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Our 6 Favorite Personal Improvement Apps

Posted By Estimate Rocket, Monday, September 19, 2016


Whether you want to eat healthier, start exercising, or learn something new, there are tons of resources out there to help you. Because of the amount of information available, it can be overwhelming just to get started.

We’ve put together a list of some of our favorite self-improvement apps to give you some ideas and help you achieve your goals.


MyFitnessPal (Android, iOS)

MyFitnessPal made it simple for us to start tracking calories. Enter your age, height, weight, and nutritional goals to get personalized guidelines for how many calories, carbs, proteins, fats, sugars, and vitamins you should be eating per day in order to meet your goals. Get in-depth nutritional information on many different homemade, restaurant, and store-bought foods, and save meals that you eat regularly to make it simple to enter them into your food diary later. MyFitnessPal also makes it easy to track your workouts, with the ability to estimate how many calories you burned during your activity. MyFitnessPal also integrates with some fitness trackers in order to get a more accurate picture of how many calories you’re burning.


RunKeeper (Android, iOS)

Get moving with RunKeeper! We love the ability to head out on a run, bike ride, or hike and view our mile split times and a mapped out area of our activity. Stay motivated by completing challenges and comparing your workouts to other users. RunKeeper allows you to set personal goals, and will send you reminders to help you meet them. Share your progress with friends or your trainer and listen to your favorite music while you exercise with RunKeeper’s Spotify integration.


Headspace (Android, iOS)

Mediation is an exercise for your mind that helps you focus by teaching you to recognize and let go of distractions. Headspace makes meditation easy by providing guided meditation lessons from Headspace creator Andy. The first 10 sessions are free and will give you an idea of how practicing mindfulness can help you increase your focus and ignore distractions. After you complete the introductory sessions you can choose from a wide variety of meditation topics including Stress, Sleep, Relationships, Happiness, and Focus, just to name a few. Headspace also offers meditation singles, which are one off guided meditations you can do based on your current situation. Try an SOS Single when you're feeling overwhelmed or a Running or Cycling Single while you're exercising.


Mint (Android, iOS)

Get your finances in order with Mint. Pull in up to date information about your loans, checking and savings accounts, and credit cards to one place. We find it very helpful to see a quick overview of all our account activity, including budgets, cash flow, upcoming bills, and our credit score. Being able to view a comprehensive breakdown of spending trends, top spending categories, and net income over time makes it easier to create a budget and stay on top of your finances.


Personal Capital (Android, iOS)

Though Mint allows us to keep track of our personal finances, we like Personal Capital for analyzing and monitoring investments. The Dashboard is a great way to see a clear breakdown of our net worth, cash flow, investment balances, and allocations. Connect your investment portfolio and get suggestions for improvements you can make to help you reach your financial goals. Personal Capital also shows interesting stats, such as your top "Gainers and Losers" and how your portfolio is performing compared to benchmarks like the S&P 500.


Duolingo (Android, iOS, Windows)

Learning a language may seem like a daunting task, but Duolingo turns language learning into a game by giving you XP and encouraging friendly competition to strengthen your skills. Earn lingots as you play and spend them in the Lingot Store to buy outfits for Duo (Duolingo’s owl mascot) and learn bonus skills like ‘Idioms and Proverbs’. The best part about learning with Duolingo is hearing the trumpet play and watching a skill turn gold because you’ve mastered it. See your Fluency percentage right on your Home screen, and be proud of what you’re accomplishing!


Which self-improvement apps do you use?

Let us know in the comments below, or reach out to us on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn

Tags:  estimate rocket  improvement 

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Should my painting business be marketing on SnapChat?

Posted By AltaVista Strategic Partners, Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The title of this blog is a common question being asked by painting contractors around the country. In order to answer this big question, we are going to have to answer 3 more basic questions about SnapChat.

1.       What is SnapChat?

SnapChat is a mobile messaging app that allows users to take pictures or videos called ‘snaps’. Users can then apply a wide range of animations, text, filters, and special effects to a snap.

Snaps can then be sent directly to other users on your friends list who can only open them once before they disappear. Users can also post snaps to their ‘story’ where their followers can watch it for the next 24 hours before it disappears.

2.       Who is using SnapChat?

SnapChat has been the fastest social media site of the past 12 months and it boasts over 150 million daily active users. 7 out of 10 users are between the ages of 18 and 34 and SnapChat claims they reach 41% of this key demographic in the United States on a daily basis.

