Walker Deibel | Secrets of Acquisition Entrepreneurship

Starting a business from scratch can be tough. But there is a way around burning your startup investment as you figure out how things work, says M&A advisor and entrepreneur Walker Deibel. He’s an advocate for buying an existing business.

Of course, the trick is finding the right business to buy – one that has potential to grow. Walker has some experience there, having bought seven businesses in ten years – and he’s co-founded some startups, too.

Walker talks about what to look for in an acquisition, the factors that matter – and those that don’t, and more, including…

  • His best advice for corporate execs looking to transition to entrepreneurship
  • How franchising fits into the acquisition model
  • The characteristics of a “growth opportunity” business
  • The mindset you need to take an established business to the next level
  • And more

Listen now…

Mentioned in this episode:


Giuseppe Grammatico: Welcome to the Franchise Freedom podcast. I’m your host Giuseppe Grammatico, your franchise guide, and today we have a very special guest. Today we are speaking with Walker Deibel. Walker is a serial acquisition entrepreneur, best-selling author, and M&A advisor.

Walker acquired seven companies over ten years and co-founded several startups. His best-selling book, Buy Then Build: How Acquisition Entrepreneurs Outsmart the Startup Game released to critical acclaim, including being recognized by Forbes as one of the top seven books all entrepreneurs must read, and is currently being used in multiple universities as a textbook for entrepreneurship through acquisition.

His book and educational company of the same name share experiences and frameworks to help entrepreneurs learn why buying an existing company is often a better route for entrepreneurs and how to do it. The new flagship program offers do-it-with-you buy side M&A services via information coaching tools and community.

Walker works as an M&A advisor for online businesses via Quiet Light Brokerage, where he works virtually with a group of nine other entrepreneurs to assist online companies in a transaction. His first full year, Walker closed more in transactional value than any first-year broker in the first fourteen-year history of the firm. Walker, very impressive bio. I wanted to welcome you to the show.

Walker Deibel: Giuseppe, thank you so much for having me. I’m so happy to be here. Excited to talk.

Giuseppe: Yes, very excited as well. Walker, you have a very extensive bio, and there were a few things we didn’t talk on. I wanted you to kind of go in a little bit more detail. But, you know, I ask all our guests, you know, fill us in a little bit more on your background. How did you get into this business, and what does that journey look like?

Walker: Sure. So you know, I think, Giuseppe, that the thing is that when I was in business school, when I got my MBA, me and a couple of classmates started a business. And, you know, we had a supplier in California, and it was really pretty cool.

And, you know, we were going through the, you know, business plan competition and looking for investment and looking for customers, and everything looked like it was coming together really well, you know. I probably can’t say who the customer was that was gonna roll us out nationally, but you know, their name rhymes with Walmart.

And so it’s one of these where everything was going really well. And then all of a sudden, just the rug got pulled out from under us on the licensing agreement. And, you know, there’s a little difference between, you know, being an MBA with a very promising startup and sort of being recently graduated without a startup, and that word is unemployed, right?

So the thing was that I knew there was a way to acquire an existing business, but I sort of didn’t know how to do it. And I went, I headed out on my own and really just kind of tried to figure it out in 2004. And what I was met with was a really opaque and fragmented marketplace, right?

Like, and just the variance in, gosh, I’m hesitating because I’m wondering if I want to go on record saying this, but, you know, because it has humans involved, but sort of, like, the variance in knowledge or vetting or professionalism of, you know, brokers, or are they intermediaries or are they advisors or are they I-bankers, right, you know, they go, you know, it’s a broker by any name, right.

And so I was met with something that was real opaque, very fragmented, and the variance of the players was so large that it was really hard to kind of navigate this private market. And so my first venture into this whole thing was to launch a search process that, frankly, ultimately ended with me going corporate because you can only go so many months before you’re going, you know, I don’t feel like I’m making the progress, and being unemployed is getting old.

Plus, nobody understood what I was doing, right? I mean, you know, search funds like to say that, you know, search funds have been a thing since the 80s. And, technically, they have, but what I would tell you is that nobody in Missouri ever said the words, you know, search fund, you know, before you know, 2014, or whatever, you know. It just was not a concept.

