Business consultant, direction to destination, franchise master to middle market investor, Larry Hay President of HayCorp, a business consulting firm founded in 2003. Larry helps companies identify their core business opportunities and strategically position themselves to take advantage of developing business and consumer trends. Larry was named as one of the Top 100 Executives in Colorado by the Denver Business Journal.
The early years
- Grew up in Savannah, Georgia in the south, and kind of, you know, grew up out in the country on the lake. My dad was a barber, you know, and didn’t really necessarily come from business background. My dad did his own his own business, my mother actually owned her own business. She had a Sears distributorship, a Sears store, and a flower shop, and a few other things like that.
- Wound up getting a job at Radio Shack back in the days when Radio Shack was exploding all over the place.
- I grew up through their system, so I was the store manager for a while, and I guess I was 24 when I took over my first district, as they called them. I think I had 30 stores or so, scattered across the southern part of Georgia, and I was responsible for everything. So, I had full P&L [SP] responsibility for all these stores. I opened stores, I hired people, did all the training, took over everything, and pretty much out there autonomously on your own.
- I was recruited by Pepsi. I had been with Taco Bell for about…excuse me, with Radio Shack for about 13 years or so, and then Pepsi approached and said…and they were looking for, within Pepsi, in the restaurant division, in Taco Bell, it was [inaudible 00:05:20] a transformation stage. That’s when John Martin had just taken over CEO, and Taco Bell had turned into the chain that we know of today, and had started the price wars in the fast-food business. And so, they were looking for somebody from outside the business, that had a different perspective, to step into this fast-food environment and help them grow and build that business. So, I had just come from an environment where we were expanding and growing, and I did a lot of problem-solving, and went into areas that were either underdeveloped or under-penetrated, or sometimes in turnaround situations. And so, that’s what was appealing to them because, primarily, their group of upper management had all grown up in the fast-food business.
- When I took over this…I ran the south, and they were about, give or take, 125 locations or so, and I grew it to a thousand. So, by the time I left, I had a thousand Taco Bells in one way, shape, or form, scattered throughout what you consider the traditional South, and the Mason-Dixon to Texas.
- I went to Einstein, then I ran Kinko’s for the Central U.S., and that was really interesting. It was through a transformational stage that Kinko’s was going through.
- I went out and I did a technology startup, and it was a home technology integration company with some partners.
- I got into the healthcare business, and I was one of the founders of a company called SmartCare Family Medical Centers. It was one of the very first five medical centers to do retail healthcare clinics and services in the country for a decade, I was the operating partner for a billion-dollar private equity firm here in Denver, Colorado, and we primarily focused on middle market to lower-middle market investments in the banking-related side.
- I actually have had a consulting firm for…gosh, a long time, 10, 15 years, something like that, that I did in addition to the other things that I had going on. And so, now I’m doing it full-time, and I’m kind of doing the same thing. I’m helping middle-market companies, lower-middle-market companies that are either trying to expand or have operational challenges they’re trying to get around, or just trying to figure out what their place is in the world, where they want to go and what they can become.
- Many kinds of challenges are the same, but usually, the ones that I’m best at, the ones that I like to help solve are growing pains. It’s where a company has, many times, an owner/operator, or first generation owner of the company that’s built it up to a certain level, say, 20 million in sales, 30 million, so somewhere around their neighborhood, and they’re looking at their company, and they’re saying, “Look, I know we can grow more, and I know we can move further, and I know there’s opportunities for us, but I just don’t know how to address them,” because, many times in that situation, the key people in the company are at limits of what they can personally do, How do I double the size of my business when there’s only one me?”
- A huge step for a business to go through; when they start having to systemize what they’re doing in order to replicate what they’re doing, in order to expand what they’re doing.
- Sometimes I step in when they have issues, but most of the time, they’ve build a wonderful business, and they’re looking at their business and they realize where they really look themselves in the mirror and admitted it in a more tangible sense, but they realize that they’ve reached a plateau, and they know that there’s an opportunity for them to move past that plateau, but they don’t know exactly how to get there.
- This is why this is going to be a problem, and this is where it’s gonna…” It’s usually a problem hasn’t occurred yet. And, usually they’re very, very receptive, because they start seeing it in a different light, and looking at it from a different angle.
- Many times, a business owner is looking at opportunities to be able to capitalize on their business. They’ve grown a business, they’ve got something in their hands, they think it’s worth something. At some point, they’re going to exit their business and they’re looking for, “What’s my liquidity event? How do I get out of here?”
Valuation and Exit
- Valuation, and it’s funny to talk about that first, but you’d be surprised how many medium-sized business owners have dramatically unrealistic expectations about valuation.
- If a company is doing less than \$5 million a year, let’s say, and there’s no hard and fast rules, but generally speaking, your multiple on EBITDA is going to be somewhere from 4 and 6, somewhere in that neighborhood. And so, there are things that affect that, then they’re going to make it closer to the 4 or closer to the 6, or maybe a little bit less than 4 or maybe a little bit more than 6, but fundamentally is somewhere in that space.
- If your business is doing over \$10 million, now you’re multiple is going to start jumping, and there’s reason for that. If you’re below that \$5 million number, it’s hard to get a lot of people interested in your business, simply because it takes the same amount of effort, energy, time, and resources to grow a 5 million EBITDA number as it does a 50 million EBITDA number.
- The other one is that the price of multiple you might get, many times, is driven by what the exit can be for the investor, number one, and then, secondly, what kind of financing they can get for it.
- What’s the customer proposition?
- What’s the risk in the business?
- 35 years of doing this, not just analyzing businesses, but looking at businesses, and developing businesses, and building successful businesses, and selling them, and replicating, and solving problems, and all those kinds of things. So, it’s not someone coming in that’s read a lot of books, and it’s gonna, you know, regurgitate something they read out of a book to you. It’s someone who’s sitting down and say, “I’ve faced the same problem, not once, not twice, but multiple times, and here are your options of solving this.” I think that’s the difference I will bring to the table.
- First thing I do is sit down with the CEO and ask them, “What’s your vision? What is it you’re trying to accomplish here?”
- next step for me really is sitting down and talking to their people and understand the capabilities of some of their key players, their CFO, their COO, and so on and so forth.
- I think my real sweet spot is middle-market companies. And, everybody has a different definition of middle-market. They’re really from \$20 million to \$100 million, somewhere in that neighborhood. Where I do my best work is companies that are growing, and that they’re having growing pains.
- Common factors in franchise operations, the things that make ’em successful, the things that make ’em fail.
- Franchisors don’t wind up servicing and helping making that franchisee successful.
- some of the smartest things that I see people do is just take action on some of those opportunities, and be risk takers.
- Sometimes you don’t trust your instincts as much as you should, but, many times, your instincts are right. When you peel it back, there’s something behind there that’s telling you that.
- I love looking at businesses especially, and understanding the nuances of businesses, and what they do, and how they do, and how they meet the demand for whatever product or service that they do. And so, that’s a trait that, I think, that has always served me well.
Should you call?
- Parting guidance that you might offer to some of the business owners that are listening, that are struggling, “Should I call him, or should I not call him?” What piece of advice would you offer ’em?
- “Well, it never hurts to call, and a conversation is free.”