SnapChat has become an extremely popular channel for celebrities, athletes, brands, and news outlets to connect with their fans.

3.       How do companies advertise on SnapChat?

Advertisers can leverage SnapChat to market brands, products, and events in two unique ways. First, they can create custom filters that users can put on their own SnapChats. Second, they can create 10 second videos that play in between SnapChats as small commercials.

For example, wanting to let everyone experience the feeling of winning a Super Bowl, Gatorade launched a unique custom filter for the big game. Users could take their own picture and then put an animation of a bucket being dumped over their head on top of it. See Gatorade’s advertising idea, along with others, here.

So, should my painting business be marketing on SnapChat?

In the short term, Alta Vista is advising our clients in the painting industry not to invest time or financial resources into SnapChat.  Our position is based on three major factors:

1.       It is unclear how a painting contractor can best leverage the platform to drive leads

2.       The typical buyer of painting services is outside SnapChat’s core demographic

3.       No data exists to prove advertising with SnapChat works for painting contractors

What about posting business stories on SnapChat to engage my followers/community/customers?

SnapChat is just like other forms of social media. Your content—in this case ‘stories’ or ‘snaps’—will only reach other users who choose to follow you. The question for us becomes, how do you get customers and prospects to follow you on SnapChat? Why would someone want to follow a local painting contractor?

These are two questions we struggle with answering when evaluating SnapChat as a marketing tool. Until they are answered, we would not advise investing significant time posting on SnapChat for your painting business.

What should my painting business do?

Marketing on any social media platform has a learning curve. Our advice is to keep a close eye on SnapChat and see how it evolves over time. Let others figure it out and prove the model before investing large marketing resources into SnapChat.


This article was contributed by Aaron Hockel, Vice President of Digital Marketing at AltaVista Strategic Partners, a PDCA Associate and marketing firm that specializes in building and executing marketing plans for commercial and residential contractors. Aaron can be reached by email at, by phone at 443-960-4004, or you can follow him on twitter @aaronhockel.

Tags:  Alta Vista  snapchat 

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7 Tips to Stand Out with Amazing Customer Service

Posted By Estimate Rocket, Friday, August 26, 2016


Customers aren't just an important part of business, they're the most important part. Without them, businesses fail. Obviously, offering a good product or service is important, but that's the easy part. Standing out from the crowd is where things get difficult.

So many businesses these days offer sub-par service. Having exceptional service not only helps you stand out but (more importantly) increases trust, customer loyalty, and the likelihood that customers will recommend you or  your service. Here are 7 tips to stand out by having amazing customer service.


1.   Make a great first impression.  As soon as a potential customer reaches out to you, show that you’re interested in their business by responding quickly. You may offer a great service but if you take too long to respond, you’ve potentially lost that customer. If you can’t respond in a timely manner how can they trust that you can deliver on time? Thank them for taking the time to contact you, and ask questions about what they’re looking for so you can start building that relationship.


2.   Give them everything they need to say yes. Lay everything out in an easy to understand way. Although jargon may make you sound "professional", it can quickly lead to frustration and miscommunication. Highlight the available options and decisions that need to be made before the work can begin. Do go into depth about the work you’ll do, your process, and the reasons for doing it that way, but keep the language as simple as possible. This not only prevents misunderstandings, but builds trust and shows the customer your attention to detail. Don’t forget to differentiate yourself from the competition and emphasize why you’re the right person for the job.


3.   Always respond quickly. When a customer reaches out with a question and you’re busy or don’t have an answer for them at that time, let them know that they’ve been heard and you’re working on it. If possible, set expectations for when they should hear back from you. Whether  through email, a phone call, or text message, make sure they know that they're a priority and not being pushed to the back-burner. Even a simple reply of “I’m on it.” will reduce the amount of frustration while they’re waiting.


4.   Be honest & transparent. It goes without saying that trust is vital in any relationship, and the relationship you have with your customers is no different. If an issue comes up, whether it has already occurred or might happen in the future, bring it up with the customer as soon as possible. They would rather hear about issues directly from you instead of finding out on their own. Customers need to be able to trust that you have everything under control. This will improve the confidence they have in you, which will help you weather any additional issues down the road.


