Resources for Buying and Selling Online Businesses

The Origin Story: How Quiet Light Began

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Joe Valley

Joe Valley is the Co-owner and Director of Brokerage Services at Quiet Light Brokerage, a business advisory firm that helps online entrepreneurs achieve amazing exits. Joe joined the firm after selling his own e-commerce business through Quiet Light Brokerage in 2010. He has advisor expertise in all web-based niches, including SaaS, e-commerce, and content businesses.

In addition to being a frequent speaker and podcast guest himself, Joe is also the co-host of the Quiet Light Podcast.

 

Mark Daoust

Mark Daoust is the Founder, President, and CEO of Quiet Light Brokerage. Since starting Quiet Light Brokerage in 2007, Mark has guided dozens of entrepreneurs and small business owners through their exits.

Before his work at Quiet Light Brokerage, Mark founded Site-Reference.com, an online publication with a subscriber base that he expanded to more than 220,000 members. Now, Mark is a well-known presenter and guest author, as well as the co-host of the Quiet Light Podcast.

Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • Mark Daoust talks about his less-than-ideal experience selling his online business with another brokerage firm in 2005
  • The problem with many brokerage firms: a lack of real-life entrepreneurial experience
  • How Joe Valley began working at Quiet Light Brokerage after selling his own business through the firm in 2010
  • Mark’s unconventional hiring strategy: discussing controversial topics during the interview process!
  • Mark shares his strategies for building a highly effective team of entrepreneurs

In this episode…

Do you want to successfully sell your business? Are you looking for resources, strategies, and expert support that will help you attract the right buyers?

According to the team at Quiet Light Brokerage, there is one thing that will set your business apart from other companies in your industry: transferability. Potential buyers will lose interest quickly if you are the superglue holding your business together. Luckily, the advisors and brokers at Quiet Light—including President and CEO Mark Daoust and Co-owner Joe Valley—have experience transferring their own businesses to new owners. With first-hand expertise and tried and true strategies, they can help you effectively and efficiently do the same.

In this episode of the Quiet Light Podcast, Rise25 Co-founder John Corcoran sits down with Mark Daoust and Joe Valley to discuss their real-life experiences selling and growing online businesses. Mark and Joe know the importance of transferability when establishing a sellable business—and today, they discuss the ins and outs of their exit planning processes and their unique approach to helping entrepreneurs achieve profitable exits. Stay tuned!

Resources Mentioned in this episode

Sponsor for this episode…

This episode is brought to you by Quiet Light Brokerage, a brokerage firm that wants to help you successfully sell your online business.

There is no wrong reason for selling your business. However, there is a right time and a right way. The team of leading entrepreneurs at Quiet Light Brokerage wants to help you discover the right time and strategy for selling your business. By providing trustworthy advice, effective strategies, and honest valuations, your Quiet Light advisor isn’t your every-day broker—they’re your partner and friend through every phase of the exit planning process.

If you’re new to the prospect of buying and selling, Quiet Light Brokerage is here to support you. Their plethora of top-notch resources will provide everything you need to know about when and how to buy or sell an online business. Quiet Light offers high-quality videos, articles, podcasts, and guides to help you make the best decision for your online business.

Not sure what your business is really worth? No worries. Quiet Light Brokerage offers a free valuation and marketplace-ready assessment on their website, quietlight.com. That’s right—this quick, easy, and free valuation has no strings attached. Knowing the true value of your business has never been easier!

What are you waiting for? Quiet Light Brokerage is offering the best experience, strategies, and advice to make your exit successful. To learn more, go to quietlight.com, email [email protected], or call 800.746.5034 today.

Episode Transcript

Intro 0:07

Hi, folks, it’s the Quiet Light Podcast where we share relentlessly honest insights, actionable tips, and entrepreneurial stories that will help founders identify and reach their goals.

