Episode 16 Transcript: How to Build a Thriving Lifestyle Business with John Haas

Brett Fellows John Haas, welcome to The Retiring Entrepreneur Podcast. I am very appreciative of your taking the time today to be on the show. First and foremost, because you have purchased your own business, and you have stuck very diligently to a target market. And in a very competitive trade, you have really grown very much and done really well. And I know it’s very hard with managing people and getting good people and dealing with the public. So I’m excited to hear about your journey and your ownership of Coastline Painting.

John Haas Well, thank you for having me, I appreciate you asking.

Brett Fellows Tell me. So how did this come about? I know you did not start out as a painter per se. You did some work prior to owning Coastline. How did this all come about? What made you decide to be your own business owner?

John Haas Well, I always wanted to own my own business. When I was a young kid, I grew up in small-town South Carolina, and my dad was a Baptist preacher. So you kind of knew everyone in the town and kind of knew everyone’s occupations and a little more about their personality and their life than probably most people. 

John Haas And just the towns I’ve moved around in, the people that looked like a lifestyle I wanted to live were business owners. They had more control of their time, they weren’t always necessarily more financially successful. But they were able to pursue their hobbies, spend more family time, spend more time with the church. They just seemed to really be in control of their time, which was really attractive to me. 

John Haas And it didn’t matter what business it was. A farmer that was in work for himself. It was a gas station owner, a restaurant owner, the guy that owned a hardware store. It just seemed the common theme was self-employed.

Brett Fellows And what brought you to Charleston and eventually finding a business to purchase? How did that play out?

John Haas I went to college in Charlotte at UNC Charlotte and started working part-time at a trucking company, just moving file boxes. And worked hard, did a good job. So they asked me, will you do this next project? Can you do this next project? 

John Haas And so before I got out of college, I was working with them full-time in their dispatch office and going to school at night to try to finish up. So when I graduated, I had three-plus years of experience in the trucking business, so that’s all I knew. 

John Haas But I was kind of pigeonholed with that company because I was the college kid, you know, the young guy. And I knew I would never advance in that company. It was a family-owned company, too, so pretty tightly controlled. 

John Haas So I just started looking for work. I answered an ad in the paper for what they called a terminal manager, which was basically the manager of the office, an offsite office. And I didn’t get the job. But the president of the company said, you know, I’m gonna hang on to your name because I got something for you. 

John Haas And I just thought he was being nice. But two or three weeks later, he called and said, would you consider moving to Charleston? That’s our main office, and I think you could do well there. So I was dating my wife at the time; we weren’t engaged yet. But I said, you know, I’m out of college, I get to chase my career. I’m moving to Charleston. You stay here in Charlotte, we’ll see if it works out. It did on both sides.

[08:35] How John Haas used his previous employment opportunities to teach himself how to run a business.

Brett Fellows That’s great. And so you came to Charleston, you ran that facility for them. How long did that last?

John Haas I was there with that company for five to six years. And that had kind of run its course at that point. I made contacts through the transportation industry, and there was a guy who ran a trucking company and warehousing company out of Columbia, South Carolina. 

John Haas And he wanted a trucking company for Charleston. We have the ports to import-export, the container business as we call it, where you haul the shipping containers. And he wanted a presence there and asked me if I would open an office for him. 

John Haas And while I was happy at the company I was at, this led me towards my goal. If I can start a company on someone else’s dollar, I can learn and make mistakes. So he hired me with nothing. I had to find an office, I had to get phone lines put in, I had to get business cards and letterhead and find my first employee and find my first driver. So it was a really good experience for starting your own business. 

John Haas And so I told him because we were friends outside of business, I promise you two years. But I was honest with him. I want to start my own business. I don’t know what it’s going to be, but that’s my goal. And I will give you two years. 

John Haas So at 25 months I called him up and said I’m out. But he had grown from zero to about a million and a half dollar business. Which isn’t big in the trucking business, but it’s a start, and they were able to continue it. And maybe six or seven years later the company sold out, and it helped them to have an additional type of business. They had warehousing, they had long haul trucking inland, and then they had a container business in Charleston.

Brett Fellows Wow. And so I wasn’t aware of that. Obviously, like you mentioned, that is great experience on somebody else’s nickel to make mistakes, make bad hires, find stuff out. So we’re there, and you said you stopped at month 25. Was this then the changing point to buying your own business? Or was there time after the 25 months where you just didn’t have anything?

