings and the weekends. That were looking back, were probably the start of my, some entrepreneurial journey. So it's a pocket money thing. Saturday jobs, things that, meant that I was always active and always, having to earn my own living rather than someone giving it [00:02:00] to me.

So I think that started an attitude of I get out of life what I put into it. and, even. Over 30 years later, I'm still hustling. I'm still working and I enjoy it. And I can't imagine a future where I'm not. The thought of complete retirement and doing nothing, fills me with dread.

I started telling people, three or four months ago that I'd semi-retired, and that felt very strange. It's more, I've taken a bit of a sabbatical, a bit of a break. So yeah, my interest in business, goes way back to when I was at school. 

Ron Skelton: Interesting. A couple years ago, right before Covid hit, I did two years where I was doing this.

I was volunteering at a kind of a self-help Tony Robbins type of program, where you're kind of learning to deal with your own demons, right? And then we were, I did a two years team, two years of that program was team leadership and team building. I moved to Dallas, was living in the tiny house, and I kind of like semi-retired there, had a lot of real estate and that was paying it.

But I realized that [00:03:00] I probably am never that guy either. Like I had a lot of free time on my hands in that space and I would go fishing every day and stuff thinking that, this is what I would do when I retire. And within two weeks I was absolutely miserable. I was like, when Covid hit my wife's like, you could better go find something else to do.

And she's like, because we were both locked in the house, right? And it's a tiny house, 320 square feet, four of us in here. And she's like, if you don't find a hub, you're find something to get busy doing and you're gonna go nuts and you're gonna drive us all nuts in the process. That's kind of the, the start of my journey back.

Mm-hmm. In the, like, in the business, into this acquisition entrepreneur's phase. So I get that as being a guy who'd probably be doing something or have my fingers in something until I, I'm pushing up Daisy's type of guy. 

Jonathan Jay: I get that. I understand that. 

Ron Skelton: I find it enjoyable. I mean, I really do. You're in London, England, and I know you travel around a little bit, right? So where have you done deals? Where's it like, what areas do you focus on? Do you do some international deals? You do deals everywhere? Just London?

Jonathan Jay: No, just here in the uk we've got, millions of, of businesses in the uk.

I do see this trend for people wanting to [00:04:00] buy businesses in other countries. And I figure that if there's a visa or there's some sort of ulterior motive, then fair enough. Something, if you have to jump on an airplane to go and sort out a problem, that sounds to me like a lot of hassle.

And I always say to people, why didn't you buy a business in your own town, your own city? Why buy one thousands of miles away? I'm not sure if I want, I'd want that sort of hassle in my life. In my life. 

Ron Skelton: It's interesting. It is. I was buying stuff. I own a little pest control company and some other stuff in Tulsa, Oklahoma where we were living.

And then we had a little bit of a family emergency impact up and moved to Northern California. And now I'm looking at this space going, what can I buy and run anywhere? So I'm looking at a lot of online properties and online content type of stuff just because I love being in that digital nomad is what that nickname they've got.

Mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm. . I love being able to own things that are generating income, own businesses that are, making a difference in the world. Like yesterday I took a two hour drive up the coast and watched the sunset over the Pacific Ocean with my wife. It was beautiful. Today is our 15 year anniversary. That says, 

Jonathan Jay: I'm glad you're spending [00:05:00] your anniversary, doing a podcast interview.

Ron Skelton: I've got two today.

Your priorities, right. Whatcha doing tomorrow? I was like, well, I'm doing two podcasts and I'm selling some real estate notes. I'm a workaholic. I like you, you started early in the real estate. I mean, as an entrepreneur, I started the same way.

I grew up with a workaholic as a father. His mentality was, you're doing one of two things, either earning money or spending it. It's your choice what you're doing with your time doing today. And I get that right? You either, like, even the drive up the coast, we're buying gas or buying snacks or you're whatever.

Right? And if you're not, so I know there's a lot of other things in life, but I still have that childhood memory of my father. Like, we either making money or spending it. We were either fishing on a lake somewhere or painting house. My dad was a painter. We were painting houses, right? It's just part of the, this entrepreneurial journey just, to want to create and to want to do that.

And as an acquisition entrepreneur, that's the creation is like, is a little bit different. So let's talk about, you went from building businesses and having side gigs and stuff. Now you're acquiring them and folding them together, and you got a lot of experience in that space. [00:06:00] When did you do your first acquisition?

Or was it an exit first? You built something and sold it first? Yeah, 

Jonathan Jay: 23 years ago, so in 1999, I owned a magazine publishing business and, we started off publishing one, title. That expanded to three titles. And then, I was approached by, I, something such a long time ago, I can't remember how they found me or how the conversation started.

Could, well actually have been one of the magazine subscribers a approached me and said we'd be interested in buying the business. I was very flattered. I did a deal that meant that I made more money the day that I sold. The business that I had for the previous two and a half years of owning it for, so for two and a half years I made a certain amount of money from operating the business.

But turning up every day, thinking about it all the time, I get a bit obsessive with these things. So I think about these things all the time. Thinking about it at the weekends, not being able to stop [00:07:00] being called a workaholic by everyone. But then the day I. I made more money than the previous two and a half years of all that effort put together.

And that set me thinking. Now I'm a bit of a slow learner, I need to hear these things and several times before it really takes hold in my brain. But that was my, introduction to, m and a. It was a very good introduction to m and a. Interestingly, I sold the business in the same way that I have subsequently bought a lot of businesses by, structuring the pavements over a period of time.

