Know Your Broker: Karen Callahan

Karen CallahanKaren Callahan is one of the newest additions to our team here at Apex. She brings passion and experience with data and tech businesses to complement many of the other skills we have among our brokers.

Like many on our team, Karen was an entrepreneur at various times before coming to work with us.

She has (and still does) financial analysis and projections for some large companies. Before that, she also had a buy-and-flip real estate business. To help pay for college she owned a carpet cleaning company and also sold carpet.

But Karen’s also had experience in corporate America. After obtaining a dual BA in mathematics and computer science, she worked in data analytics for an insurance and banking firm. Her husband also worked for the same company and it was a transfer to the Kansas City area that brought them and their four children (2 boys and 2 girls) here some years ago.

Karen’s Role at Apex

She’s taken the same attitude towards her new role as a broker that she has towards her life and business: Understand and learn as much as you can first. We have some key training that we do here in the office. She’s also getting involved on deals with her fellow brokers who’ve been with Apex for 10 years or more, learning how to manage deals to a successful conclusion.

When asked what makes her better qualified to work on deals for tech companies, Karen responds, “Because of my educational and work background, I understand the vocabulary they are using to talk about their businesses. Even if I don’t know what their business does at the outset, I can understand it quickly. I’m able to speak their language: technology doesn’t intimidate me.” She also relishes the chance to dive back into entrepreneurship through business brokering. “I love having the freedom to pursue pathways that make sense for me in order to earn and retain clients. It’s exciting!”

Karen’s passions outside of work include fitness training, gardening, and blockchain technology.

Please join us in welcoming Karen to the team!

Certifications Matter: What Do All Those Letters Mean After Our Names?

lettersWe really have a wealth of experience in our office here at APEX.  

People come from insurance, real estate, and financial services backgrounds.

And when they become brokers they often bring Series 7, CFP, CPA, real estate, and even health and life insurance certifications and licenses with them.  

Those certifications give them added insights into transactions involving those specialties.

But we also have certifications for the brokerage industry, and so in this article, we’ll shed a little light on those.

CBI: Certified Business Intermediary

This is really an entry-level certification that can help those new to brokering gain some broader experience beyond what they may have experienced “in the trenches” working on deals. You need to:

  • Have spent three of the last ten years as a full-time broker, or
  • Have a college degree, or
  • Have equivalent work experience which can be substituted for two of the three-year requirement, and
  • You need to have taken at least 60 credit hours of courses in various aspects of brokering and transactions, and
  • Be the lead broker on three transactions in the last 12 months, and
  • Have attended at least one conference, and
  • Be a member in good standing of the IBBA (International Business Brokers Association), and
  • Swear to uphold a code of ethics, and
  • Pass an exam with at least a 70% score.

This needs to be recertified every three years, with conference attendance, a number of continuing education hours, and fees.

CM&AP: Certified Mergers & Acquisitions Professional

Some see this as an additional step beyond CBI. It’s aimed at those who are continuing to develop their mid-market transactions, and it comes with at least 40 hours of coursework, usually completed within a one-week conference.

It’s also a certification that many private equity firms pursue to better educate their principals, less for the letters and more for the education. This shows you that this certification is really of value, given that non-business brokers pursue it.

M&AMI: Mergers & Acquisitions Intermediary

This is the next step up from a CBI certification and can be seen as a compliment or a logical follow-on from a CM&AP certification.  Requirements include:

  • A CBI and 20 hours of coursework, or
  • 40 hours of coursework if not holding a CBI, and
  • Proof of three years full-time as a broker, and
  • At least three transactions in the last three years greater than or equal to $1M in value, and
  • Conference attendance

It has similar recertification requirements to the CBI, and in a nod to sensibility, you can synchronize your recertifications for the CBI with your M&AMI, meaning if you complete requirements for the M&AMI  then you’re automatically recertified as a CBI.

All of our brokers bring different approaches and experience and certifications to the table, but we all share a passion for doing deals the right way. Give us a call to see if we can help you!

Know Your Broker: Steve Weaver

Steve Weaver

Steve Weaver

In this occasional series, we will share profiles of our team here at Apex so you can get to know the men and women that make us best qualified to help you buy or sell a business.

