06 Mar Email Interview of WM B Martin by Tom West (Part 1 of 3)
This week’s postings comprise a three-part interview of Industry Veteran WM B Martin by BBP’s Tom West.
Bill, you and I, with over 30 years in business brokerage, have done some fascinating things in our industry, and I think my readers would be interested in hearing the history of your experiences.
Thank you, Tom, for your interest in my activities. I joined Business Concepts, Inc in Kansas City, Mo (which was, back then, the most successful business brokerage in KC) in 1982, as a new, straight commission agent. BCI was a former VR agency (they went independent the year before I joined them), but they still used the original VR/Tom West agent training materials. So, Tom, like thousands of others in our business, I’m a Tom West trainee, even though I didn’t meet you in person until many years later, at an IBBA conference.
I fell in love with business brokerage those first weeks on the job, even though I was uncomfortable with the BCI “process”. They had no secretaries (agents answered the phone), no assigned desks, no agency provided leads, no direct mail or telemarketing or advertising, except for advertising our listings on Sundays in the KC Star newspaper, and, of course, back then, there was no internet, and no “biz opp” web sites. 100% of our seller contacts were from personal canvassing. And, the buyer leads from the KC Star went to the agent “on phone duty”, not to the listing agent. There were other practices that I thought could be improved, but, even so, I found my professional home in business brokerage that year.
How did you do, as an agent?
I worked hard, and was blessed to discover that I had a talent for listing and selling businesses. I earned great income, became the top agent, each year, until I left BCI in 1989 to start my own office, American Business Masters, Inc (ABMI), in Kansas City.
You changed many things about “the process” at ABMI.
Yes, I’d begun those changes in my own brokering at BCI, and discovered methods that worked better than BCI’s methods. For example, we’d sold 80% of my personal listings while I was at BCI, whereas the national average, as you know, is that most brokerages only sell 20% of their active listings. And, the other 8 agents at BCI, who mostly didn’t use my methods, only averaged selling 10% to 20% of their listings, in the same agency. As I later hired and trained agents at ABMI over the years, we were able to maintain a 60% “sold” of all the listings we listed during the time I owned ABMI, still 3 times more effective than the national average in the industry.
I also believed in feeding lots of agency generated leads to agents, on a constant basis, (buyer and seller leads), and in guiding buyer leads to the original listing agent, which we’ve done, in every agency I’ve been involved in, since 1989.
Of course, along the way, the internet was born, and, slowly, the “biz opp” sites took over the buyer lead generation world, which was a dramatic, exciting accelerator that transformed our buyer lead “bank” into a huge, computerized, prospect reservoir.
We also created dramatically different/more productive/more efficient methods of interviewing prospective sellers and buyers, of evaluating businesses (we’ve always used our own formula’s, not the standard ones), and we made improvements, too, in the managing of the financing of business acquisitions, by becoming absolute experts in the financing, resulting in incredibly high success ratio’s.
We were able, too, to transform the management of the closing and due diligence process, converting those processes into “deal makers”, instead of “deal killers”.
We also developed a 5 day, 40 hour training course for new agents, and an ongoing long term training system for experienced agents.
I remember that ABMI became a dominant brokerage in those years.
Yes, as we learned, innovated and developed, we prospered. By 1998, we had grown to become a 3 office brokerage (Kansas City, Topeka, Ks and Springfield, Mo), with 22 full time agents, accomplishing over 100 closings per year, which, I’m told, back then, and even now, is an impressive number, in a city the size of KC. Our average sale in those years was about $200,000. We also purchased our own 6,000 sq foot headquarters building in a beautiful suburb of KC, with private offices for each agent, 4 full time administrative staffers, and a large conference room.
And, I’d become active in the IBBA, and was lucky to meet you and the other pioneers of our industry, which was a combination of education and advice that dramatically increased my professional development.
And then, you “retired”, for the first time.
Yes, in 1998 I sold ABMI and retired, staying on as a part time agent and advisor for a year. And, I still owned the office building ABMI was in, so I was their landlord.
Since Bill did not stay retired for long, tomorrow’s posting continues this interview and Bill’s involvement in business brokerage.