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

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: 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.