Jacky Fischer has been involved with her father’s business, 3 Men Movers, since the start. She was 12 years old working after school to answer the phone and book moves. But later, after her father had a stroke, he couldn't keep up with the work. So, he called Fischer and asked if she'd help him out.

“I helped him out for about a year, and I realized that I didn't want to work for my dad," Fischer told attendees at the Houston Smart Business Dealmakers Conference. "We butted heads really bad. And so, I gave him my notice. And about a week later, the guys found out that I had left, and they signed the back of an invoice, and they brought it to my dad, and they said, ‘We want her to come back.’ And so, I told my dad that the only way I'd come back is if he let me buy him out. And it was a win-win because he didn't have money to retire. And I think if I would have got it for free, I wouldn't have appreciated the company and having to make that payment every month really fired me up to work hard. I've been running it ever since and I'm looking forward to the next phase.”

However, she says when she first started, she knew nothing about business.

“I couldn't read a financial statement," she says. "I didn't know anything. And I made a ton of mistakes. This was before the internet — or I think there was dial up but nobody really used it. I used to have to go to the library and check out books like Financial Statements For Dummies and stuff like that, because I didn't know anything.”

Some of her very early decisions came from working hard and using common sense.

“I would make these decisions like, you know, maybe we should answer the phone," she says. "And all of a sudden, we started booking more moves, and the guy's got more hours. There were very low-hanging-fruit decisions.”

To become more knowledgeable, she joined a Vistage group and began receiving mentorship, then got her MBA, both of which she says really helped.  

While she did things to change the business, she says the business really changed her as a person.

“When I first started the business, just a simple thing like a meeting, which I guess is maybe obvious for some people, but wasn't obvious for me," Fischer says. "I would walk into a room, I had my notes, and I would go over my notes, tell everybody what to do, and then when I was done with a meeting, I’d leave and everybody would leave. That was my meeting. And our meetings have changed so much because the more I pushed my agenda on people, the less engaged they became. And my people are just passive and waiting for me to tell them what to do. I started to pull back and the less I talked, the more they talked. The more I pulled back what I was doing, the more they got involved.”

She says the management structure now is five different people are on the leadership team leading different aspects — like companies within the company. They drive the meeting agenda and can run meetings without her. Doing that helped her grow her business.

But at some point, she says she knew she was going to need to sell the business. With neither of her children having the personality to run a business like hers, she explored other options. She considered selling it — and a strategic buyer offered her quite a bit of money for it — but it didn't feel right. So, she explored the ESOP model. However, a number of those working for her are independent contractors who wouldn't benefit from that model, and she wanted them be a part of it because if it wasn't for them, she wouldn't own the company today. Then she heard of a company that had done a deal that used an Employee Ownership Trust in which a trust is created to benefit the employees, and could benefit the contractors working for her business. In this model, she sets up a trust and it buys the company from her.

“There are funds available; not as much. And I'm probably not going to get as high of a multiple as if I would sell to a strategic. But it's never been about the money for me," Fischer says. "And I've saved my money for a long time. So, if I don't get as much, I'm good with that. And so basically, I sell it to this trust, and then every year the employees get a payout of the profits. And some of it goes back into the company.”

This, she says, is what she’s looking to do in the near future, with a potential target being her 20th anniversary with the business.