Historians have long known the historical relevance and impact of epidemics and pandemics. Despite our various technological advances and the complexity of our society, disease can instantly change the course of history. Not having a robust global system for dealing with disease and pandemics comes with a hefty price tag. In the case of the COVID-19 economic crisis, the price tag will no doubt be in the trillions.
You can’t control what has happened, but you can focus on what to do when the pandemic is over and life begins to slowly return to normal. In his recent article, “How to Hit the Ground Running After the Pandemic,” author Geoffrey James explores what businesses need to do to jumpstart their operations once the pandemic is in the history books.
James wants his readers to understand that the pandemic will end and that business owners need to be ready to charge back in when the pandemic is over and the economy rebounds. As James points out, if history is any indicator, the economy will eventually rebound.
Almost everything about this economic downturn is unique. Take, for example, the fact that the U.S. has just seen its largest-ever economic expansion. The gears and wheels of the economy were spinning along quite quickly before the pandemic hit. This could help restart the economy faster than in past severe economic downturns. In short, many experts feel that this particular economic downturn could be short, but of course, this is speculation. There is no way to know for sure until COVID-19 is in the rearview mirror.
James correctly asserts that businesses need to put together a plan for how they will get up and running as soon as the pandemic is over. His recommendation is to divide your plan and thinking into four distinct categories: Facilities, Personnel, Manufacturing, and Marketing.
Each of these categories has three key questions that business owners should be asking themselves so that their businesses are ready to hit the ground running when COVID-19 is over. Below are a few of the key questions James recommends asking.
- How can we create the most sanitary and disease-free workplace possible?
- Which employees will continue to work from home?
- When there’s a spike in demand, how will we ramp-up?
- What will be our “We’re Back!” marketing message?
The pandemic caught everyone except the experts off guard. Moving forward, business leaders, think tanks, and politicians alike need to work to develop and implement robust plans to minimize the damage caused by pandemics. Humanity, and business, has been “lucky” several times in recent years, as we dodged bullets ranging from Ebola to SARS.
As James points out in his article, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” Businesses need to plan for the recovery and they need to plan for another pandemic because another one is quite possible especially if better planning and decision making are not firmly entrenched in place.
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Clearly, some industries are taking a bigger hit from COVID-19 than others. Any industry that requires a great deal of interaction with the public, or where people gather in large groups, are obviously having very tough times. Movie theaters and restaurants, for example, have essentially gone dark. Some restaurants are easing the bloodletting a bit by providing delivery, but in the vast majority of cases, revenue pales in comparison to what it was prior to the pandemic.
While there is no doubt that the hospitality industry is suffering right now, business owners should understand that there are concrete steps they can take now to improve their odds of surviving the pandemic. In this article, we’ll explore a few of these key ideas.
One of the areas every decision maker and business owner in the hospitality industry should be thinking about right now is staff. During a recent industry roundtable discussion, John Howe, chairman of the International Association of Business Intermediaries, pointed out that staffing problems will continue long after the pandemic has paused or is over. He believes that hospitality businesses will have a tough time getting the staff they need, especially in the short run.
His key piece of advice is to work to have a line on people for key positions. This will allow you to at least get back up and running with basic operations. While it may be a while before hospitality businesses are at “full steam,” it is critical that they are able to open up in some fashion, as this will translate into much needed revenue. Hospitality businesses looking to survive the pandemic should focus on making certain that key positions have been filled. In this way, the post-pandemic relaunch can be as smooth as possible.
Founder and President of Cornerstone Business Services, Scott Bushkie, explained that there are a lot of hospitality industry people out of work right now, and this represents a real opportunity. Now, is the perfect time to potentially upgrade staff. There are plenty of experienced and proven hospitality people looking for positions. The new people you bring may come with extra benefits such as bringing their customers, suppliers, and other relationships with them. For those in the hospitality industry who may have always wanted to upgrade their team, now is perhaps the best time in history to do so.
Employees are a foundational element of your business. Improving your staff means you’ve improved your business and boosted your odds of survival. Bringing in new team members can help you prepare for the post-pandemic business environment. It also offers up the potential for you to upgrade an important element within your business.
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There are many things that you should be doing to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. At the top of the list is to be proactive. Now is the time to be thinking about how best to position your business after the economy has returned to something near normal. Now is not the time for self-pity. In fact, not preparing for the relaunch of the economy will cost you.
