For today’s episode, Steve McGarry will talk to Codie Sanchez, founder of Unconventional Acquisition and a partner at Entourage Effect Capital. Codie is an incredible operator that has bought and sold businesses. She is also an expert on investing in a startup, small businesses, and cannabis.
Serving as the highlight of this special episode featuring entrepreneurs, they will discuss how Unconventional Acquisition plans to save and help small businesses during these trying times. This includes the background and the current state of the team.
What is Unconventional Acquisition?
This company buys and invests in small businesses in an approachable, blunt, and engaging way. They help companies struggling due to this pandemic to continue and flourish by partnering with them in exchange for a small profit: Unconventional Acquisition purchases and partners with profitable businesses willing to work and are passionate about what they do. And in general terms, her team is working alongside the operators, while some are merely exerting a majority over.
The company also teaches some courses regarding how to purchase and market a business establishment. While the role plays into a diligence aspect that few people often discuss, it also highlights the idea of having a portfolio of different online companies, where they can facilitate and offer maintenance, especially during a crisis.
Although it encompasses risks, you could ascertain creative deals and arrangements. Codie is looking for entrepreneurs and founders to provide them an exit or assistance in continuing their legacy while increasing their growth. They would stay on as a part of it to oversee settlements, and that is how it will be a win-win situation.
What type of businesses are they looking for?
Codie’s company buys different businesses and has one fund that almost exclusively focuses on gross equity. They prioritize small companies that are aiming to grow while being passionate about becoming prominent in the future. These are the kind of businesses she would plug into their management of unconventional acquisitions, not stressing how much the revenue would be.
Sometimes, they take control and ownership of the company outright and invest passively, generally as a large minority holder with some financial oversight. However, her team does not guarantee to purchase a business with some back encoding, especially with some technology-related notions that she would not understand unless she bought it with a trustworthy and reliable operator.
Potentially, the company would understand and evaluate the peculiarities of business before plugging it into their ecosystem. This includes how much traffic the establishment gets, the type of consumer, and the demographics they have, all with the influence. Codie reassured that if they only cared for the profit, they should be apprehending the financials rather than the prerequisites.
How big is her team?
With Unconventional Acquisition, their team is not as big as her other companies. They have their outsource operators, implementers that help bridge all gaps between businesses, and a group of paid interns and contractors.
Specifically, she has an assistant who works exclusively with a specific business; partnerships and collaborations are established in different sectors. At the same time, another individual does all the negotiations from a financial perspective. As for her position, she initiatives to take the traction methodology to any business. It could be simple as domain mapping or other operations similar to this. Services like contractors are being practiced for more remedial tasks.
Currently, they strive to serve Americans who lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 by playing at least a small part of it. And the most comfortable way Codie thought to do that was that they have these millions of small businesses for sale in the US due to this generational transfer of small business ownership.
Tips on how to have a successful business?
It is always a good idea to have a due diligence checklist to work on daily or as you grow. Because it is easier to manage the stuff that is being measured, also, if something unfortunate happens, you could reevaluate your checklist to know what went wrong. Keep in mind that once you have the list down, always stick to it.
Line up your financial criteria and know what your economic parameters are. It is recommended to establish ideal standards that are outlined succinctly. For example, you would not want to invest in making at least five digits every month, since it does not meet your five-digit metric. According to Codie, funding for a minimum of five-digit profit is not a sign of being greedy. It is because so much can go wrong in a business where if there are not five digits, and she would not have enough wiggle room of profit to fix things typically.
Another criterion, it is vital to consider three additional columns when looking for a deal. For instance, Codie might reverse triangulate a cheaper acquisition online for a business with some of her consumers for the long-term business. Finally, she would list all the monetization streams I could think of as affiliate programs, education courses, EA products, etc.
Remember, these three crucial M’s when running your business: marketing, monetization streams, and markets.
What would you tell Codie Sanchez ten years ago?
Since she started in 2014, she would tell Codie from ten years ago to start now. Considering Codie worked on the street for ten years before that, she only managed to invest in the stock market, hedge funds, and private equity. She had never done direct deals because she thought she had to do billion-dollar deals or multi-hundred-million-dollar settlements.
