Walker Deibel | From Running a Knife Sharpening Business to Teaching Entrepreneurs How to Buy Businesses

Walker Deibel is a longtime acquisition entrepreneur with a passion for educating aspiring brokers and helping them navigate the intricacies of the business. He is an M&A Broker for online businesses with Quiet Light, where he works virtually with a group of nine other entrepreneurs to assist online companies in scoping potential acquisitions and closing transactions.

Walker is the Founder of Acquisition Lab, a membership program that delivers resources and tools valuable to any successful entrepreneur. He also authored Buy Then Build: How Acquisition Entrepreneurs Outsmart the Startup Game, which garnered praise at its release and became a crucial part of many university reading lists.

In this episode of the Smart Business Revolution Podcast, John Corcoran welcomes Walker Deibel, Founder of Acquisition Lab, to discuss acquisition entrepreneurship. Walker breaks down the risks of acquiring a business, the fundamentals of getting an ROI on your purchase, and how to start a search for companies listed for sale.

Available_Black copy
Available_Black copy
Available_Black copy

Here’s a Glimpse of What You’ll Hear:

  • [02:24] Walker reminisces over his early days as a business owner
  • [10:26] Walker’s Introduction to purchasing businesses
  • [16:04] A breakdown of how to get an ROI when acquiring a business
  • [18:19] How to start a search for purchasing a company
  • [24:07] Understanding the risks of acquiring a business
  • [34:17] Strategies for making an acceptable offer
  • [41:04] Walker reflects on the inspiration for writing Buy Then Build
  • [45:01] Tips and tactics for attracting investors

Resources Mentioned In This Episode

Sponsor: Rise25

At Rise25, we’re committed to helping you connect with your Dream 100 referral partners, clients, and strategic partners through our done-for-you podcast solution. 

We’re a professional podcast production agency that makes creating a podcast effortless. Since 2009, our proven system has helped thousands of B2B businesses build strong relationships with referral partners, clients, and audiences without doing the hard work.

What do you need to start a podcast?

When you use our proven system, all you need is an idea and a voice. We handle the strategy, production, and distribution – you just need to show up and talk.

The Rise25 podcasting solution is designed to help you build a profitable podcast. This requires a specific strategy, and we’ve got that down pat. We focus on making sure you have a direct path to ROI, which is the most important component. Plus, our podcast production company takes any heavy lifting of production and distribution off your plate.

We make distribution easy

We’ll distribute each episode across more than 11 unique channels, including iTunes, Spotify, and Google Podcasts. We’ll also create copy for each episode and promote your show across social media.

Cofounders Dr. Jeremy Weisz and John Corcoran credit podcasting as being the best thing they have ever done for their businesses. Podcasting connected them with the founders/CEOs of P90xAtariEinstein BagelsMattelRx BarsYPO, EO, Lending Tree, Freshdesk,  and many more.  

The relationships you form through podcasting run deep. Jeremy and John became business partners through podcasting. They have even gone on family vacations and attended weddings of guests who have been on the podcast.

Podcast production has a lot of moving parts and is a big commitment on our end; we only want to work with people who are committed to their business and to cultivating amazing relationships.

Are you considering launching a podcast to acquire partnerships, clients, and referrals? Would you like to work with a podcast agency that wants you to win? 

Contact us now at [email protected] or book a call at rise25.com/bookcall.

Rise25 Cofounders, Dr. Jeremy Weisz and John Corcoran, have been podcasting and advising about podcasting since 2008.

Episode Transcript

John Corcoran 0:00

Alright, welcome, everyone. Today we’re gonna be talking about acquisition entrepreneurship, that’s a big term, how you’re better off buying a business first and then growing it and how to do it. How you can actually buy businesses, even if you think you can’t, rather than starting a business from scratch and how to grow it. And my guest is Walker Deibel. He is the author of the bible on acquisition entrepreneurship: Buy Then Build. It’s a wonderful book. So stay tuned.

Intro 0:30

Welcome to the Smart Business Revolution Podcast, where we feature top entrepreneurs, business leaders, and thought leaders and ask them how they built key relationships to get where they are today. Now, let’s get started with the show.