And as the seller of a business in that way, I was very happy with it, to the point after two and a half working very hard of getting a little bit, I kind of run out of energy and, run out of interest in it. So it was the perfect, exit. For me. And I had another business that I was sort of starting, and that turned into, quite a sizable,

And I [00:08:00] needed re time. The sale of the business taught me about m and a, but also freed up my time to develop another business that actually became a private equity deal a few years later. 

Ron Skelton: That's awesome. So you've been doing this for quite a while now, so I'm sure there are like common myths out there about the acquisition, entrepreneurship, buying and selling businesses and stuff that you would just, you just don't, like you wanted debunk.

Like what I'm looking for here is, things that normal people that are getting into this space think are true, but, from your experiences, just don't necessarily exist. 

Jonathan Jay: The biggest misconception is that you need to be wealthy to buy a business. And when someone comes to me and says, Jonathan, what's your advice?

What is just, I do, I always say to them, I don't care how much money you've got. I don't, not wealthy. I don't care what sort of, what your savings are. It doesn't make any difference. If you've [00:09:00] got knowledge and you've got the skills and you've got the confidence, and confidence is very important, then you can find a business to buy and structure that deal that does not in the money that you have in the bank.

You've got lots in the bank or little in the bank. Makes no difference. We can still, acquire this business using other people's money rather than our own. And that's the smart way of doing it because if we use. Run out at some point. And no, no one wants to run out of money so smarter to use other people's money because those sources never run out.

Which means that you can do more, you can do bigger. And I have people doing multimillion pound deals as their first acquisition because they're using other people's money. I've got so many case studies of that happening. So the biggest miscon is that you need to be wealthy to buy a business.

No, you do not. 

Ron Skelton: I've had people that I, even in the real estate space, there's all [00:10:00] easy people. There's no such thing as a no money down deal. And I was like, okay. I ran a real estate investment firm from, I was part of one where I was a partner in one and then I ended up owning my own from 2008 until 2017.

We did hundreds of real estate transactions and I can count on my fingers not having to remove my socks and use my toes at all. How many times I stroke a check for any single one of those houses. Right. It was just, it was a game, right? The game was the seller's always the bank. That's just a phrase we had.

And a lot of times that meant when we bought it, we tried to convince the seller to owner finance it. That was the first step. And then when we sold it, we own or financed it cuz we got interest on our money. So the seller, I, when I'm buying it, they're the seller. I'm trying to get them.

To finance it if they can. And if not, second option is other people's money, private investors, who, which one of my friends and family and other people would like to earn a great interest rate that they're not earning anywhere else. I'm doing favors for people.

That's the same thing in this space, right? 

Jonathan Jay: Yeah. So when I say other people's money, I [00:11:00] don't mean people as individuals. Different types of lenders, different types of, finance. Of course it can also apply to, to, to money from friends and family. And I've got people who've done that. But usually it's far easier just to go to a lender.

And also I think that, you want to preserve your friendships and, borrowing from friends and family can sometimes can, you don't want it to go wrong. 

Ron Skelton: Right. The interesting thing about real estate, and I find different in the business is real estate is a hard asset. And if you're buying it at a discount, it's a fairly safe bet.

So almost anybody I can talk to that has cash will loan me money to buy real estate business. On the other hand, that investor, doesn't have such a hard asset. Now they have to believe in your ability to take that business and not mess it up. Mm-hmm. even if it's a business that's just cranking out cash, right.

They have to believe, and if you did nothing, it would just run. So it's yours to screw up, but they have to believe in you enough. to loan you the money, they would've to believe in you enough that you won't mess it up. And a financial institution will look at hard assets and other [00:12:00] aspects of that business.

Mm-hmm. and know the risk profile way above and beyond your own like connection. I can get that. I know of a bunch of 'em. A lot of people say there's no such thing, there's no money down. Like I hear that a lot now. There's kind of a, a small group of people on the, Twitter space and other people that are trying to debunk the whole no money down deals.

And I don't think they get it, that there's all these different fine types of financial, lending options factor invoice. 

Jonathan Jay: Yeah, let's just, get some clarity around that phrase, no money down, because I think there's several different interpretations of it, aren't there?

And I think the interpretation that some people jump to is that, you buy the business and you don't give the seller of the business anything, and the seller of the business doesn't get any money. But that isn't the only interpretation of no money down. So a client of mine, his name's Dan, he's just bought his first business and he paid on day one, 10 million pounds, which I think is about $12 million [00:13:00] on day one.

And it's a big, heavy equipment, construction, equipment, business. So the owner of that business walked away with 10 million pounds, 12 million. But that was actually a no money down deal because Dan. Didn't have 12 million. That was not his money . That was, other people's money.

So my no money down deal doesn't mean that, that someone is shortchanged or someone comes out of it badly. It just means that you, as the clever, educated, confident business buyer don't have to, refinance your property, go into your savings and raid the piggy bank to find the money. You just do it in a smarter way.

Ron Skelton: I can rattle off some of my top of my head, but was that a single source? That was the, the 10 million pounds come from a single source or multiple sources? 

Jonathan Jay: Multiple. 

Ron Skelton: Okay. You probably call them different things here cuz we use different terminology here than they use in the uk.

But what are some of [00:14:00] the sources? I like know, I'm thinking it's probably asset loans against the equipment factoring against the invoices, correct. 

Jonathan Jay: Correct. As well. Yeah. And cash at bank. Those were the three sources. So those was, there was 4 million pounds cash at bank.

There's, 4 million pounds of equipment. There's, the invoice, financing. So you take all those elements together, put them together, and you get your deal price. 

Ron Skelton: Now I have a friend from my old rotary club here in Oklahoma, back in Oklahoma, who he works for that factoring type of company.

I took him out. To a pub and, fed him a few beers to get information. Cause I just, I was just learning this space and their interest rates are pretty high, here in the United States. This is before the interest rate went up. When banks were loaning money at three and 4%, he was taking about 18 to 20% on, asset.