John Haas No, I’m not one to jump out without a plan. So I had found this business, I actually went through a business broker. Because I just couldn’t come up with the idea of my own business. And my father-in-law told me if you’re good at business, you can do any business. So don’t limit yourself to transportation or trucking or a freight broker. I was looking at all these businesses. He said, just go look at anything. 

John Haas So I went on a business broker website, contacted them, and just looked at every business they had. And most were immediately, you know, no way. And then I found this little painting business, and the margins were great. It seemed like a really good business. 

John Haas And nothing against the guy that had it, because he had been successful for 18 years. But I saw the potential to change the way he did the business and do it completely differently and probably grow it much more. He was kind of burned out, he was the number-one producer. He was the guy that, I started this business, whoever I hire, I’m gonna make sure they know I’m better than them at painting. 

John Haas And he had created himself a very good job. But he was stressed because he was the number-one producer. And so I saw the opportunity to not be a painter, to own the business and try to not get bogged down in the day-to-day, and I could grow it much faster. And it worked out.

Brett Fellows Yeah, that’s really interesting. I want to touch on that in a second. But back to the purchase. So you went through this process, you looked at a lot of different companies. When you did the due diligence, and you mentioned the margins, did you have any people to help you through that, or was that all on your own? Did you have your father-in-law help you or professionals?

John Haas That was all on my own. And that goes back to my first job with the trucking company in Charlotte. They were a family-owned company, they had had their employees for many years. Everybody was just kind of grinding out their existence, getting their check. So whatever job somebody didn’t want to do, they pushed me in. 

John Haas So I went from human resources, which they called the Safety Department, hiring all the drivers, all that stuff, to the accounting. I called up their–backup. They hadn’t reconciled their checking accounts in years. So I did all that. I started doing payables, I was doing receivables, I worked in the shop. 

John Haas I felt like that was my base of learning the totality of a business. So whether it was right or not, the business was simple enough in my experience, that I was able to look at it and feel like I had a handle on whether it would be right or not. And it was a relatively small business. So it was a simple process to look at it and see if it would work.

[13:41] Why John’s original deal to purchase Coastline Painting fell through, and how he turned a no into a yes.

Brett Fellows And how did they set the price? Do you remember, John? Was it a multiple of their revenue or multiple of their cash?

John Haas It was based off the revenue. And the interesting part is, so the business broker definitely stayed between me and the owner and wouldn’t let us talk, would only provide information through him. And the deal fell through. We didn’t get it done. 

John Haas So I knew that he had signed a contract. I had talked to him a year before, and I had put it in my business planner. And the day, one year to the day that we said we can’t do the deal, I called him up and said, are you still with the business broker? And he said no, and I said, do you want to do the deal? He said, maybe. And I said, I think we’d have done it a year ago, but we had somebody between us. Let’s figure it out. And two days later we shook hands.

Brett Fellows And do you know, what was the issue the prior year?

John Haas I think it was that we couldn’t talk to each other. There was a little bit of negotiation with the price, but I think we could have gotten through that. But I don’t know that he was as comfortable with me taking the business because there was owner-financing involved. 

John Haas So he has to have some comfort level that I’m gonna sit. And I don’t think he was able to see me, hear my plan, and understand. I think that the broker was looking at selling a product. And it wasn’t a product to me, and it wasn’t a product to the guy selling.

Brett Fellows That’s really fascinating. That’s cool. And so it was owner financing. So that was a follow-up question. How was that deal structured? Was it a three-year deal, a five-year deal? Did you have maybe check valves in place if the revenue wasn’t what they said? How did that all work out?

John Haas So it was 50% down, 50% owner financing over six years, and it was at 8% interest. And he, you know, once we spoke to each other, he was like, honestly, if it doesn’t work, I’m not scared. I’ll take the business back, and I can go right back to what I was doing. 

John Haas So he had very little fear, but he didn’t want to do that. But you know, he wasn’t worried about it succeeding. That was on me. And I honestly wasn’t worried about it succeeding, because I felt I could do it.

Brett Fellows And so you’ve been working for a while. And you mentioned you were dating your now wife. So how old were you at this point in time?

