In the latest edition of our video blog, we’re joined by Trevor Turnbull — a partner and Head of Marketing at eRational.
During our interview, Trevor shared his experience of going through the acquisition process, preparing his business for sale, and staying involved in the company AFTER selling.
Watch the video or check out the transcript below for more insights.
So hello, everyone. Thanks for tuning in today for eRational’s video blog. My name is Mike Vipond. I’m a senior copywriter with eRational. And today, I’m here with Trevor Turnbull. Trevor is the Head of Marketing for the Collective Marketing Group. For those who don’t know, we’re currently in the process of re-branding the business. Over the last several months, we’ve acquired a few different marketing agencies as we’ve grown, and Trevor’s business was actually one of the ones that came aboard. So, today he’s joining us to share some insights into that experience selling his business, and I’ll let him explain all that. So, Trevor, thanks so much for being here.
Yeah, no worries man. This is a fun topic to discuss. I know it’s one that comes up a lot, both by our clients as well as companies that we’re looking at doing business with further in the future, whether that’s through acquisition or partnership or whatever it looks like, so this will be a lot of fun.
Perfect. So, to start, just for some context, can you give us a bit of a rundown on the business that you sold, how you got started, what you did, all of that stuff?
Yeah, sure. So, the company is called Linked into Leads, and I started this business about five years ago. And it was started initially based on me getting a speaking gig actually — just go across the country and talk about LinkedIn, in particular, for financial advisors, and what that basically did was just kick-started what it’s become now, which is a full-service LinkedIn lead generation agency. We not only take over and do the outbound prospecting for our clients, but we also support them on audience selection, message scripting, and sales process. Like how do we handle each stage of the process as we’re qualifying leads for our clients? So it’s gone through a lot of different stages and obviously, over those years, I ended up meeting Thomas along the way and we found a lot of synergies in our businesses, and actually partnered for a good 18 months before we finally decided to become better together.
Excellent. So, when did you first decide that you wanted to sell the business? And how did you come to that conclusion?
You know what? It wasn’t even something that was on my immediate radar to do. Although it was always kind of in the back of my mind like ‘what is my exit strategy?’ because I was looking at this as a CEO, operator of my own business, and thinking I don’t ever want to stop what I’m doing. I love what I’m doing, you know, but where it really took shape was Thomas and I were talking about a promotion that we were just going to do together because, like I mentioned, we were already partnered together to deliver our core expertise to eRational’s clients, just specifically around the LinkedIn components. We were planning a live event, and throughout the whole process, we were just seeing so many synergies, not only just in how well we work together, but just in the vision of what Thomas was presenting to me that he wanted to see eRational evolve into. And obviously, it’s grown a lot since then as of the recording of this video, but you know, that’s kind of really where it started was we were talking and Thomas said ‘are you interested in selling this business and us becoming better together and like really going deep on figuring out how we collaborate and grow together?’ I was like ‘yeah, let’s figure it out.’ So, it took about a month, actually. It didn’t take very long for us to sort out the details and we made it happen.
Awesome. So, in that month, once you made that decision, what did you have to do to prepare the business for the sale? And for those who might be in a similar position, where should they start?
Yeah, so I had to, in true maverick entrepreneur fashion, I was doing four thousand things, and I had a pretty good handle on my financials as far as getting my year-ends all up to date and the books reconciled and everything else, but I had to tighten it up. I had to get it fully tightened up, so that I could give it to Thomas and say ‘Here — here’s the current reality.’ These were our revenues over the last two years. This is the last three months. This is what our sales pipeline looks like. This is how much recurring revenue we have. These are the project-based type revenues. And then, this is what we’re projecting for the next six and 12 months. And that, at least, gave us a starting point on the revenue side, so that we knew exactly how much money was coming in, and then also what our expenses were too, right? Knowing how much does it actually cost us to deliver, because one of the areas that I think is Thomas’s obviously core skill set is being able to find efficiencies in truly being better together, right? And one of those things is obviously people and processes and technology, and that’s what we’ve really leaned into in the integration process. But those were the main foundational things that I needed to get tightened up on my end, so that there was a clear picture as to like what brought me to that point and what the projections look like going forward so that the deal made sense for both sides.
Sure, of course. So how did your team feel about the sale? And what did that conversation look like internally with your staff?
Yeah, well, like any time there’s change, there’s always a little bit of uncertainty and a little uneasiness, I guess you would say… But the fact that we had been collaborating with eRational for about 18 months previous, it was a little easier than I would say maybe somebody coming off the street that has no idea exactly what the company is all about or the integrity of the leadership and whatnot. But the thing that we really focused on — and this was one of the really great things that we did through the integration process — was we focused on people first. So, there was three main components to the acquisition and that transition that happened. It was the people, the processes, and the technology, right? And the people — we started with the people, and quite honestly, we thought it would take a month, and it took about six weeks — maybe even a little bit longer — and we’re still working through some of those things with regards to HR and just how communications work and that type of thing, but that was another major selling feature for me to ultimately say ‘yeah, this is a good fit,’ is that there was a focus on the people first. Knowing that processes and technology be damned, if the people aren’t happy, and the people aren’t actually bought into the vision, it just doesn’t work. So, we spent a lot of time there.
Excellent. Alright, so you mentioned that you had been thinking about exit strategies. Why did you choose to stay and keep working in the business rather than move on when you sold?
