Session 3: Growth through Debt v. Equity: Weighing the Choices & Challenges

Session III of Smart M&A Growth Strategies spotlights experiences and lessons learned from the real-world success story of IMPAQ International, LLC, global policy research, analytics, and implementation firm and Blank Rome client that experienced growth for nearly 20 years and was acquired in 2020 by The American Institutes for Research in the Behavioral Sciences.

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Episode Highlights:

3:39 – Can you talk us through your decision-making process, and what you might have gone through over the years?

11:51 – What was your philosophy for establishing this bank relationship, in terms of speed and deal execution?

14:16 – What types of external, or internal circumstances are those a company should be looking at that would be telling them about why a debt path is better for them or vice versa?

18:03 – How did you get over that mental gap of debt is bad?

21:21 – Walk us through how and why you were so successful at buying assets?

24:17 – Thoughts on debt vs. equity mix?

34:40 – What might you have done differently and what advice would you give a business owner that would just be starting this journey?

Connect with the guests:

Avi’s LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/avi-benus-11abbb19/

Connect with the hosts:

Dan’s LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/dandoran/
Dean’s LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/deannordlinger/

Read the Transcript of the Entire Episode Here:

Dan Doran 0:15
Alright, hello everybody. I am Dan Doran, founder with Quantive. Investment banking shop working mostly in the federal contracting space and the technology market. Today, we’re talking about the tale of growth and how we actually fund that, whether that is through debt or equity, or what sort of instrument that might look like and some of the decision-making process there. So, I am joined by my co-host, Dean Nordlinger. Dean over to you.

Dean Nordlinger 0:42
Great, thank you, Dan. I’m Dean Nordlinger, I’m with Blank Rome, a middle-market-focused, full service law firm. I’m in our DC office, I’ve been practicing for 20 years in the business and corporate capacity representing clients throughout their lifecycle, start to exit and spend a lot of time clients working on buy-side and sell-side M&A. Including including our guest, who’s with us today. I will tell you, he’s an individual who’s highly experienced in government contracting, well embedded in the GovCon ecosystem. He’s an owner and an executive whose roots are in small business government contracting. And he successfully operated and grew his his company beyond small and did what we think is difficult to do, traverse that chasm from small business to full and open territory, and then actually sold the company. So with that backdrop, Avi, I want to turn it over to you and give you an opportunity to introduce yourself and provide a little background.

Avi Benus 1:37
Thank you. And it’s a it’s a pleasure to be here with both Dean and Dan. I appreciate the opportunity to talk a little bit about myself and the company that we recently sold and the story about how we got there. So my name is Avi Bennis. I was was the CEO of IMPAQ LLC, which is a government contractor that focused on research and evaluation mainly in health care, labor, education, international development spaces. And we.. it was a family-owned business that we started in 2001. And successfully exited in 2020. Just around when the pandemic really kicked off. So..

Dan Doran 2:25
Good timing.

Avi Benus 2:26
Yeah, no. So I’ve been so that spent this pandemic in, mainly my pajamas and thinking about what comes next.

Dan Doran 2:34
Well, good for you. Congratulations. Yeah, timing is everything. Right. So great. Great segue. So Avi, thanks for joining us. The question that I wanted to pose as we kick this thing off is, so IMPAQ grew from sort of a traditional small business GovCon, set-aside work, that sort of composition, if you will. And you were able to grow this to a substantial other-than-small type operation, prior to that exit. And throughout that journey, obviously, we go through, you know, the funding exercise, whether it’s working capital or funding inorganic growth, and oftentimes, we’re faced with decisions on how we’re going to do that. Is it debt capital and equity capital? Do we delete ownership? Do we face control issues doing that? So I’d like you to sort of jump in and start talking us through your decision-making process and some of what you went through as you work through that journey over the years?