John Haas 31.

Brett Fellows Okay, and you were married? Did you have children, then?

John Haas No children.

Brett Fellows But you made this leap from always working for somebody, medical insurance, retirement, whatever it might be, to all of a sudden married. Thinking about your future. How scary was that?

John Haas It was doubly scary because my wife had a good job. She was working, and she had become unhappy with the situation. She had advanced in her company and just didn’t like her boss and would come home and complain some. And I had been looking for a business and said, alright, we’re gonna have to change our finances. 

John Haas And I don’t want to hear you complain. I don’t like to see you unhappy. Quit your job. Let’s adjust our finances now and be prepared for, you know, maybe making less money later. And the thing that worked out was the way Jeff, that’s the guy I bought it from, had the business set up where his wife worked with the company, too. She did the billing, she did the scheduling, she did the payroll, she did all that. 

[17:20] The reason John Haas believes you can’t succeed in business unless you fully commit to being a business owner.

John Haas So I saw this business as an opportunity for both of us to go back to work. So we went from two incomes to pretty quickly no income other than our business. But I think that’s part, if I was going to give somebody advice, I think that’s part of being successful. If you dip your toe into the business, you keep your job, you got a little side business, you got to commit. You got to jump in there and say this is gonna work. 

Brett Fellows Yeah. Burn the boats behind you saying we can’t go back. This has to work. And so was the wife still working when you bought it? Or did she leave, did the previous owners leave entirely?

John Haas Yes. So they walked away. They completely left. And Nia, my wife, had quit her job just a month or two prior, so she was stay-at-home. She went to work with the business, I went to work with the business. 

John Haas The interesting thing was the owner of the business, his wife was really into horses. She had horses and all this, and they had some land, and he said well I’m going to start her a little horse farm. We’re going to go build barns, we’re going to make the corral. She’s going to, you know, keep horses for other people. This is going to be our new business. 

John Haas He’s a really handy guy, so he went and did that. And about a year to a year and a half later he called me and said, I’ve built all the barns. I’ve built all the stables. You know, the fences are up, everything’s done. I miss painting, I want to come back to work with you. So he’s been still working with me to this day.

Brett Fellows That’s really cool. He’s now your employee. That’s neat. So you bought the business based off the revenue. Was that revenue contract-based, John? So did you have revenue coming in right away from the day you purchased it, or did you have to go renew all these contracts with a new owner? How did the revenue, was there a dip when you started? How did that play out?

John Haas There were no, at the time the way the business was set up, there were no contracts. But there was an existing customer base, so there was no, they didn’t guarantee me work. I didn’t guarantee them anything. 

John Haas But it was just routine. You call this phone number, you get your painting done. So I went in with zero contacts, but all the people still just called the same phone number. I used the same phone number. They called it, a different person answered it, and the requirements got painted. So yes, I had customers from day one, but it wasn’t really a contract.

[19:59] How John learned the painting business and grew a three-employee operation to a 25-person company.

Brett Fellows Gotcha. And how do those first few years play out? So now you and your wife are looking to take some income just to live from this. You’ve got this note you have to pay off in six years. How about employees, were there employees that stayed? Did people leave? 

Brett Fellows Or was it just, you wanted to change the business, too. You didn’t want to be a painter, you had no experience painting, right? So you probably had more outflow from a cash standpoint than even he may have. How was that first year or two?

John Haas It was a little scary. He had three employees at the time. So I knew nothing about painting. I had never painted. So I went in, I met the guys, I said, you know, everything’s gonna stay the same. I picked the most senior guy and said, you’re getting a helper, and that helper is me. 

John Haas So if I hired a green guy that had never touched a brush with soap before, you’re gonna train me just like that. I’m not your boss during work hours. Tell me what to do. I want to learn the business. And I did that for a year and a half, which I was kind of in the situation of the previous owner. It’s hard to grow the business when you’re working eight to 10 hours a day actually in the business, actually painting. 

John Haas But I felt like I had to know the business well enough to grow. And it worked all right for a while. He had one guy that was with him for a long time that had some issues. And so he felt like he was the senior guy, and nothing would work without him. And I fired him about six months in. So that was a big step that I had to go hire people before I really knew what I was doing. 