The Benefits of Acquisition

Giuseppe: Right, no, very interesting. So, coming out of business school, very impressive. And, you know, we talked about acquisition and a lot of the audience, a lot of people listening in are looking to invest in their first franchise business.

So talk a little bit more about acquisition, you know, what are some benefits as opposed to starting a franchise from scratch, whereas you can, you know, maybe acquire as an investment group, you know, a group of franchises. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Walker: Sure. I think that it’s almost a sliding scale, right? Like, I think on one end of the spectrum, you sort of have, you know, brand new startups, okay. And even those kind of break into two. And I think that all the way on one end, you kind of have, if you’re familiar with Peter Thiel’s concept of “zero to one,” like a brand new idea that is very disruptive, and you’ve got to create a whole market around it, right?

Like something that truly doesn’t exist that all of a sudden does exist. That’s like, all the way, like the sort of like iconic, classic entrepreneurs that we all know and love that grace our magazine covers, right?

Then there’s the sort of “n plus one” entrepreneur and that’s the person that, you know, they’re starting a business, they’re taking the risk they’re taking the leap, but they’re not necessarily changing the way things work. They’re just sort of hanging up their own tile. So in other words, you know, let’s say I’m going to start a, you know, SEO agency in Chicago.

Well, I have no idea how many SEO agencies there are in Chicago, but it’s safe to say there’s probably at least two dozen, right? So you know, you’re kind of going out and saying, I’m starting my new SEO, you know, program or, you know, my new sandwich shop, for example, right? So you’re going into business for yourself, but you’re not changing the way… You’re not creating a market from scratch.

Then I view it as, like, the next thing would become like a franchise, right? So it’s sort of like an “n plus one” model most of the time, but builds a significant level of safety in for that franchisee to, you know, start from scratch by adding a business that’s already known and proven and just sort of expanding it to a new location.

And then, you know, sort of the next version of this would be buy a business that’s already going right. And the concept is, this is an actual business that is running. It’s got product market fit. It’s got the infrastructure to develop, to deliver the product, and it’s totally bankable so you can use that existing revenue and profits to go to the bank, get a loan, and the SBA is funding up to 90% of these companies have the acquisition, including working capital, right, in inventory and things like that.

So the thing is, that when you buy an existing business versus say, a franchise, I believe, and Giuseppe, you would be the professional on this, or you’d be the expert on this, but this is my belief. My belief is, there’s a lot of similarities.

Okay. However, I think that, let’s just take, you know, one of my favorite franchises would be like Jimmy John’s, right, so I love that place. So let’s say there’s a Jimmy John’s, and I think that for every single unit of Jimmy John’s, the revenue is probably going to cap out at some level.

I don’t know if that’s a million dollars or what, but it’s some number, right, like if there’s only a certain geographic expansion that you can reach. And I believe that the benefits of buying an existing business are that when you bring your own skill set in to a company that’s already operating, it actually holds a greater growth opportunity than, you know, a typical out-of-the-box franchise would. That’s my theory. And I’d love to know your thoughts on that.

Giuseppe: Yeah, that’s a good point. So I guess I’ll answer it this way, when you’re the franchise, essentially, you’re getting a protected territory.

So if it’s a retail location and/or just a territory if it’s a service-based business, you have a protected territory, it may just be the whole state, it may be certain zip code, so there’s a few ways to look at it as far as, you know, the number of zip codes may be looked upon as a limitation, but it is a protected territory so that no one else at the Jimmy John’s, as the example, can obviously go into the territory.

But there’s also, in the very, very beginning, you know, economical ways to expand so, you know, if you took a look at two or three locations, the investment per location would be discounted.

So, versus a startup non-franchise, you don’t have any limitations, but I guess you could look at it as no, I guess, protection per se, in that, you know, you can go as large as you want and have one store covering technically the whole entire state, you know, if you’re delivering and doing catering and things like that, but in the franchise model, there’s obviously, as you mentioned, the system in place, but you have the economies of scale, and everything kind of put in front of you.

So the question is always that, I guess, that I get asked, literally daily, which is better? And the answer is neither. It depends on the preference, what your goals are. Out-of-the-box franchises, you’re up and running relatively quickly. But that may not be what you’re looking for. You may be looking for something else.