The growth you can get with small businesses is so much larger than you can get from doing all of the real estate deals or investing in the stock market. And considering that the economy is in a small business crisis in the US, you would wish to expose small businesses in the next more years by investing in them. That is why Codie would instead begin creating little and realize that what she is doing now is a great opportunity.
Hello, and welcome to The Exit presented by Flippa. I’m your co-host Steve McGarry. And this is a 30-minute podcast featuring expert entrepreneurs who have been there and done it. They’ve operated amazing businesses, they’ve bought businesses, they’ve sold businesses, and everywhere in between.
So on this special episode, I sit down with Codie Sanchez. She’s an incredible operator that has bought businesses, she’s sold businesses, and started businesses. So she’s a really fantastic entrepreneur to highlight here for the first episode of The Exit. And she’s the co-founder of Unconventional Acquisitions. They’re also teaching some courses on how to buy and sell businesses that are really exciting. So without further ado, let’s dive into this kickoff episode here for The Exit. I am here with Codie Sanchez, the founder of Unconventional Acquisitions. How you doing today, Codie?
Life’s good, man. Thanks for having me, Steve.
Yeah. For sure. So let’s just start with going through your story. What brought you to where you’re at now with Unconventional Acquisitions, and just what’s your background?
Sure. So we started Unconventional Acquisitions, I did it with one of my partners, Ryan Snow, as sort of a response, I think, to this crazy world of COVID that we’re in today, where one in three Americans at the time that we started was unemployed. And I was just in Seattle last week and you could see one out of four businesses there on sort of the main street was shuttered. And so we started it because we thought, “God, we got to get Americans back to work, and we have to figure out how we could play our small part in that.” And the easiest way I thought to do that was the fact that we have these millions of small businesses for sale in the US due to this generational transfer of small business ownership.
And so I was noodling on this problem in my biggest business, which is Entourage Effect Capital, which is a couple hundred million dollar VC. And so we go and put our money where our mouth is and invest in 20, 25 businesses a year. And I’ve done that for decades at bigger firms, and then finally at Entourage Effect. But then we really niched down into the small business land and realized, all the stuff that I had learned at Goldman and doing work on the private equity and LBO side and doing work on the alternative side could be applied to small businesses. So that’s why we started Unconventional Acquisitions after years of me basically doing pretty mainstream Wall Street stuff, and then getting into venture capital and finally deciding, I think anybody could do this sort of business acquisition if they’re curious and diligent enough.
Yeah. That was one of the things that stood out to me on the site, when I was looking at it, was you guys had a 13% pledge. And that was a really admirable aspect. Can you talk a little bit about the 13% pledge and what the concept around buying these businesses is?
Yeah. So my husband’s former special forces for the Navy. And so the 13% pledge was that we had 13% of America unemployed. And again, the thought was, I really believe in a hand up and not a handout. And so I thought, “Gosh, there are so many people with skills that can be put to work, but right now they’re probably feeling relatively purposeless.” And so we said, “Let’s create this course and this series of educational and free newsletters and content, and then anything that’s paid in it, let’s give 13% of all revenue, not profit, to these two organizations.” One’s the Navy SEAL Future Foundation, which basically helps Navy SEALs transition out of the military in a lot of different facets. The part that we focus on is getting them jobs.
And then the second one is called 1Life. And they’re an inner city group that I’ve worked with with years that focuses on the stuff that you and I hear all day, Steve, by listening to podcasts like yours. How to build a plan, how to dream about your future, how to get other people and mentors in your life to help you execute. The stuff that we think of as relatively normal, 1Life brings to inner cities and kids that have more relatives in prison than in the university system. And so these two organizations, we thought, “Let’s get these young kids entrepreneurial and to work that way, and let’s get these vets transitioned to work that way. And then maybe, the people listening will employ others and we can have this ecosystem of getting people back to purposeful work.”