Mark Daoust 0:29

Hey, everyone Mark Daoust here. I’m the Founder of Quiet Light Brokerage, and years ago back in 2005. Now I sold my own business through another internet brokerage firm. And during that process, I saw some of the difficulties and challenges that present entrepreneurs, like myself with going through that process with an advisor. It was after that experience that I founded Quiet Light to try and serve some of those needs and some of those deficiencies that I saw at the time. And that’s how we started Quiet Light Brokerage. That’s where we came from. I also have Joe Valley here, my business partner in Quiet Light Brokerage who started as a client with Quiet Light.

Joe Valley 1:01

That’s right back in 2010. I was one of the recipients of those needs and services that Mark created with Quiet Light Brokerage. I sold my own business in November of 2010, joined the company in early 2012. And at this point, I sold nearly 100 million dollars in total transactions personally, and I’m just one of 10 advisors here on the client, my team, everybody here has built, bought and sold their own online business and it’s a key differentiator between us and anyone else. Well, we’re all entrepreneurs serving entrepreneurs helping first and foremost, it’s not just the two of us, is it we actually have a guest here today, John Corcoran.

John Corcoran 1:42

Hey, thanks, guys. Thanks for having me. I’m honored to be here. And yeah, one of the privileges My job is getting just talk to smart founders, like yourselves, and today is going to be a great example. So we’re gonna really dive into the backstory behind quite like how it started, what the origin story was for why you decided to be different and how you’re different to this day. So we’re gonna dive into that there’s gonna be a great episode first before Of course, we get into that this episode is brought to you by Quiet Light Brokerage a Quiet Light as Joe mentioned, a moment ago, every member of the team has built, bought or sold their own business is really a big differentiator. Quiet Light is first here to help you to build a more valuable business and hopefully exit someday in the future. So if you want to learn more about that go to quietlight.com. You can also email Mark or Joe at [email protected] or [email protected], as well. So, guys, all right, so let’s launch into this. So Mark, and Joe, you both had interesting stories with selling your own businesses, before you went into the business of helping other business owners to sell their business. And unfortunately, it wasn’t that great. So Mark, first, tell me the story about your experience selling your business with another brokerage.