John Haas But just the effort I was putting in, the newness of my wife working with it, you know, it kind of happened. So we were already growing without really trying to at that point. But at a year and a half, well, just about a year in, 911 happened. So that changed, not I would say the economy too much in Charleston, but it changed the comfort level of me and all my customers. So it was a little scary at that time.

Brett Fellows And fast forward now 20 years later. How did you get to produce that vision that you saw? So how it is today? Is that the vision that you saw when you were assessing the business? You thought you were able to spend more and more time working on the business, not in the business? How many employees do you have today? And what sort of scale is it at compared to what it was when you purchased it?

John Haas It’s a lot more. So I went from three employees, I guess five if you count me and my wife, to now I’m running 21 trucks with about 25 painters and still not very top-heavy. Just me and my wife doing the management of the company. 

[23:00] Why John’s decision to focus on one segment of the market transformed his business and led to more predictable cash flow.   

Brett Fellows And what I mentioned about the kind of niche that you seem to focus on, can you explain that a little bit? It’s mostly apartments, it’s not necessarily any type of apartment. But is that more or less your target market that you focus on? Apartment buildings?

John Haas It is. So I tell people we are a rental base. Anything that’s rented, whether it’s an office, condo, rental house, or an apartment, we paint it. They’re quick, inexpensive paint jobs you do very quickly, so they can turn around and rent it immediately. 

John Haas But as Charleston’s grown, the apartment business absolutely dominates what we do. It’s 98% of what we do. Because it’s just constant. In a large apartment complex, we’ll have 30 move-outs a month. And we paint at 60 to 70 of those, and it’s just a constant conveyor belt, as long as you do your job. That’s one less thing that person has to worry about.

Brett Fellows Now often we find that we’re, we get into a target almost market almost organically. It just, that just happens to be the clients, and then we get more clients in that same space and then more clients. And then all of a sudden we’re the expert in that space. Is that how it worked for you? Or did you notice that the rental space was profitable fast? You could do a lot, it was a way for you to grow. Or did that happen more organically?

John Haas Both. Because the guy I bought it from told me about how he ran his business. And he, as I said, was kind of burnt out on it, and he said, apartment work is the easiest stuff. You have this stuff coming in. The offices, you have to spend time going over there, working with the client. You make two or three trips, you know, before you actually do the job. And then you have to make two or three trips to follow up to make sure it’s right. 

John Haas And so, in my mind, I said well that’s just because he doesn’t want to work hard enough on the business. So when I took it over, I was doing all the apartments, but I was doing the offices, I was doing the houses. I was doing everything I could get. 

John Haas I was working for property management companies downtown doing offices, and, you know, the office buildings. And slowly I came to realize he was probably right. I was spending a lot of time chasing the small dollars, and the big dollars were just rolling in through the apartment complexes.

Brett Fellows One of my questions was gonna be, what’s one thing you’d wish you’d known when you began your career owning this painting business? What’s one mistake you made early on that you wish you’d known now?

John Haas Probably, it was the evolution of the business and I didn’t get with it. Technology. When I first started, we would finish the job. You could handwrite an invoice, hand it to the person in the office, and they would process it. And everything is now, you have to email through a third party your invoice. That travels through, they pay you through a third party direct deposit. So we held on to trying to do things the old way for too long. We actually lost a few customers that way, where they were like, we want you to do it this way, this way.

John Haas We said, we’re not a part of that, you know. We’re gonna keep doing it this way. And before you knew it, they found somebody that would do it that way. So I said, all right, it’s time for us to embrace that we have to do things differently. You have to understand that things change. 

John Haas Our competition used to be anyone that could paint. They didn’t have to have a business license, they didn’t have to have insurance. We actually ran into certain situations where a resident of an apartment complex would be behind on the rent, and they would say, hey, I’m a painter, can I paint a few apartments and cover the rent? That was early on. 

John Haas So that was your competition. Now, if someone walks in and wants to paint, they say, well, you have to have this, this, and this. And you have to be a member of this association and this. So it’s kind of eliminated that, and we were slow getting on board.

Brett Fellows I’m always fascinated by that. So how do most entities pay you now? Is it some sort of ACH, connect bank accounts, and you send them an invoice? And they’ll electronically send you the funds?

John Haas Yes, that is probably 50% of our revenue. But it’s still based on the larger kind of more advanced businesses because no one owns an apartment complex anymore. They own 50 through 10 cities. And so all those larger companies have streamlined.