John Corcoran 0:46

Alright, welcome everyone. John Corcoran, here. I’m the host of this show. My guest today is Walker Deibel. I’ll tell you about him a little bit more in a second. Of course, you’ve seen some of my interviews. I’ve interviewed all kinds of smart CEOs, founders and entrepreneurs of companies, ranging from Netflix, Kinkos, YPO, EO Activision Blizzard. Check out the archives. There are lots of episodes there for you. Of course, this episode is brought to you by Rise25, where we help b2b businesses get clients referrals and strategic partnerships with done-for-you podcast and content marketing. And you can learn about us at Rise25.com. And, Walker, it’s such a pleasure to have you here today. Walker Deibel, the serial acquisition entrepreneur, he’s sold just a ton of books. He is an Emmy nominated film producer. Interesting background. He’s done a bunch of acquisitions, he’s run a bunch of businesses. He’s got the Acquisition Lab, which is really the premier business, buying accelerator for entrepreneurs, really interesting community that he’s built there. And he’s acquired a bunch of different businesses over the years. I read his book a while back. And I know that he’s spoken to a bunch of different communities that I belong to always too much acclaim. And I’m really excited to finally get a chance to talk to him and he also is a partner with Quiet lLight. Now Quiet Light is a client of our company, one of my favorite clients to work with. They’re m&a, mostly for online businesses and for SaaS companies and stuff like that. So we’ll ask about his involvement with that as well. And Walker, such a pleasure having you here today. And I love to start at the same spot, which tells me about little side hustles that you have had as a kid and you said that you have a knife sharpening business. I’m picturing little seven-year-old Walker going around with butcher knives. But what was that like?

Walker Deibel 2:24

John, first of all, thanks so much for having me. It’s an honor to be here longtime than making big fan. So just want to start there. Thanks. Um, so Okay, so I was I was not that like, you know, that kid with like, the, the, you know, the newspaper route and all the rest of it. I was not incredibly entrepreneurial, I was a little bit more artistic. I was really into film and like the arts and all this kind of stuff. And I wasn’t really hustling for that next dollar at those young ages. However, I’ve got a couple of memories. One, probably inappropriate, but we’ll go there anyway. The first is the one you mentioned. So so when I was, um, I really don’t remember I want to say I was in like, first grade. So like, how do you in first grade? That 6,7,8? Yeah. So my parents had just bought this electric knife sharpener, and brought it home. And my parents were complaining about how dull their nights were, and about how, you know, in basically, I saw that, like, there was, you know, I mean, now in retrospect, I can use big words, but like, I saw that there was this infrastructure of knives at everyone’s house in the entire neighborhood that were probably dull, right? And because of the electric knife sharpener, you were able to sharpen them incredibly fast. And so, you know, I use the copy machine at my father’s office, and dropped these flyers in every mailbox across the three neighborhoods span. And John, I’m happy to report I got one client and when I went to retrieve the knives, the you know, went up there just like I had nothing to carry them. So they just handed me a bunch of like kitchen knives. And I heard them like down the hill. And then I of course returned to them in record time to a complete surprise, you know, adult who was like How on earth did you get this done? And I realized at that point that there’s a there’s a gap between value provided and perceived value. And for whatever reason, I did not get a repeat customer but

John Corcoran 4:31

right because you don’t need your knives sharpened all that often. Once a year or whatever.