Yeah. I love it. And I love seeing things like that on people’s websites, because it not only is a great effort to get people investing in good causes, but it also shares it and shines a light on the people running the business, I think, in terms of where their heart’s at, where they’re coming from. And I think that that’s always really cool to see that upfront and center. In terms of what businesses you guys are looking for, I’d love to dive into some of the diligence parts here, because I think it’s such a fun space going through and talking to an entrepreneur on the other side of the messaging app, or however you’re communicating with them, whether it’s on the Flippa marketplace or something like that. How do you go about the diligence aspect if you’re about to buy one of these online businesses through your fund?
Yeah. So it really depends. We buy cross-sectional. So we buy lots of different sectors of businesses. I have one fund that almost exclusively focuses on growth equity. So those are companies that are doing 10 or 20 million dollars in revenue in the cannabis space. So those are late stage, venture style deals. Sometimes we control, meaning the ownership of the company outright. And sometimes we just invest in passively, normally as a large minority holder with some financial oversight.
And then in Unconventional Acquisitions, I own a series of businesses that really run the gamut. One of the businesses in an online business that does podcast production, actually. It’s called Strike Fire Productions. And I got into this deal because the owner of the company wanted to grow. And so he was asking me some ideas on it. And then I started looking at his margins and the revenue of the business. I was like, “Actually, I’ll throw you some cash. I’ll help you grow. And I want 40% of the business.” So that one I didn’t buy outright. I bought alongside of the operator. And that one was kind of interesting. It does about $144,000 a year in profit. And so I take 40% of that profit with a really small upfront, it was 10K. But the sweat equity portion was I opened up my Rolodex to a lot of people in the industry that he focuses on. So that was one business.
And when I’m doing due diligence on those types of deals, that’s super easy because I know the guy, 10K is a very small amount, at least for me to have to put into a company where I’m going to return on it in basically one month. That’s a pretty good deal. Not a lot of cash, 144K may not be a huge return, but from a percentage standpoint, big return. But that one was pretty easy. It was like, “If this fails, it’s a pretty quick hit and I know one way or the other.” Obviously the big buyouts, those are difficult because if I buy a company that’s doing tens of millions of dollars in revenue, that means I’m giving them tens of millions of dollars. Lots of due diligence there.
And if I’m buying these sort of small… I’m not very good at tech, Steve. We talked about a SAS business. I would never buy a SAS business with some sort of backend coding that I wouldn’t be able to actually understand unless I bought it with an operator that I had trusted and worked with before. Then I’d just be a minority owner. But some of the smaller businesses I see online, when they’re content businesses, I’m looking at a few on Flippa right now, I’m interested in those businesses because I might plug them into my ecosystem of Unconventional Acquisitions. And I don’t stress too much about what the revenue is to the company, typically on these sort of smaller acquisitions, as long as I understand and can validate how much traffic they get, what the type of consumer is, the demographics that they have, all of the [inaudible 00:08:27] links and I could potentially plug it into our course and ecosystem play.
So a long-winded way to say due diligence really matters on what you care about. If all I cared about was the profit, you better believe I would be getting in really deeply to understand their financials, what’s real, what’s not. Is it there’s seasonality? Is this the type of business that we’re buying at a high, for some reason, or they’ve built up a template business and the moment they stop working the revenue stops, or is this a long-term generational play that they’re just tired, or an entrepreneur that’s likes to start lots of them and then sell them off and get bored? So if it was profit, I’d focus a ton on financial due diligence. A lot of times for me it’s, are they an add-on play to the things I’m already doing to make more money off of those things? Did that answer your question?
Oh, yeah. Very cool. And in terms of, I love the idea of, you’re working alongside the operators as well, and then some of them, you’re just taking majority over and you would consider them your business. So do you have a team within your fund that’s like a SWAT team that comes in and they’re working on transferring domains over, they’re transferring everything over? And how big is that team?
Yeah. So at Entourage Effect Capital, that team’s big. And there’s a lot of people that we bring on that are operators. And we outsource a lot of the operators. For buying of small businesses, the team’s pretty small. I mean, I have an assistant that works with me that works exclusively on that business. I have a partner that works exclusively on that business. I have a guy that does the underwriting, making sure all the deals are real from a financial perspective. And then I have what I call an implementer, which is we use, I don’t know if you guys are familiar with EOS and Traction, but that implementer essentially helps bridge all the gaps between the businesses. And they’re not cheap. And I like to take the Traction methodology and apply it to any businesses that I have. And then anything as simple as domain mapping or things like that, we have interns that we scale in and out. We pay them. Don’t stress, California. And we’ll also use services like contractors at Fiverr for more remedial tasks.
