There’s a bunch of fellow nerds on Twitter who romanticize the idea of a Holding Company. And this past week, us nerds gathered in Cleveland for the first annual HoldCo Conference.
The conference founders are John Wilson and Kelcey Lehrich. John has bought and built 10-12 home services businesses in northeast Ohio that include plumbing, electrical, restoration, and more. Kelcey has bought and built 6-7 e commerce brands.
The rest of the crowd included anything folks that owned 5 quick service restaurants and a solar company, or an ER doc who owned an urgent care and home builder, to a family that owns dental clinics and pond management companies. Wild mix. Even the poster child of HoldCos, Chenmark was there, who owns multiple landscaping companies, two boat tourism businesses, and a food manufacturer. Some of the groupings make sense, others seem make no sense on paper…
Why did I go? 3 reasons:
- 1) I wanted to see if it truly makes sense to have a hodge podge HoldCo or just to focus on one industry and do a roll up.
- 2) Inspiration from those further along in the journey.
- 3) Finally meet some of my Twitter friends in real life
Part of the original plan for buying a bookkeeping firm was to eventually buy other businesses and create a HoldCo. Should I just own one really big, profitable accounting firm? Or does it make sense to go for multiple companies? Question 1 felt like a resounding yes; it does make sense to own multiple companies that are very different for a few reasons. Diversification – One family who does very well buying and turning around quick service restaurants said, ‘if anything happened to this one brand we’d be screwed. Owning these 2-3 other businesses gives us diversification.’ Liquidity – Another benefit of owning multiple entities is you can create liquidity if you decide to sell one off. Synergy – Lots of operators bought companies in tangential businesses – construction company buys a plumbing and mortgage company, e commerce company starts a warehouse company, HVAC group launches a specialized home services marketing agency.
Here’s my other big takeaways:
Think bigger. My 5 year goal is $4-5M in revenue. That felt like kid shit after the conference.
Compounding is very real. The first 1-2 businesses were a grind for 5-10 years. Then experience and cash flows allow growth to accelerate very quickly.
I need to create an acquisition integration template. Reg and Josh buy foundries. They know exactly where they expect production to be 60 days in, and exactly how to get any new acquisition there quickly. I need to do the same for accounting firm acquisitions.
People are key. Nobody at the conference talked about financial modeling or access to capital as their winning edge. Everyone is challenged by hiring and see people as the biggest way to win with any of their holding companies.
Get in the game. None of these very successful HoldCos had a linear path to success. But just being in the game and working to get better every month allowed them to take on bigger opportunities and acquisitions.
I’m years away from owning multiple companies outside of accounting. But it’s great to start thinking about the chess moves now. See you next year HoldCo Conf!