Avi Benus 3:31
Sure. Okay, no happy to. So I mentioned the company was founded in 2001. It was founded by my parents, Jacob and Shannon Benus. Jacob Benus is being a labor economist. And they really grew the company up until that kind of threshold of you know, the highest amount, you can be still under small. And at that time, I was living in New York, working on Wall Street for various big banks. And they came to me, their son, and said, Hey, we’ve built this company, we’re at this threshold: A, leave New York, move back to Baltimore joint, you know, so we can see our grandkids, and B: help us make this decision on what should come next. Because we know we don’t want to be the smallest of the large businesses, that’s a bad place to be because you’re competing with the big boys, but you don’t have the resources to do so. So we have to think through what our options and our options being. Do we sell the company? Do we ESOP the company, or do we grow the company? I mean, that was really what they had narrowed it down to. So I came down, I did my due diligence and said there was a big opportunity to grow this business. They had a lot of good customers and a lot of good talent. And so it took me roughly two years to do my due diligence and convince my wife to leave New York and join this opportunity. Then I convinced her you know agreed with my the owners, my parents, then in order to grow the company successfully above that threshold, we need to do so not only the organically as they were doing it, but also inorganically.

Avi Benus 5:10
And so we have a couple kind of parameters that we put around how we’re going to grow the business inorganically. The first was, never bet the farm. So we were not willing to take on a deal that was too big in size, that would put too much either debt or dilution on the business that could put it in jeopardy, because we had a good thing going. The other thing was we wanted to keep the control within the family. And so we really put a, you know, at least in conversations, but a really high standard on what it would take for us to get over that, bringing in another equity partner threshold, if you will. And so, so we really decided to grow the business based on debt financing, and primarily, not primarily, exclusively secured debt financing, which is, which allowed us to maintain control. But it also, you know, the drawback really in it is you can’t go as fast as you might otherwise want to go. Right. So you’re limited by leveraged covenants or those types of parameters. But we were comfortable with that, because as I said, we said, we’re never betting the farm with any transaction.

Dean Nordlinger 6:32
So, so, you know, knowing our work history together, the fact that I always felt that you had in a good way, both a very aggressive organic and inorganic growth strategy, we certainly weren’t afraid to look at target companies that, you know, work perfectly clean. Let’s talk about, let’s talk about that strategy and how you dovetail that with the ideas, you’ve already said, like, hey, we went the debt path, no equity. So talk a little bit about that. How you how you pull those two together?

Avi Benus 7:05
Yeah. Okay. So the first part is, yeah, so my background was as a high-yield analyst in on Wall Street. So I was not a stranger to debt, I was not a stranger to companies that needed some, some help. I will say that we did, I think a total of four transactions in terms of buying companies ranging from, I think it was like 1 million up to 10 million in size. So not enormous. But, you know, when we were, we started when we were roughly 14 million in revenue, so it was sizable for us, again, never been in the farm. And they range from kind of really messy to… Hey, kind of plug and play, and we think this can integrate into our business really well.

Avi Benus 7:53
So first part is all of the four companies we met, or, we bought, excuse me, we had a previous relationship with from a sub-contracting perspective. So we had, we knew some of the people, whether it be the owner, or some of the employees knew the type of work they were doing, whether it was good work, and we could pay a premium or, Eh, you know, we better get this at the right price. Because there’s a lot of there’s a lot of hair on this deal. And then the second part of the question in terms of how we kind of used debt financing, so I first came in 2010, and you know, having a Wall Street background, my parents said, Hey, figure out the finances, figuring out the counting come in from that from that role. And one of the first things that happened to me when I got there is our bank at the time, sent us a letter saying because you violated this administrative covenant, essentially, we’re cutting your line of credit, I think goes from 2 million down to 1 million. And wasn’t, you know, still we were small business, but I was so pissed, excuse my language like that, that you know, I just got there and they send me a letter and this is how they treat me and so can we put but you know, as we say, in our family, you’re gonna stick it behind your ear remember it for when you’re in a position to do something about it. And when we finally were, we went out and…almost call it a beauty contest, but we interviewed various banks as to who could you know, we’re now in a position with really big recurring revenue Good, good stuff going on. And we have kind of five national such local banks that focused on government contracting or had a government contracting arm and we interviewed all of them because we were so kind of bank debt focused. There’s very little in bank debt that they can compete on right there all the regulations are what they are, they can only give you so much, you know, lower pricing by an eighth of a of a point is it, who cares? But one of them came and said, You know, I, we had a pitch book, we explained what we wanted to do, one of them came and said, we will essentially pre-approve you for for an acquisition term loan. And yes, if it’s over X dollars, you’ll have to come and go through our underwriting process. But it’s almost like a pre-approved mortgage. And that was really sexy to me. And that’s, that’s ultimately who won our business. And so we were able to utilize both that line of credit and the term loan in going after those transactions.