So I always tell everyone, figure out if entrepreneurship is right for you. Do you want to start from scratch? Do you want to acquire via acquisition and then figure out if franchising is the route? Or do you just want to develop everything from A to Z and kind of start from scratch? So, definitely pros and cons to both, and I kind of leave that up to the individual that we’re working with, if that makes sense.

Walker: I love that and just to share with you and, you know, the millions of people listening to this podcast, is that, you know, I was recently reading Gino Wickman’s book, Leap, which has to do with where are you on, you know, on the entrepreneurial scale, right? And he sort of differentiates between the kind of “zero to one” and “n plus one” sort of person.

And I was happy to see that, you know, a lot of the personality assessments that he recommends we actually use at Buy Then Build with our members, which was cool. But the thing is, he’s got a free sort of quiz online where you can take it and sort of figure out like, okay, you know, where am I here?

In fact, you know what, I’d rather take a little more risk and have more upside. Am I really looking for something to, you know, to move in with a little bit more security, but a little less growth? And so that’s a tool that just came up for me in the last couple of weeks for what it’s worth.

Giuseppe: And where’s that tool again?

Walker: Yeah, Gino Wickman, who wrote the book Traction, also wrote a book called Entrepreneurial Leap. And I believe it’s like e-leap.com.

Giuseppe: Gotta check that out. We can definitely add that to the show notes for anyone that’s interested.

Walker: Yeah, it’s a good resource. It’s a good resource.

The “Growth Mindset” That Entrepreneurs Should Have

Giuseppe: Awesome. So let me ask you this. A lot of the audience are corporate execs looking to make the leap into entrepreneurship. What advice would you give to them, you know, what are, you know, based off your career? I know I give advice all the time, but I think they’re sick of hearing from me.

So I like to get our guests to give some recommendations as far as, you know, what would you recommend? And before I let you answer, I do tell people it’s not really one or the other, there are, especially in franchising, numerous opportunities where you don’t have to leave the position per se.

It’s not like you have to quit your job and then the next day start a business. There are, you know, the trends that I’ve seen lately are people are staying on at their corporate job for at least six to twelve months and having a general manager run the business. So they’re running it almost as a semi-absentee, but I wanted to get just kind of your advice, you know, maybe top two, three pieces of advice for someone looking to make that transition.

Walker: I think we just touched on this sort of like, you know, attitude piece, right, like, a lot of times, I’ll go give a talk, and if I’m speaking at a university with like a smaller room, it’s usually an elective, right, and people don’t have to come hear me speak, they’re usually opting to do it by choice.

And so if that’s the situation I always have, you know, before I get started, like, “What questions do you have, right?” And inevitably, you know, I guess you can imagine the bell curve, right? Like someone stands up and says, “I’m closing tomorrow, what do I do?” And I’m like, “Sit down, let’s talk later.”

But then I get the other guy who stands up and says, you know, “How do I know that I have what it takes?” Right? And that’s just sort of like the attitude piece that we were just talking about. It’s like, you got to understand, you know, do I have that growth mindset? Do I really have, you know, sort of what it takes to be comfortable with the level of risk associated with that?

And that’s something that I think just comes with having confidence in yourself and also just sort of understanding the business model, right? And I think that, I don’t it have in front of me, his name’s escaping me, forgive me. It was a professor from Wharton who did some research and ended up… He studied entrepreneurs and came up with what he called the corridor principle, right?

And the corridor principle is the following. In other words, everyone who’s not an entrepreneur thinks that entrepreneurs are like these like huge risk-takers, right? But in reality, what happens is they just simply start walking down the corridor, right? And as they start walking down that entrepreneurial corridor, they’re able to see into the rooms that the other people standing in the living room can’t see into, right?

And once you start seeing into these rooms, you start seeing things that most people aren’t gonna see. And so the thing is, it looks really risky to people that aren’t doing it. But to the people that are doing it, it never feels like a risk. Entrepreneurs actually typically don’t consider themselves risky at all.

They’re really just after the autonomy of doing it, right, having something that, you know, is their own, that they generate money, right. So, but you know, do you own a box that generates cash? That’s cool, right? So, you know, you got to understand what are the attributes of that thing?