In David Finkel’s recent Inc. article entitled, “10 Things Every Small-Business Owner Needs to Do to Deal with the Impact of COVID-19 on Their Business,” Finkel outlines the 10 key steps business owners should take immediately. Finkel is the author of 12 business books and CEO of Maui Mastermind business coaching company.
There is no way of knowing how long the COVID-19 fueled economic downturn will last, and that means time is of the essence. Business owners, regardless of their particular sector, need to prepare as though the economy could relaunch tomorrow.
Finkel’s 10 Things:
- Take steps to protect your staff and customers from getting sick.
- Tell your customers what safety steps you’re taking.
- Educate your staff on how to stay healthy at work and at home.
- Engage in scenarios planning to deal with how markets could change.
- Enlist vendors and suppliers for help. You should ask them to negotiate payment terms.
- Take steps to plan out your cash flow.
- Open a dialogue with your management team.
- Go on the offensive and look for opportunities.
- Get your team together and brainstorm.
- Be sure your key leaders communicate in a united fashion.
There are definitely some commonalities amongst these 10 important steps. You’ll notice that communication and education are at the heart of most of these points.
There is a lot of fear and uncertainty out there. More than almost any time in modern history now is the time to communicate. All business owners should be advised to communicate with their customers, clients, suppliers, staff, and management team in a clear fashion. Effective communication based around a consistent and logical message can help to reduce fear. The fear sections of the brain are driven by our primordial ancestors’ dread of the unknown lurking in the darkness. Part of being a good leader is to reduce those fears whenever possible.
Another common thread is planning, which includes looking for new opportunities. Whenever there is chaos and fear, there are also opportunities. You should be looking for those opportunities, whether it is improving your own business practices or looking for other companies to buy.
Good communication and planning can help you navigate these choppy waters. Planning for the recovery from COVID-19 pandemic could be the difference between staying in business and going out of business.
Developing Your 90-Day Plan
Those who want to make sure their businesses survive this pandemic will want to achieve a laser-like focus. It is important to realize that the forced downtime triggered by the pandemic affords you the opportunity to work on potentially neglected aspects of your business.
Summed up another way, now is the time for dynamic and focused action. In this article, we’ll address what you can do to help your business survive this unusual time period.
Reevaluating Your Business
It’s time to step back and look at every aspect of your business, including your processes. You should be encouraged to find new ways of doing things. In short, now should be viewed as a time of opportunity to reboot your business. That way when the pandemic has subsided, and your business picks up once more, it is more efficient, more effective, and more competitive.
Scott Bushkie, Founder and President of Cornerstone Business Services, recommended that business owners create 90-day plans where they look for ways to innovate. This strategic plan should focus on what they are going to do and what they want to accomplish. It is critical that there is an actual plan that achieves tangible results and not simply a list of things that should be accomplished. Listed below are a few questions you should be pondering.
- How can I outperform the competition?
- How can I innovate?
- How can I increase my use of technology?
- How can I deliver my products and services in a different way?
- How can I reduce my operational costs?
- Have I reached out to my suppliers and creditors for assistance?
- Have I applied to applicable SBA COVID-19 focused programs?
- What do I want to accomplish in the next 90-days?
It’s Time to Reboot
The main point is that businesses should not look at this pandemic situation as some sort of “miserable and stressful vacation,” but instead as an opportunity to reboot what is not working, and look for ways to make improvements in every aspect of your business. This process begins by asking the right questions and striving to find the answers.
In answering these questions and finding ways to help boost your rates of survival, you should turn to every asset at your disposal. Why not ask your management team as well as all of your employees for ideas that could help their business? Everyone should understand that owners are looking for ways to keep their business healthy while navigating the pandemic.
Now is the time for reflection, short-term and long-term planning, and tangible actions. Business owners should also consult with a range of business professionals, including, of course, business brokers and M&A Advisors. Brokers are uniquely positioned to help business owners through this crisis.
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There can be no way around it, Inc. contributor Brian Hamilton’s April 2020 COVID-19 centered article, “6 Actions to Take in the Next 90 Days to Save Your Business,” isn’t pulling any punches. Hamilton, Founder of the Brian Hamilton Foundation, believes that the next 90-days could be make or break days for business owners looking to navigate the choppy waters of the COVID-19 pandemic. His latest Inc. article provides readers with 6 actions they should take now to survive the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tip #1 Vigorously Control What You Can
Hamilton’s first tip is to “Vigorously control what you can. Vigorously ignore what you can’t control.” As Hamilton points out, you can’t control the economy; instead, you need to focus on what you can control. His view is that there has never been a more important time to focus, “More than ever, you’ll need to go to war with things within your control.” Now is the time to exercise control.