Dan Doran 10:36
And presumably, this was a different bank, not the the letter writer,

Avi Benus 10:39
This was. We gave the letter bank a chance. Yeah. And their response was, we’ll be there for you, come to us with a deal. And we’ll be there for you. I’m like, No, I need something in writing. Like, we don’t do that. Like, yeah, okay. Well, you don’t get my business either.

Dan Doran 10:55
Yeah. So interesting. What you just said, there is a common struggle with, with smaller deals where the bank really doesn’t want to talk about it until the deal is cooked. And, you know, by the time, especially for competitive deals, I mean, maybe in your situation where you’re dealing with a, you know, subcontractor, and it’s a pre-existing relationship, it’s not an auction, it’s not as fast. But if you’re sitting here in a competitive deal environment, trying to get the the bank to move at that pace, where until I have an LOI, they don’t want to talk to me. Yeah, it’s challenging. So this was not in our series of questions that we’re going to work through today. But help me understand that, like, what was your philosophy going into this in terms of, you know, speed and deal execution? And these sorts of things in establishing the bank relationship here?

Avi Benus 11:45
Yeah, um, my philosophy was, first, we weren’t that good in the auction process, right? We had a couple, we had a couple looks into various auctions. But, you know, like Dean pointed out, some of you know, most of the deals we had had some hair on it. So our willingness to, to pay for some risk, right, was was valuable. And in the auction, it’s hard to find that out. Everybody says that, but we never bought anything through an auction. We sold, sold essentially through it, but not bought. And then in terms of, you know, we got to a really good relationship with the bank, where I still had to present on these deals. But because I had the kind of pre approve mortgage, I was very confident that I could go into these deals and say, Hey, financing does not need to be a prerequisite to closing, right, I have that in my head. And that for for the sellers was very attractive, they didn’t always have that. And in fact, some of them had gone down that path. And then the guy couldn’t, you know, the buyer couldn’t get the financing. I didn’t have that problem. And yeah, I was… because of my probably because of my Wall Street back when I knew going to what they needed to see the bank, right. And so I was able to put a pitch book in saying, Hey, this is how we’re going to this, how we want you to help us pay for it. Here’s kind of our de-leveraging schedule off of that, you know, both baseline and aggressive. And so once you start talking their language, it was a lot easier to close on those.

Dean Nordlinger 13:24
So as we’re going through this dialogue, and you are giving us the insight and how you, on behalf of your company, thought about a debt path, not an equity path. But stepping back on that more broadly, and related to your company, but then almost as like, you know, a bit of input or advice to those who are out there still on this path? What types of external internal facts, factors or circumstances are those that you think a company could be or should be looking at that would be telling to them about why a debt path is better for them than an equity path or vice versa?

Avi Benus 14:09
Okay, so…couple of thoughts. The first part is really a consulting business, right? We’re really selling people’s time. And so then the fact that we, you know, the founder of the business was a consultant selling his own time, it was a business model that allowed us to go, you know, win business through a competitive RFP, you know, proposal process with the government and staff up according to that, right. So, at least in the beginning, you know, I guess I’m, um, I’m contrasting that with a product-based business, right, where you need a certain amount of upfront capital in order to go out and do it and so we were blessed if you will, with with not a big upfront capital meat, and so that helped us make a decision. Okay, we don’t need a big cash or equity infusion prior to actually generating revenue and more importantly, EBITDA.