5.   Take responsibility. It's not always smooth sailing and there will be times when you need to deal with problems. When an issue occurs, take responsibility for the situation even if it wasn’t directly your fault. That doesn't necessarily mean laying the blame on yourself, but it does mean taking initiative in finding a solution and resolving the issue. These situations make or break businesses and “Sorry for any inconvenience” is an unsympathetic and uncaring response. Instead, put yourself in your customer's shoes and imagine what words you’d like to hear in that situation. Customers are going to recommend the companies that handled the tough situations, not the companies that deflected and blamed others.


6.   Listen to your customer. If a customer comes to you with a suggestion for how your product or service could be "better", make it clear you appreciate their feedback. It may not be something you agree with, but they took time out of their busy life to share their thoughts with you. Your customers won’t have as much insight into your business as you do, but acknowledging and listening to their opinions and suggestions gives you deeper insight into your customers and ultimately strengthens your relationship with them.


7.   Stay in Touch. The end of a project is only the start of your relationship with a customer. Check in periodically to make sure your customers are satisfied and have everything they need. You can give a quick call or send a periodic mailing or email to past customers. This is a great opportunity to see if they need any additional services and to ask for referrals. Something as simple as “I wanted to follow up to make sure you’re still happy with our work. Keep us in mind for your next project, and don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions!” can ensure that customer keeps coming back. Make it clear that you’re available to answer questions they may have, and provide contact information to make it easy for them to get ahold of you. When you show that you care about their success, they’re more likely to come to you with repeat business and mention you to their family, friends, and colleagues.



How do you provide excellent service to customers? Let us know in the comments below or get in touch with us on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn!

Logical Engine will be at the PDCA Commercial Forum September 28-30 in Rockport, Maine.

Kayla Suhm

Logical Engine, Estimate Rocket

August 16, 2016

Tags:  customer service  estimate rocket 

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3 Ways Your Website Is Losing You Business

Posted By Estimate Rocket, Monday, August 1, 2016



What's the point of having a website if it's not bringing you business? We spend a lot of time looking at contractor websites and we find that many of them are losing business because they are making the same common mistakes.

Here are the 3 mistakes we see most often that can have a huge impact on your site's effectiveness.


1. Hiding Important Information

We are surprised at how often crucial information is hard to find or non-existent on service provider websites. We recommend that every business include their service list, service area, and contact information on their home page. If potential customers can't determine if you provide what they need or can't figure out how to contact you then you are missing out on leads.

2. No Personal Touch


Pictures are truly worth a thousand words. Including pictures of your business owners and employees will help differentiate you from your competition, and let your prospective customers know that they are dealing with real people instead of a faceless company.

3. Not Mobile Friendly

Try this simple test, go to your OWN website from your mobile device. Was it easy to find what you wanted?


The amount of time people browse the internet on their phones is increasing daily. If your website isn't easy to use on mobile devices many of your potential customers are going to leave.


Not only will you lose leads, but search engines will rank your website higher if it's mobile friendly. This could lead to search engines like Google pushing your website listing ahead of your competitors.

Having a mobile friendly site will not only drive more prospects to your site, but will help convert the prospects into leads once they get there.


Learn more about Estimate Rocket

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Tags:  estimate rocket  website 

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The Unpleasant Side of Cyber Space

Posted By Federated Insurance, Thursday, July 21, 2016


The Internet connects businesses of all sizes to data networks and computer systems around the world. It also exposes companies to hackers, viruses, and other computer attacks. And, let’s face it, there is no such thing as perfect computer security. Whether by hacker, glitch, or employee error, many businesses will experience a data breach incident at some point.

Knowing a breach is practically inevitable, and the recovery cost potentially devastating from a financial, public image, and regulatory enforcement standpoint, how does a business owner protect his or her organization?

A few years back, Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company (HSB) teamed up with The Ponemon Institute to conduct a study of small businesses and the impact of data breaches. Their findings are eye-opening and informative, and can serve to inspire business owners everywhere to take steps to protect their valuable data.

  • Fifty-five percent of small companies have experienced at least one data breach; 53 percent have experienced multiple breaches.
  • Only a third of small businesses notified people that their personal information had been compromised, even though 47 states require notification.
  • Nearly three-fourths of companies that experienced a breach were not able to fully restore their company’s computer data.

