I get a call from an intelligent man who proceeds to tell me about his unique business. I think, sure everyone thinks his or her business is unique. But after putting down the phone, I discovered he was right.
This business had five businesses in one. It was located is a small dusty old west town in Arizona, between Las Vegas and Phoenix...yes in the middle of nowhere...and was several miles off the main highway to boot.
The business was a combination of a (1) classic western bar, (2) a park bench style diner with entertainment on an old western wood floor, (3) two retail shops for tourists (4) an RV park for snow birds and finally (5) a 16 room motel built more than 100 years ago with 18" adobe walls nonetheless! This was a classic biker bar hang-out with lots of hang-over’s no doubt!
One late afternoon, I headed out of Las Vegas back to Scottsdale after a convention. This location was convenient just once, and this was the one time. I'm driving down the highway. To the east, one can see the western rim of the Grand Canyon. To the west, the valley the great Colorado carved over millions of years. Yes, one has to ask how does the Colorado River that cuts through the middle of the Grand Canyon be east of me while the very same river I can see is to the west of me? I have no clue other than it has to be one long winding river!
So I go four miles back on this dirt road with dust flying everywhere. It was early spring, so it isn't hot at all, and there certainly hasn’t been any rain lately judging from all the dust. In fact it was a bit cool that day with big deep blue skies. This town sits about 5,000 feet above sea level surrounded by, well, nothing...there really isn't any plant life, unlike the Sonoran desert that's full of life. Perhaps there were some shrubs around, but all the little shack homes that looked like they were right out of Little House on The Prairie distracted my eyes from any life.
Somehow I found the business. Yes, it’s right out of an old Clint Eastwood western movie, Wood Walkways. Wood panel buildings bleached out. There is a barking dog in the distance. Not a soul on the dirt street, not even a kid.
I walk into the bar and this big scruffy guy that's probably 6'5" 280 lbs with hands as big as a baseball glove greets me. Seems like a nice guy, I think. He welcomes me into the bar and quickly pours me a drink. There is no one else around. We share pleasantries for the next few hours as he tries to get me drunk...I resist. I’m a lightweight and slowly drink.
He tells me the place is making great money...they all do I think...and proceeds to give me a profit and loss statement showing net income of $225,000. Great I think. I sign him up, we price this unique business with real estate at $525,000 and I start to market it. We get lots of people to drive out to the middle of nowhere to see this place. And frankly we had serious lookers.
A few months later I get the following call "Take our listing down!" This usually means the seller is working a deal behind my back. So I call him back. His wife answers the phone. She quickly gets her husband on the phone (which ended-up being his girlfriend BTW). He tells me that I won't believe what happened. “The secret service was yesterday” he says : and they confiscated every piece of paper I have. The 25 armed treasury SWAT team members with M-16 pointing at me. So please take my listing down” he finishes.
I was shocked! I ask what does that have to do with me? He said somehow the secret service saw our ad showing a profit of $225,000. Some analyst at the treasury, who clearly has nothing better to do, was able to link my ad to that business, no doubt through a series of tedious steps not to mention confidential agreements, and then eventually to his personal tax returns that were showing a loss of $150,000 or more each year.
The secret service came to my door the next day. It was a four-hour interview. I have no idea what happened to my client. He never contacted me again. But every time I take the road to Las Vegas, I want to turn right on that old dusty road to nowhere to see what happened.
Mel Jones is one of the premier restaurant brokers in the nation having published hundreds of articles on buying and selling a restaurant and bar business, selling thousands of restaurants in CA., WA and AZ and building one of the most copied business models in the brokerage industry. Mel started SellingRestaurants in 2004 with the one simple concept, give the buyers the information they need to make intelligent buying decisions without being pestered by a broker or hiding information, prepare the business for market by researching key details that make or break deals and educate the buyer on the buying process to create an intelligent buyer. Prior to SellingRestaurants, Mel was a Chief Financial Officer for Universal Music Group, the largest music company in the world. There he participated in more than $11.5 billion of merger and acquisition transactions. He also work for top companies such as Nestle Foods, USA. He hold a Bachelors in Business Administration Finance as well as attened Law School at Gonzaga University. Give Mel a call at 480.274.7000 or e-mail him at [email protected] if you have any questions.