Avi Benus 15:14
Um, the second part is timing. Right. And so we this company was, you know, from birth to sale was 20 years, I think a lot of people probably say 20 years is too long for my exit, I need a five year plan. And if so, you know, I want to I need to grow beyond 20% a year in order to hit some number. And so in order to do that, you’re not going to get kind of bank financing to fund that type of radical growth. And then the third thing is really simple is, is the valuation matrix, right is, if my business is worth 100 bucks, and I’m getting diluted by 50%, that means the business needs to be you know that, that extra $50, I’m bringing in the valuation needs to go to 200 bucks. And, you know, going from 100 to 110, on my own is probably easier than going from 100 to 200 with that part. Does that makes sense? I have my my math might be a little quick and dirty there, but was I getting the increase in value from that infusion of capital, enough to offset my dilution? And I could never get to that answer, right. And so we did have plenty of kind of these middle market PE firms come to us and say you need our growth, capital, and oh, and oh, by the way, we’ve got connections up the wazoo, they’re going to help you grow, and I never bought into it.

Dean Nordlinger 16:51
Got it.

Dan Doran 16:52
Fair. So, Avi, I’d like to come back to comment you made earlier about sort of the initial discussions with your parents, and you know, that sort of thing. One of the things that I see frequently with founders and entrepreneurs, especially in this sort of lower middle market space is they’re frequently very debt averse. So you, as a, as a good son come back from living the dream in Manhattan to the lovely city of Baltimore. Yeah. Parents must have really sold that. And you know, you’re leaving the, you know, the high yield desk, and they are typical entrepreneurs, maybe. And you’re like, hey, the thing we got to do is go out and execute a transaction and lever up and throw some debt on the books. Was there any reluctance there? You know, how did they get over that? That mental trap of debt is bad? And I’m assuming that they’re like most entrepreneurs in that, you know, that initial foray. So what were your thoughts?

Avi Benus 17:57
Yeah, there was a ton of reluctance. Well, not…reluctance isn’t the right word. There was a ton of concern and conversation around it. Especially because this was not my father’s first business. My, my parents had a very similar story to my story, in that they came back to Baltimore to take over a family business, when I was just a wee, a wee baby. And my father ran his father’s fast food fried chicken business. And my father is a PhD economist came back to Baltimore, sorry, it was Alex’s Chicken Plus. It was five stores, the Inner Harbor, Baltimore, Inlight, Lexington Market, North and Charles, and Atlantic City. Anyway, ultimately, that business failed. And it was really tough on my parents, they had personal guarantees tied to loans on the business. And I remember and I was probably I was a kind of teenager at the time. I remember it really being hard on my parents. And my father’s message always was, I’m really scared that this is going to preclude my willingness to take on risk in the future. Which, which feels backwards to me now, like as an adult looking at it saying he had kind of the inverse reaction I think I might have had, which is I’m never going to take on that risk. But so he took that lesson to say, I’m not going to let this negate my ability to see a good opportunity and jump at it. And so, yeah, there was some debt aversion, there were there was a lot of smiles when we were able… my parents didn’t have a guarantee on the line of credit when I got to IMPAQ for for the business, were able to to get that guarantee off, that was a really positive moment. And we really didn’t, we didn’t take some of those bigger chances and transactions until we were able to get rid of those, those personal grudges.

Dean Nordlinger 20:10
You know, as we’re talking about this, and it’s making me think, Avi, about some of those transactions that we looked at, for which you did incur some debt that and one of the things that you guys were very successful at, in my opinion, is, once you made those acquisitions, you were able to harvest a lot of value out of a lot of vehicles and those acquisitions, that the targets, you know, weren’t. It’s just, you know, it’s making me think about your turn of luck, you borrow money, what’s what’s the return? Or if I took an investor and what’s… So I want, if you wouldn’t mind, I’d like you to focus on, walk us through how it was, why it was that you felt like, Hey, I’m gonna buy this. And, you know, because it wasn’t an accident, you were successful at acquiring assets, and, you know, in use the word exploiting, but I mean, really just capitalizing on the on the work opportunities that were there through those vehicles that were untapped prior by the prior companies. So talk to…talk about that.

