When you know it is time to sell

|  October 2, 2019
PHOTO: RAY JOHNSON

PHOTO: RAY JOHNSON

Many years ago, a good friend and successful colleague told me to “build my business to sell.”

That was great advice, and over the past 35 years, that’s pretty much what my wife Tammy and I focused on. We wanted to make Johnson Pest Control a business that would be turnkey and ready for acquisition at any time.

I hired the very best employees I could find, knowing they would be the key component in making our business desirable to interested buyers. I especially focused on being professional in every way with my branding and marketing, and providing quality service. Also, I really paid attention to having a strong recurring revenue business model, and I’m proud to say that percentage was 89 percent.

In 2018, two experiences helped me decide to start the process of selling Johnson Pest Control.

First, I spent one day every three weeks taking my younger brother Lee to Vanderbilt Hospital in Nashville, about a four-hour drive, for experimental cancer treatments. It was my honor and joy to take him, and it gave us a lot of time to talk about life and enjoy our memories of growing up. Sadly, on Feb. 18, 2019, Lee passed away at age 56. We all hope to live forever, but the reality is we have to plan for the future.

Second, our daughter Lori told us she loved the business and the pest control industry, but didn’t really want the responsibility of ownership. Her decision to not purchase Johnson Pest Control was fine with Tammy and me, because ownership is not for everyone.

So, after 40 years of marriage and 35 years in business, it was time to start thinking about retirement.
 

Plan of action

Your business is always worth more, and it’s better to sell, while you are running it. Also, I did not want my family to be burdened with selling the business if something happened to me.

I knew I needed someone to walk me through the sales process. That person was fellow Pest Management Professional (PMP) contributor Dan Gordon, CPA, managing director of PCO M&A and Succession Specialists, who had been my accountant for more than 10 years with his other business, PCO Bookkeepers.

Dan’s team held our hands every step of the way, and guided us to a successful sale to Rentokil Steritech on May 1. It was a win-win for everyone. Our employees received new benefits, including enhanced healthcare and retirement offerings. A key consideration for Tammy and me was finding a company that would take care of our employees — and we found that with Rentokil.

We received several offers, but we are at peace knowing Rentokil will be taking care of our customers and colleagues. Several friends sold their companies to Rentokil, and were happy with the experience.

Our special-needs son, Grant, was another factor in our decision. Selling Johnson Pest Control allows us to increase the amount of quality time we spend with him.
 

Keeping busy

Every family’s needs are different. If you are a first-, second- or third-generation owner and have someone to pass your business down to, that’s great. But our family was best-served selling Johnson Pest Control and shifting our focus to future recurring revenue within the real estate rental properties we’ve owned for more than 20 years.

ACES for Business, the company I started nearly 10 years ago to automate and improve upon the appointment confirmation process, is still going strong, too. I’ll continue to be involved, and look forward to seeing you at PestWorld and other pest control industry events.

This will be my last column for PMP, however. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my columns as much as I’ve enjoyed writing them. It has been a pleasure sharing my experiences with you.


You can reach Johnson, a past president of the National Pest Management Association (NPMA), president of Sevierville, Tenn.-based Johnson Pest Control, and founder of ACES for Business at ray@johnsonpestcontrol.com.

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