Tip #2 Guard Morale
During tough economic times, employee morale can be a real issue. This brings us to Hamilton’s second point, “guard employee morale.” Significant drops in employee morale can lead to serious problems with your business, which is exactly what you don’t want to see right now. Hamilton notes that you have to be the general that helps his or her troops rise above potential panic.
Tip #3 Preserve Cash
Hamilton’s third tip is to “preserve cash where you can.” He states, “Right now, your motto should be: Live to fight another day.” The pandemic means that you need to keep expenses down and watch every dollar. No one knows what the next few months, or the next couple of years, could have in store.
Tip #4 Be First in Line
“Be first in line,” is Hamilton’s fourth point. Hamilton wisely pushes business owners to be the first in line for government assistance. This is very good advice, as SBA and other funds are likely to be limited.
Tip #5 Get Back to the Basics
Fifth, Hamilton recommends, “Get back to the basics…starting with monomaniacal customer service.” As always, customers, whether existing or new, are the lifeblood of your business. You can’t afford to lose customers now and for this reason, you need to have a laser-like focus on customer service.
Tip #6 Pivot your Product or Service
Hamilton’s sixth tip is to “Pivot your product or service to new conditions.” Small changes to your business can open up new streams of revenue. Even if these streams of revenue are comparatively small, they could mean the difference between sink or swim! Try to step back and look at your business with fresh eyes and strive to find ways to offer something new to your customers. Whatever you offer should be based on your existing goods and services and not require a new, large expenditure.
The COVID-19 pandemic is obviously disruptive, but it won’t last forever. Hamilton’s advice of focusing intensely on the next 90 days is sound advice. You won’t regret looking for ways to safeguard your business for the next 3 months.
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Small business owners are facing new challenges during this crisis. Communicating with customers requires more focus and depth than ever before. In Mat Zuker’s latest article for Forbes Magazine, he cites Jay Mandel who runs The Collective NYC, a marketing consulting team focusing on a customer’s experience, who underlines the importance of businesses to understand their mission statement and values in order to re-enforce marketing strategies.
Information is Crucial. Each customer purveying your business’s website needs to understand your hours of operation, any limitations to service and what is being done to ensure cleanliness. Providing this information establishes to your customer your seriousness of precautions which will be appreciated during this time.
If your financial situation allows, focus on your employees, donate to charities or offer discounted or free products. By marketing this information, your brand’s scope will bolster with the customer as well.
Utilizing the Customer’s Time. Most customers are adhering to social distancing guidelines put forth by their state and the federal government. Now, more than ever, it is important to exhibit to your customers how your brand can be utilized beyond your brick and mortar. Zuker cites how universities are beginning to offer free online classes and telecommunication companies are offering two months of free service to low-income families; King Arthur flour is promoting its library of comfort food recipes (yes, please!). Thinking beyond your storefront to put your service or product into your customer’s virtual hands is important.
Remember to entertain. By each passing day, customers are looking for new stimulation to help the time go by at home. Movie companies are making the best of the situation by sending theatrical releases to online streaming services. We don’t think it is necessary to always make your customers laugh, but it might be within your branding to aim for content geared towards warmth, humanity and empathy.
The metric for engaging your customers is changing; moving beyond views and shares to quality feedback or social impact on your community. Do not bite off more than you can chew. Cited in Zuker’s article, Social Media Today warns of virtue signaling; meaning declaring a set of values, but not following through on the actual deeds.
Also, this is a fantastic opportunity to consider your marketing strategies for when this crisis ends. What will your business look like once you are able to open the doors? How are you able to stay relevant with your competitors? These are all questions needing answers, but today we must do our best to accomplish what is in front of us.
Read Mat Zucker’s full article here: https://www.forbes.com/sites/matzucker/2020/04/01/content-in-a-crisiswhat-brands-can-deliver/
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The value of your family-owned sports and fitness center may be one of the largest assets in your marital estate. As a result, it is essential for both spouses to know and understand the exact value of their business when contemplating divorce. Simply guessing at the value or using rules of thumb, or having someone who is not an expert in the sports and fitness industry could result in a valuation that is either way too high or way too low.