What we call it is a, a sell and lease back. You sell the equip equipment to the, the leasing company, lease it back from them. Right. So that where you're like, they're using the hard equipment, all that construction equipment, you would sell it to their company. They would basically, they would technically own it until you pay 'em back off and you just, [00:15:00] yeah.

So they charge 

Jonathan Jay: a charge on it. Yeah. Yeah. A lean on it is, I think you say. 

Ron Skelton: Sure. Is it a high interest rate alone there? 

Jonathan Jay: Well, interest rates have gone a little bit crazy, recently. I've got no idea what the interest rates are today because they were different. , they were different yesterday and they'll be different tomorrow.

Yeah, some, sometimes the interest rates can feel a little bit high, but if it allows you to do the deal and the cash flow of the business supports the repayments, then you can still do it. and quite frankly, they're not going to give you that money, unless the business can support it anyway.

And they can be quite prudent and cautious lenders. So the fact that they will lend you the money using those assets as security, should give you the confidence that the business has sufficient cash flows to, to repay the debt. 

Ron Skelton: I actually brought that up for that reason because in the real estate realm, I always, people would say, how do you pay a 12.75% interest on real estate deals?

Cause we had a hard money lender in town that would loan us money all day long at that, and, [00:16:00] 12.75 seems high. And I said, like, the deal still makes sense, right? And when I run the numbers, if I don't care what the interest rate is, if I can still cash with a deal, make money, there's always the opportunity.

Now, I didn't do it as often as probably should have, but there's always opportunity. I can refinance that debt at a lower interest rate later if needed. The deal service, the debt and I still made money. I did the deal, right. The numbers worked. So to, the reason I brought that up is people will get tied up.

A lot of the other listeners will go, I don't wanna pay credit card rates, on a business I'm buying 19%, 18% on the equipment loan. That's ridiculous. When I was like, well, you not, that's just part of the deal. Right? If it still services the debt. 

Jonathan Jay: Yeah. Yeah, exactly.

You might not like it. But if you can still make money, then what's the problem? . 

Ron Skelton: Exactly. Don't let your personal biases get in the way, I guess is, where I'm going with that one. 

Jonathan Jay: Yeah. Good, good point. 

Ron Skelton: Yeah. So let's go talk about a, I love story time. So tell me about, you've been teaching this for a while now.

Is that transaction complete and has he already done the integrations? Is he running it now or is that something recent? 

Jonathan Jay: [00:17:00] Yeah it took him a long time to get it over the line because there were so many moving parts and the finance was quite, quite chunky. But no, he owns.

Now, and now he's looking for similar businesses. It's a lot easier to buy your second, third business once you've bought your first, because you're no longer a guy with an idea. You're someone who actually owns a business in that space, which actually means that finance is a, more doors are open with finance because you're no longer someone wanting to enter a market.

You are in the market. You own a business in the market. You've got finance in the market, and now you want to expand your business. And actually, that's what people get. Lenders get their head around more easily, someone wanting to expand their business than someone who wants to buy into a new sector. 

Ron Skelton: And the other business owners you're talking to, are.

a lot more open to the conversation. Right. Because, I've been on many of calls and we did a marketing, roll up, it's almost a year ago now. We exited, or our team exited out of it. It's still going on. We got bought out of our part portion of it in, December of last year. [00:18:00] But to get the first one was a little, under even l i and everything, we've never owned one.

Like I have owned small ones. I'm a, I have a marketing mba, but like as a group, this was our first time, but after you got the fourth or fifth one and we could show we have these five marketing agencies on board, it was just easier conversation cuz people wanted to be part of it. They would see that you've got something that's working.


Jonathan Jay: Sure. The first one's always the hardest. 

Ron Skelton: Yeah. Okay, so we talked about, the creative structuring that there is such thing as none of your money down. Right. What, over the years, what's been most influential to you? Where did you learn this from or was there like books that you read or is this just trial and error, or is there?

What are you teaching now? I think the topic I wanna talk now is somebody wants to get into this space. What are the opportunities to learn it? Learn this space and learn from other people's mistakes. 

Jonathan Jay: So there are hundreds of books written on m and a and my bookshelves behind me. I probably got 25 [00:19:00] 30. They're chunky textbooks. they're more applicable typically to larger deals. Mm-hmm. where, someone who wants to buy a business that, that does just a few million dollars of annual revenue, most of that information isn't going to be, relevant and maybe not particularly practical either.

And I suppose my earliest education was doing it. was actually, selling a business being on the seller end, and being very aware of what the buyer was doing and just being very conscious of how the negotiation was going and thinking, oh, that was clever. And kind of storing it up, in my head.

Then, built a business over the next few years and had the opportunity to buy out my main competitor. , and this was in the mid two thousands. And, my main competitor, was again a multimillion revenue business, so a sizable business. And they approached me and, made the [00:20:00] proposition that I should.

Buy them. And that was on a Monday afternoon. I remember it incredibly clearly. And if we fast forward to the Friday of that week, so it's Monday afternoon, so Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, four days later, I owned that business. 

Ron Skelton: Wow. That's fast. 

Jonathan Jay: And when people say that it takes, you 18 months to buy a business, I said, well, that's someone who doesn't have the process.

They don't know really what they're doing. The reason it's taking so long is because they're using trial and error. I knew what I was doing. I had a good lawyer. Very important. There is a trend these days for people to say, you don't need a lawyer to do a deal. Mm-hmm. no . Now, if you're gonna be signing contracts, you need a lawyer.