Avi Benus 21:14
Right. Okay. So one thing we love to do is many government contractors do is, you know, we try to get as many IDIQ’s as possible, right, indefinite quantity contracts, hunting licenses with our focus customers. And two of the transactions that we did, had had those, you know, in, in their own portfolio and their own backlog, not yet backlogs, they would’ve been task orders. So the first one, the first one that I’m thinking of, they had this IDIQ, but they didn’t have the talent or the background to actually fulfill the task orders on. So we found this opportunity, you know, we approached them and said, there’s this disconnect here, your IDIQ would mean a lot for us, it doesn’t mean a lot for you, there is a number, you know, in between kind of what you’re, you know, you’re getting zero out of it, we would get x out of it, there’s a number in between zero and x where we can both be happy. And so that kind of seeking out those underutilized IDIQ’s, that we thought with the talent that we had, we could produce a lot of value. And, you know, transaction only works if both sides are getting value out of that deal, right? We never went in saying, Hey, we’re gonna, we pull a fast one on these guys. No, I mean, we need, we need them to see the value as well. Um, the second one, which which had an IDIQ with another, with another customer of ours. We knew the customer loved this company. But the company was small and didn’t have the bandwidth to produce up to what the customer ultimately wanted to use this IDIQ for. So I remember the first day that kind of we walked down the halls together as one company, the customer’s like, oh, my gosh, you mean you can do this, and this now and we can put it all under this IDIQ? We’re like, oh, this was this was my this was manna from heaven. Like this is exactly why we wanted to do this deal. And both of those paid off pretty darn quickly.

Dean Nordlinger 23:35
Right.

Dan Doran 23:37
So on that note, in terms of the deal paying off, as you work through this, you know, series of acquisitions, thoughts on debt versus equity mix, you know, were you thinking about, you know, we’re trying to lever this up as much as possible? Or, you know, did you have sort of a certain leverage number that you were, you know, you either made you squeamish or had a comfort level with. How did you approach that transaction structure, thought process?

Avi Benus 24:07
Yeah, I mean, it was it was fairly simple based on our capital structure, which was, until I told you, you know, we had this line of credit, and we also had this acquisition term loan, and once we tapped into the acquisition term loan that had leveraged covenants associated with it. If I remember correctly, I want to say it was four and a half times maybe was kind of my top of the, of the term loan covenant. And so, you know, we felt comfortable going up to that kind of five times ish, maybe was around there, knowing that we’d have a pretty quick path to get back to the two times or so that we generally live that as, you know, when we weren’t in acquisition mode.

Dan Doran 24:54
Awesome.

Avi Benus 24:57
And because of the things I said earlier, you know, we….we did get approached for equity but didn’t, didn’t, didn’t think that we needed it- thought that we could grow the business at a rate that we felt comfortable with within staying in that four and a half times to go and buy companies.

Dean Nordlinger 25:14
So and you hit upon this a little bit, but let’s stay on that topic. So obviously, it was a very successful strategy and decision to go with debt for growth and not bring in any equity. But just, just sort of wax philosophical in any way, had you opted for equity financing, how do you think that might have affected IMPAQ’s trajectory? And how and when Empact ultimately exited?