Brett Fellows And do you invoice a certain amount upfront? Or when it’s all finished? Half and half? How do you price and get paid?

John Haas Yes, it’s billed when finished. Which, the paint jobs, like I said, are quick and fast. We will paint an apartment anywhere from two to three hours. So a crew will paint multiple apartments today, we get their worksheets back, and we’re invoicing the next day for the work done the previous day.

Brett Fellows Now I imagine it’s pretty sticky, if you will, because you’ve got let’s say 50 units in a certain building and you’re pricing on that. So it’s not like you have to chase getting paid invoices. They’re paying you for multiple jobs at one time.

John Haas Yes, generally if they process once a month and you get paid, the only time it gets sticky is when there’s something unusual. Whenever you do some extra work and there’s something and they didn’t account for it, that bill gets kicked out. And now there’s no one to speak to about one unpaid invoice. They paid you $30,000 last month, but they owe you $200 more. And it’s really hard to chase down the last $200.

[28:55] John’s secret to running a thriving lifestyle business.

Brett Fellows Wow, I didn’t think about that. So knowing all those things and even scheduling, and I wanted to talk about technology a little bit more. Like what’s a typical day like for you now with having 25 people, all these apartments, the billing, finding that $200? I mean, I can imagine your day is spent all over the place.

John Haas It is. I tried to set up my business so that it ran perfectly without me. And it does have perfect days. But most days aren’t perfect. So when there’s an issue, that’s when I work, so I have no set schedule. I can get up in the morning and I might not have a call or anything to do till noon. Or I could be after it from the time I wake up until then. 

John Haas It just depends on what’s going on. Because I’m the guy that fixes whatever it is, whether it’s an issue with an employee, with a customer, with the billing with the receivables. Whatever it is. So on smooth days, my life goes really good. On tough days I work really hard.

Brett Fellows And just from knowing you, but I feel like you, I know you spend a lot of time with your family. To go on vacations, to get to do a lot of your own hobbies like fishing and hunting, do you time block? How does that happen? How do you manage that? Because I would imagine you must get, your phone must ring every day. How are you able to block that time off, so you can do your hobbies, spend so much time with your family?

John Haas I just work when I need to. I’ve never been a guy that sat down and said I’m gonna work this amount of time. If there’s nothing to be done, I’m not going to sit at my desk or, you know, at home looking for something to do. When something arises, I fix it then and I’m done.

Brett Fellows Yeah. And I would have to imagine that you are in that same light a good delegator to your team.

John Haas Absolutely. That is one thing I’ve never had issues with. If somebody is better at something than me, I can promise you I will never take it from them. I will let them do it. I’ve actually run into a little trouble that way, occasionally. I have too much trust, I don’t hide information. All my guys know what we bill, how much it is. They know everything. 

John Haas So I’ve had on occasion, someone leave and try to go into competition with me. And they knew everything about the company. So they could, they can mimic it and try to take it. It’s happened for short periods of time. They don’t understand what it takes. And so they will take a customer or two, I may lose a property or two. But they’ve almost always come back.

Brett Fellows Yeah. How about technology, John? It seems to change so fast. And maybe, even the way you changed your pay a few years ago, maybe it’s even changed today from that in your industry. I would imagine there are softwares that would deal with the scheduling, the accounting, probably inventory you have to do for paint and that sort of thing. And your employees, human resources, is that all tied together? Or are those ad hoc pieces of your business?

John Haas Yeah, it’s patchwork. We still do a little bit of the scheduling old school paper. I take the calls, I get it down, we transfer to the schedule book. When I first started the business, the previous owner said this is your template. You meet the guys at the shop at eight o’clock in the morning, you hand them the sheets, you make sure they don’t have any questions, you help put the paint on the truck, and then they go do the work and you go do you. 

John Haas And the business was based out of Goose Creek. Most of the painters were from Summerville, Moncks Corner, Goose Creek. So every morning, I would get up before daylight, drive 45 minutes for their convenience, and do that. And I knew immediately that was not efficient or fun for me. 

John Haas So we started emailing schedules. Everybody’s got a computer, I’m going to send you the work. If you have a question, you call me. Otherwise, go do your work. If you want to start at seven instead of meeting me at eight, do it. If you want to start at 8:45 so you can drop the kids off at school, do it. It freed me up and it freed them. 