Walker Deibel 4:35

Yeah, so that was one and then second. When I was in high school, I began to experiment a little bit with marijuana. That is now as one does now legal in this state. And you know, I saw that people were I basically figured out the economics pretty quickly, right? It was like you could buy an ounce of this sell it as quarter bags. X. And you know, basically make, um, I have no recollection what a quarterback costs back then can we just say it’s 50 bucks? Sure. It was, like, I announced for 150. And then you sell each bag for 50 bucks, you make 50 bucks. It’s a 25% margin. I was like, This is great. Oh, I found a source bought an ounce of weed. You know, schwag in those days, there was you know, it’s still sort of like the the afterglow of the 60s, I guess, like, and hadn’t found their way into Missouri. But, um, two things one, totally nerve wracking because I was always driving around with the weed in my car, right. And so you want to make extra sure that you’re not high driving around because you’re, you know, if you ended up talking with a with a police officer or any kind of authority, you don’t want to hint that you have this stash. Yep. But here’s, here’s the thing. I was at a friend of mines house, and I had to clean the car. And I asked this guy who showed up if he wanted to buy some he said, Yes, I made my first sale. Okay, 50 bucks, okay. And about a half an hour later, I got a call. This was before cell phones. So the guy called the guy’s house that I was at the moment he was there. Hello. This was one of the biggest drug dealers in St. Louis, telling me that I had just taken his customer and to back off.

John Corcoran 6:28

to place a phone call and not show up personally.

Walker Deibel 6:33

That was that was that was an interesting, interesting move. But so those were those are my two early endeavors.

John Corcoran 6:40

Damn, you must have you must have been looking over your shoulder for quite a few weeks afterwards after that. Yeah.

Walker Deibel 6:47

I mean, just to expand this a little bit. You touched on film production. What I would say is that one of the things that happened while I was in college was we actually made a film on the side. There’s a whole story year but that film we ended up we it took us about four years to make it. I’m I’m it’s like the I think I can say this. It’s like the worst movie that you’ve never seen. So please don’t go find it.

John Corcoran 7:12

But once you got to tell us the name of it, then if you’re gonna say we sold

Walker Deibel 7:15

it to Lionsgate right? And so I’m in it. It’s an actor, right? I am not the writer. I was not the producer. I was not the director. I really was a producer. But like my credit is as an actor, and we got it sold to Lionsgate. And so when I graduated from college, we just had this, you know, my like, one resume bullet point, which was like, hey, you know, I worked at the music store. Oh, yeah. And I sold this movie to Lionsgate and was like, Wait, what was the last movies to hit the the new releases in VHS mode at Blockbuster before they shut down. But I saw it. I saw it.

John Corcoran 7:54

It was the you made it you made and so So I grew up in Los Angeles. And I actually my dad was a film critic when I was growing up. So I grew up around film a lot. My first, one of my first jobs after college is actually doing the called script coverage, reviewing inner reading scripts for the great Polly Platt who won an Academy Award for Broadcast News. So but I was around that world, but you went to college and in Kansas and you are an English major, like I was, how did you fall in with like a film crowd?

Walker Deibel 8:25

I mean, you know, it’s, it’s, like I said, like, it was sort of, okay, so there’s sort of like version 1.0. And then there was version 2.0. And then there’s this bridge. Okay, so how do I say this really fast? First, I would say, me and a friend of a friend of mine, and a childhood friend of mine, middle school friend of mine was the one who wrote directed and produced Defiance. Okay. And my involvement in that film started with me and him in a room. Okay, and then that film is what ultimately, you know, five years later sold to Lionsgate and then, um, then then I sort of went, you know, my own direction, right? And then there was a moment in time I’ll never forget where I was sitting there at my desk at the, the book printing company that I owned, and my college roommate, who then went to Los Angeles and became Scott rutan’s assistant and like, the first one they worked on was the hours they won the Academy Award and all the rest of it. And a person that I know will come up in this conversation who’s now my partner Chad Trautwein, both of them called me within a four day period. And they both had a similar question, which is hey, I’m making this movie would you like to invest in it? And I was just like, I like I like, Guys, I’m you know, I bought a, like, I’m running a book printing company. Like I don’t know who you think I am. Like, I’m not. This is not you know, like, I’m not doing sick cashflow over here, the Great Recession is on. You know,

John Corcoran 9:55

that does get to a good point though. Because when you hear someone bought a business you easily jump to Oh, wow, they must have a lot of money, which doesn’t always have to be the case, right? Because you can find, right. So that’s that’s a great segue then to some of the approaches. So so your your acquisition of this printing company, it actually was a brick and mortars printing company at a time when people was everyone’s thinking digital. So talk a bit about that, that kind of contrarian approach of of going after acquiring a old school printing company.