Mark Daoust 3:00

Yeah, so it was actually a mixed experience. They gave me some decent advice early on. But then I quickly got into the world of brokers and realize some of the problems that you run into with brokerage firms. Even to this day, unfortunately, we see this. So I’ve been an entrepreneur since the year 2000, an online entrepreneur since the year 2000. I bought my first online business in 1998. But I was still in college, it was more replacing at that point in time. And I at the time, so 2004 2005 I had a business that was a content based site, it was doing pretty well at 220,000 subscribers. And I decided to sell it primarily for that feather in the cap sort of thing that so many of us entrepreneurs like to have to say, Hey, I sold a business, I built something that somebody wanted to buy. And so I did a search for internet business brokers and I came across a company, I won’t say who it was, but I came across a company that’s specialized or supposedly specialized in the sale of online businesses. And a few things went well for cola talk about the good thing. The first thing that they did that was really good, is they told me to wait for about a year to sell a business because they saw the trajectory that I was on now, this is a little self serving because where I was at the business probably wasn’t sellable when I first approached them would have been very, very difficult for them to sell at all. And so they wanted me to wait to get a little bit more history. So I did Wait, I waited about a year. And what I approached them, they quoted me this really high price, I kind of had a price in mind. And they quoted me a price about three times as big as what I thought I was actually going to get for the business. Wow. So even you didn’t think you’re gonna be able to get that. No, I mean, but you know what, as a business owner, you kind of get a sense for what the business might be worth. Now, a lot of times we we overestimate the value of our businesses, but I’ve talked to business owners who also have a sense for Hey, you know, there’s some struggles in this business in particular, but I wore every hat, you know, there’s a content site. So I was writing stuff I was selling to advertisers, I was doing the programmer and designer for this and I understood just inherently I’m like, that’s gonna be really hard for somebody else to take over. Right? They have to take over what I built. And then I came across again, I got this big quote, of what I could get for the business. And I was thinking, wow, if you guys get that, that’s gonna be phenomenal. Then I got the contract, and it had a super long exclusive period. For it sounds like all right, well, I guess it’s just the way things are done. So I signed the agreement. And then I just got an email saying, Okay, can you just send over whatever you have for financial, it can just be one page. So I had a one page of financials, which was just a very simple list of my income and expenses for the year. And, and that was pretty much it. And then they went out and supposedly talked to buyers. And I’d get a few questions. And I just answered the questions and nothing else really happened. There was no communication, I didn’t hear what was going on. We did some calls with people, nothing really came of it. And I was like, it’s really how it’s supposed to work. Like, they didn’t ask any information from me at all. What are they telling people about my business? Like, I have no idea what they’re saying. And then they started to come to me for advice on certain things. And I’m thinking, Wait a minute, you guys are supposed to know these businesses, but you don’t understand the basics of SEO, you don’t understand the basics of email marketing, not not like advanced techniques, like the basics of what you’re doing here. And it’s about, you know, after we get your business sold, maybe you can do some consulting for us on this. And I’m thinking it shouldn’t be this way. How can you value an internet based business when you are not an internet entrepreneur yourself? Right? How can you understand the mechanics of what makes these businesses valuable, not valuable, I ended up firing them about four or five months into the process, and just deciding, I’ve got to get back to business, I go back and get some work done. Sure enough, but eight months later, a buyer did emerge that they had talked to previously who wanted to buy the business and, and we ended up doing a deal with them for about half the price that they originally quoted me. But it was still kind of in line with what I had originally thought. So I thought, Okay, well, let’s go ahead with this. So that was that was my initial experience with it. And, and I remember having this kind of sinking feeling of, they took 10% and did almost nothing, right, they asked me for financials, and frankly, I didn’t know what I was doing with them. When we got to actually doing the final agreements, they were annoyed that I brought in an attorney to review the agreement, they’re saying I shouldn’t do that. Just get the deal done. Multiple times when I got these bad, awful offers, my broker was telling me, man, if you get, I would take that money and run, that is awesome. Like, wow, I mean, if I had that much money offered to me, I would run with that, and I’m thinking, This is my business, stop telling me what to do. You know, tell me what the market is going to do. But stop telling me what to do with with my business. And you know what, anyways, I won’t go down that that road of completely Reagan them, it turned me on to the opportunity that was out there that just being able to give people the right information. And and entrepreneurs, the right information and an understanding of what their business really is worth it kind of a very honest assessment of that would have done them favors. To do that, we would have gotten something done much sooner and then put it in the prep work that you really should do to sell these businesses. So that was my story. That’s where Quiet Light started. It took me about a year after, after I sold my company to start Quiet Light Brokerage when a very good friend of mine wanted to sell his web hosting company. And so I agreed to help them do that. And that was that was the first deal. We closed. And and from there. I’m not going to say it was all uphill. There’s no peaks and valleys as there often is. But it was a lot of back and forth all the way up until about 2010 when I brought Joe on. Right, Joe?

John Corcoran 8:52

Wow, we can really dissect all the different ways in which they didn’t handle that well and ways in which it could have been a lot better experience for you. And it’s interesting because Joe, initially before you knew Mark, you sold your business or you tried to sell your business, you had a similar kind of negative experience with a company that was, quote, unquote, helping you so let’s hear your story.

