SUCCESS STORY

Randy Boyer

Country Lane Pet Resort

Randy Boyer Working an unfulfilling corporate job by day and running a Husky rescue by night, Randy Boyer decided it was time to switch things around and make working with dogs his day job.

But not only his day job – he would make it his business.

“I thought if I want to get involved in an industry that I found joy in, I just had to jump right in.  I’ve met a lot of people who talk about being self-employed but never pull the plug because they never let go of that safety net,” he says.

“Those things (healthcare and benefits) were holding me back from getting into a new business full time. When you separate yourself from those safety nets and jump off the cliff, it puts you in a vulnerable position where you have to survive.  The work efforts tend to escalate but you are your own boss and it’s your own business, so you just commit to being successful and you become resourceful.”

Having run the Husky Rescue which placed 85 dogs in homes, Randy then volunteered at a pet resort to better understand the industry.  In 2001, he finally quit his corporate job and bought Country Lane Kennels.

“About 2 years prior to making the decision, I began publicly telling my friends and family that I was going to do what I did.  I made it public so those people would ask me  ’how’s that effort going?’ I put myself out there and did not want to be a failure so that propelled me forward.”

Randy and his wife made an investment in land, and in an area that they were not familiar with.

“Country Lane was born from my inability to find a pet lodging facility that met my standards.  Many lacked the essentials: quality outdoor time (not a 10-minute walk around the building), outside space to run at full speed, fresh air circulation, and daily social interaction with the staff, which is a requirement for dog’s health, not a “TLC” or “extra-care” package.  The love that I have for dogs and cats prompted me to follow my passion and operate the highest quality boarding facility, a retreat where you know your family members are getting the very best care, and where you have peace of mind.”

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Over the next 22 years, working many 7-day weeks, Randy grew Country Lane from a three-employee, 30-unit boarding facility to one with over 15 employees (seasonal and full-time) and a 100-unit boarding facility with capacity for over 100 dogs and 8 cats.

Randy credits the corporate world with helping him develop valuable  communication skills. “The pet resort industry is all about client relationships.  You are dealing with all demographics of people, individuals who are focused on their pets and can be demanding. I learned to be able to communicate with most anybody.”

“This job has been tremendous for giving me fulltime physical activity throughout the day, combined with client interaction, so that’s been a good balance”

During Covid in 2020, Randy discovered Teija Heikkila of PET VET M&A, Sales & Advisory, who was offering webinars and zoom calls on how to survive and thrive at a very unprecedented time for businesses.  After participating in these, and unsure of how long the pandemic would go on, Randy reached out to Teija to get a valuation in case he needed to sell.  With Teija’s good advice and a PPP loan in his back pocket, Randy managed to get his business through the dramatic drops of 2020 until activity started to pick back up.

“We were usually sold out with a waiting list, so to have only 40 dogs instead of 150 at Thanksgiving in 2020 was very difficult.”

But in 2021, things turned around and like many other pet resort businesses, Country Lane roared back to life as people began to travel again.  Randy was approached in the fall of 2022 by a corporate consolidator interested in buying his business.

Randy agreed to look at a deal and started to assemble his financial information for the buyer’s due diligence.  But by March of 2023, he realized it was not going quite as well as he had anticipated.  He knew he was out of his depth and reached out again to Teija.

“She was kind enough to take the time to listen to my current status. I had stupidly decided to see if selling the business was something I could do on my own. I went far enough to realize it was over my head.  The financials they were requesting started challenging me, not because I didn’t have them available but because that was not my area of expertise.  I also knew enough about competition to realize that if this went far enough to get an offer from them, I wouldn’t know what I would be leaving on the table. When Teija stepped in, she approached it so differently than I imagined.  She has a database of M&A buyers as well as private buyers.  My business was right on the line where she felt it was big enough for the M&A market but would still be of interest to the private market. She put together a sales packet that included everything, even an in-depth onsite photo shoot with drones, interior shots etc. that I could not have done on my own.  From a legal standpoint, her expertise protected me more than I would have realized.  She discovered that over the 22 years I was down here, the county had changed their property zoning regulations and that affected my land parcels. That was a big hurdle.”

Getting it fixed was easy to accomplish but time consuming – involving a surveying company which was booked 8 weeks out, plus the process of having to go to the county for re-approval. Randy knew it was important to be able to present to a buyer a portfolio that was clean, with no issues that could cause a buyer to walk away or negotiate the price downward.

“Some people think like I did: ‘I can sell my business myself and not pay the commissions.’ They need to understand Teija is going to get two or three times more than what you can get by yourself. You can look at the improvements you’ve done and the goodwill in the business, and you think ‘I want a seven-figure price.’ The buyer offers a seven-figure price, so you start talking.  When Teija came in, she said the price should be a lot higher.  She was not only confident in that, but she helped me realize the true worth of my business because she does a lot of these transactions. My expectations went from being low-balled, to being proud of the work I had put in and deciding I would not settle for less than what it was worth.  The price difference she achieved more than compensated for the commission. She also brought a very dynamic team with many skills – coordinating zoom calls, property inspections, photography, putting together the financials for the confidential information memorandum, and even has legal representation available as well.  How would I do all of that myself while I am running a 7-day a week pet business? All of that has to be factored in.”

Randy’s business was successfully purchased by a large consolidator in October 2023. He is pleased that his qualifying staff will be able to get benefits he was never able to provide.

“I’ve left the buyer with good employees, but I’ve also left my employees with a buyer that can take great care of them.”

Now that he has sold, Randy already has his next chapter sorted out. The sale will allow Randy time to volunteer with both Samaritan’s Purse and Hope Force disaster response teams, as well as time to care for his elderly mother, having lost his father last year.  He and his wife want to do some more back country hiking, but he also plans to keep working. He has already applied for two jobs, so will not sit idle.

“I’m wired to work but maybe just a little more hands off. I’m not about retiring, I’m all about re-firing!”