I think that's terrible. Terrible, guidance. So get yourself a good lawyer. Very important. I did the deal in four days. I understood the business that I was buying. That was very helpful. I knew exactly, what I was doing. And as a result of that acquisition, I nearly doubled the size of my [00:21:00] existing business and the profitability then went off the chart because we weren't competing with our number one competitor.

We now owned our number one competitor. And about, or less than a year later, just under a year later, I sold the new combined business to a London-based. Private equity firm in a deal that was pretty life changing. Financially it was absolutely incredible. And I still put it down to the fact that we'd grown via acquisition and part of the business plan going forward was to buy more competitors, and then do that, internationally.

And that's what private equity liked to hear. They like to know that there is a growth. that can happen relatively quickly within a few years. So that particular acquisition followed by the private equity sale all within a sort of, let's say 12, 13 month, period, was uh, an incredible on the ground [00:22:00] education.

That's when, I started talking to people about this is what I did and how I did it. I wouldn't say that I was running courses on it, I was just talking to people. I was always invited to be, speaking at conferences. So I'd would go onto the conference and have it like my 45 minute keynote and I'd tell people how I did the deal, what I learned, and how they could do something similar and it started to catch on a little bit at that point. 

Ron Skelton: I'm at the early stages of that right now. I'm a marketing nerd by previous trade. I'm really good at making the phone ring. So I've got three speaking gigs coming up in the next 12 months on deal sourcing.

Right? I had to turn my stuff off cuz I switched from like the marketing agencies and stuff. And just myself and two other individuals on an eight person team were doing the outreach for that. We interviewed over 200 plus marketing agencies in less than 190 days. Like one hour of call, we sent out messages, Hey, we're thinking about investing in or buying marketing agencies.

Would you be interested in a call type of messaging to the extent where [00:23:00] they said yes, scheduled a one pl one to one and a half hours worth of, calls with us. Mm-hmm. and we did that first conversation with over 200 and I think it was two 16 or 218, you know agencies producing over a million bucks.

That skill alone, just making the phone ring with people going, yeah, I, I'd be interested in what you got going on. What are you doing has opened the doors. Where now I'm like showing other peoples how to source deals. And we did it all online. I still do direct mail and some other stuff. And for things that are hard, like my pest control company is hard to reach people for online, you pretty much have to cold call 'em or send them letters.

They just don't hang out on , LinkedIn and, Facebook, the owners don't. So I can see kind of, I don't know that I'll. Run a course on it. I've owned some education centers before. I used to teach real estate investing. I love the teaching process, but I don't see myself doing that here.

I might buy something that teaches it and make sure it's a quality material that might, that I might do, but it's a lot of hours to stand in front of classrooms and teach. 

Jonathan Jay: So I should explain that the, [00:24:00] the business that I built, Bought the competitor and did the private equity sale, was actually adult education.

That was the sector. Okay. So I was very familiar with how adult education, works. And it was, accredited by different, different colleges. so I understand how to create a robust syllabus, and how to teach. I saw enough expert trainers and teachers to understand how to, because it, it's not, Who knows the most or who's the best or anything like that.

It's about, if you want to learn something, you wanna learn from a teacher who can teach, right? And someone who can explain it clearly and break it down and, and get their own ego outta the way and, and take things back to basics and, and encourage people as well. I mean, people want to be inspired.

They want to be motivated. They want to, they want to come out of this, not just buying a business, but actually also being a different person as a result. And Brian Tracy, who I've always been a huge fan of the Canadian, speaker, I think I believe lives in, San Diego, not, not a million miles from where you are.

I think, he always said that [00:25:00] becoming a millionaire isn't about the money that you make. It's about the person that you become, right? And you become a different person. You make that first acquisition, you realize that you can do something that all your friends told you that you couldn't do, and then you realize you need to go and get new friends.

Ron Skelton: I love when somebody tells me you can't do something. No, you can't do it. I clearly am on the path to getting this done. Usually when somebody says you can't do something, what they're really saying is they can't do it. Right.

Jonathan Jay: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. 

Ron Skelton: They have no idea and they don't believe you can.

I was like, okay, I don't run on your belief. I have other fuel, and, I'll show you when I get it done. Right. So it actually fuels me a little bit. I guess I'm the stubborn little kid, you tell me I can't do something. I'll show you three ways. It's done . 

Jonathan Jay: Absolutely. I have people all the time saying, you, you can't do this. It's not possible. You're expecting, too much or, you can't grow a business as, as big as you're saying you can grow it.

It's nice to prove people wrong, isn't it? 

Ron Skelton: Yeah, it is. What industries do you avoid? Is there anything out there you just won't touch? 

Jonathan Jay: Yeah. Things I don't understand. And I, and there's a lot of things I'd understand there. Anything to do with [00:26:00] technology. I haven't got a cl really don't understand anything to do with, with technology and I like service businesses.

I can walk around a manufacturing business and not really understand what I'm looking at service businesses. I can get that. And I understand the mechanics of a service business where if I look at, I've got clients buying engineering business and manufacturing businesses and trucking businesses and transport businesses, that's just not my thing.

So I always say to people, stick with something that you're comfortable with to start off with, and then you can go outside your comfort zone later. But at the beginning, get your experience doing something that you feel comfortable with. Otherwise, you'll be outside your comfort zone on the acquisition and outside your comfort zone on the business.

I mean, that could be too much for anyone. So do it one step at a time. 

Ron Skelton: Yeah, I get that. I stick away from like, I just moved from Oklahoma and there, there's legalized marijuana in Oklahoma. I don't touch stuff, anything that's so high risk that it can impact other businesses. Like when I was in the marketing, people are constantly contacting, Hey, would you buy [00:27:00] this Grove facility?