And I think that the way to do it is most people, when they look at a list of franchises or a list of businesses that are for sale, they really look at it kind of like a menu and they’re trying to wonder like, what do I want for dinner, you know, and it’s like, “All right, I can have the chicken, I can have the steak, or I can have a salad. You know what, I’m not that hungry anyway, right?”

And the reason is because they are thinking about it backwards. What searchers need to do is think about what is it that you bring to the table. Because when you’re looking at that business and the historical performance and what it’s doing, that is the business without you, and the minute you buy that company, you’re not only the owner, you are the head of this beast, you are the CEO, you are the one who probably just took out a loan to do it, right?

And the thing is understanding what it is that you bring to the table. You can really start to understand what the growth opportunity is that you fit. In other words, you know, are you someone who strives with operational excellence, and you probably should be looking for a bit of a turnaround, right?

Are you someone who, you know, no interest in sort of operations and accounting, or like excel at sales and marketing, then maybe you’re looking for a bit more of a platform business. Something that you can, you know, walk into knowing that the operations are sort of handled, but you know you’re going to increase the throughput with your own efforts, you know, your shoe leather and whatever.

Are you a developer and, you know, you just are looking for that thing that’s got product market fit that you can, you know, replace the development team and sort of extract those operating expenses. The other is, you know, the most common is sort of what you see in the search fund community anyway, which is sort of like, what the guys at Harvard coined the “eternally profitable business.”

And that’s sort of like this fragmented industry type of business that, you know, really has no technological innovations threatening to disrupt it. My favorite examples are things like, well, you know, we were talking about sandwich shops, you know, something like Subway, you know, yes, maybe carbohydrates aren’t, you know, popular right now, but people are gonna use sandwiches every day until there’s a pill to replace food, right?

So you know, sort of like, window washing or, you know, snow plowing or, you know, these types of businesses that, you know, just don’t have those, you know, alternatives where the growth is going to be a little bit lower, but your margin of safety is a lot stronger.

So, in other words, understand what it is you bring to the table, understand and have a clear vision of what you want to spend your time doing. And combine those things together to define your growth opportunity. And then once you find the business that offers that growth opportunity, you’re ready to go. And you can have confidence. It’s the company plus you.

Why You Shouldn’t Invest in the “Hot Franchise”

Giuseppe: I like that and I’m very glad you mentioned that because I get asked all the time, “What’s the hot franchise? Which franchise should I invest in?” And I’ll just respond, “I have no idea. I don’t know you. I can’t make a recommendation. You can grab Entrepreneur Magazine and look for the hot franchises, they got them right on the cover. What’s right for you?”

And I go through the exact same… I call it… I reverse engineer it and tell them, “Put the product, service, even the franchise name at the very end. Let’s look at your strengths. What are your interests? What are you good at? What does your day look like? Do you envision yourself waking, you know, getting out of bed in the morning and logging onto a computer? And that’s your office? And that’s where you work out of? Or do you envision yourself going to a retail or office putting the key in the lock and opening the door?”

So I go, “There’s no right or wrong. Let’s figure out what you want.” And there are plenty of businesses and franchises that can fall into a service-based or retail-based business. It’s not about which is going to make more money. The one that’s going to make more money is the one that’s aligned with what you’re looking for and your strengths.

So I’m glad you bring that up. That’s really good. So it’s not just me saying that, we have at least two people saying the same thing. So that’s awesome. Okay, so switching gears a little bit, what’s kind of exciting, new in your world? I think you were talking about some projects you were working on. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Walker: Sure. Yeah. So, you know, it’s one of these things where ever since Buy Then Build came out, you know, the number one question I get is, so, you know, do you help people like, find and buy a company? And I’m like, “No, I can’t do that. You do that. That’s actually what you do, isn’t it?”

But I’m like, I can’t charge you enough for that. That’s like a ridiculous amount of work, right? And, you know, you focus on franchises. So I think it makes sense. But so the thing is, when you look at buy side advisory, it’s really unaffordable for, especially, a first-time buyer or a financial buyer or an acquisition entrepreneur.