John Haas But it’s again, it’s that trust thing. I didn’t have to look my guys in the eye to make sure they were there to put the paint in the truck. And that they were on the way to the job site. I explained to them that this is your responsibility. I’m not here to watch. You can succeed or you can fail, but it’s going to be on your motivation.

[33:31] The two key performance indicators John Haas tracks to measure the health of his business.

Brett Fellows And how about on the money side of things in a transactional type of business? I’m sure some elements of it are seasonal, managing cash flow and planning for that, and knowing what you owe. And how do you do the accounting, in-house? Is that delegated out? And then how do you make decisions on how your cash flow will be best utilized?

John Haas So it does. It used to be a little more seasonal. It’s less now just because of the volume. It’s not as much as it was. We still have really busy times right when school moves out and people move out of their apartments. Right before school starts, people get settled in their new apartment. So the beginning and the end of summer are our busiest times, but it’s pretty constant. 

John Haas I’ve always kind of had a few key indicators of our health. I want to know what our receivables are every week. What are our receivables? What do we have in the bank? And those two numbers, just in themselves, if my receivables start climbing and my bank account starts, I need to do some collections. I need to make some calls. 

John Haas And vice versa, if the money’s inked but my receivables are down, that’s going to catch up with me in a few months. Because I need the receivables up, so I’m going to go look for new products. We’re trying to find extra work.

[35:02] What John believes must happen for his business to continue growing at its current pace.

Brett Fellows So whether you classify it or not, you do have in essence a scorecard that you can gauge how things are running. And it’s either going this direction or that direction. They need to either do that or that. So you have a scorecard that’s telling you the health of the business. That makes sense. That’s good. So what about moving forwards? If it’s 10 years from today, what has to have happened, John, if we’re looking back over those 10 years for you to be happy with the progress of Coastline Painting?

John Haas One is we need to get younger. When I started this business over 20 years ago, I had a lot of young guys working for me. They were in their 20s, and they were single, and they were fine. And now they’re all 40s and two kids and wife and a house, and everybody gets older and slows down a little bit. 

John Haas So we need to add some youth to our workforce if we’re going to continue. We have several employees over 50, one at 60. They’ve slowed down, they do much less work. And they can work for me as long as they want. They enjoy it and I enjoy them. I’m glad it continues. But you know, it just changes and you can’t go like you used to. 

John Haas So I need to focus on getting younger in our workforce. I would like to expand the business to another city. I have that ability now to be, as I said before, these large companies own multiple apartment complexes in multiple cities. So I have a relationship, so to speak, with apartment communities in Colombia and Charlotte and Savannah I’ve just never pursued. 

John Haas And I’ve done that consciously for my family. My daughter is about to be a junior in high school. And I, honestly, I would rather drive her to and from school every day than go to Colombia and start a business. So that’s a future project of mine I think I need to do. And another option may be to sell the business I have. The guy I bought the business from, his son works for me. And he very much wants the business. 

John Haas And for a contracting business like I have, usually the hardest part is to find somebody that wants it. That, you know, is not as crazy as me to buy a painting company without knowing how to paint. So I have a built-in future owner. But we have to work our timing out. When I’m ready to let it go, at what price, and when he wants it at what price. So that’s an option that could happen. But if I’m going to keep the business and keep it going, I need to get younger, and I need to expand.

Brett Fellows Okay, yeah, that makes sense. The diversification in your workforce will allow you to scale, definitely. And on possibly selling, that’s interesting, and also going to other markets. Are you approached by any other entities in the industry to sell or vice versa? Do you ever get presented, do people call you up looking to buy their business in your industry?

John Haas The only contact I’ve ever had are from business brokers, that kind of thing. 

Brett Fellows Okay, and how do they get your information? 

John Haas I don’t know, maybe the yellow pages? Maybe, you know, industry trades. I don’t know. But that’s it. I’ve never had an individual contact me. I’ve talked with other people that work in a similar business. So we do the paint, they have cleaning companies for apartments, they have carpet and flooring companies. 

John Haas So I know a guy that owns the carpet and flooring company pretty well. We’ve talked about our business, how we do it. We’ve worked together on special projects where he’s doing one part and I’m doing another. And we’ve talked about that kind of future planning of, could you put these companies together and manage them and have more than one aspect of service for these properties?