The research also revealed the three most likely causes of data breaches. More than half were due to employee mistakes. Forty-two percent involved lost or stolen hardware (laptops, smart phones, tablets, and storage media such as USBs and back-up drives). And, more than a third were a result of procedural inadequacies.

 But, the breaches aren’t caused only by internal errors. There is also a significant exposure when exchanging information with outside entities:

  • Eighty-five percent of businesses share customer and employee data with third parties, such as those providing services for billing, payroll, employee benefits, and information technology. Most do not have contracts that require third parties to cover all the costs associated with a data breach.

As cyber-crimes get more sophisticated, your defense against them needs to keep pace. Federated Insurance can help you learn ways to minimize the risk of a breach, and, if you are a Federated client, you also have access to a seven step cyber security plan through Federated’s Shield Network®. To learn more, visit

Tags:  Cyber Attacks  Cyber Space  Federated Insurance  safety 

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Risk Management That Measures Up

Posted By Federated Insurance, Tuesday, June 21, 2016
Updated: Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Provided by  Federated Insurance, a PDCA Partner



Ineffective risk management could give you plenty of wrong things to measure


We live in a measurement-focused society: how many; how far; how fast; how much more, or less, than last year. 


Popular thought often asserts that if it’s not measurable, it’s not a worthwhile goal. How can you justify spending time and money on something you cannot prove or quantify? On the surface, that may not be easy, but consider the following:


In a society focused on measurements, realize that you will rarely know, or be able to measure, those catastrophic events that did not occur due to the execution of good, consistent risk management practices.


It is still important to measure standard business benchmarks: injury-free days or an increase or decrease in claims or accidents, for instance. But, how do you measure…


Ø  the car accident that never happened because your business implemented a distracted driving policy?


Ø  the fatality that did not occur because you requested an employee’s motor vehicle records, which uncovered several previous driving incidents?


Ø  the employee who did not cause an unsafe situation because your drug- and alcohol-free workplace program got that person the help needed to be fully functional on the job?


Ø  the firm that did not go out of business, saving dozens of jobs, because it had a well-executed business continuation plan in place when the owner passed away?


You may never be able to fully measure the positive effects a risk management culture has on your business. But, you will definitely be able to measure the negative ones.


Now, it must be said that all the value-added risk management applications in the world will not keep all bad things from happening. But, are you confident your firm is doing everything it can to help eliminate preventable risks by executing good, consistent risk management practices?

Tags:  federated insurance  risk management  safety 

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Top 9 Apps for Work & Productivity

Posted By Estimate Rocket, Thursday, June 16, 2016

June 15th, 2016

Kayla Suhm

Logical Engine, Estimate Rocket


People are always looking for convenient ways to bring technology into their lives to keep themselves organized, stay connected with friends, family, and co-workers, and help accomplish their goals. There are so many productivity apps out there that claim to do everything. The trick is in finding the ones that work best for you.



Slack is a great tool for team communication. Along with having one-on-one chat conversations with team members, channels can be set up that the entire team, or just specific members, have access to. Channels are a great place for collaboration, document sharing, and group discussions. Our team takes advantage of both of these features, as well as the large selection of emojis :) Slack also has an option to search for files and keywords, which is great for jumping back to reference a conversation that took place a month ago.


Google Drive

Google Drive is an awesome place to store and share documents. You can create documents, spreadsheets, and drawings in your personal folders and share them with your team for review, editing, and comments within seconds. Google Docs makes it easy for everyone to be on the same page. Our team has a collection of shared folders, keeping all of our information in one place while making sure everyone is on board.



Keeping your passwords safe is essential. LastPass makes it easy for you to keep all of your accounts protected by generating strong passwords and saving them in your “Vault”. When you go to a site that you’ve generated a password for, LastPass lets you know and gives you the option to auto-fill the username and password boxes. Have an account that you need to share with someone else, but don’t want to say or write down your password? You can share that site using LastPass and that person will have access to it, without compromising your account credentials.


Metered Parking Apps

Any commuter would agree that an app that makes parking less of a headache is worthwhile. Metered parking apps make it simple and fast to park your car and get on with your day. Many apps like the ones here allow you to search for, reserve, and even pay for your parking spot ahead of time. Some even include a timer to help avoid tickets and give exclusive deals and discounts.