And to me, it’s better suited for private equity firms who just need to increase, you know, deal flow in one way or another. So, you know, it’s typical for them to charge like, you know, $5,000 a month on a retainer, but then also a success fee. So if you’re buying a million-dollar business, you might be spending like a, you know, $150,000 on a buy side advisor, which is a significant expense, right?

Or something like that. And at the same time, you know, Buy Then Build is kind of like the DIY model, right? And so I kept telling people like, no, everything you need to do is in the book. And so ultimately, we’ve just sort of very quietly launched something that we’re calling The Acquisition Lab at Buy Then Build, and it’s not even on the website yet.

And it’s one of these where we’ve just launched the third cohort, we’ve got about a 45% acceptance rate of people who apply to getting them into the cohorts and the concept is that we’re building, you know, entrepreneurship through acquisition is available at eleven schools in the world, okay. And it’s like Harvard, Stanford, University of Chicago, you know, Columbia, you know, it’s like some of the best schools out there.

And it’s one of these where, what about everybody else? Like, you know, if I don’t go to Harvard, how do I get access to that? And so I’m trying to create, you know, a world-class, online curriculum around ETA. And in fact, I’ve been invited to consider teaching ETA this fall at Washington University in St. Louis. It’s totally unofficial. So I may be getting ahead of myself announcing that, but we’re in talks and it looks like it’s going to happen.

The second thing is, not only, you know, online curriculum, but also just group coaching and having these small groups of people that can get together and, you know, work together across the country in their common goal. Next is tools. I’ll leave it at that. And then the next, the final, is communities.

So not only having these small groups, but also private online groups, and obviously the network. We’ve got about twelve lenders across the country wanting to work with our members. And you know, I’ve got the former director of The Career Center at Olin Business School working with our team.

My chief of staff took a company from 3 billion to 6 billion running, you know, buy side advisory business development for them. And so we’re building out just a team of world-class people in hopes to help people get to their goal faster, right? But you know, I’m still working with Quiet Light Brokerage, and I broker online businesses.

That’s the place to go if people are just wanting, you know, deal flow for online-based businesses. And then, Giuseppe, I still have two companies that I run, I’ve got a manufacturing facility and I’ve got an e-commerce business.

So you know, if you were to ask me, you know, what would you do today? It’s really, those are my four things, which is kind of, I wonder how I do it and it’s not, you know, I don’t sleep much and I work weekends. That’s right. That’s right. It’s those two things. That’s it.

Giuseppe: So that’s the common theme. It doesn’t matter if it’s a franchise or non-franchise business ownership, hey, it does require a lot of hours. I don’t know if something is out there on the internet, but buying a franchise versus not… One is not easier than the other. And the hours, it’s still a business. It’s just a proven business model.

But I tell everyone, it’s still a lot of hours, especially the first year, I still put in the hours as well. I just have the flexibility. I have a family, two younger children that we can spend time with. And that was the most important thing and, you know, I build my schedule around them and I’m sure you do as well. So it’s kind of, you know, building around your priorities, right? I mean, that’s kind of the whole reason of owning the business. At least that’s what I hear quite a bit from my candidates.

The Intersection of Investor & Entrepreneur

Walker: You know, people love this concept of, like, passive income and all the rest of it and there seems to be a subset of people who think that, you know, Buy Then Build is all about getting, you know, passive income. And what I keep telling them is I didn’t title the book, you know, Buy Then Chill, right? The whole concept is that it’s active invest.

Giuseppe: Yes.

Walker: And that there’s an intersection of investor and entrepreneur. And when you combine those two things, and you buy a platform and then put your effort into it, that’s the little thing that makes the big difference here, right? And I think that, you know, again, we all see, you know, Steve Jobs or whatever, on the internet and just are sort of like, “Okay, that’s an entrepreneur.”

But as I walk around, sort of, like, you know, if you go to, like, the wealthiest neighborhoods in St. Louis and just sort of take a walk, you have to look at these houses and go, “What do they do?” And I often think to myself, like, that guy owns, like, six Subways or something, you know, like, who are these people, right?

I mean, it’s not these Steve Jobs people walking around. It’s somebody who owns, you know, eight salons and they spend their time running around and you know, dealing with turnover and, you know, counting the till and, you know, figuring out a new way to advertise, and it’s a lot of work.