“Anyone who owns a business is a unique and special person, whether they’re successful or not, and I admire that.”

Steve Weaver has over a decade of experience as a business owner himself to complement the almost dozen years he has been a business broker.

And while he now calls Kansas City home, life as a military brat took him to Japan, the Philippines, South Carolina, Texas, Illinois, and finally Alabama, where he worked in sales for produce supplies.  

The job had plenty of long drives. On those long drives, Steve started to conspire to own his own business.

He got a friendly nudge from a friend who had just opened a business brokerage and before too long Steve was helping people buy and sell companies.

After three years brokering sales in Alabama, Steve moved to New Orleans, chasing a bigger market and greater opportunities. As you might guess, the market in that city is much more oriented around bars/restaurants (which feature “about the messiest financials you can imagine,” Steve opined). He enjoyed working with the team in that office and did plenty of deals during a 7-year run.

Personal circumstances eventually took him to Kansas City where he continued as a broker and helped sell a company that really caught his eye. It was a party rental company. After the sale, circumstances fell into place for him to buy the firm. He went on to own the business for 13 years before choosing to sell, mostly for his own health.

“I’ve lived the stories of my clients that I broker for. I had to get stints in my body…because of a business! I understand burnout. I understand needing to let things go. Most of all, I understand how to sell a business from both sides of the transaction.”  

Steve exited that business in 2017 and came back to brokering, something he’s always loved.

He’s continued to dig in roots in Kansas City, active in the Knights of Columbus and helping to found a new Rotary Club in the Waldo area.

“I’ll probably die here in KC, but not yet!” he said with a laugh, his easy smile and his gentle but professional manner.

Know Your Broker: Jeff Crooks

Jeff CrooksIn this occasional series, we will share profiles of our team here at Apex so you can get to know the men and women who make us best qualified to help you buy or sell a business.

Jeff Crooks has spent almost 20 years as a business broker.

Even more impressive, he’s spent almost double that amount of time in the US Army. That includes 8 years on active duty, with the remainder in the reserve. His current rank is Lieutenant Colonel.  

Persistence Pays Well

When asked about what makes him successful in both fields, he responds, “Persistence pays well.”

He attributes the early stages of this trait to the work ethic instilled in him by his military family, but he honed it through practice.  

“When someone says…call me in 90 days… and then I actually do, they’re shocked.” Because the sales cycle in business brokering can often be months and years in the making (though he recently had two businesses close within 30 days), persistence really matters.

It Takes One to Know One

Jeff started life as a broker after selling his own staffing firm via a business broker.

As a business owner himself, he had a passion for helping others realize their own dreams. He also felt that he had the ability to manage the egos of everyone involved in the transactions: buyers, sellers, accountants, attorneys, financial planners, and of course, family.  

While he’s sold all sorts of businesses, Jeff has a particular passion for those in manufacturing, distribution, and service. Despite having undergraduate degrees in biology and chemistry and a graduate degree in Business, it’s his graduate degree in Gerontology that he uses most often. He believes it helps him understand his older sellers particularly well.  

“For them, it’s not about money. It’s about legacy and reputation. This is their baby, and they need to be able to trust me with it.”

When you meet Jeff and witness his confidential nature in person, it’s not surprising that so many people trust him with their (business) babies, regardless of their age.  

Know Your Broker: Valerie Vaughn

In this occasional series, we will share profiles of our team here at Apex so you can get to know the men and women that make us best qualified to help you buy or sell a business.

Valerie Vaughn“This is the first time in my career that I have found myself still challenged after the 3-year mark, because each situation is complex in its own unique way – I love it!”

Valerie has a rock-solid educational foundation (apparently a Ph.D. in Chemistry wasn’t enough for her; she also has an MBA) underpinning dozens of years of work at some important companies: Marion Labs, Hewlett-Packard, and IBM, just to name a few.

The roles at those companies challenged and encouraged her to keep going deeper with her core competency: problem-solving.

“To be honest, I love that it’s complicated,” she opines. “It’s complicated to find sellers, to get them to the point of selling, to find the right buyer, do the dance and get the deal closed. I love putting all the pieces together to form a puzzle.”