Avi Benus 25:47
That’s good question. I mean, one of the things we were very fearful, as a, you know, a closely-held family-owned business was making, making financial based decisions that we didn’t think were in the best, the best interest of the long-term value of the overall company. And so we would, you know, we have several kind of key employees that would would argue with us when we would go and bid on a project that was out of our sweet spot, or we would hire people ahead of actually winning business, or we would do a transaction, you know, maybe not quite in the kind of overlapping Venn diagram of the work that we were doing, because they didn’t see kind of that direct line to how are our quarterly numbers, how’s our availability, how are all those metrics that we monitor, our success, going to be impacted? We said, Okay, those are short term in nature, we think we’re creating value for the long term. Ultimately, we really weren’t planning on this sale, we were just thinking about how do we create the most value? How do we get the most scale out of this operation? And so we would take certain risks, that I think a somebody who’s much more focused on kind of monthly, quarterly annual numbers probably would hesitate and take it. Now had we brought in somebody without controlling interest, and without much of a say, I’m not sure how that would have impacted…impacted. It would have, it might have limited our ability to…I was thinking in a backwards way it’d limit our ability to be, to pay our employees well, to be generous to the employees, because those are the types of things that we tried to do in order to in order to grow the overall business because we thought it was good decisions. Having more equity partners might have maybe would have made us think twice about that.

Dan Doran 28:03
So…and I think you said you did four or five transactions was that?

Avi Benus 28:10
Yeah,

Dan Doran 28:10
Roughly, right? Talk to me for a moment about the strategy that you linked together there, you know, how deliberate was it in terms of, you know, stitching together this series of deals to create the, you know, the company, that IMPAQ became, ultimately before the transaction?

Avi Benus 28:28
Yeah. If, if I did get any criticism, and I think it’s probably rightfully so, it’s that it wasn’t part of an overall master plan, it wasn’t first we’re going to do A, then we’re going to do B, then we’re gonna do C. It was, here’s an opportunity to grow our health group, here’s an opportunity to go our labor group, here’s an opportunity that is going to pay off in so quick of a timeframe that I’d be an idiot not to do it. And so, I would say that I was we were much more opportunistic than strategic in that way. We were strategic in that, you know, these meetings, getting the pre-approved line of credit, or pre-approved term, in the, you know, focusing on okay, if our leverage goes up to four and a half times now, we need to get it back to two times. Okay. Well, you know, two years from now is kind of the next, we need the…one of the things that this structure, this strategy prohibited us from doing, couldn’t really do too much at once from a transaction standpoint, right? Because if you’re levering up to get the first one, you’re not willing to delever too quickly with equity infusions or something, then you kind of have to wait to see the the benefits of that transaction before you can go and do the next one.

Dean Nordlinger 29:46
Right.

Dan Doran 29:47
Yeah, that makes sense.

Dean Nordlinger 29:48
So I certainly appreciate the self deprecation of the answer. But by the same token, like, you know, you had you had a plan in your mind. It wasn’t a happy accident that a certain amount of time later you found yourself as you said, in a situation where you were able to I don’t want to say, engineer the exit, but you had it…was built, built to sale. It went from a closely-held family business to a legitimate, highly-attractive company that got a lot of attention in the market. And so in as much as you say, and I appreciate it, we sort of went…were opportunistic. Could you talk just a little bit about, Okay, that’ll happen, but within the greater sort of umbrella forest level view of you saying, okay, so this is the opportunity, but here’s how it is going to translate down the road? Like, because you had some thought about that?

Avi Benus 30:40
Yeah, I had, yeah, I did have a lot of thought about that, um, I had a couple numbers in my head in terms of, we need to get to this level in order to attract some interest from, you know, if we ever did want to sell, or we need to get to this number if we ever want to go public. And those were kind of two different numbers in my head. And those were the two logical exits, based on kind of how we were going about it. So I did…I did two things that I think helped a lot when I first got when, you know, when I joined the company in 2010, and came in with this kind of Wall Street background into a family-owned, you know, closely-held government contractor. Two things that kind of changed the way we viewed internally, what we were trying to do, at least for my impact. The first thing I did is, I created a…I took one wall in my office, I almost created like a wall of fame, I took those big post it notes, you know, that you can rip off and paste to the wall. And I had one for every company in this space from the largest public company, the Lockheed Martin’s the Booz Allen’s, those types of guys, all the way down to kind of smaller competitors of ours. And I had on each one had its own page was, what businesses are they in? What’s their…What’s their, what are their financial statistics? When were they founded? Who’s running them? And so I learned a lot about okay, where are these businesses valued today? How did they get there?