That’s where Sports Club Advisors can help. As experts in the sports, fitness and leisure industry, we offer a wide range of business valuation services to spouses contemplating divorce, including a Calculation of Value, a Broker’s Opinion of Value, a Section 59-60 Valuation, and Expert Witness Testimony.
Calculation of Valuation
A Calculation of Value is a detailed financial model that estimates the fair market value of a sports or fitness center based on its historical performance, future prospects, and market conditions. The purpose of this valuation is to provide an estimate of value that the parties can use in divorce settlement negotiations. This is the most cost-effective option, but the results from this approach are the same as in the other valuation approaches we use. We use the same financial model and the same valuation practices and principals as in the Broker’s Opinion of Value and the Section 59-60 Valuation, the only difference is we don’t write up a formal report with the results.
Broker’s Opinion of Value
A Broker’s Opinion of Value starts with a Calculation of Value and then adds a cover letter that explains the information we reviewed to prepare the valuation, the methodology we used, and our conclusions. This is often helpful if you need to present the valuation to a third party and you don’t want them to have to interpret a financial model.
Section 59-60 Valuation
A Section 59-60 Valuation is the highest standard of valuation. It gets its name from the section of the Internal Revenue Code that spells out what the IRS requires in a valuation. This standard has been adopted by most courts and is used whenever litigation is required. A Section 59-60 Valuations requires a trained, experienced appraiser to gather, analyze, and report on the financial performance and future potential of the business. This unbiased process removes subjectivity and supports a company’s true value. This is the most expensive option, so we recommend starting with a Calculation of Value or a Broker’s Opinion of Value. We can always update a Calculation of Value to a Section 59-60 Valuation if a settlement can not be reached and litigation is ultimately required.
Expert Witness Testimony
Rich Jackim and Jim Bates, the founders of Sports Club Advisors have a lot of experience serving as expert witnesses in divorce matters involving sports, fitness, and leisure-related companies. We are prepared to present our findings to a court and to explain our process and methodology in an objective, neutral manner.
Why Work With Sports Club Advisors to Value a Sports & Fitness Center?
The valuation professionals at Sports Club Advisors are committed to ensuring you receive the most accurate, efficient, and easy to understand business valuation of your sports or fitness center.
Our valuations are prepared by Rich Jackim (author of the $10 Trillion Opportunity, Designing Successful Exit Strategies for Middle Market Business Owners) and by Jim Bates (Business Valuation for Dummies) who are experts in all areas of business valuations. We are committed to provide you with an intelligent, informed analysis of your business and assure you of 100% confidentiality from start to finish.
Hidden Factors that Affect the Value of a Sports or Fitness Center
Personal Goodwill – Personal goodwill is the value of your business that is the direct result of your personal involvement in the business. The best example of this in a sport and fitness center is when the owner teaches classes or provides private personal training services and had built up a client list of personal clients. If that spouse were to leave and go to work at another fitness studio or training center, it is very likely that many or all of these clients might go with that spouse. The value of the personal “book of business” is that spouse’s personal goodwill. Since personal goodwill is not a part of the marital estate so it is important that both spouses understand whether personal goodwill is present in their business and how much of the company’s value is attributable to personal goodwill.
Term Remaining on Lease – The term remaining on a fitness center lease has a big impact on the business value. It there is not at least 3 years left on the lease a potential buyer will not have enough time to realize a return on their investment, so the value of the business goes down. The same is true if the lease can be renewed but at a much higher rent. The higher rent means lower EBITDA, which translates to a lower value.
Adjusted EBITDA vs Seller’s Discretionary Earnings – Most business brokers value sports clubs and fitness studios based on seller’s discretionary earnings or SDE. SDE is equal to all of the cash flow a company generates. EBITDA stands for Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization. It reflects all of the cash flow a company generates, less a market-based salary for the owner who works at the club. This is very important if one or both of the spouses work in the fitness center. If you value your fitness center based on SDE you will overvalue it because you are not taking into account the salary a new owner would need to pay to replace you.
Value of Intellectual Property – Some health clubs and sports-related businesses have built up a valuable portfolio of intellectual property that is not reflected on the balance sheet or income statement. For example, we sold an organizer of professional kickball tournaments about a year ago. They hosted 10 professional kickball tournaments around the country each year and they videotaped each game as well as the national championship. Kickball enthusiasts from around the world would then sign up and pay a monthly fee to have access to watch these games. About 50% of the value of this business came from the EBITDA it generated, but the other 50% came from the revenue potential represented by this video library and licensing platform. If your fitness center has developed a proprietary app or training program, it may represent significant value that is often overlooked.