Trello gives teams the opportunity to be transparent and stay on task. Create a board and add some lists like “To be discussed at next meeting”, “In progress”, or “Up next” so everyone on your team stays in the loop. After that, add cards to your lists. Some examples include “Email Customers about Sale” or “Write Announcement for New Feature.” You can assign team members and add due dates, labels, and attachments. You can even make checklists inside of a card. Cards can be easily dragged and dropped into a new list when their status changes.


Google Calendar

Schedule work and life appointments, due dates, and reminders with Google Calendar. Adding start and end times to events makes this calendar a valuable tool to keep your team, family, or friends on the same page and make sure no one is scheduled to be at 2 places at once. You can also set recurring events daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly, making scheduling simple and streamlined.



With OneNote, you can take notes the way you want to. Type on the keyboard, use a stylus, or just use your finger to scribble down what you need to. You can convert your handwritten notes to text later. Pull clips and pictures from the web, collaborate,  and share information from anywhere. Since OneNote is a Microsoft product, it easily integrates Outlook and Excel, as well.



If you’re a fan of making lists, you’ll love Wunderlist. It’s a great tool for keeping track of work tasks, To Do’s at home, bill payments, and upcoming or recurring events. Change the background to suit your mood, then organize your lists into folders (Work, Home, etc) and sort the items alphabetically, by Due or Creation date, or priority. You can even share your lists with others by entering their email address. The Pro version of Wunderlist also offers unlimited file attachment, unlimited task assigning for teams, unlimited subtasks, and additional backgrounds.



Keep track of your travel plans using FlightView. Save your trips by adding specific flight numbers and descriptive notes. Get real time information about the flight arrival, departure, delays, weather, airport and parking information all in one place. FlightView also shows local services like Find a Car and gives you the opportunity to search for local hotels so that you can have all the details of your trip in one place.


We’re always on the lookout for new ways to be productive. What apps do you use to stay organized and efficient?


Reach out to us with comments and questions below, on Facebook, or Twitter!

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Google Update Presents Opportunity For Painters To Boost Organic Web Traffic

Posted By AltaVista Strategic Partners, Monday, June 13, 2016
Updated: Monday, June 6, 2016

Earlier this year Google updated the layout of its desktop search results page to match the layout of its mobile search results page. This update eliminated the right rail ads and positioned the Google Maps results in between the paid ads and the organic results.

Here is what the new desktop layout looks like above the fold:


This change indicates that Google is adopting a mobile first perspective and placing increased emphasis on local search results. Searchers are calling for more local results when looking for businesses and services. Google is answering that call.

Unlike the normal search results there are no ads in the Google Maps results and only local businesses can make it into the listings. This is a tremendous opportunity for free exposure on the first page of Google above the organic results. A spot in the Google Maps results will increase your web traffic and boost the number of phone calls your business receives. 

How can I get my painting business in the Google Maps results?

There is no proven formula to guarantee a spot in the Google Maps results. Similar to organic SEO, there are best practices, and they start with Google. Here are three steps you can take to improve your chances of showing up in the Google Maps results. The best part? They are all free:

Step One: Make sure your business is registered with Google through Google My Business. This ensures that Google has all of your business’s most important information including name, address, phone, hours, and category.

Step Two: Optimize your Google My Business profile by filling it out with complete information. Write a keyword oriented introduction about your business and post photos of your projects. Continue to refresh your pictures on a monthly basis.

Step Three: Focus on adding Google Reviews to your business profile. Consistently adding reviews about your painting business is a positive signal to Google and will increase your chances of appearing in the Google Maps results. Aim to add one or two reviews each month and be sure to follow up on negative reviews with an appropriate comment.

The recent update to Google’s desktop search results page demonstrates a clear emphasis on a mobile first perspective and has greatly increased the value of ranking in the Google Maps results. Painting contractors can take advantage of this change by focusing on ranking in the Google Maps results which will lead to increased brand exposure and web traffic.

This article was contributed by Aaron Hockel, Vice President of Digital Marketing at AltaVista Strategic Partners, a PDCA Associate and marketing firm that specializes in building and executing marketing plans for commercial and residential contractors. Aaron can be reached by email at, by phone at 443-960-4004, or you can follow him on twitter @aaronhockel.



