The following was published in the May 2020 edition of Laurel View Living
Where did you grow up and attend school and college?
I grew up in Mt. Pleasant and took my undergraduate degree in English Literature at Seton Hill University. Reading was – and still is – one of my all-time passions, and so it was truly a lifetime treasure to do my junior year of college at the University of Kent in Canterbury, England. I remember often the Dickens course I completed, which also included traveling to the various scenarios that novels were set in, and envisioning the London world of the 1800’s. It was life-changing.
Tell us about the events that led up to where you are now.
Both of my parents were very business-minded; I had my first business when I was six, and towed beans, peppers and tomatoes up and down the farm road behind my neighborhood’s houses, exchanging them for a nickel or a dime. Later I delivered newspapers to the same neighbors, but honestly, I made more in cookies and pie than I did cash. That fostered my love of relationship selling, and remembering that your customers were individuals who wanted you to spend time with them.
After graduating from Seton Hill, I spent 18 years as a management consultant, ultimately traveling the world to help businesses such as Ford Motor Company, Corning, Microsoft, BHP Steel to create change that resulted in greater investor Returns on Investments. In many cases, the goal was to turn negative returns into positive to save the Division; sometimes it was for the Division to get the best sale price possible. In the latter case, Goldman Sachs was the valuator, and I got to interact with their team; that was the foundation of my love for measuring and increasing the value of businesses. In that capacity, I got to know every inch and corner of the business, workers at all levels, from the floor to the Executive dining room.
What was most fulfilling about it, though, was that the clients I was fortunate enough to work with allowed us to take the approach of understanding each employee’s gift, and setting them up for future success, either within or without the company. So, even when we had to deliver bad news to an individual, we gave them an opportunity for success.
While this was rewarding, the 100% travel and stress associated with the job eventually won out, and I returned home to Westmoreland County. I started a dot.com consulting business, which tapped out with the onslaught of 9-11; then worked for two years with a non-profit to help them recover from an overnight loss of half their funding — $18 million dollars. Then my family asked me to join the family business, Altman Telephone Services, and I did, first as a sales rep, then as owner. I would have to say that this was the most challenging job I ever had; employees don’t exactly jump to embrace the owner’s kid; and I was still looking at business from the Fortune 500 viewpoint. The customers were awesome though, I think notably of Sendell Motors and Stone & Co. Sendell allowed me to really learn how to reduce the cost of communication for a customer while increasing our revenue; Stone & Co. allowed me to implement Voice Over Internet Protocol, a novel protocol at that time that I learned about at Carnegie Mellon while doing my Masters there. I will never forget their encouragement and kindness.
Eventually, I came to accept that my nephew didn’t want the business; and I wanted to go back to the consulting that I love. So I sold the business, which was not really simple at all. In fact, it was so frustrating that I became determined to learn to help others do it in a much more rewarding and painless way. And that compelled the birth of Altman Business Solutions in 2008, now doing business as The Exit Eagle.
What is your business and how and why did you start it?
My intention with Altman Business Solutions was to help clients increase the value of their business before selling, with the bulk of my consulting pay coming from the commission generated by the sale of the business. Back in 2008, when I started the company, we had the tail end of a seller’s market. Those who were selling either had a decent profit margin and didn’t really need to increase the value; or a life event had happened that compelled them to get out at any cost. By 2012, the economy had tanked, and only the truly desperate were selling. Decent buyers couldn’t get a dime out of a bank or and didn’t want to risk their 401K to fund the purchase.
By the end of 2012, I decided to put the business on hold. In January of 2013, I got the opportunity to go to Connecticut as General Manager of a commercial roofing company to prepare the son to take over the management of the business. That project lasted two years, then I went to a company already owned by a Second Generation owner of an HVAC/ Plumbing/ Oil Delivery business to address Receivables and customer service process issues that were preventing the company from getting the price the business deserved. Man, I learned about Second Generation owners from a completely different perspective!
After that, it was time to come home. So I did.
What is unique about your business and what sets you apart from the rest?
Now that we are in a highly competitive buyer’s market, and with the tsunami of Boomer business owners who will be exiting their businesses over the next 3-8 years, the time is right for an Exit Planning service that helps owners to maximize the value of their business so they can retire the way they’ve dreamed of; with the additional services of helping them to find and train new owners; and/or manage the selling of the business to an outside investor. That’s an unusual mix of skills. Given your business expertise and the nature of what you do, what advice can you offer to our readers? If you own a business, and you don’t have a successor in training, do not wait to start getting ready for that retirement you’ve dreamed of. The competition will be fierce for buyers; and it takes time to get someone ready to take over, in the event you can’t sell. And if your business isn’t showcase ready, it won’t sell.
What else should we know about The Exit Eagle?
I have an awesome team of partners, all of them carefully hand-picked for their passion for serving customers, their honesty and integrity; and their reliability in a pinch. We would love to serve you. If you’re curious about how much your business is worth, complete the free ExitMap business valuation and assessment. It won’t give you a market price, but it will tell you what your profit and loss numbers say about the value of your business. It also provides you with some actions you can take to increase the value. Then we can have a conversation that is valuable to getting you on the road to leveraging your business to fund your Dream Retirement.