Membership Trends – To accurately value a sports or fitness center it is essential that the valuation expert look at membership trends to understand membership attrition rates, membership dues trends, changes in membership types, and other key membership data. Clubs with high member retention rates and increasing dues trends are much more valuable than a fitness center that has 50% membership attrition and is having to lower dues to try to attract new members.
Competitive Analysis – The value of any business, including a sports and fitness center, is based on the expected future performance of that business. As a result, a valuation expert should look at who the center’s competitors currently are, and what competitors are opening up, to understand what impact, if any, the changes in the competitive environment may have on the future performance of the business.
Market Area Analysis – The value of a fitness center or sports club is directly related to the demographics of its local market area. As a result, to get an accurate valuation of your fitness club, the valuation analysis must determine what changes if any are likely to occur in your market area. Is a large new employer moving into the area? Is a developer building a large new apartment complex in the area? Any material changes to the demographics in your market area can have a big impact on the value of your fitness center.
If you own a fitness center or sports club and are contemplating a divorce, you owe it to yourself to seek competent, qualified advice from professionals who understand the sport, fitness and leisure industry.
Contact us today to learn more about the valuation process.
Selecting the right damages expert witness can make or break your case. Knowing how to pick the right expert is key to obtaining a successful outcome.
Choosing the right expert for a litigation matter goes beyond just checking that the person has the right credentials to act as an expert on financial damages. It is equally important that the expert can connect with the judge or jury, and educate them about how the available data and other information supports your client’s position.
Know What Skills Your Expert Witness Must Have
Expert witnesses are often referred from one attorney to another, however, when you need an expert with a very specific skill set, like expertise in business valuation and mergers and acquisitions issues related to the sports, fitness and leisure industry, clients and law firms do research to identify potential experts.
When picking an expert witness it is critical that you and your attorney know exactly what skills you want your expert witness to have. Richard Jackim, the Managing Partner at Sports Club Advisors, is a former mergers & acquisitions attorney and an experienced investment banker who has been involved in over 25 mergers and acquisitions in the sports, fitness and leisure industry, has performed over 90 valuations of sports & health clubs, fitness centers, and boutique fitness studios, and is familiar with franchise agreements and the world of franchising. Jackim earned his law degree with honors from Cornell University Law School and his Master of Business Administration with honors from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University. Rich also developed and taught the Certified Exit Planning Advisor program offered through the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago. A copy of his expert witness curriculum vitae is available here.
In addition to the right credentials, an effective expert witness must be able to communicate in a clear, concise, and articulate manner. He must come across as knowledgeable, accessible and self-assured, but not condescending. The ability to build rapport with the judge and jury is essential; and when both sides present a strong, technically sound case, a jury often favors the side whose expert was able to communicate the issues more clearly or convincingly. To that end, we offer clients and their attorney’s a free, one-hour initial assessment of their claims so they can determine if our approach and communication style meets their needs.
Richard Jackim is a personable and knowledgeable expert and has a unique ability to present complicated issues in a clear and concise manner that connects with judges and juries.
Credibility is Key
An expert must also be polished and unflappable in the face of tough, sometimes seemingly stupid questions from opposing counsel. An expert witness must be able to answer questions about his background and experience to withstand a Daubert challenge. It’s critical for the attorney to have an upfront conversation with the expert to ensure they are of good character; have worked for both plaintiff and defendant; learned of any positions they may have taken that are adverse to the position taken in this case, whether through testimony or through publications of an article; and whether they have been Dauberted.
Richard Jackim’s top-tier academic credentials, plus his 30 years of business experience including practicing mergers & acquisitions law, and leadership positions at several leading investment banking firms, provides him with unique qualifications as an expert witness. His opinions are based on market realities and actual transactions, not just financial theories. As a result, he can speak to industry best practices and what is “market”.
An Expert’s Experience = Your Advantage
It’s also important that you select an expert witness who has experience testifying in a courtroom or providing deposition testimony. This experience enables them to have a clear understanding of the moving parts of a case, gives them an advantage by being able to understand how litigation and depositions work, allows them to anticipate the kinds of questions opposing counsel might ask, and helps you and your attorney understand the key weaknesses in the opposing expert’s presentation.
