Lessons of the Italian Perspective

In the past six months we have had the great opportunity to travel outside the US three times – to the Dominican Republic, Belize and now, Italy. I’m writing this shortly after 1pm on our seventh day of this beautiful country – sitting outside with a mozzarella and tomato sandwich watching the people go about their daily business, which at this time of day principally means eating lunch.

Unlike the Dominican Republic, Belize and the rest of the Caribbean and Latin America, life in Italy is a different paradigm and it holds some valuable lessons for those of us living in the American culture.

Our first day was in Rome set the stage for six days in the Tuscany region of the country. Rome was important as a first stop in that the age of the country & culture was reinforced everywhere we looked. Our tour guide explained that one area we visited was a “new” section of Rome – meaning that the buildings were just 200 years old. It took me a while for that reality to sink in to my American brain. Most of what we saw was over 500 years old, and much of it in excellent shape.

3 Keys to Expanding Your Company Vision

Working with successful entrepreneurs is a blast.  Yet if I step back a moment and reflect on the #1 thing that most entrepreneurs fall short – it is vision.  Entrepreneurs often need to expand their company vision.

Let me explain.  When running a business, what is the focus of the CEO when he/she wakes up?  We think about what needs to be done today.  We prioritize in our mind, or on paper … these are the 5 or 10 things that we need to accomplish today.

Is there any vision for the future on that list? No.  The vision for the business is typically something focused on at the early stages, and from time to time over a glass of wine.  It’s more dreaming than vision.  It’s a little like, “what do you want to be when you grow up” vision.

Entrepreneurs rarely set aside serious time to think … strategize … or consider a vision for the future that hasn’t been pre-determined in the past.

Example: I talked recently with a CEO who has built a nice company with a couple of retail locations.  His desire is to add a couple more offices –

Is a 9 to 1 Increase in Company Valuation Acceptable?

If we could work with you to increase the value of your company by $1,000,000, would it bother you if we were paid $100,000?

And we don’t want to get paid until you get paid, so we’re not asking to get paid on some theoretical increase in value, but an increase that comes from a recapitalization or sale transaction.

In fact, if we increased your value by $10,000,000 – would you really care about the $1,000,000 we would be paid. If you’re smart, wouldn’t you want us to get paid $5,000,000?

The way we look at this is that you get 9x what we get, yet we are in a joint venture / partnership where we assist your company. If we yield zero value, we get zero. If we help you create value, we get 10% of the increase – not 10% of what your company is already worth – that’s all yours – but 10% of the increase in value.

Can we do this for anyone? No.

We need to be highly selective about the companies we work with for the simple reason that we still only have 24 hours in a day,

Medway Air Ambulance – A Home Run

It’s my pleasure to announce that Medway Air Ambulance has completed a recapitalization resulting in a significant liquidity event for its owner, and a growth capital infusion by Merit Capital Partners and American Working Capital.

In just over two years, we worked with Rick Moore, Medway’s CEO, to double the revenue, more than double the profitability and increase equity value by more than 5x. After the recapitalization, Rick continues to own a significant piece of the company and remains CEO. It is my personal expectation that Medway can double its revenue again over the next three years, and potentially triple over the next five years.

It has been great to work with Rick and to assist him in adding the financial discipline, debt financing and to jointly create a growth vision for the company. When we first talked about a joint venture in 2012, he thought I was crazy … this would never happen. We started with a good company at the end of 2012, and over the next two years created a world class company.

My congratulations to Rick for the great job he has done, and to Merit/AWC for the opportunity they have to work with Rick and his excellent staff to take the company to the next level.

Villwock Strategic Planning

Strategic Planning – Simple Template for Complex Issue

For many, if not most, middle-market CEO’s, Strategic Planning sounds worse than a trip to the dentist.

Regardless of what we conjure up when we hear the words “Strategic Planning”, this is a lost art for many business owners. It is lost in the busyness of the day. Yet it could be the most important step in getting a business ready to double or triple in revenues, profits and value.

Let’s take the mystery and pain out of Strategic Planning.  What is Strategic Planning?

Regardless of the textbook definition, we think of Strategic Planning as follows: Look at the products or services that we offer, the industry in which we live and the strengths and weaknesses of our management and employees. What business are we really in? What course of action do we need to take to get the business to the “next level”. The process must also help us determine what that “next level” is – or in other words, “what is the end game?”

For example, if we are a $10 million business in the widget industry, we might ask ourselves the following questions:

  1. How can we gain more customers buying our widgets?

selling your business

Thinking of Selling Your Business?

If you’ve built a good business as a CEO and are thinking that it’s time to sell – consider this question:   How are you going to get the company ready to be sold at the highest price possible?

Not being ready can cost you millions of dollars.

The fact is that most CEOs have never sold a business before – and for most CEOs, this is the most important financial transaction of their life.

And if you ask private equity buyers (and if they were honest), they would tell you that most of the companies they see are NOT ready to be purchased. Often they don’t mind, however, since that means that the private equity firm can buy the company for less than they would have paid otherwise.   In other cases the business is so NOT ready that they won’t even bid to buy the company, regardless of how attractive the industry sector or management team might be.

Either way, the current owner of the business loses.

A good example is a company that I’ve worked with for two years. We were hired to initially represent the company in a sale to a private equity firm which had knocked on their door.