Before becoming an advisor, Walker Deibel co-founded three startups and has acquired seven companies outright, including an online business from Quiet Light.
Walker’s bestselling book, Buy Then Build: How Acquisition Entrepreneurs Outsmart the Startup Game is the seminal work on acquisition entrepreneurship was introduced with critical acclaim, recognized by FORBES as “one of the top 7 books all entrepreneurs must-read,” and is used in multiple, ranked MBA programs. You can get your copy, and check out reader reviews, here.
Walker frequently speaks on the unique intersection of acquisition and entrepreneurship, having been the Keynote speaker at Duke University, the Alliance of M&A Advisors Conference, and MIT. His writing has been featured in Inc, Entrepreneur, Fast Company, Forbes, and the Harvard Business Review. He has been awarded the M&A Thought Leader of the Year by both the Alliance of M&A Advisors (2019) and Axial (2020).
He holds an MBA from the Olin School of Business at Washington University in St. Louis, where he received the Declaration of Accomplishment in Entrepreneurship. Walker is a Certified M&A Advisor, Certified M&A Professional, Certified Exit Planning Advisor, and former SEC licensed stockbroker.
Walker is also an Emmy-nominated film producer and former Missouri State Cycling Champion. He lives in St. Louis, Missouri with his wife, their three daughters, and Scout, a very good dog.
Q&A WITH WALKER
What is the #1 mistake people make when selling their website?
It’s not a “mistake” if you don’t have the knowledge, to begin with. In my opinion, there are three major trends that when lined up profile the perfect exit.
This is rather difficult even if you know what they are–but most first-time entrepreneurs build without thinking of exiting so they don’t consider the trends.
The first is your own desire to work in the business and take it to the next level. It starts off strong, typically gets stronger, but then wanes.
The second is the growth trajectory of the business itself. It launches, goes through an adolescent growth phase, then levels out (and even eventually declining).
The third is the M&A cycle. When M&A activity is up, valuations go up and vice versa.
Trying to align all three of these major trends is near impossible, but when you can it’s magical (hint: try to exit when all three are trending UP).
What drew you to make your career online?
My early career wasn’t online at all! However, right out of college I was a stockbroker for one of the big banks during the tech boom and bust. The brokerage world was moving online and there was this interesting transition of value creation going on from “bricks to clicks.” I felt the clicks were getting a lot right but hadn’t yet become consistent.
I eventually acquired a book printing facility with 40 employees and multiple shifts. There was a tremendous opportunity to get quoting and bookselling online at the time, as well as digital production and fulfillment services. From there I ended up building a custom-built eCommerce platform for a B2B fulfillment center I acquired.
Even though I had dabbled in building content sites and learning SEO on the side, I never really hit substantial success in a truely online business until I acquired a 7-figure site via Quiet Light. I still own this company today and absolutely love it.
Although I have never considered myself limited to “online” in my career, I always recognized it as having two very critical attributes: 1) the ability to scale easily compared to other business models and 2) the easiest to transfer when it comes to selling. I had many opportunities to broker over the years (including $50-$100 million deals) but I always knew that I would only broker online businesses because I felt I could provide the most help to both the buy-side and the sell-side.
What is the greatest benefit of helping people sell their online businesses?
I’ve been blessed with two exits myself and although being an entrepreneur is NOT all about “the exit,” when the time is right it’s an absolutely rewarding experience for one’s work, paired with, typically, the largest payday of your life–and about 50% of the entire financial benefit of owning a business at all. It’s a very unique success to experience as an entrepreneur.
At one point in my career, I tried to acquire businesses without a broker and found it to be incredibly frustrating and inefficient. Having a broker assist in the sale of both my companies was an enormous value to me and the deal. Having been in all seats of a transaction I find a great broker can really be the difference between success and failure.
What is the best bit of advice you ever received?
I have a list of really good ones, but the one that really changed the trajectory of my life the most was the concept of not being afraid to fail. It’s all about taking “swings at bat” and not worrying about the outcome of every swing.
I failed as a startup entrepreneur many times but found acquisition entrepreneurship as a solution.
I failed at filmmaking but eventually found my path to selling Netflix their 2nd ever Original, worked with academy award-winning talent, and received an Emmy nomination.
Not being afraid to fail I wrote and published a book that has gone on to become a bestseller and lead to humbling speaking experiences.
Not overly concerning myself with the outcome, leads me to do my best with the actions that lead to the outcome I want, which are often out of my control.
If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change. It’s not the result, but the path you’re on and who you’re with. I’ve never worked with a better group of people than with Quiet Light, it’s the perfect recipe of overly competent entrepreneurs working independently and as a team.
If you could have dinner with just one person (they could be deceased), who would it be?
Well, my ultimate, multi-life goal is complete spiritual enlightenment. So although I’m tempted to pick someone as practical as my father, as heart-warming as my daughter (any one of them), I’d have to reach out to Buddha Sakyamuni. He’s history’s best psychologist and likely the single best teacher of how to think, how to act, and how to be.
“I worked with Walker and Quiet Light to sell my company over a good part of 2020. We ended up making an exit for a valuation of $20M + inventory. Can’t recommend him enough.”
– Reese W
“You put a lot of faith in your broker. It’s a very significant decision. Working with Walker for the sale of my business was one of life’s great decisions. He packaged it beautifully, found the perfect buyer, and closed the sale at my asking price – all while keeping the hammer down and the communication flowing. For all this he has my gratitude, and the ultimate testimonial: my next sale.”
– John G
“I spoke to a couple of brokers when I was considering selling my first website. The primary reason I went with QLB was because of Walker’s laid back approach to our conversation. I wasn’t quite ready to sell and felt absolutely no pressure to list my business until I was ready. I’ve now sold 2 businesses with Walker and each time we had tons of interest and multiple offers very quickly. I’ve already told several other people who are thinking about selling, Quiet Light should be your first call.”
– Jake Cain
“Walker goes out of his way to advise me like a trusted confidant. Having been through the sales process dozens times, Walker has a knack for what gets a deal to closing versus what is a red herring that will lead to a stall. He represents a new kind of broker – one who is transparent, honest, and ethical. He commands a presence while connoting trust. Combining his acumen, moral code, and high EQ… I couldn’t imagine anyone better positioned to execute in this role.”
– Andy W
“Thank you Walker- you are worth every penny.”
– Mark Simonds