When I started Bravo on Oct. 1, 2008, it was because I couldn’t find a job. I knew I had a winning idea, but I couldn’t find a company to hire me to build it for them at a time when most businesses were focused on cutting costs. Banks weren’t lending and venture capital had dried up. With a handful of friends and family dollars, I knew I had about six months to generate enough profit to feed my family. I wasn’t thinking about long-term growth, eventual liquidity events or attracting institutional investors. I simply wanted to survive.
By God’s grace, an amazing wife and mother in-law, four teenage children and hard work, Bravo was fortunate to make a profit in our first month. We’ve remained debt-free and healthy ever since. Over the years, we were fortunate to have incredibly smart and talented people join our ranks to help us grow to employ over 160 people and serve over 1.3 million members across the nation.
While I struggle to recognize myself as a “deal guy,” I’ve clung to a few principles that have served me well.
- Always look for investment capital before you need it. If you wait until you need it, you’re going to pay through the nose for it.
- Valuation is often more about timing than revenue and EBITDA. You may miss a window where you can get 10x revenue because you want to grow bigger. You grow, but by then, you’re only worth 5x.
- Success occurs where preparedness and opportunity meet. If someone was willing to write a check tomorrow, are you prepared for that? Do you have a number? Do you have an ideal structure for your people and customers in mind? Is your house in order with clean audits, minimal legal risk, organized contracts and well-run operations?
Define what a win looks like so you don’t blow a fair deal, always thinking you could get more if you play the game and outmaneuver your opponent.
In my case, money was important, but it wasn’t the most important factor in agreeing to sell the company I founded. When Medical Mutual approached Bravo, I wasn’t looking to sell … but I was prepared.
A parent company that lives by strong values, cares for its people, invests in its community, is fiscally sound, is poised for growth and was seeking a strategic acquisition of a company that would play a significant role in its long-term objectives caught my attention. Structuring Bravo as a wholly owned subsidiary, asking me to continue as CEO, requiring no job eliminations, caring for our customers and creating growth opportunities for our people checked all the boxes that were most important to me.
Would I jeopardize these elements in order to chase a higher bid? Should I wait another year to drive a higher valuation and risk Medical Mutual being out of the market? For me, it was a clear no. A reasonable financial offer that strengthened our ability to realize our full potential while taking good care of our people and customers meant it was time to act.
Jim Pshock is founder and CEO at Bravo Wellness.