Tags:  Aaron Hockel  Alta Vista  Google AdWords  Google Update 

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"Please Hold" - A Tutorial For Creating Professional Voicemail Greetings

Posted By Bev Lynde, Friday, June 3, 2016
Updated: Monday, June 6, 2016


(Do I have a choice?)


My name is Bev.  You probably know me as the “membership lady” at National PDCA.  I have been with PDCA for a little over 9 years and spend most of every day on the phone, answering calls and calling members and prospective members.  Needless to say, I’ve heard it all when it comes to answering machines and voicemail greetings.

I’m sure you would agree that first impressions are important, but you may not realize that your first impression with a potential customer occurs without your presence.  Your first impression is made by a piece of technology called your voicemail greeting.  Therefore, it is vital that you program your automated greeting to do your bidding. Here are some examples of what I hear each and every day:


                “Hi. This is Mike.  Leave a message.” 


                “Mike who?  I wonder if this is even a painting contractor.”


(Robotic Voice-monotone) “This- is- 3-1-2-2-2-2-3-3-3-3.  Sor-ry-we-missed- your-call. – Leave-a–mes-  sage-at-the-beep”   


                 Hang up and try to control giggling.  Call back and leave message.


“Please listen carefully as our menu options have changed”  Seven menus and 5 minutes later I am invited to type the first 3 letters of the party’s first name.  The next layer is a list of extensions, none of the names starting with the 3 letters I typed in.  Upon returning to the main menu and going through the 7 layers once more, I have an extension.  Hooray!  When I type in the extension I get a voice message.  “Hi.  This is Mike.  Leave a message.”


                Time for more aspirin.


(Very young child, 3 or 4 yrs old)  “This is the Smith house.  We aren’t at home.  Leave us a message.” 


I’m a sucker for kids, and if I were Grandma or Aunt Lil I would probably think, “How precious.”… but honestly…is this really professional?  If you run your business from your home, invest in a dedicated line to your business that has a number different from your home number.


 “Hi. This is John”  long pause 


I think I’ve got a live person, so I begin speaking.  Several seconds in the voice message continues with the remainder of the recording.  I realize I have a recording.  I feel like a dummy.  Sigh! Pacing is important.

VOICE GREETING:             

                “The person you have called has a mailbox that has not been set up.”


                ???? (Thinking—how can you stay in business if you can’t get messages?)


                “The mailbox is full.  Please try again later.”


                Same ME as previous example.


I could go on for pages, but I think you probably get the point.  Your voicemail greeting needs to make your potential client feel they are dealing with a professional.  Remember, you never get a second chance to make a good first impression.  The following are some suggested dos and don’ts when creating your voicemail greeting.


Use any of the examples listed above

Use your greeting as a commercial

Mumble or record the greeting with noisy background

Speak louder than your normal speaking voice


Speak Clearly

Identify yourself and your company

Apologize for not answering personally

Let the caller know how long it will be before you return the call

Thank them for calling


This article was intended to entertain but also to inspire and instruct. 

Here is an example of a good professional voice greeting.  Feel free to use it if you plead guilty to any of the examples above.

“Hi.  You have reached John Smith of ABC Painting Company.  I apologize for being unable to speak with you personally at this time.  Please leave your name, number and subject of your call.  I will return your call within 24 hours.  Thank you for choosing ABC Painting Company.”

Thanks for “holding” and feel free to call me at PDCA National if you have any questions.

Bev Lynde

PDCA National Membership Recruitment Coordinator

Tags:  Bev Lynde  Please Hold  Voicemail Greeting 

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Why Companies Don’t Sell

Posted By Caber Hill Advisors, Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Did you know that only 20% of businesses listed for sale actually sell? In other words, this means that four out of every five businesses don’t sell; as a business owner, if you can understand why certain companies don’t sell then you can position yourself to avoid the common mistakes that so many owners make, and become one of the 20% that succeed when selling their business.