Richard Jackim has consulted on over thirty-two different litigation matters, testified in six depositions, and provided expert witness testimony in two trials. His experience as an industry expert and as an expert witness helped the parties settle thirty matters without the need to go to trial. On the two matters that did go to trial, Jackim’s clients won both matters on the merits, with the judge stating in one case that Jackim’s testimony was clear and convincing and could not be refuted by the opposing expert witness.
Areas of Expertise for Sports Businesses & Health and Fitness Centers
- Business Valuations
- Financial Damages (lost revenues & profits)
- Valuation of Membership Lists
- Valuation of Personal Goodwill
- Earnout Disputes
- Lender or Creditor Disputes
- Shareholder Disputes
- Buyer & Seller Disputes
Engage An Expert Witness as Early as Possible
For these reasons, we encourage clients and their attorneys to contact us as early as possible. Early collaboration provides us with an opportunity to help you and your attorney to discuss strategy. Ideally, we would be engaged early enough to assist in formulating requests for discovery. As a well-versed damages expert, Jackim knows what information is needed to ensure a thorough and supportable analysis. In addition, engaging us early in the process allows time to think through the issues and help you and your attorney develop the most cost-effective strategy to present your case.
In the event we find we cannot support your position based on the information provided, knowing this early on can give you time to either revise your strategy or find a different expert. Remember, unlike attorneys who are advocates for their clients, your expert witness should be a neutral, third party whose opinion is objective and unbiased. Jackim has built an impeccable reputation by providing clients with honest, objective, advice based on the available facts and his years of industry experience.
As an experienced damages expert, Jackim is familiar with recent case law in the subject area, as well as the best health club and fitness center business practices and mergers and acquisitions norms. He understands his role and can be the deciding factor in your case if you choose to use his knowledge, experience, and credentials. For a free initial consultation, please contact Richard Jackim at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 224-513-5142.Read More
Private golf clubs have felt the pinch from on-going economic turmoil and uncertainty. Over the last 15 years membership rosters have shrunk considerably. The majority of private clubs has fewer members today than a decade ago. Changing demographics, combined with fierce competition and changing lifestyles have made attracting and retaining members increasingly difficult.
Of the 14,000 golf facilities in the US, our research suggests that approximately 4,500 are private clubs. Of these, approximately 60% or 2,700 are “equity” clubs that are owned and operated by the club’s members themselves. For a variety of reasons, the number of private member-owned clubs has declined by over 20% since 1990.
For certain clubs serving the very affluent, i.e., those with initiation fees of $100,000+ and annual dues of $15,000 or more, being a member owned club will always be the preferred structure. This ownership structure allows them to be highly selective when admitting new members and they will always have enough highly affluent members who can afford to pay for this type of exclusivity.
However, for the majority of clubs, i.e., those with initiation fees of less than $100,000 and annual dues below $15,000, the member-owned business model may not be a good fit. Members at these clubs often report that it is difficult to actually sell their membership so for these members their “equity” in the club has little real value.
Why is this the case? These clubs are usually competing with several similar clubs in the same geographic market that all have comparable features and amenities. This means families interested in joining a club have several options to choose from. For these clubs to succeed they need to actively compete for new members based on service, amenities, and price. In short, they need to be run like any other premier fitness or hospitality business – they need to be run like a five star hotels or restaurant. This typically means the best ownership structure is for the club to be owned and operated by a professional manager who has their own capital at risk. This makes them focused on delivering an outstanding membership experience.
The process of transitioning a member-owned equity club to a professionally owned and managed club is called an recapitalization. It’s not complicated, has been done hundreds of times, and it usually provides significant benefits to the club’s members.
What makes a club a good candidate for a recapitalization?
Consider the following questions about the member-owned club:
· Is membership below its cap with no wait list to join the club?
· Does the club have a lot of debt with little to no long-term capital reserves on hand?
· Are capital improvements being deferred because of lack of capital?
· Are members getting regular assessments to fund capital improvements or operating losses?
· Are members complaining because the club isn’t offering modern, well maintained facilities, or amenities?
· Do members have difficulty selling their memberships at their original cost?
· Does the club have gross revenue of at least $4 million?
If a club responded “yes” to most of these questions, the club’s board should consider whether an equity recapitalization could be an effective solution to the challenges facing the club. In most cases it can be.
The Benefits of Recapitalization.
Some of the benefits of recapitalization include:
· The club becomes debt-free with fully funded capital improvements.