Valerie has been at Apex for over 4 years now, and she’ll tell you that the first year was the hardest. She was doing a lot of networking, meeting a lot of people, and “drinking too much coffee.”

But she knew that she was doing the right things and putting in the work, and in time she would get to help represent manufacturers, HVAC companies, and women-owned businesses, the last of which are a particular passion of hers.

“I think you’ll find that a lot of women-owned businesses tend to be in really good shape financially, with systems in place, which, of course, de-risks the purchase for the buyer.”

She currently serves as the President of the Kansas City Chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) where she gets to see a lot of the challenges (and success stories) of these businesses up close.

“I’m not looking to close a deal as quickly as possible, but rather feel as though I helped everyone at the table win. My clients often tell me that they appreciate how much I really cared about getting them what was best.”

Know Your Broker: Ron Kleier

In this occasional series, we will share profiles of our team here at Apex so you can get to know the men and women that make us best qualified to help you buy or sell a business.

Ron KleierWhile it’s true that Ron has only been in the industry for 3 years, he brings over 45 years of experience buying and selling businesses on his own behalf.  

Those experiences inform the way he works with buyers and sellers because he can say he’s been in both positions many times.

Ron lives on 16 acres of wooded property in Wellsville, Kansas, about 45 minutes southwest of Kansas City and 15 minutes from Gardner, where he first got his start in a family-owned and operated grocery store.

He was managing the produce department by the age of 11 and closing the store by 13. He knew the business inside out and so it was no surprise that, after helping his parents expand the business, he bought it from them when he was in his mid-30s.  

He took over when the business was doing $25M in annual revenue and, through selling the smaller stores and doing strategic acquisitions, he grew the business to $100M in revenue.  

The grocery business wasn’t enough to satisfy Ron’s entrepreneurial drive, so he and his wife Sandra went on to grow a sunscreen business 1500% in sales over a 10-year period before selling that company as well.

He eventually got into business brokering but found that as a sole owner-operator in the space, he simply didn’t have access to the same resources and expertise that a firm like Apex did. He joined us and hasn’t looked back since.

Ron knows, having participated in many business transactions (he has owned, operated, and sold more than 40 businesses), that buying or selling a business is a life-changing event.  He has a real passion to help goal-oriented individuals realize their dreams.  He enjoys connecting with them deeply on a personal level not just to build trust, but to know how to structure deals and the process for the best outcome.  

“I know how much anxiety can come from these events and, as a broker, I want my clients to see my number and hope that I’m calling with good news.”

Know Your Broker: Jerry Meinert


Jerry Meinert

In this occasional series we will share profiles of our team here at Apex so you can get to know the men and women that make us best qualified to help you buy or sell a business.

“You can’t make this stuff up!” Jerry says when asked about “war stories” in the business brokering world.  

While Jerry has been a broker for five years, he was a business owner for 33 and he uses the exit of that business to inform how he advises his clients.

Jerry was in the general construction business, both in design and build. Because of that, he was able to see seven quarters ahead of time what was going to happen in 2008.  

The challenge was that he was tired and wasn’t willing to negotiate on the deal when an opportunity to sell came up. Instead of taking payments over a period of time, he insisted on a cash-up-front deal and the opportunity dissolved.  

I should have been more patient. Period,” he reflects.

He brings that patience, also honed by raising two daughters, to bear on each of his transactions, and uses it as a watchword whether he’s dealing with a buyer or a seller.

What is perhaps most satisfying for me is helping qualified and motivated buyers find the right match with the opportunity to control their own destiny and live the dream of owning a business. That spark and fire is exciting to see and I’m able to use my background as a business owner across decades to help get them ready for that next step.”

Know Your Broker: Mike Funk

In this occasional series we will share profiles of our team here at Apex so you can get to know the men and women that make us best qualified to help you buy or sell a business.


Mike Funk

Mike Funk is the epitome of calm and collected. If you’ve never met him, imagine bursting into his office, “Mike! There’s a tornado heading this way! We’re getting out of the building! Hurry!”

Mike would look over at you, nod, calmly say, “Is that a fact?” He would then finish whatever he was doing before you barged in and then head out when he felt like it.