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Got it. And I love what you touched on about the idea of having a portfolio of these different online businesses. They can facilitate each other, they can help each other out. And that plays into your diligence where you say, “All right, if I have this cannabis company, that’s doing $10 million a year, if I acquire this other one for $10,000, it can potentially be way more valuable to me because of organic traffic or customers or things like that.” I love how that plays into the diligence aspect. And I think that’s not something that a lot of people talk about very often. So that’s really interesting that that’s how that’s [crosstalk 00:11:30].
Yeah. Well, it de-risks it. I was going back and forth with some people on Twitter who had commented that like, “There’s no way you could have ever done a deal where…” The one I did with Strike Fire, where it’s 10K and I have 144K profit I get off of it that year. And the only reason I shared those numbers is not because it’s super impressive. Believe me, I’ve lost plenty of money, too. I’ve failed at a bunch of startups. It’s not that. It’s that you absolutely can do these creative deals. Now, I haven’t done all of these on Flippa, obviously, but you can do these creative deals. You just have to take a lot of swings at bat and find the entrepreneur or the founder that’s ready and willing to be the seller that you want, and use seller psychology in order to get there.
And that’s what we teach on Unconventional Acquisitions, how to do that, and how to have it be a win-win. I’m not looking to take advantage of any sellers. I’m looking to give them an exit, or continue their legacy, or to increase their growth and they stay on as a part of it.
Right on. And I guess now that we’ve gone through the story, the team, what are some of the, I guess, the shining stars that you’ve noticed about when you’re going through the process of digging into a small business, what do you recommend people look for? Do you use certain tools? I know you mentioned Traction, I’ve heard that multiple times before. What type of tools are you guys using that you could share that maybe an investor out there would find useful?
Yeah. So a couple. One, I think you have to have a due diligence checklist, and that due diligence checklist needs to be something you go through every single time. So we have a due diligence checklist. It’s in the course, but you can Google search them and then build off of them. But I think it’s important to have a process because what gets measured gets managed, that Peter Drucker saying. And so then when you have a bad deal or something goes sideways, you can be like, “What didn’t I do in the… Oh, crap. I believed their financial numbers, and I didn’t check versus the IRS and what they actually reported,” or whatever the case may be. So I think a due diligence checklist is really important. And just stick to it every time.
And the second thing I would say is, you’ve got to have your deal criteria lined up pretty succinctly. I have a five-digit metric where I don’t want to invest in a business that isn’t going to make me at least five digits in profit every month. And the reason I want five digits is not because I’m greedy. It’s because so much can go wrong in a business where if there’s not five digits, I don’t have enough wiggle room of profit to fix things, typically. Now that’s changed a lot for me. My first business that I bought was an online website before you could actually do this sort of stuff, an online website that a friend ran that made a couple hundred bucks a month. So I think Flippa has plenty of those. But I basically got the company for the cost of one or two months of revenue because the guy was done doing it. And that was a fashion company that I eventually evolved into a company called Threads Refined.
So due diligence, know what your financial parameters are. I have my five-digit metric. Make that whatever it is for you. And then the third thing I talk about is, any deal that I look at, I have three additional columns that I play with. So if I’m looking at a deal that’s a… What would be a good example of one we’re looking at lately? Oh, I’m looking at a bunch of laundromat deals, and I’m going to buy a bunch of laundromats. It’s definitely not an online business. But what I think’s interesting is this move from in real life, so retail storefronts, to online.
And so if I was going to buy a laundromat, what I might also buy is a couple of online businesses that are about dry cleaning or cleaning of clothes or are just in the community that I’m focused on. I might reverse triangulate a cheaper acquisition online for a business that has some of my consumers for the laundromat business. And in order to upsell the laundromat, I would use tools that most blue collar businesses don’t use. So that pairing of IRL to online, I think is really interesting.