Or whatever, and I'm just not interested in it. I believe it has medical properties. I'm glad that they're allowing people to use that and deal with it. I have a bunch of friends from the military that have ptsd, T S D and certain things that, you know, that they do that helps them get past that stuff, that's fine.

But any, I stay away from anything that's really highly regulated in, I say that I own a pest control company, which is one of the highest regulated things. That's one of the reasons I don't want to do anything that's highly regulated is I bought one and now I'm dealing with constantly licensing and testing and all the stuff that goes with something highly regulated.

What do you think about stuff like that, like service industries that are highly regulated? 

Jonathan Jay: I have a client in, in pest control and he's bought three pest control businesses. And I saw him two weeks ago and it was at a dinner and he lent across the table and he said, someone's offered me 15 million pounds.

What's that? 18 million for my business? Do you think I should say yes? And it's like, yes, say yes. Say yes. You'll be a non-compete for two to three years. And then you could do it all over [00:28:00] again. But take some, I'm big into people taking money off the table if you can de-risk as you go along. Yeah. Waiting for the big payday might never happen.

De-risk as you go along. We need less money than we think we need. And a few million dollars can be absolutely life-changing. It doesn't have to be a hundred million dollars every time. It can be 3 million there, $7 million there. Yeah, do it, do it in stages. Incremental stages.

But answering your question about the highly regulated, my last sector was childcare. and you can't get, again, more highly regulated than being responsible for people's children. And it was a nightmare. It was, every morning you, I lived in fear of the regulatory body doing an unannounced visit.

And by ha past four in the afternoon, they could have closed down that location if they saw something they didn't like. And so very, very, living on the edge all the time of, of the regulatory body coming down on you and, and closing one of your facilities.

So I've been there. Would I do it again? Yeah, I would actually,[00:29:00] but, I think you need to know what you're getting into when it, when you're getting into a regulated industry.

Ron Skelton: I get it. The one thing about the regulated industry is the operators themselves have to be top-notch and understand that regulator, that regulation, day in and day out, right.

They gotta eat it, sleep it, live it. They gotta, they just have to understand it. So I, when we're looking at acquiring other pest control companies, that's how I'm gonna grow that one. We've talked to a few already. Problem is some of them are old school. They existed before the EPA really got onto.

And here in the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency really kind of oversees and local government, actually there's two parties you gotta watch out for. There's EPA regulations on the chemicals you use, and there's local guidances on stuff. And if you don't pay attention to that, you can get yourself in a lot of trouble.

What I'm finding is a lot of these old school guys, these guys are 60 plus ready to retire. They kind of took it very relaxed level, and I'm concerned with the liabilities that they have laying around. Right. So mm-hmm. It's the part of my due diligence [00:30:00] is like, do they have the records they're supposed to have?

Do they handle the chemicals the way they're supposed to handle them? Are there people well trained and safe? Right. Are there any pending lawsuits, how many of their staff have workers comp claims cuz they built chemicals on themselves and mm-hmm. are really sick now.

Mm-hmm. Because that stuff can be bad. So there's something, I get it. And you're, what would I do it again? I don't know yet. I'm still in the middle of one, at this stage I'm frustrated enough and say I probably would stay away from the highly regulated stuff.

And I definitely would stay away from the childcare side of it just because of you. Here, the United States is so Sue happy. The kid does something stupid gets hurt. They're gonna sue the company. 

Jonathan Jay: Yeah, sure, sure. 

Yeah. It's the same here, but yeah, absolutely. Yeah. 

Ron Skelton: So I know a little bit about that childcare rollup and stuff, and you grew really fast.

You grew really fast in the middle of Covid, right? And there were some difficulties inside. Do you mind sharing some lessons learned from that? Because I think that's really valuable for people to learn Yeah, sure. From other people's mistakes, instead of doing them themselves. [00:31:00] 

Jonathan Jay: Yeah, sure. We did it a lot, right?

We went from zero to the fourth largest group in the sector. And the sector is dominated in the UK, as I'm sure it is in most countries by private equity backed. The two largest groups in the sector, are listed on the New York one's, listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

One's owned by the Ontario Teachers Pension Fund, which is a huge investment fund. The third largest group is owned by European Private Equity Fund. And then there was us. We reached scale very, very quickly. But it was, yeah, it was challenging. And with the benefit of hindsight, we grew way too quickly, way, way too fast.

And we didn't have the head office infrastructure that we needed. We were constantly playing catch up. Imagine doing 48 deals in two and a half. Years, in different parts of the uk, mostly in the north of England. But spread out a little bit. I live in London, so I'm three, 400 miles away from everything.

So that was, that distance created, a few challenges.[00:32:00] My role always was intended to be just the person doing the deals. But because we had weaknesses in the management structure, I was dragged to plug the gap in management. And it's not, I don't have the qualifications in childcare.

I don't have the background. And quite frankly, I didn't have the desire, I didn't have the desire to be involved in a business day-to-day. And, it was stressful. We, again, went from zero to hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of staff. And even though there were several layers of.

Management between the staff and me. I'd still be hearing every day about, because every day there'd be, resignations every day, there'd be firings every day. There'd be, complaints and grievances and all those HR things. And I'm terrible with things like that. I mean, I, oh, that just drives me crazy.

I'm not really a people person to the extent of wanting to sit down and talk to, hundreds of staff. So yeah, really, really, challenging. And I think [00:33:00] probably I thought I had more energy than I actually had. I'm 51 years old now, and, yeah, I think I, it started to catch up with me physically and mentally.

I can get it physically and. 

Ron Skelton: And I'll be 51 in February. 

Jonathan Jay: Okay. We we're in the same age. 

Ron Skelton: We're the same age. Yeah.