Giuseppe: And no one sees that, you know, they see the end result and maybe the nice car and maybe the nice home, but they don’t see that ten years prior of, you know, just trying to build up the minimum just to invest in the business. So I always tell everyone, you don’t start out rich and having the nice moment, it took time to build up to that point.

So you need to have patience. This isn’t necessarily Shark Tank, which you know, get a lot of people just saying, “Okay, let’s get Mark Cuban on board and he’s going to invest in me and I’m just going to sit back.” But, uh, I tell everyone it’s gonna take time. And there are so many other benefits that come along with entrepreneurship. And we can spend two or three shows alone just on that.

Walker: Oh, yeah. By the way, just on the financial side, since we’re talking about it, it was Harvard who actually did the research around “Okay, wait a minute. We, you know, we’re graduating Harvard MBA students.” Like these guys are going out and becoming investment bankers and, you know, consultants at the world’s best firms.

So, you know, what does the empirical evidence tell us in terms of financial reward over the careers of people that go into these typical MBA jobs out of the best schools in the world, versus the ones that graduate and go off and actually acquire business.

And it’s one of these where, if when you look at it, the people that go on and buy a business, by and large, finish way ahead, but there’s literally like, twenty-year delay, right, to get there. And so you’re really having to work to build these routes. But like, you just gotta know that even the data suggests that it’s coming. It’s in your favor. You’re just putting in the work now.

Giuseppe: Right. Absolutely. I like that. I like that. And we’ll definitely be stealing that.

Walker: If you go to buythenbuild.com and go to the “Resources” tab, there’s all kinds of free stuff in there that links to it. I know that article’s in there.

Giuseppe: Oh, perfect. Okay, we’ll check that out today. All right, Walker. So let me ask you this, it’s been a pleasure having you on the show. A couple of kind of closing things, anything else that you’d like to kind of let our audience know? That’s the first and I have one more follow up to that.

Walker: You know, not anything that’s like, you know, self-serving or this resource or that resource. I think that what I would want to share is just a little bit of a story, would that be okay?

Giuseppe: Absolutely.

Walker: So it’s one of these where, you know, you asked me at the beginning, you know, how did I get started? And I basically told you how I tried to get started and failed, right? And ultimately, you know, I kind of went back to going corporate. I went back to corporate and sort of did that. And I was trying to run sort of like a part-time search, right?

I was still trying to figure it out. I knew I was destined for this. And ultimately, it’s one of these stories where my dad owned a company and he called me up one day. And, you know, I was killing it at work, I had an MBA, I sat on his board, and, you know, I was about thirty years old, and, you know, they were gonna, like, move me to Connecticut or whatever.

And he said, “Listen, why don’t you come on over to the company?” And I want to be very clear that my whole entire life, he made it very clear that there was never a role for me at his company and that I needed to do my own thing, right? And so this came as sort of a surprise. And I really was like, “Well, I mean, why would I do that?”

And he was like, “Well, let’s slow down. Let’s see if you show up to work first.” And so the thing is, you know, I jumped. I quit and went to work for my dad and worked with them for, you know, I mean, the better part of a year before we put together, you know, I think it was a twenty-seven-step plan to basically transition the business.

And the twenty-seven-step plan really was three steps. And I can summarize it like this. Number one, I go get a big bank loan, okay. And I had no money. So it was like based on the assets, you know, the collateral is the assets of the company. I write my dad a very large check. And step three is he leaves and doesn’t come back.

Giuseppe: Okay.

Walker: But the thing is, here’s the point of the story. You know, since then, I’ve acquired outright six other companies, right, I’ve had two exits. There’s probably another dozen acquisitions of minority stake, okay. And the thing is, this was my first one and I only had one business for seven years that I ran and ultimately tried to grow through acquisition and ultimately sold.

But here’s the thing that happened after this occurred that sort of opened my eyes. Number one, I couldn’t figure out how to do it on my own. Okay, number two, I knew that startups all around me were failing. Okay. Number three, once we did it, everyone who owned a business started calling us up and saying like, “Hey, how did you guys do that? Like, how do you actually sell your company?” Right?

