Let’s make a deal

In a down market Corporate Investment Business Brokers still finding potential business owners

By LAURA LAYDEN

Monday, November 16, 2009

Jackie Royer and her husband, Jim, recently bought a pool business in Cape Coral, where they’ve lived since 1984.

“My husband retired from the post office and I was laid off from Chico’s after nine years. So we decided to look for a business,” she said.

Their search brought them to Corporate Investment Business Brokers in Fort Myers — a business that’s thriving despite a bad economy. The Royers discovered the brokerage after coming across one of its business listings on a Web site.

The couple now owns Gulfstream Pool Care, a pool maintenance and repair business offering commercial and residential service in Cape Coral, Sanibel and Fort Myers.

In a down market, the four partners in Corporate Investment Business Brokers say they’re still going strong. In part, they are benefitting from a spike in unemployment, which has made it tougher for workers to find jobs and driven more people to open their own business.

“There is always a good market for a good business,” said Peter Mazzagatti, one of the company’s principals.

The business brokers expect to sell 40 or more businesses this year and come close to last year’s gross revenues of more than $13 million, he said. In 2006, revenues approached $16 million and they jumped to

$22 million in 2007.

“We’re going to end up pretty strong for the year. We have quite a few companies under contract — one quite large,” said Larry Settle, another principal.

Up until the recent recession, every year was better than the last, Mazzagatti said.

The owners are on the road a lot, showing businesses to prospective buyers and working to get new listings.

“We basically bring the buyer and seller together and broker a deal,” Settle said.

“It sounds quite simple, but it’s really complicated,” said Joe Marks, another principal.

They take a personalized approach to their business.

“You will always get a live person when you call our office,” Settle said. “You won’t get a recording.”

Sellers are looking to get out of their business for many reasons. “No. 1, I think is retirement,” Settle said. “There is illness, divorce, relocation.”

“Some people just get tired and want to do something different,” Mazzagatti said.

The company has been in business since 1986.

Together, the partners have collectively brokered more than 2,000 deals valued at more than $1 billion. That includes sales before they went into business together. They have 84 years of combined experience.

“If it’s legal we’ve sold it,” Mazzagatti said.

The company has sold restaurants, print shops, gas stations, accounting firms, mortgage businesses, property management companies, irrigation specialists, lawn services, liquor stores and wood manufacturers.

“No one can come close to our sales,” Mazzagatti said.

They focus on markets from Sarasota to Marco Island.

The main headquarters is off Metro Parkway near the Gulf Coast Medical Center. There are branch offices in Naples and Port Charlotte.

Buyers come from near and far. Interest comes from all over the U.S. and elsewhere, including the United Kingdom, Germany, India and South America.

The buyers range in age from those in their 20s to people in their 70s.

“Right now people are out of work. They need to buy a job,” Marks said.

“These golden parachutes aren’t as golden as what they used to be,” added Dave Williams, the other principal.

On average, he said, it takes about six months to close a sale. But he once did it in one day.

Selling prices can range from a few thousand to more than $2 million. Mazzagatti said the biggest one he handled in his career went for $7.9 million. His smallest deal was $6,000.

Currently, the company has a $4.5 million deal under contract, which is expected to close in January.

When businesses are sold, often the employees will keep their jobs. The sale is kept confidential.

The partners don’t give legal or accounting advice. They do help steer buyers through the loan process, which can be time-consuming and confusing, especially when it involves small business

government loans.

“A business sale is like a fingerprint,” Mazzagatti said. “There is no two that are ever identical.”

The company gets many repeat customers. James Voss in Port Charlotte is one of them.

“I’ve used them coming and going. I’ve used them to sell a business and I’ve used them to buy a business. I have unique perspective.”

About seven years ago, he sold an accounting practice because he wanted to try something new. But he soon realized it was a mistake.

After his no-compete clause expired, he purchased another accounting firm through Corporate Investment Business Brokers about three years ago.

Voss is now the owner and president of Best Accounting Services LLC in Port Charlotte. He couldn’t be happier with the service he got from the business brokers.

“These men are very reputable,” Voss said. “They are hardworking. I run out of adjectives. I can’t say enough good things about these guys.”

The company has two Web sites: www.floridabusinessbrokers.com and www.businessbroker.com. “They are fabulous at attracting buyers,” Mazzagatti said.

The business advertises in magazines and newspapers and sends out direct mail, but gets many of its clients through word-of-mouth and a strong Internet presence.

The brokers make their money off a “success fee,” which is primarily based on the size of the business.

“We charge nothing until we’re at the closing table,” Settle said. “We’re paid when the seller is paid.”

Jackie Royer said the company helped her every step of the way in the purchase of her pool business earlier this year. Her broker was Mazzagatti, who she found extremely knowledgeable and helpful.

He helped the couple determine what they could afford to spend and to get a small business loan.

“We have been extremely busy and we are all very happy with the company and the work we are doing,” Royer said.

“We are getting a lot of good feedback from our customers.”

The Royers long dreamed of owning their own business.

“It’s something we always wanted to do,” she said. “It was the perfect time for us to go ahead and pursue that.”

Copyright © 2009 Scripps Newspaper Group — Online