Jonathan Jay: And actually I ended up in hospital. It put me in hospital. I had to have a colonoscopy, cause my, stomach pains were, I couldn't sleep for the stomach pains.

I was, I, I couldn't stand up straight. It, they lasted for days and the colonoscopy, was obviously looking for the sort of more sinister. Reasons. And unfortunately, very fortunately, that wasn't the case. And the conclusion was, it was stress . And I thought, this isn't good.

Because, I always, enjoyed being the guy who could take on anything. Stress didn't bother me. But when I started thinking about it, I realized that I'd been taking sleeping tablets every night for two years. And apparently that's not a good thing, because my mind was so [00:34:00] active and I couldn't sleep.

And then, yeah, I went to see a therapist and I was a little embarrassed about it. Well, actually, I didn't admit it at the time. I didn't tell anyone. I didn't tell my business partner. I didn't tell anyone. It was, I kind. Went off eight o'clock in the evening, went off for an hour, came back, I didn't wanna say where I'd been,

I all looked very suspicious. But yeah. And I realized I had to make some life decisions. We were on a three to five year journey, and I decided that I was gonna get off that journey before the end. Money is appealing if you're in business. It's kind of like your measure of success, isn't it?

I've got a six and a half year old daughter, and when she bought her spelling test home from work, from work. But listen to me at home from school. Ha ha. Mm-hmm. can you see the problem I got here when she brought her spelling test home from school and she was going through her spellings and one of the words was unhappy.

And she looked at me [00:35:00] and she said, that's you. And that, that took me by surprise. The next day. I said to her, why did you mean, why do you think, why do you say I'm unhappy? I said, what makes me unhappy? And she said, work. And I thought, well, this is, I've suddenly become a terrible role model for my daughter where I'm, where she considers that work is making me unhappy.

Yeah. So I thought that was the time. No, no amount of money is worth damaging your health and damaging the relationship that you have with your children. 

Ron Skelton: We're very similar. We're both 50. I'm 50 be 51. You're 51, you have a six and a half year old daughter.

I have a daughter who's gonna be seven and just, two days after three days after Christmas. Oh, right, okay. So we're, I have 11 year old boy too. So I have an 11 year old and a six year old that'll be, 12 and, seven, one day apart. So they're the 27, sixth and 27th or 27th and 28th of December.

Anyway, it's brilliant how [00:36:00] little kids can have insight into things mm-hmm. and see things and just call you out on things, that you would just never do on your own. Right. You would just, so I'm glad, I'm not glad you went through it, but I'm glad you had the realization that, it just wasn't working.

It wasn't working for your health, it wasn't for your stress. 

Jonathan Jay: We kind of, we got addicted to doing deals and during the pandemic there were so many opportunities. We looked at 500 opportunities and did sort of like roughly 10%, of those. And we could have done more. We could have done, a lot more.

We just did not have the bandwidth to do it. And, private equity does get it right when they create the management team and invest in that head office. before making acquisition number one. And they have deep enough pockets to be able to spend a year putting together the team, developing the management team, developing the thesis before they make that first acquisition.

We were running at a pace [00:37:00] where, my business partner, who stayed with the business, my business partner would be talking about a particular, location. And I'd be looking at her and I'm thinking, I have no idea right now, which one she's talking about, whether we own it or whether we are going to buy it.

And I'm think, I realize I was starting to just lose track of poppers going on. but I'm very proud of what we did. We created the fourth largest group in the sector in, in two and a half years. And no one's ever done anything of that scale. 


Ron Skelton: Okay. So here's a question for you.

I'm gonna put a scenario gun to your head. You have to do it again, right? Don't have a choice, right? Mm-hmm. , mm-hmm. , you have to do this again. What would you do different? What lessons would you like? And you're starting over. You're not like, you're not going back into what you've already done, but you gotta go down that same path again.

What would you do differently? What are the lessons learned and what would you. differently from day one to make it less stressful on you and make it work? 

Jonathan Jay: Yeah, sure. The slight downside of this childcare [00:38:00] sector is that they're all small businesses. What I say to, to everyone that, I assist on their business buying journey is the temptation might be to go and buy a small business that sort of does a few hundred thousand dollars of revenue.

I say, no, go for something larger. Go for something more substantial with management in place with good, so strong, solid cash flows. Some people say, buy a distressed business for a dollar. Turn it around. I've done that and I've done it. I'm very happy to give you a, tell you a story of one that I did very, very successfully, but, It requires a little bit of luck to be on your side as well.

I say to people, don't do the $1 deal. Don't buy the distress business. Don't try and turn a business around. That's hard work. Buy a business that's already making money and we'll make money when the seller goes, when they exit and buy a business that from day one, money is [00:39:00] flowing into the business and then flowing into your personal bank account, that's what you should be doing.

So looking back on the, the group, we had those solid, profitable businesses, and we also had some turnarounds. So with the benefit of hindsight, I never would've done the turnarounds. I would've just So it had a smaller portfolio. Mm-hmm. , but ultimately a more profitable portfolio because the loss making ones drain the profit from the profitable ones.

Every, everyone I think turnarounds are a little bit ego-driven. And again, I could, I've done this myself, so I know how much ego gets involved in this. I bought a business from a London based private equity firm with a reputation for being ruthless.

I mean, these guys, you mentioned their name and everyone goes, oh, whoa. How did that deal work? And they had a digital marketing, you mentioned marketing earlier. They had a digital marketing business that they bought as part of a buy and build. and [00:40:00] they, the intention was that this was the platform investment.

They'd buy other businesses in the sector and then sell it on. That was their method of operation. They'd been very, very successful for many decades in, doing buying builds. And they hadn't ever bought another business in this sector. They just bought this initial platform and never done anything with it.