And so every business, these laundromats, I have three columns whenever I’m looking at deal. First column I look at is marketing. So I basically go down the list and I say, “What are all the different ways you could market the company?” PPC, SEO, billboards, phone calls, salespeople, truck signs, whatever. And I have a list of all the ones I can think of for any type of company. And then I check off with this company I’m about to buy. Do they do PPC? No. Great. There’s an opportunity. Do they have signage out front? No. Great. There’s an opportunity. Do they do Facebook ads? No. Great. Opportunity.
And then the next column is monetization. So if I’m buying a dry cleaning, I don’t know, website or a website that sells dry cleaning products, it’s a CPG company or something, or is a dropship company on Amazon. Do they also have different monetization streams? And I would list all the monetization streams I could think about. So affiliate programs, education courses, e-products, whatever it is. And I would list off all the ones that they do or don’t use.
And then the last one is markets. So, are they going after veterans only as a demographic, and could I also include veteran spouses to that? Or one geography versus another geography. But once I have my little three-tiered pillar, I have the price that the seller wants, but I have the price that I think the business is worth just based on looking at the business overall. And then I have the price that I think I can make the business work. And that allows me some more wiggle room in negotiating.
Nice. That’s super valuable information for everybody out there that’s listening in terms of what to look for with businesses. Because I think that there’s a lot of misconceptions around what makes businesses valuable. And I love the IRL merge between, you have a content blog that’s just about doing laundry and, let’s say, even laundromats, you could redirect that by buying an IRL business. And I think that that’s something that a lot of people haven’t picked up on yet, because it’s all about attention online. Whoever has the attention is going to win IRL in the future. And I-
Exactly. Yeah. Attention arbitrage. I think you’re exactly right. And I like pairing it because, I mean, buying online businesses, as evidenced by my Twitter wars with some of your listeners, is funny because it’s more competitive. It’s seemingly a lot easier to buy online businesses in some way. And so people think that there’s only one way you can do a deal. And I’m always pushing back on them like, “Sorry, there’s not only one way.” And you’re going to be right 9 times out of 10, that Codie’s deal isn’t going to work. But I’m looking for that 10th deal. I don’t really care about the other 9 because those are just 9 no’s I had to get out of the way to get to my 10th yes that I want.
And the cool part about structuring for these small businesses is, in the land of leveraged buyouts and private equity and Wall Street that I come from, there’s pretty set rules. And those rules you have to follow. And there’s all this terminology about white stalking-horses and your ability to actually come in and do an auction or some sort of reverse takeover. But in the small business land, it’s a free for all. You get to set the deal however you want to. And there’s not a lot of rules. And where there’s not a lot of rules, there’s a lot of opportunity, I think.
Definitely. With seller financing or earn-outs, I think is what they’re often referred to as, all these really cool ways that aren’t really widely known. And that’s part of the reason that I love talking about this, just because it is a little Wild Wild West. And I think it’s going to very much become more in demand. Like you said, when this generational shift is happening with all these websites and bloggers and online businesses that they then realize they can actually sell these assets, and they are valuable to people that are coming into the space.
So second to last piece here is, what are you looking forward to in terms of the next… 2021, we’ll say? What is it on Codie’s roadmap that you have as your North Star? What trends are you excited about? You mentioned cannabis, which I think is an amazing emerging market, but what are you looking for in terms of what your goal is for buying new companies next year? And what would you suggest in terms of a goal?
Yeah. I mean, I have two. So on one hand, I like to barbell my investments, which I think of as buying businesses. So I have cannabis as what I think is, potentially, a three standard deviation event or a generational wealth creation event. It means I think there’s going to be a binary or an unfair upside as legalization happens. There’s still a lot of risk, but there’s a really high payout, potentially, in a world in which cannabis is very low value as an industry because of its stigma. So on one hand, I think that opportunity’s super interesting. On the other hand, I like a business that has more cash flowing. So all the small businesses that I buy are cash-flowing, revenue generating businesses. In cannabis, I’m thinking about the exit. In the small businesses, I’m thinking about the monthly cashflow.