Joe Valley 9:15

Yeah, I had a completely different experience than Mark, you know, initially, my negative experience was just trying to find an online business broker. And at the time, this is early 2010. There weren’t a whole lot. So you, you know, you do the Google search and I found three, two out of the three really just felt like they were trying to reach their hooks through the phone to get into me for a commission, nothing else. Nothing about me myself interest in, you know, my business itself. And then that third conversation, I got some helpful advice that essentially was, yeah, you know what, you’re gonna make a lot more money if you wait six months. Let’s talk later. Let’s talk in six months and I’m thinking Who the hell is this guy? He’s just telling me to go away. I love this guy. He’s really yeah. actually helping me. And he walked me through the numbers showed showed me the math looked at a full p&l with a monthly view made me do a lot of work, just to get to a proper valuation to then tell me, it’s in my best interest to wait. And that was, of course, Mark. And so six months later, I come back. And he connected me with Jason Yelowitz, who still on the team today, one of our leaders and mentors in many, many ways. And we signed a short 90 day engagement letter, Jason told me Look, we’re gonna do a lot of prep work up front preparing the business for buyers to look at, we want to instill confidence in them, so that they can make a decision pretty quickly whether they want to move forward to a call with you or not, and that we’re going to have three to five calls in the first 30 to 45 days, hopefully, one acceptable offer. And he nailed it. We had five calls. And you know, one offer that was, you know, within a few percentage points of the list price of the business, and we closed well within that 90 day period, in November of 2010. And then I kicked around for a little while, I went back to my old business and bought a business in spring of 2012. At the same time, I joined Quiet Light with Amanda Raab, who’s still on the team, Amanda and I started about April of 2012. And things have just taken off from there. You know, Jason’s a super affiliate, Amanda was on the cover of Time magazine for a pearl importing business. These are the types of entrepreneurs that we have on the team, Brad has rolled up 30 I think Mark 30 content sites sold it to a private equity firm, Brian has started multiple online businesses, including competitors Quiet Light, back in the day, everybody is a very successful online entrepreneur, we’ve got a total of, I think, 10 additional advisors on the team. And that’s really what we are more than anything else, John, because back in 2010, Mark was an advisor to me, first, he wasn’t a broker, the other guys do brokers, Mark was an advisor. And that led to the, to the eventual exit in a situation that I truly enjoyed, and was beneficial to me. And actually the person that bought the business, it was a very, very seamless transition and healthy process entirely. And so that’s what we do now. And there’s an entire team behind, Mark and I are actually there out in front of Mark and I Mark and I always say that we actually work for them versus the other way around.

John Corcoran 12:29

Yeah, this is great. You know, it’s really, if you look at the different values that you have, as a company, so many of them seem like they came out of your experiences of selling your own company. So you know, spending the time upfront to truly understand a business really understand the numbers and come up with a reasonable estimate of value without over inflating the value. Spending time and information and education first, even if it means telling them to go away for six months or 12 months, Mark I want to turn to you. So are Did you when you when you came to put the business together? Did it take a while to kind of figure out how the how the business would be formulated and how it would be different? Or did it just kind of come naturally that I’m going to do everything different from what I’d experienced previously?

Mark Daoust 13:21

No, it took some time, you know, and initially I was running the business largely as the main operator, right, the main operator, the main broker doing, again, wearing all the hats. It wasn’t until Jason came on board that I stumbled upon the formula that we have now. Right I actually initially, after I started Quiet Light, I went out and I hired five people with sales experience thinking that that’s what I wanted is somebody with sales experience. And all five of those people flamed out over time for one reason or another and this is this can be a brutal industry. So it’s not terribly surprising that they would flame out because it can be tough. So when they flamed out when they eventually left on their own, because they went to pursue other careers. I remember that that that spring and my attitude towards that year was I’m going to stop doing this as kind of a part time I don’t know if I’m gonna do this fully sort of thing I’m gonna go all in and I’m going to do as much as I can this year and that’s when Jason started to bug me but coming on board and wanted to join and I was really the mindset No, I don’t want to bring anyone else on right now I want to just do this on my own and because I know what I I know what I’m doing with this I feel good about it. And obviously the five people I brought on board I had trouble getting them to go well. Well Jason came on board when I when I caved in and said okay, well let’s give this a try. Let’s see what happens. And he crushed it. I was giving them bad bad leads too.

Joe Valley 14:49

It wasn’t one of mine. By the way. I love this story. But I just want to say that it wasn’t my horrible.