And I still to this day, don't know why, but this business has languished in their portfolio for a number of years, and then I was in the right place at the right time and, had the opportunity to buy that business for a dollar. And it was, roughly, in dollars, about 7 million, dollars of annual revenue.

I could buy it for a dollar, but it was making a loss. And I always said to people, never buy a business that's making a loss unless you know the answer to two questions. The first is why it's making a loss, and secondly, how to fix the problem. And I knew the answer to both questions. So I bought the business for a dollar.

I spent six months making it profitable. And that actually was an interesting [00:41:00] approach. I effectively shrunk the business. I made the business smaller by stopping the activities that were loss making and leaving behind the activities that were profitable. And I spent six months doing that. And then about three months finding a buyer for it.

And I did it as a trade sale. So I sold it to a com effectively, to a competitor in the same sector. And I sold it for, again, putting this into dollars, roughly 2 million, right? And. There was a, there was some skill involved in that, but also there was a little bit of luck and can someone do that as their first deal?

I think the chances are so unlikely that you might as well not even bother. Buy a solid, profitable business that makes you money from day one. Don't gamble it all on a turnaround. That's that. That is my best advice, I think, to people who are thinking of buying a business for the first time. 

Ron Skelton: How early in the [00:42:00] process do you start talking about, or thinking in your own mind about how it's gonna be exited?

Like, do you know from day one it's gonna be a trade or we call a strategic purchase, you're gonna sell this as somebody in the industry, a competitor, you're gonna sell it to private equity. Do you buy things with like, okay, I know private equity company over here's buying these and if I buy this through X, Y, and Z to it, they're gonna want it?

Or does that come later in the process? You're just looking for something very profitable, you're gonna run it and you start thinking about who the, acquirer is on the other end at a later time. 

Jonathan Jay: Yeah. So there's two approaches. You could either buy it for the cash flow and you say, yeah, so for example, I've got a, I've got a client who's about to close on a.

A lighting company and, it is got into the final week before they closed the deal. And it's very tense at the moment. We were at 6:00 AM this morning, we were messaging on LinkedIn. We say, what do I do with this? And how do gimme a second opinion on this? And that's going to create for them, 80, again, putting it into [00:43:00] dollars, $100,000 of free cash flow every single month.

And that is their focus as a father and son, buying this business. And their focus is that cash flow. And I think for most people, that level of cash flow is life-changing. The sale of that business in the future is second. and it will come because you can always sell. Mm-hmm. a good, solid, profitable business.

Other people take a different approach. They say, I know that for example, in the dental sector, these private equity firms are buying, they're buying at this multiple. If I can buy dental practices at I dunno what they'd be in the us, but let's say at a four or five or a six times multiple, and then I know that I can sell for 12 times.

I can more than double my money. So it's a very strategic play to say, I buy it one price, I sell it another. Let's buy as quickly as possible, consolidate, make as many cost [00:44:00] savings as possible. Make it as profitable as possible without making it run on thin air. I mean, it still has to be a sustainable business.

And then I can sell that to these buyers, and if I can get a couple of them interested, I can run a competitive, scenario, which always gets you the very best price. It really depends what you want to do to the first time buyer. I say buy for cash flow to the more experienced business buyer.

I say, let's put together an acquisition strategy that allows you to exit for a life-changing amount of money in the future. So it's different strategies for different people at different stages in the journey. 

Ron Skelton: I got it. So in here, I know a couple guys trying to do the, dental roll up. They, I know somebody who started one and then they let go of it.

They sold the ones they acquired, but I know somebody else is trying to do it. A lot of professions here like. Dental, medical, veterinarian services. You as an individual cannot own them, but you, there's ways around there, right? So if, so anybody that hears this like, man, maybe that dental thing's not a bad idea, [00:45:00] understand that, if you're not a dentist, you can't buy a dental, a company here in the United States, but you can set up what's called a DS o a dental service organization.

And there's a way around it. You can acquire dental offices into a dental service organization and sell 'em as a package, but there's all kinds of regulations about the medical professional being on his own, being able to make his own medical diagnosis, and you can't have any control over what they.

What diagnosis they give, what prescriptions they write. There's just, there's a lot of rules around it here. And, mm-hmm. . Cause I looked in getting in the middle of that one. It's like, that's like highly regulated. Like, I actually had, one of our, one of the people that I talked to on a regular basis, she came to me and said, I have investors wanting us to do a, veterinarian rollup and to, we'd have to set up a medical service organization in every single state that we were acquiring these veterinarian services in.

And it just, when they heard the, which is about here, it's about, I wanna say from my research, it looked like it was gonna be about 18 or $20,000 worth of legal fees per state to [00:46:00] set up the MSO and to, and then so much per month to manage that mso while we're acquiring them. When the investors heard that , before we even start buying the first one, we need to do X, Y, and Z.

They weren't as interested. The reason I bring that up is like, anybody that looks into it and it's like, well, you can't do that here. You can, there's a way of, for everything there is, there's a way around it, right? Sure. The only one I, the only one I haven't figured out is, when I owned my real estate investment firm, I actually wanted to buy a law firm.

We were spending so much money on attorneys anyway, so you can't legally and least in the state of Oklahoma and many other states too, you can't own a law firm if you're not an attorney. You can't participate in getting any revenue for legal services unless you're an attorney and there's no legal service organization, right?

There's no way, there was nothing you could, at least in that state, there was nothing around it. So there are a few that you basically have to have that license, that, Certification to you may be part of, but most of the others, you can build something around and play within the rules that are there and make 'em work for you.

Jonathan Jay: Yeah. There's a, [00:47:00] and this is, this is why lawyers are worth their waiting gold. We might not like paying lawyers, but, yeah, it, it's important to do things correctly. 