· The club is professional managed, with input from a member advisory board.
· Member dues and privileges remain the same.
· Members are guaranteed there will be no more assessments—ever.
· Members are not burdened with management or oversight, they can simply enjoy being members of their club
· Members often receive reciprocal memberships at other clubs owned and operated by the management company.
While an equity recapitalization is not the only solution to a club’s problems, it is a viable, well-tested solution that can lead to sustainability with tremendous benefits to a club’s members.
The basic elements of an equity recapitalization are as follows:
· The new owner (typically the management company) forms a new corporate entity.
· The existing club (often a 501(c)3 non-profit entity) transfers the real estate assets to the new corporate entity.
· Any debt the club owes is paid off by the management company so the club is debt-free and unburdened by debt service payments.
· The club’s members sign new membership documents with the same privileges, dues and virtually identical by-laws. Membership dues are typically frozen for a period of time, usually several years.
· Covenants are put in place to ensure that the club remains private and there will be no assessments—ever.
· All needed capital improvements are funded up front by the management company. This is in lieu of paying the members for their equity—in effect, all of the member’s equity is reinvested into the club allowing the club to upgrade its amenities and significantly improving the member experience.
· A member advisory board is elected by the members. This board advises and guides the management company on capital improvements, service issues and long-term planning.
· Members receive reciprocal club privileges at other clubs owned and operated by the management company.
Once the club’s board decides to move forward, the management company prepares documents and completes due diligence; then, the membership votes to approve the equity recapitalization. The whole process can be completed in two to three months with little to no disruption to the members or the operations of the club. To learn more download our white paper on the value of member-equity recaps for private country clubs.
If you would like to explore whether an equity recapitalization is right for your club Contact Us or give us a call at (888) 270-0028Read More
Finding a great sports and fitness club or business to buy is a lot hard work. Most buyers review dozens of deals each month, and many buyers will evaluate hundreds of deals before they find a club worth acquiring.
Part of the challenge is that there are far more buyers than sellers of quality clubs. Consider this: Sports Club Advisors has over 2,000 registered buyers who want to receive notices when we have a new opportunities for sale, but in most years we only bring 6-10 new clients to market each year.
The problem is not just limited to a lack of sports and fitness club businesses for sale. Buyers routinely complain about how hard it is to find a transaction that is worth pursuing. Common complaints we hear from buyers include:
- Unrealistic expectations of value on the part of sellers
- Inaccurate or incomplete financials or operating data
- Hidden liabilities like unresolved member complaints or improper payment of independent contractors
Given these challenges, how can you increase your chances of finding a great sports or fitness club to buy? Here are six tips to help you with your search.
Tip 1: Develop Clear Criteria
The best buyers act quickly. With so many buyers looking, and so few quality deals coming to market, you need to make decisions quickly. To speed up your ability to evaluate the deals, put together a clear list of your acquisition criteria. This list will act as your guide to help you determine which deals are worth pursuing and which deserve a quick pass.
Putting together a clear, well-thought out list of acquisition criteria will take some time and effort.
Your acquisition criteria should be your objective guide to evaluate opportunities, but you should always apply a subjective element to your evaluation as well. This should be your basic “gut check” about a business. If the business meets your objective criteria, do you like and trust the owners? Do you like and trust the staff? Do the members and clientele seem reasonable? If you decide you do not like a business for some reason, offer the seller or broker quick feedback and move on.
Tip 2: Register with Online Marketplaces and Brokers
There are many ways to find fitness clubs or businesses for sale, and club brokers represent only a portion of the fitness club or businesses that are for sale. Finding a good fitness club or business for sale is a numbers game. You need to look at as many deals as possible in order to find the perfect acquisition target. Registering with online marketplaces and brokers will provide alerts on any new listings. This will make your daily inspections relatively easy. To register with Sports Club Advisors, simply fill out our Buyer Registration form, and don’t forget to bookmark our Active Engagements page on our website.
Tip 3: Approach Fitness Club or Business Owners Directly
Many buyers limit their search for a sports club or gym to two places: marketplaces and brokerage firms.
However, why not write directly to fitness club or business owners to see if they would be willing to sell their fitness club or business? There are pros and cons to this approach. The pros are:
- You Get Better Deals. Writing directly to club or business owners allows you to reach club or business owners who never considered selling. It’s a numbers game so if you write enough people, you may find a club or business owner who is an absentee owner and no longer actively involved in their club or business. For these owners, selling their club has probably been on the back of their mind and your letter might just incent them to start a discussion with you.