I think it was because of the greater vision that was presented to me as to what, you know, and as of right now there’s not really a name for the parent parent company. So, I won’t even say anything out loud, but just know that there is kind of this overarching parent company, but for me, I wanted to be involved in it. I actually was really excited about the vision that Thomas put in front of me. And I also knew that, in order to actually achieve something like that, I couldn’t do it alone. I needed to be able to lean on other people that had core expertise in different areas — areas where I just, quite frankly, was not strong and was very quick to admit that I was not strong in those areas. In fact, that was another major deciding factor for me ultimately selling my business was I was doing the sales and the marketing and the fulfillments and the operations and the payroll and the taxes and the sweeping of the floors and everything in between, and it just, quite frankly, got too much. I just wasn’t enjoying it as much as I wanted to, and obviously the results of our sales and even our client impact were impacted by it because I was so split in so many directions. So, by coming into the bigger group, I was able to lean on other leadership to be able to take some of those things off my plate and really support me in my core genius.
So, now you’re doing exactly what you want to be doing, right?
Yeah exactly, and every single month it seems to get even more clear and more purposeful as far as like doing what I love and what I want to do.
Perfect, of course. So, since you sold, what’s life like now just working in the business but not being an owner?
It’s great. It’s like, my core genius, for anybody that’s watching, is really around the marketing and sales side of things and just creating content and building relationships. And I know that sounds maybe pretty general, but it’s really about having the head space to be able to create, to innovate, to inspire, to connect, to enroll, and by removing some of the things that I’ve never been good at, I sat next to the smart people in my finance and accounting classes when I got my marketing degree too because I was so obsessed with the marketing and the entrepreneurship classes in the university that I just struggled with the other things, but I get to spend a lot more time doing the creative stuff and actually just showing up on a daily basis and helping other people see the possibilities of what they can create as well in their business, to create growth, to create consistency in revenues. And I couldn’t have got to this point even, only six-eight months after, if we hadn’t done this transaction — this acquisition. I would still be wearing too many hats and spinning my tires in a lot of directions. So, it’s been a really… it’s been a blessing to be able to be a part of this.
Right, and I think a lot of owners feel that way. So, for those who are watching that might be in the same position, what would you say is the most important thing that they should consider when they’re maybe looking at exploring exit strategies or selling their business?
Well, that’s a good question. I think number one is be open to all possibilities because until Thomas came to me and said ‘hey, this is what I think we can do, here’s what I have to offer, and here’s how you can stay a part of it and make everything make sense,’ both from the numbers perspective as well as how I participate and I’m involved in the leadership and the decisions that are happening, I didn’t even know that it was possible, quite honestly. You know, like what was actually being created here, and it’s just really cool. There’s so many aspects to the greater vision of what is being created here as far as creating real impact and change that allows everybody to win, and for us to guarantee results and to do all these things that just seem so foreign when I was doing it on my own with a small team. The biggest thing is just like keep an open mind to something that you might not even know exists right now, as far as possibility, because we get caught up as business owners, a lot of times, just working so much in the business, it’s like cliche but instead of on the business and actually really seeing progress and seeing exponential growth. Not only that, but the ability to create real impact and change — that’s something that drives me. So, it was a big factor in me ultimately deciding to sell my business.
Absolutely. That’s great. So, if you could do it all again, would you have done anything any differently?
Well, I didn’t know what to expect when I first got into it, so I think, looking back on it, I think one of the big things that I really appreciated in coming into our greater group is just the importance of understanding the data and the numbers. So, I’m actually a lot better myself, even though I have the support now — the team that’s pulling together our weekly and our monthly numbers and stuff. I’m taking more accountability and responsibility to stay on top of that stuff because it is important and I know that if I was to go through this same experience in the future that I’d know exactly what’s needed of me, which is, if you don’t have a clear understanding as to what your current reality is, what your pipeline is telling you, what you can predict based on those numbers even amidst all of the uncertainty that may be going on in the economy and the world right now, there’s still a lot that can be predicted — that can allow you to make strategic decisions. And that’s definitely something that I’ll be able to bring my experience and now newfound habits and routines into the next transaction if I ever do one in the future.
Interesting. That’s excellent. So, anything else to add? Any closing comments for someone who might be considering this as an option?
Yeah, I think the biggest thing would be… feel free to reach out to me directly. I know I’ve had a handful of conversations already with people that are considering having their company being acquired or partnered with or whatever the scenario actually looks like, and there’s no manual for this. Sure, there’s books and there’s reports, there’s all kinds of things that tell you best practice and how these things can go down, but at the end of the day, it has to feel right too. And a lot of it comes down to the vision of the company, the values of the company, and the people that are involved in it. And I know for me — being the first acquisition — what I had to go on was a very small sample set of obviously the people that were directly involved in creating what this has become now. But now, we’re much bigger, right? There’s already a number of companies that have been acquired, that have gone through this process, and I’m an open book. If you just research me online, you’ll see that we very transparently share our methodologies, our strategies, we’re all about empowering people, knowing that the transformation comes from real connection and support on finding the answers that you just can’t find in a document, in a video, in a whatever. So, feel free to reach out, connect with me. I’m happy to talk with anybody that wants to figure out whether or not this is a good fit for them or not.
Perfect. That’s excellent. So yeah, that’s about it on my end Trevor. Thanks so much for being here — really interesting insights, and great to talk to you and hear a bit more about your story.
For anyone else who’s watching this and wants to learn a little bit more about what selling your business might look like or exploring exit strategies, I encourage you to sign up for our next Back to Business webinar session, which is next Thursday, July 30th. Thomas is hosting this one. He is our founder and CEO, and he’ll be looking at a few different exit strategies, how you prepare your business for potential acquisitions just like Trevor did, and some other insights into that process. So, you can save your seat for that webinar just by clicking the button below, and thanks again for joining us.