Brett Fellows And talking about possibly having that internal succession plan, you know, I think it’s something like 10 million business owners are wanting to retire or sell from their business in the next 10 years. But 98% of them, including this person right here, has no idea what their business value is. Do you know, you don’t need to tell numbers, but do you think you have an idea of what your business is worth?

John Haas Well, I have the, I can base it on profit or you can base it on revenue. I would be happy to sell my business based on those numbers. I don’t think it will sell for that. If I could get, you know, a multiple of my revenue, I would probably sell tomorrow. But I don’t think that is reasonable. It was more reasonable when I bought the business and it was small.

[40:02] Why John Haas says he’d be completely open to seller financing the sale of Coastline Painting.

Brett Fellows And going through that whole deal process, you know he seller-financed. From your experience there, would you be willing to do something like that? Or would you want to? Would your ideal situation be to sell it and get out completely? Or would you be okay having it be a five-year plan, still having some skin in the game if you could sell it internally?

John Haas I would be fine with it. It transitions out of your income, as well. You have that residual income off the payments to figure out what you’re going to do. I guess it’s kind of like a lottery payment. If you want to pay me all at once, I’ll figure out what to do with the money. But I would have no problem. And I think it’s reasonable to do owner financing. You should have that owner, that selling the company vested in your success.

Brett Fellows And assuming, let’s just say you get a multiple of the revenue, whatever that number is, would that be a very large part of your retirement? Would it be 50%? Or it would be 100%? Or how important would selling your business be to you and your family in the future?

John Haas That would be very big. That would be one problem with selling it is unless I got enough, I’m not financially set to stop working. So I would want another business. And that’s probably what will happen. If I sell I will push off the sale enough to start another business, to have something in place to continue. 

John Haas I’m not a guy to sit around and retire, so I would have another business. I would have something going. I would have no problem with a five-year owner-financing and still be involved in the business somewhat. But my personal wealth is very much tied into my business.

Brett Fellows Yeah. So if there was a young entrepreneur looking to buy a business, what’s one piece of advice you would give that person?

John Haas Probably be prepared financially before you do it. You’ve got to prepare for it not to go as good as you think it will. So scale back your expenses, pay off some debt. Even if it takes an extra year or two, you don’t need that pressure on you. 

John Haas And then I think I said before, commit. Don’t say I’m gonna start this business and keep my job and see how it goes. Because it will never go as well as you want if you aren’t putting your whole into it. So once you’re prepared financially, go for it. And then be prepared to work hard. 

John Haas And it’s going to, you’re going to have some times when you’re like, man, this is going better than I thought. I can’t believe how successful I am. And then there are going to be times when you say, what am I doing? How am I gonna get out of this? Your heart’s beating, you’re scared. You’re about to lose everything. But that’s the motivation. You’ve got to commit and make it.

Brett Fellows Yeah, that’s great. That’s really good. John, to wrap up. This podcast is about success. And people on this podcast are successful entrepreneurs. Ultimately, like you mentioned, retirement is part of their future plans, and their business is part of that retirement. But what I found over the course of these interviews is that the word success means different things to different people. So I’m curious, what would be your definition of success in retirement, or overall as a business owner?

John Haas For me, personally, it is control of my time. I want to obviously have a certain amount of financial success. But if I’m working every day, and I can’t do what I want to do and be with who I want to be with, there’s not enough money or ego to offset that for my success. My success is being with my family, being with my friends, doing the things I want to do, and still covering my finances.

Brett Fellows That’s great. Love it. Thank you for sharing that. That’s fantastic. John, if there’s local people or even not local people that maybe want to get in touch with Coastline Painting, what would be the best way to contact you? And we’ll be sure to put it in the footnotes as well.

John Haas We have a website. It’s coastlinepainting.com. My business number is 843-881-3816, and my email is johnhaas@coastlinepainting.com.

Brett Fellows Okay, great. Again, we’ll put all the contact information in the show notes. John, I appreciate your time and thank you for being on The Retiring Entrepreneur Podcast.

John Haas Thanks. It was a fun experience for me going back over everything.

Brett Fellows Take care.

John Haas Thanks. Bye.

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