And so I like pairing those, too, with some normalized investments in the middle, because it evens out my risk a lot. And so I can take some big swings over here, and they’ve panned out in our first couple of investments. But here, I want to take more little singles and doubles. And so the interesting part about the small business area, I think is, I can’t scale all of the businesses that I want to invest in where I have to be involved as an operator. I just don’t have the capacity, which is one of the reasons we started the course, because what I want to do is help a bunch of other people acquire these businesses. I want to invest alongside them in a bunch of these deals. And I want to have more situations like Strike Fire or like How to Buy a Small Biz, some of these other companies that I own, that I have an operator in place and we do Financial Fridays and we talk about the business every week, but I’m not in the business every single day. So that’s the part that gets me excited.
I think people, you’re right, are just starting to see this opportunity. And we had hundreds of people sign up pre-launch before us doing this thing. And believe me, I don’t really care about making the whatever we’re going to make on selling the course. I only charge a cost because I think if you’re going to think about buying a business, you should have some money. I don’t want people spending their life savings on this. I want people to have a little bit of safety net, and then come into this. What I really get excited about though, is that I’m going to get a bunch of people who are really smart, who’ve never thought about buying a business before, that I can invest alongside in, and that I can do deals with and get deal flow from. That’s the part that gets me excited. And mostly I get excited about IRL to online and blue collar businesses.
Nice. So the final little curve ball question that I always like to ask people is, what would you tell Codie 10 years ago? Knowing everything that you know now about buying businesses, what would you tell 10-years-ago Codie?
Oh, my God. Tell her to get started. I wish that I… Think about this. I mean, I went to a pretty good MBA school. Did the whole Goldman song and dance. I was at a bunch of the biggest asset managers and investment firms out there. And even I, it took me until… I started making my first individual business investments in 2014. So it was six years ago. And I had been working on The Street for 10 years prior to that. And I had only invested in the stock market and a bunch of hedge funds and private equity and whatever, but I had never done direct deals because I had this idea that you had to do billion dollar deals or multi-hundred million dollar deals. And I could go kick myself because I should have been collecting all of these instead of doing all the real estate deals I did and investing in the stock market.
And if I had done that, the growth that you can get with small businesses is so much larger than you can get with, at least that I’ve been able to get, with stock and real estate deals without tying up nearly as much of your money, or sometimes any of your money. I wish that I just would have started. And start small and start strategic and learn before you press send on any dollars. But I do think that this is a huge opportunity that I like to just start out by saying, just realize that this exists, realize that this is an opportunity. Then learn about it for like 30 or 60 days. And then start trying to act on it.
Because I think 2008 was a housing crisis. And the one thing you would’ve done differently, if you could have in 2008, ’09, ’10, was go buy more real estate. I think right now, we’re in a small business crisis in the US, and the one thing you’re going to wish you had done in the next three, five, seven, ten years is get more exposure to small businesses by investing and buying them. So that’s what I wish I would have told myself. Start sooner.
Well said. Well, cool, Codie. Where can people learn more about, I know you mentioned you had a course, where can people learn more about what you’re working on?
Sure. So if they want to talk about cannabis, that’s entourageeffectcapital.com. If they want to talk about buying small businesses, that’s I think the easiest one, because there’s a lot of vowels in Unconventional Acquisitions, which is a terrible name, actually, is howtobuyasmallbiz.com. And that’s the same site. Or Unconventional Acquisitions. You pick your poison. There’s a free newsletter on there, so just sign up for that and start listening to our different ideas and telling me why I’m wrong. And then I’m on all the socials, just Codie, C-O-D-I-E. And my last name Sanchez, S-A-N-C-H-E-Z.
Great. Well, thanks again so much for coming on, Codie.
My pleasure. Thanks for having me.
Thank you so much for tuning in to The Exit presented by Flippa. If you’re listening on Spotify, SoundCloud or iTunes, or you’ve watched on YouTube, definitely hit that subscribe button. Leave us a comment. Let us know what you’re really interested in. Maybe some potential guests that you have in mind that have bought and sold amazing businesses, that have operated businesses for years. And we’d love to hear from you guys.
So that’s a wrap for our episode here. Definitely leave us a like and a comment about someone that you’d like to see on the show. And we will see you guys on the next one.