Richard & Mary Colven
Camp Wagging Tails
High valuations and multiple buyers are market dynamics that former corporate executive Richard Colven recognizes. Last year, he decided to act upon them.
The story starts 11 years earlier, with Richard and Mary being drawn from the corporate world by their passion for animals and desire to run their own small business. Buying an existing pet resort in North Carolina, the couple worked hard and became very active in their local community.
“The original owners had studied the space for several years and launched the business in 2005,’ Richard says. “We bought it in 2011. The wife had not worked for a while and the husband retired so they wanted another couple to take it over. We knew we didn’t know as much as the employees knew about running the business, so we didn’t change anything at first. We just changed things as needed, making sure we had a smooth transition. We made sure we had stability in the workforce primarily and then stability in the customer base. They had done a fantastic job in setting it up and running it, so it was mostly full steam ahead.”
Over the years, the Colvens were able to increase revenues significantly, with much credit going to their amazing and tenured staff. Richard and Mary loved being owner-operators so they could interact and build relationships with their clients - both human and pet.
“Going from the corporate world to running a small business was a fantastic switch. I wish I’d done it years sooner.”
On buying the business, the Colvens had planned to sell once their kids were out of college. But Richard couldn’t help noticing the market conditions looking more and more perfect, and combined with covid “having aged us in dog years”, he and Mary decided to test the waters.
“We interviewed a local broker but the moment we met Teija at Pet Vet, we knew she was it. Her knowledge of the pet industry, how these transactions work and what we should be looking for as sellers, were obvious from the start”.
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Teija put Richard in touch with a couple of others who had sold their pet resorts. “That was so helpful to us as they were more than just a reference to check her out. They really helped educate us on what to expect in the sales process. So Teija started adding value right from the start.”
Richard and Mary’s North Carolina business - Camp Wagging Tails - was put on the market at the end of May 2022. Teija obtained three offers in the following few weeks and the sale to the new owner, a consolidator, closed in September 2022.
“We liked the fact that Teija and her team were able to move quickly and efficiently. Once I’ve made a decision, I like to move fast so it was great having a broker who was more than happy to work at my pace. She was aggressively negotiating, she knew her buyers very well, which buttons to push, and which buttons not to push. The level of experience her team has with these transactions made everything run very smoothly. I was very comfortable with her decision-making.
“At the 11th hour of the deal, the buyer came back to us and wanted us to cut the price by close to $100,000. We did not do that, and Teija got us the profit margin we wanted, net of her fees. She exceeded our expectations of what our returns would be.”
Advice Richard would give to sellers includes knowing that the process is a lot of work.
“Providing all the buyer due diligence information is like having a second job. With my corporate background, I’m fairly sophisticated with accounting but the level of detail was still extreme.”
Since selling, Richard and Mary have done a little travel, spent time with their children and been able to increase availability for their parents. He is happy with how the staff have been kept on and seeing the business continue to grow under new ownership.
“I spent the first few months decompressing from 6 to 7-day work weeks, and we’ve seen a lot of family. I also have a lot of travel ideas so we will see where that goes.”