John Corcoran 14:56

Horrible lead. This one came in it was this guy Joe.

Joe Valley 15:00

Such a jerk

Mark Daoust 15:00

Is gonna be so difficult to work with again some some stuff that was that was difficult to work with initially to cut his teeth on and and the thing is he did so well with it and it was so well that that and maybe take a step back and think what what is different here? Like why is why is Jason able to do it and these previous five people aren’t able to? Why am I able to do this. And these other five people weren’t able to do this. And it went right back to two ingredients. We talked about this one lot here. We’ve already talked about it that entrepreneurial experience, Jason has just an absolute wealth of entrepreneurial experience, that we call him the oracle of Reno, because of his investing Aquaman. But he also has startups and just entrepreneur from from the day he was a kid. The other element, though, is his level of integrity is top notch. Right? And so when I looked at Jason, I said, Oh, you know, maybe his direct entrepreneurial experience, his experience in buying a business, his experience in selling, the fact that he’s started, and he knows what that hustle is like, plus, he doesn’t have just this, what’s in it for me he mindset that sometimes you get with entrepreneurs, and you often get with brokers, that was kind of the potion right looked at and said that this might work. And then it was shortly after, when Joe sold his business. And then Amanda was a buyer with us before and we started talking about them joining the team. And again, they had that those same qualities have been there done that sort of experience, but also this high level of personal integrity. And I’ll tell you a story. Real quick, John, that I used to ask people when I was bringing Joe, I don’t know if I asked you this when I brought you on. But integrity was such an important thing for me. I wanted people that could talk about really difficult subjects in a truthful way. And so I would ask them at the time, what are your opinions on the Gulf War? This is really when it was really controversial. Now, yeah, I’ve later learned that you probably can’t do that for hiring purposes.

John Corcoran 17:08

was super telling, because the people that the point was you wanted to pick something that was hard to talk about and see how they talked about it? Yeah,

Mark Daoust 17:15

I don’t care what somebody answers on it, I want them to tell me what their thought is. And to be able to do it in a gracious way and not be afraid to answer it. Right. Ask those difficult questions. And that’s the sort of quality that that I was looking for. We still look for that today. We don’t ask, you know, those sorts of questions anymore. But that’s the sort of quality and character that we look for today’s that entrepreneurial experience and high high character.

John Corcoran 17:35

Joe, let me ask you this question. I’m going to flip this around when you see a new company comes to you that’s interested in listing with you selling their business, or actually this could be the other way around to they want to acquire a business. How do you know they’re a bad fit? What is what are some of the red flags that tells you Okay, we’re not a good fit to work together?

Joe Valley 17:56

Well, generally speaking, the first question out of their mouth would be what’s the fee? Right? And it’s not about that, it’s about the value that we can bring. Like the the the idea of putting a listing together and putting it out there and trying to find a buyer is, it’s doable for a lot of people. But it’s taking it from finding that buyer all the way across the finish line, one of the biggest things we do is manage people’s expectations, the process and their emotions all the way through. And it’s not just the the sellers emotions. And they do get emotional when you’re a couple of weeks away from a half a million two or even $10 million, hitting your bank account, I promise you, you’re going to get emotional, I promise you. And when something goes off the rails and due diligence, I guarantee the buyer, you know, may get a little emotional as well. So we’ve got to manage that the entire way through that their their approach their personality upfront. And secondly, it’s never going to be a fit if they can’t provide proper financials. We’re always advising and helping people understand what is necessary to to just get into the room with qualified buyers. If you can’t get in the room with qualified buyers, then you’ve got to take a step back and do the necessary work in order to prepare and we have a lot a lot of those conversations over the years probably Personally, I think I’ve had over 5000 conversations with online entrepreneurs since 2012.