Or “how do you sell it even to your kid,” right, “Or not?” It was just sort of like, you know, there was a knowledge gap. And we had sort of caught on to like how to transition in that way. And the other thing that happened was, I realized that I really fit a profile. And that profile is the following. I was, you know, the oldest son in a Caucasian company with a dad that owned a company, and so I got to go buy it, right.

And it’s one of these where I could have just, like, sat on my hands and ran that company for my career. You know, we were doing, you know, seven-and-a-half, eight million a year. Like, there’s plenty of opportunity. I loved it because of the underlying trends in the industry and the growth opportunity that was available, and that’s actually why I bought it.

But the thing is, is that once I understood that I was like, in this ultra-small group of people that could begin to understand how this works, but that I was coming out of the, you know, entrepreneur, startup community, and just kind of connecting the dots together going, gosh, everybody is working so hard over here to raise capital, so that they can build an infrastructure from scratch, so that they can deliver a product so they can generate revenue, and they need their revenue to exceed the expense of operating the infrastructure so that they have profits.

And the minute they finally get profits, that’s the moment that you are sustainable, but you still have all the money back to the investors, right? And so it just occurred to me, there is a shortcut to acquiring this infrastructure.

And, you know, the thing was, it was that period of time in, you know, what was that, 2008 call it, that, you know, ultimately led to me writing Buy Then Build and so, um, you know, it’s one of these I like to say, like millions of dollars, you know, of money went into writing this book, and, you know, probably fifteen years of my life.

And I started to write it. There’s a little scope creep here, sorry about this, but I started to write it in sort of a Jim Collins kind of way. Because I worship that guy, and I didn’t want to be the guy. I didn’t want it to be about me and my story and whatever. And I think I did okay. But at the same time, I’m kind of a case study.

And so it’s one of these where I started by going out and interviewing people that had done it. And the thing, Giuseppe, is that every time I interviewed somebody, inevitably, in the first ten minutes, they just kind of like, you know, put their hands up and said, “Walker, look, you know, when I bought a business, I was just looking for the same thing everybody else was. I was looking for…”

And then they would describe something completely different from everyone else, right? And so it’s one of these where it was all of those conversations. That got me even out of my own experience and started to build the frameworks that ultimately came together for that book.

So that’s sort of the genesis of how I actually, you know, bought my first company and then how it kind of led me down this path and ultimately through to Buy Then Build and even eventually Quiet Light.

Giuseppe: Yeah, that’s very interesting. I mean, yes, that’s the best approach, right? Interviewing the people that have gone down that road. You know, a lot of people sometimes are very modest and just, you know, “I got lucky.” And you hear things like that, but just really sitting down and figuring out what the journey looked like.

I think that’s gold. I mean, you sitting down, buying someone a coffee or lunch, and really interviewing them. It’s definitely inspired me. I know I’ve done that in the past before I purchased my first business, and you learn a lot. There’s a lot of humility.

It’s amazing to me how many people that are just, I mean, just extremely wealthy and they tell you, “Oh, well, you know, I filed bankruptcy two or three times in my career.” And these are, you know, the last person that I met with was approaching the age of seventy but talked about almost, you know, failing two or three times and just, he had that one business that really just made him super successful after learning the hard way in his last ventures why it wasn’t working, you know, getting in with the wrong partner, wrong investor and that kind of thing.

So it’s amazing. You know, we all think it’s simple. You start a business and you become wealthy, but that’s not the case. So, you know, a lot of these individuals have risked everything and almost lost everything in the process.

And obviously, there are different ventures and some more riskier than others, but, uh, yeah, just I cannot agree more with the interview process. Kind of like Napoleon Hill, you know, interviewing successful people. Tony Robbins does it all the time, Tim Ferriss, you know, you read these books and it’s really interesting, and sometimes you’re just shocked at what people have to say.

Walker: I’ve failed so many times. It’s unbelievable. Like I’ve met people and they’re like, “So what’s up?” and I tell them the story and then they’re like, “Wow, you’ve just failed a lot.” Yeah, I have. I have. A lot. And so yeah, you just kind of, gosh, I guess I’m gonna say you just kind of get lucky eventually.

