Exit Stage Right

Craig Patchin
August 21, 2018
THE TALK... | Management

It is no secret that current owners of window and door dealerships are predominantly folks closer to retirement than to the starting line of their careers. It is also no secret these owners know a lot about the business, and they continue to be hard-charging salespeople and managers. 

But there is also a secret that nobody wants to talk about: many businesses are not operating in a way that will allow for a sale of the dealership that will truly benefit the current owners. In many cases, finding a buyer for a dealership is like golfing during a lightning storm—rare, and potentially dangerous. 

There are two issues many of today’s owners do not address. The first is the reality that many window and door businesses run because the owner works 50 to 70 hours a week and holds it all together. In such cases, the business is really a practice… and not one that is attractive to many buyers. Such cases also can translate to lower value, a longer sell period and more at risk. It also likely means more time for the owner to be involved during transition. 

The second issue involves a hard look at internal systems. Potential buyers avoid investing in assets that have chaotic systems that require excessive management oversight. It just isn’t a good investment due to the risk—if the investor loses a key manager, they could lose the business.

However, chaos management goes away with a comprehensive and cohesive system that runs the company and supports the employees. And, normal leadership—the kind an investor can find and hire should new management be required—is reasonable and not a threat to the company’s existence. 

To exit a business, it’s imperative to put a comprehensive system in place, employ people who can repeat successful behaviors, and start lowering owner involvement over the next few years. When the time comes to sell the dealership, all involved will be thankful for the excellent planning.

Editor’s Note: Interested in more information on exit planning and succession strategies? Window & Door Dealer Day, held Sept. 13, 2018 at the Encore at Wynn, will feature an informative, nuts-and-bolts presentation with straightforward ideas and insights on the succession planning process for window and door dealers. Don’t miss the morning keynote, Build Depth and Create a Succession Plan in Eight Steps, by Liz Weber, CMC, CSP. Register here

Craig Patchin is the owner of Window Design Center in Madison, Wisconsin. A 23-year veteran of the window and door industry, Patchin also serves as a principal of PATH|ERP, a software company devoted specifically to window and door dealers.