John Corcoran 19:29

A great point you just address which I think this might be a topic for a whole nother episode is how to manage if you’re representing a seller how to manage a buyers emotions or buyers expectations when you’re working through another broker maybe not communicating directly. I think that’s a fascinating area of topic is how to how to how to manage that so that the deal doesn’t go off the rails. But I want to ask Mark go back to you. I want to ask a different question. So you have a team of about 10 now. How do you get a team like that? All, you know, fierce, entrepreneurial types to gel together? And how does that bring value to someone is going to list their, their sale list their, their, their company for sale? Especially if they’re just working with one broker? What’s the advantage to being with the team? Where there’s 10?

Mark Daoust 20:20

Yeah, you know, I got to say, like the team of Quiet Light is what’s made Quiet Light what it is today, bar none. I mean, the, the people are Quiet Light. I’m, it’s an embarrassment of riches right now in terms of the experience of the people that we have. And we’ve been really fortunate that we’ve been able to meet some good quality people over the years. And frankly, the more accomplishments that our team has, and the more exposure that we get, the more we tend to attract that high caliber of person to the team. And when people join, we often hear from members of our team like, this is the best group of people I’ve ever worked with. So how do you get a team to gel when when you have really talented individuals to begin with, they understand how to work in a team as well. Right? I think that’s kind of the beginning stages of it. If you if you’re working with high character, people, they tend to be able to work with each other very well as well. Second of all, the attitude or the approach that we try to instill, and again, we look for initially, when we’re deciding if we want to work with somebody or haven’t been joined, the team is avoiding that what’s in it for me sort of mindset, if I came across somebody that had that sort of mindset, or was really kind of attracted to this business just for the money, that would be a flag for me, or I’m not that that interested in working with them, you have to have the attitude and the space, I think have to have the attitude in the space of more of what’s in it for my client, first and foremost, with the understanding that if you are out there adding value, this is a lucrative field, that value comes back to you. You don’t have to sit there and try and claw at it, put your hooks in somebody and get it. Now one of the big issues I have right now with our industry, the whole brokerage industry, in general, is the commoditization of people’s businesses, and the treating of people’s businesses like like inventory, a lot of the firm’s look at their their pipeline, and what they see are goods that they can sell, right, they see the supply chain coming in, and they’re going to turn it over process it, you know, have it go through their machinations, instead of seeing an individual chain of businesses that has had probably some tears thrown into them, you know, time and money and risk and everything that goes into being an entrepreneur, to build it into something that’s actually valuable that they can sell, you know, so we need to have this attitude first and foremost of trying to have the service mentality, the servant mentality for our clients adding value. And from there that the team has been able to gel pretty well. Now, as we grow, obviously, and bring new people on, it’s bringing in that culture, and having people understand the culture that we have and buy into it. But I can tell you that it’s fortunately not been a huge struggle, because it starts with just working with some great people. And we’re really fortunate. So when somebody is working with a Brad or a Chuck or a Brian or a David, you know, they they see the one person that they’re working with, but there is this entire team behind them that we’re supporting each other. We’re helping each other out. And that all goes around and benefits everybody. That’s great.

John Corcoran 23:25

Well, I know we have to stop in a minute. So I’ll cut this short, but I’m sure that we could have gone a lot longer on this topic and I’m sure we’ll be able to delve into individual pieces of this discussion in the weeks ahead. But Mark, this is great. Joe, this is great. Joe, I’ll ask you where can people go to learn more about white light and contact you guys?

Joe Valley 23:48

quietlight.com to start off with we’ve got a resource page podcast listings you can learn about how to get your own business properly listed by just going to the site and looking at all of the resources there. Secondly, you can reach out to me [email protected] or Mark, real complicated, [email protected] All right,

John Corcoran 24:10

excellent. Thanks, guys.

Mark Daoust 24:12

Thank you, John.

Outro 24:15

Today’s podcast was produced by Rise25 and the Quiet Light content team. If you have a suggestion for a future podcast subject or guest, email us at [email protected] Be sure to follow us on YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram and subscribe to the show wherever you get your podcasts. Thanks for listening. We’ll see you next week.

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