You might suspect that this calm and steady demeanor really serves him well in his capacity as a business broker…and you’d be right.

Mike has been a business broker for 12 years and comes from a varied background that gives him multiple invaluable insights.

He’s served in the US Army.

He’s been a stockbroker.

He’s also been involved as a business owner, both in liquor stores and in rubber manufacturing and packaging.

What he saw in brokering, apart from the potential to make a good income, was the chance to leverage his experience and build another business. He uses that cool and calm demeanor to help keep deals moving forward without being pushy.

He advises buyers to always do all of the due diligence, and for sellers, “Be forthcoming, share everything. Pretend you’re going to Confession.”

He’ll also remind you that things other than time can kill deals. Things like lawyers, landlords, and accountants. “Own the process,” he advises.

Know Your Broker: Anita Lieser

In this occasional series we will share profiles of our team here at Apex so you can get to know the men and women that make us best qualified to help you buy or sell a business.

Anita-LieserAnita has been with Apex for over 10 years now after having built and sold her own company. Because of that experience, she brings the knowledge of someone who has been in the shoes of a seller.

In each transaction, Anita strives to ensure that a potentially stressful process for both buyer and seller doesn’t turn adversarial.

“If I’m the buffer, then the buyer doesn’t blame the seller, and vice versa.The key is getting them to understand ‘the other party’s point of view,’” she notes.  “A seller recently reacted negatively to a buyer’s request for some financial documents, wondering if the buyer didn’t trust him, and I reminded him it’s not a matter of trust, but just normal due diligence verification – not just for himself, but for banks, a spouse, the SBA, and any number of other counterparties.  Don’t take it personally.”

Anita helps both parties realize that they ultimately have the same goal: a successful transaction. Maintaining focus on that goal allows the parties and their advisors to find mutually agreeable solutions to obstacles that come up during the closing process.

It’s this attitude that allows Anita to close unconventional deals. One example was a company she sold some years ago that had just acquired a competitor with very poor financial statements. Because of this, there was a lack of clarity as to its potential profitability post-acquisition. Because she had managed to build the proper trust and rapport between both parties, they were able to close a two-part transaction; one that was for the original business; the second was for the company that the business had acquired prior to the sale. The seller shouldered some of the risk through an earn-out and would work for the new buyer, hence, creating a sort of a “joint venture” on the success of the company with poor records.

When asked what her “secret sauce” is, Anita replied, “I’m thorough from an analysis standpoint, and I’m thorough throughout the process – in accounting, relationship management, information gathering, and deal tracking.  That skill matched to my experience has really helped me put together some great deals.”

Know Your Broker: Jay Kvasnicka

In this occasional series we will share profiles of our team here at Apex so you can get to know the men and women that make us best qualified to help you buy or sell a business.

Jay-Allan-KvasnickaJay has been in the industry for just about a decade. He has owned both a promotional products franchise as well as a ground shipping and transportation business. These experiences have helped him close deals in the latter space, but also means he brings the understanding of what it’s like to be an entrepreneur to each of his transactions.

Born in Manhattan, Kansas, Jay comes from an entrepreneurial family. His father built and sold two companies. It was actually from watching his father’s two sales that Jay learned how important it was for someone to have a “why” apart from running a business.

When his dad sold his last company, he was bored for quite awhile. It took him some time to wrap himself around a “why” and Jay notes there’s no need to wait until you’ve sold a company to do that.

Unsurprisingly, Jay caught the entrepreneurial bug himself and he loves business brokering because it provides an almost endless variety of people to meet and work with. He also gets satisfaction from delivering win-wins, which is what he tries to do in every transaction he’s part of.

People trust me, I like to think, in part because I’m a good listener. I listen more than I talk, and I want to hear everyone’s goals. I also try to get everyone to buy into ‘trust but verify’ from day one as a guiding principle.”  

Jay likes to think of the transaction as a home built on a sturdy foundation. If you spend a lot of time early on and front load your work, with full disclosure, making sure there are no surprises, the later stages of the transaction will be much easier.

Jay’s also tolerant and flexible. The proof of that is the fact that he has a son at KU when he and his family are deep purple K-Staters!

Jay was the top producing broker at Apex in 2016.