Data on small business transactions can be difficult to obtain, so while there are thousands of articles that provide a step-by-step guide on “how to sell your business”, very few provide any relevant detail about the actions and characteristics that produce success; however, one excellent source exists. Each quarter, the Pepperdine Private Capital Markets Project, run by professors at the Pepperdine University Graziadio School of Business, releases a report assessing the market conditions for small business transactions. In one of their 2013 reports, they listed five common reasons that companies don’t sell and are subsequently taken off the market (“%” indicates percentage of survey respondents who gave this answer):

1.) Seller’s Unrealistic Expectations (33%)
2.) Lack of Buyer Preparation (15%)
3.) Poor Seller Preparation (11%)
4.) Unreasonable Non-Financial Demands (9%)
5.) Personality Conflicts (9%)

The study also surveyed M&A professionals about the biggest mistakes made by sellers that ultimately hurt their chance of successfully completing a deal. The top three answers were:

1.) Unrealistic Expectations (50%)
2.) Declining Business Sales (16%)
3.) Poor Financial Records (15%)

As the two lists suggest, the seller has control over the majority of items that can cause a deal to fail.

Let’s examine a few in depth.

Unrealistic Expectations, Unreasonable Demands, and Poor Preparation

Transactions require agreement on a broad number of items, from price to deal and legal terms to a general sense of trust that each side develops in the other. An owner who has unrealistic expectations of the acceptable price and terms or who makes unreasonable demands during the negotiation will find it very difficult to reach agreement with a buyer.

It should be obvious why unrealistic pricing expectations can kill deals, yet this prevails as the most common offense. We have written several articles in the past about the dangers of improperly pricing a business for sale, but unfortunately most owners enter the process without an accurate understanding of their company’s fair market value. But it doesn’t end with price, as disagreements over deal terms can be equally as detrimental to your success. To succeed, you need to understand the usual and customary terms that apply to companies within the painting industry.

Why do so many owners make these mistakes? It’s really just a lack of preparation. Most don’t want to pay for a professional valuation, and many would rather try to sell the company on their own than hire a business broker. The “fortunate” among this group end up selling, but it takes two to three years rather
820 W. Jackson Blvd | Suite 805 | Chicago, IL 60607 | (312) 618-0715 |
than the customary six to nine months, and most of them accept a price that is below fair market value. In order to succeed (i.e. actually close a transaction at fair market value in a reasonable period of time), owners must be cognizant of these critical items. How? The easiest and most affordable way is to hire a business broker with expertise in the painting industry.

Declining Business Sales
Growing businesses will always be more attractive than businesses in decline. Bar none. This is not to say that a declining business cannot be sold, but the likelihood of closing correlates directly with the sales trends. Buyers may price the decline into their valuation; however, if the decline continues or accelerates during the period between acceptance of an offer and closing, many will walk away.

Fair market value for a declining business is obviously less than it is for one that is stable. Many times, based on the lower price, buyers will show initial interest but will end up backing out of the transaction prior to closing as the overall weakness of the business becomes more apparent during due diligence and scares them off. Finally, it’s harder to obtain financing for declining businesses, so even if you clear all other hurdles you are still at the mercy of a lender who is likely to be risk averse.

Poor Financial Records
Financial performance drives valuations, and poor financial records can derail a deal in numerous ways. A buyer may only look at general financial data prior to making an offer, but during due diligence they may dig deeper. If the scarcity or complete absence of financial records complicates or prolongs their due diligence, they may use it as an excuse to pull out of the deal.

Companies with clean financial records are easier to sell because the owners do not run many personal expenses through the business, and therefore there are not any disputes over cash flow and net income. The harder a buyer has to work to understand and verify “add backs”, the more skeptical they become. This skepticism can lead them to rethink the purchase price and, in the most extreme cases, can cause them to call off the deal.

Poor financial records create the perception of a risky transaction. Risk has an inverse relationship with both valuation and closing success rates. Buyers pay less for riskier acquisitions, if they decide to purchase at all. The expenses associated with cleaning up your financials pale in comparison to the financial gains you receive when you sell.

Successful transactions result in a win/win. A seller receives a good price for the business and is allowed to transition out, while a buyer makes a confident investment and is excited about the future. In order to accomplish this, owners need to be cognizant of their company’s actual fair market value and the general standards for acquisitions in their industry. Few, if any, can do this alone; in fact, those who fare the best tend to surround themselves with experts who do most of the work for them.

We do not, at any point, suggest that a seller should accept a price that is less than fair market value, or deal terms that are abnormal for their industry or unreasonably impede their goals for the future. In fact, we pride ourselves in generating above average returns for the majority of our clients. All we are saying is that owners need to align their expectations with reality. It sounds simple, but if it were as easy as it sounds then the material for this article would not exist.

Peter Holton

Tags:  Caber Hill  Why Companies Don't Sell 

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