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Buy Then Build by Walker Deibel

The full title of this book by Walker Deibel is

Buy Then Build: How Acquisition Entrepreneurs Outsmart the Startup Game

In my review posted on Amazon.co.uk, I gave the book a Four Stars rating. This means it is Good to Very Good.

Here is my book review.

Very well written guide to being an acquisition entrepreneur

Can you succeed by buying a business?

As a business advisor and coach, I have no doubt that management skills are transferable across businesses and different trades and industries. However I usually work with business owners who have plenty of detailed knowledge of their own industry and I think this is vital. There is a balance to bringing in fresh eyes and new business ideas and combining them with deep knowledge of the customers and capabilities involved.

If I had my time again, I like to think I’d buy businesses, improve them and either sell them again or keep them if I found the trade interesting .

Indeed, for many years I described myself as a “frustrated entrepreneur” who was on the lookout for an opportunity but I wanted something where I had a deep passion. I never found anything and an assessment (Kolbe) showed me I was more a business architect than builder. I got my kicks from thinking about a business conceptually. The advisor role suits me because I don’t feel a need to take control and make the decisions.

Is buying a business with the intention of building it into something bigger and better right for you?

To quote from the book…

“You need to commit your time to taking action. You need to commit to investing your own money and betting on yourself. You need to be willing to create a business plan and pitch it to banks or other potential investors. Finally, you need to be comfortable and willing to take calculated risks.”

The book provides the roadmap to guide you.

I was pleased by this quote
“For the acquisition entrepreneur to find the right company and have success running it, they too need to have all three attributes working in harmony: Attitude, Aptitude, and Action.”

This is the essential foundation. It is not simple and it is not for everyone. One of the big surprises in store for a new start-up entrepreneur is how much he or she has to learn about so many different topics. It can feel overwhelming. But the start-up has the advantage of starting slowly. The acquisition entrepreneur is thrown in at the deep-end.

The book goes into detail about having the right attitude and aptitude while action refers to finding an opportunity where the actions needed to be done suit your preferences. It’s obvious but who wants to do work they hate?

There is a guidance about how to put together the deal and due diligence but professional advice is essential.

After that, the book looks at what you do in your first few months as the new owner. This is sensible but priorities will depend on the situation. A turnaround requires earlier fundamental changes than a business where you expect to make incremental growth.

Criticism and Concerns
1) I felt the author was selling the idea hard. The claimed 98% success rate is spurious and especially when compared against the abysmal failure rates of start-ups. Big companies have a dreadful record with acquisitions.

2) The book indicates that if you invest 10, you can borrow 90, meaning you can buy a business for 100. This seems very optimistic to me for the UK and is based on what the SBA will do in the USA.

3) I feel the importance of experience is underplayed. Switching to new customer markets and operating capabilities together is risky and is why diversification often fails.

4) I’d like to see more emphasis on risk management.

Buying a business isn’t new. It’s long been a way for people to step into business ownership.

Instead of starting with a blank sheet and inventing, you take a business and adapt it.

I like this book and was torn between 4 and 5 stars. I may be back to upgrade it.

You can buy the book from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com


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