- It Simplifies Things. When you approach an owner directly to buy their fitness club or business, it makes it simpler for the owner. He doesn’t have to hire a broker or try to sell it himself. He doesn’t have to worry about the club being “on the market” and having his employee find out. In addition, a direct transaction is often more relaxed and focused on creating a win/win transaction.
- Less competition. Sports Club Advisors has over 2,000 buyers actively looking for a fitness club or businesses to buy, but we only bring 6-10 clients to market each year. So when you do look at a good listing, from a broker you are likely competing with dozens of buyers. When you approach someone directly, you usually have the luxury of less competition.
However, contacting club or business owners to see if they would be interested in selling has it downsides too. Here are some of the cons:
- It is a numbers game. Many of the buyers we’ve worked with report several challenges, beginning with getting a good list. Buyer often say that it takes them weeks to put together a list of targets that they think will fit their acquisition criteria. Since a good response rate is between 1-3% depending on whether you call or write, that means you will need to call or write email 100 people just to get 1-3 responses. Then they need to find the time to call or send letters to 200-300 potential targets and then find the time to follow-up with each of them a month later.
- Rejection is Part of the Game. Because the response rate is between 1-3% that means that 97-99% of the owners you contact will simply ignore you. The polite ones might respond by telling you they are not interested. The less polite ones will yell at you and tell you not to bother them.
- Opportunistic Sellers are Poorly Prepared. When you find an opportunistic seller he or she will typically not be prepared. They may not have financial statements and operating data prepared, reviewed and ready to be shared. This can drag out the process and you may find yourself investing a lot of time and energy to collect the information to review only to discover months later that the opportunity does not meet your acquisition criteria.
- Sellers may be unrealistic. When you approach a seller unsolicited, it naturally puts them in the “driver’s seat”. As a result, a seller may have no idea what their club or gym is worth and as a result may pull a number out of the sky, or figure the club must be worth enough to allow them to retire. Either way, even if the club meets all of your other criteria the seller may have unrealistic expectations of value that you cannot change.
Tip 4: Network, Network, Network
Wouldn’t it be nice if deals just came to you? Well, they can if people know are seriously interested in buying a fitness club or businesses and you have the money to do so. The best way to get known as a serious buyer is to network within the industry.
Conferences and networking events are a good way to meet many people and get the word out, but it can be expensive, especially if you are traveling around the country. Instead, we recommend that you network by telephone and email with a targeted list of industry leaders. Send them your acquisition criteria. Tell them how much money you have to invest and the source of your capital. Then stay in touch with them on a monthly or quarterly basis to update them on your search.
Tip 5: Hire a Merger & Acquisitions Advisor to Help You Source and Evaluate Deals
As previously mentioned, finding the right deal is a volume game. You could easily spend most of your time reading through email notices, browsing online marketplaces, and networking. Rather than spend your time doing this, you might find it simpler to hire a club broker or mergers and acquisitions advisor to conduct a buy-side search for you. Follow the tip above and develop a criteria checklist. Then hand this list over to the club broker and have them find deals for you. They can either run a “passive” search or a “pro-active” search for you. In a passive search, they will screen their prospects and active clients, sort through notices and online marketplaces and contact you when they have something that they think might interest you. In a pro-active search, they will do the above, but also pro-actively reach out to club owners on your behalf using a combination of letters, emails and cold calls to find opportunities for you that meet your acquisition criteria.
Tip 6: Always Explain Why You Are “Passing”
Because buying a club or business requires evaluating lots and lots of deals, you’ll likely make a few mistakes along the way. One mistake many buyers make is to dismiss a deal based on a misunderstanding of the business. If you mistakenly pass on a good opportunity it could take months to find another good club or business. The best way to avoid this mistake is to always tell the broker or seller why you are passing or not pursuing a particular business. Not only will the seller or broker appreciate the feedback (brokers will often give preference to buyers who give regular feedback), but if you are mistaken, you’ve given them the ability to help correct any misconception and could save you a lot of time and aggravation.
Finding a great club or business to buy is a numbers game, but it is also about being smart and designing an intelligent search and using the right resources to help you identify and evaluate deals properly. Most importantly, be patient. It can take 6-24 months to find a quality club or fitness facility for sale, but when you do, you’ll be glad you did.Read More