But the thing is, um, and I know this isn’t an interview with Jim McKelvey, but Jim McKelvey is the co-founder of Square with Jack Dorsey. And I interviewed him recently. And the thing is, I’ve known Jim for probably, you know, I don’t know, let’s just say a decade or so.

And the thing is, is that he’s kind of an enigma because it’s one of these where, you know, Square was his idea. It all came about because he lost a sale for his glassblowing company, right? And so he couldn’t take the credit card over the phone. And that was sort of like the “aha” moment.

He was sitting there with a supercomputer in his hand, unable to take the credit card. But the thing is, is that if you will look at his past, he, you know, one of his first companies, he actually invented the PDF. But it wasn’t the PDF because it wasn’t Adobe, right? And so he went to a conference and he had the PDF, and Adobe was there, and Adobe announced there, they created the PDF.

And his business was over. And he also talked to me probably like, you know, seven years ago about basically, you know, starting like a solar car company or an electric car company. And I was like, “You’re crazy.” So he basically, you know, had the idea for Tesla, essentially, right?

And then he had this sort of like e-book subscription idea that was, you know, basically became like Amazon. And so it was just one of these where just knowing this guy for a decade, you watched him sort of come up with these ideas, and you’re just like, “Oh, that’s smart” or “That’s crazy.” And then all of a sudden, it’s like, Adobe, Tesla, Amazon, and then finally, Square. And the first three were just total strikeouts.

Giuseppe: You never know. You just need the one.

Walker: That’s it. I like to think that I’m on the same trajectory. I’m just a few years behind.

Giuseppe: Yeah, that’s what everyone says, you just need that one. You can hit a lot of singles and strike out as long as you get that one home run that kind of makes up for it, you never know. And you know, especially in these crazy times that we’re in right now, a lot of people are pivoting and changing, you know, how they do business, maybe not their product or service, but how they go about it.

And it’s, I know from the franchising world, since I speak with CEOs and presidents, VPs at each of these companies, it’s amazing, you know, what they’re doing to either support the franchise owner, but also just how they pivot and how they do business.

You know, instead of going to people’s homes to show them floor coverings and window coverings and things like that, they do it all virtually, they have an app, but they don’t even have to be there in order to give you a quote and just, you know, just different ways of doing business.

Tutoring, instead of in-person, they’re doing it virtually, and it’s not earth-shattering stuff, but they have, they have the technology to be able to make that change temporarily, although nothing beats meeting face-to-face, but in these times when we have to social distance, it’s nice to have some of these larger companies being able to support that infrastructure and help all their franchisees.

So really good stuff. So we, you know, we talked about quite a bit and for someone listening in on the show, you know, if they wanted to get ahold of you, I mean, I know you have, there’s a couple companies there and it depends on where they are and what they’re looking for. So what is the best way to reach you? Is that the site? Do you prefer them going through the book? Any type of contact information or website, if you want to give that to the audience, and then we will, we’ll put that in the show notes as well.

Walker: Sure. I think if you go to buythenbuild.com. That’s a great way to get ahold of me.

Giuseppe: And email is on there as well if they want to get ahold of you, it’s right on the site?

Walker: I believe it is, actually. Yes, it is. Yeah, you can absolutely get ahold of me.

Giuseppe: Sounds great. Well listen, Walker. I really, really appreciate your time. This has been very interesting. It seems like we’re both on the same page saying the same thing. So I always like to hear that and no, that was not a setup. We didn’t talk about that prior. So that was really, really nice to hear. You know, I’m the host, so I can go in any direction I want, but it surely was not a setup. But, listen, I–

Walker: It’s confirmation bias.

Giuseppe: Yes, right. I’m definitely going to be on the site later today. And I want to definitely check out that tool we were talking about.

Walker: By the way, I am also on linkedin.com. I’m so sorry. I didn’t mention that.

Giuseppe: Yeah.

Walker: If anyone wants to link in, that’s like my Rolodex these days. So just want to throw that out there. I’m so sorry to interrupt you.

Giuseppe: No, not at all. We’ll put that… And it’s Walker Deibel. And we’ll put that in the show notes as well. Walker, I wanted to thank you once again. Have a great weekend, and I look forward to speaking with you soon.

Walker: Thanks so much, you too.