Ron Skelton: It's funny, I tease and say I'm grooming one, I have a good friend that's into the acquisition entrepreneurial space.

He's been with me on this journey. We talk probably two or three times a week. He's been going through law school. He takes the bar in February and then, I plan on, using him and his services as part of what we're doing just because he's learned, everything I learned, I've been sharing, right.

I'm a big fan of that. Like legal representation. Look at everything. Mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm. here. It's a little different. I don't know what it's like in, in London, but every state here has its own state bar. So if you buy something in, I'm in, a California, so I buy something here. I have to have a California bar, license attorney look at it because the l the contracts and stuff are different.

Jonathan Jay: But well, to put it into context, the UK is smaller than Texas . So we've only got, so we've only got [00:48:00] one legal system. That's actually not straightly. True. We have a different, legal system for Scotland. Okay. But yeah, ge generally speaking, we have one simple system.

Ron Skelton: So here we, if you're gonna do a roll up across multiple states, you pretty much need an attorney. Some, there is some across, like you can pass the bar in one state and then actually get licensed in another state through, there's a, I forgot what it's called, a recipro ity type of, there's states that are reciprocal and licensing in bars and stuff like that.

Mm-hmm. . So they can, you file a fee, you pass maybe a test or you get some certification and prove, and now you can practice law in their state also. But, understand that here in the United States, chances are you're gonna need, like, if you're buying companies in, Oklahoma, Texas, California, you're gonna need three different attorneys, or at least an attorney that's, got bar Association fees paid in all three states.

We over complex things. Everything here is, the lawyers, I think the lawyers built this country, so they made it work for them. . Every one of our [00:49:00] politicians, if you look at the background, almost every politician we have has passed the bar, right? They were an attorney at some point or another, right?

Almost every, every president, almost every one of 'em, they went to law school, they made the rules and, therefore, you need one if you're gonna be in the business space. Let's dive in. We're about 56 minutes in. Let's make sure we cover the, like how do people work with you, right?

If somebody wants to learn from you, work with you, show a deal to you and get your opinion on it, is there a way for them to do that? 

Jonathan Jay: Yeah, I'm very happy for people to connect with me on LinkedIn. I'm quite active on LinkedIn. That's really the only social media platform that I'm ac I'm active on.

And I run lots of, very low cost introductory Zoom trainings. I do those every couple of weeks, in fact. And it means, because it's on Zoom, you can join from anywhere in the world. It's just a few hundred dollars to join one of those classes, and I do it over several, a period of several days.

If you, I found that if you do it all in one day, it kind of gets a bit overwhelming. But if you spread it over several days, and again, it's all about quality of teaching, it's all about making sure that people really [00:50:00] come out of that training with the essential knowledge that they need, and also a confidence boost to be able to go out and buy a business.

And some people stop there, they just do that training. And then some people come onto my 12 month program, which again, you couldn't join from anywhere in the world where every, e every two weeks, I'm with you on a Zoom, training you in the next stage of the process. We found that very, very effective indeed, which is why we have so many, successful clients.

And they're from all over the world. I mean, we have people a lot from Australia at the moment, Australia and New Zealand, a lot from the UK as you would expect, because I'm based in the UK and a growing number from the United States. As well. We are very easy to work with, very easy to connect to.

So LinkedIn is a great place to find me. 

Ron Skelton: And that academy is the deal makers with an s, right? 

Jonathan Jay: Yeah. So you can go to the website, the deal makers, and that's got sort of the upcoming courses there. There's a newsletter you can subscribe to the usual thing.

Ron Skelton: Yeah. You even, you have your free download [00:51:00] book and everything, I was on it earlier today. Let's cover the what if, let's do the, the takeaways, right? If somebody could remember only two or three things from the show today, what would you want 'em to remember? 

Jonathan Jay: It makes no difference how much or how little money you've got.

You can buy a business. It's about having the knowledge, the confidence, and the skills. Obviously, you can't do it without those things, but it doesn't require money. And if you're willing to put in the effort and it does require effort, then you can acquire a business. The second. Takeaway is that your first deal, and maybe your first few deals should be solid, profitable businesses.

Don't get this idea out of your head of doing a $1 deal and buying a distress business and turning it around. The chances are it won't work. So you need to buy a solid, profitable business that will make money for you from day one. You want to be able to take money outta the business, not put money into the business to keep it afloat.

That's the wrong way around. So there's two [00:52:00] takeaways, and the third takeaway is that I think everything in life is, requires persistence and to keep at it. I think too many people give up on too many things too easily. But the rewards are there for the people who persist. And it's easier to persist when you have got people around you motivating you, inspiring you.

So get around the right people. I mean, there's a saying isn't there? That you are the average of your five closest friends, and if your five closest friends aren't buying businesses or are not in business, the chances of success start to stack against you. So get around a community and, we've got a LinkedIn, a private LinkedIn group of people who have been on our mastermind program.

Over 500 people in that group. That is the right place to hang out. Where you can actually talk to people about the challenges and the concerns in your mind. They'll build you up rather than trying to drag you down. So those are my takeaways, Ron? 

Ron Skelton: I got it. I stopped telling my [00:53:00] friends and family what I do, just cuz they like, they just don't understand it and anybody who's not contributing to your goals is distracting you from them.

So, yeah. I just do my best not to bring it up. Right. If somebody's not on board and wanting to be part of what I'm doing. That's cool. That's, I like, I'm not fuel, I'm not fueled by your, your desires. I'm sure. Fueled by mine. So I wanna appreciate you. I want to thank you for being on the show. I appreciate you being here today.

We'll just call that a show cuz it was great. And hang out for a few seconds after we're done.