Avi Benus 32:32
Second thing I did is I started meeting way before I should have with every boutique investment bank in the government contracting space in Baltimore, Washington, Virginia area. And some of those, I got laughed out of the room because like, what are you doing here, you’re small, you know, come back to me when you got to when you’ve got full and open business. But unlike these meetings, talk is cheap, right? I’m happy to have lunch with anybody. And something could one day come out of these meetings. And it was actually one of those boutique investment banks that I have lunch with, like twice a year for eight years, something like that, that we ultimately hired and walked us through the transaction. Right? And they were very patient with me saying, hey, when you’re ready, we’re gonna be here for you. But it wasn’t until I hit kind of those numbers. And I saw some transactions happen in our space of competitors, where I’m like, we’re as good as that company, you know, that seems like you know, I see the multiples rise to a level that hey, my family could be could be happy with and timing was, timing was pretty good.

Dan Doran 33:50
Awesome. So that kind of brings us to a close. I’ve got one final question for you here. Timing is everything. So looking back to your question, if you look back in the rearview mirror, what might you do have done differently? And what advice might you give somebody else that’s starting this journey like you were you know, back however many years ago, going through this growth, then potential exit?

Avi Benus 34:24
Um…the advice is easier. So we’ll start with that kind of off that last question. It’s…

Dan Doran 34:29
That’s a nice misdirect there I like it.

Avi Benus 34:30
Yeah, um, it’s understand your market. It’s a lot of people spend, spend so much time focusing on their own internal operations, and rightfully so, that they don’t have enough time to they don’t feel like they have enough time to go out of their four walls. You know, meet the people that are trying to, you know, move and shake in the industry. They don’t understand hey, you know, what is my business really worth in the first place? Right they have an idea, but that’s a lot of pride. That’s a lot of ego. There’s a lot of all different things. And in the when you’re talking about kind of small businesses, which we were, you don’t get good information, right? On what price something traded at or what even traded. So spend the time to learn what’s going on with other companies in the overall market. What I would do differently is, I mean, I think it’s a really long list now, that I’m thinking of it…

Dan Doran 35:34
It doesn’t have to be an exhaustive answer, you know, just a handful of…

Avi Benus 35:38
No, I mean, we were you know, it’s a credit to my parents, that a lot of businesses right can’t survive the transition from founder to that next leader. And we were able to do so, helped out that we were blood, but they were able to kind of take ego aside and make a decision on what they thought was best for the company and put it, you know, have have somebody who could lead us to that next the next level. But I think if anything, I fell into almost that founder’s trap of, you know, somewhat of like a, we’d say, like a hub and spoke leadership method, where we, you know, we tried as much as possible to bring divisions together, to bring employees together. But in a world of consulting, where everybody’s billing out their own time, a lot of times, you don’t get to leverage across those groups, as much as possible. And if I had done a better job of kind of integrating those groups, of integrating key employees to incentivize them to work together somehow, as opposed to just directly with for me or for the, for the whole company. I think we could have even been more effective than we were.

Dan Doran 36:58
Thank you. Yeah.

Avi Benus 36:59
Well, easier said than done.

Dean Nordlinger 37:02
Now [crosstalk] You know, the reality is, we appreciate the time, your, you’re, you’re taking and making for us and being, you know, really direct and very, you know, open about your path, your journey, the things that went well, and some of the things that you thought, eh I could have done that better. It’s very helpful, you know, with with our target audience here, which are people all along the spectrum. Some are starting out on the journey, some are a little farther along. So we appreciate you’re putting your color, your flavor, your spin on your stories. It’s helpful to those who are out there who have not yet transacted and as you know, as Dan said, timing is everything your…yours was not too long ago and is very well timed and the market has continued to be favorable for exits that we certainly expect to see a lot more in 2022.

Avi Benus 37:53
Well, I really enjoyed the conversation and thank you to both Dean and Dan.

Dan Doran 37:59
Yeah, thank you, Avi. Appreciate it.