SEA interviews Jon Brandt
Today we have the great pleasure today of having Jon Brandt with us. Jon’s a terrific entrepreneur I’ve known now for a couple of years and we’re going to talk about the sale of his company back in 2009, a company called NHA, National Health Career Association. Jon, welcome.
Hi. Thank you, happy to be here.
And as someone who had no idea about really what nurses did and what Allied Healthcare professionals did, I actually asked why that black and blue mark was on my grandmother’s arm. And one of the nurses said to me, the phlebotomist was trying to draw her blood. And I thought wow, okay, a phlebotomist it sounds like a person that’s probably been trained and has gone through extensive training so obviously, there was a little mistake made.
Another nurse overheard my conversation with this particular nurse and she called me over to the side and said, “That phlebotomist was working in the cafeteria last week and we had a shortage up on the floor and we needed phlebotomist so we quickly trained her to draw blood using an orange.” And my grandmother was actually her first person or victim that got her blood drawn from this person and that’s why grandmother has this big black and blue.
And it just blew my mind. And I looked at the industry – this is before the Internet so I did my work at the library – and discovered that there was no licensure for phlebotomists, there was no certification that existed for them. And I worked it out and developed an education program. I brought people in to help me create a career education school and created a training program for a phlebotomist.
And the next step was the school business. I had actually built it and sold it over a few years and then came up with an even more interesting concept: to create a certifying agency, not only the education piece but being able to verify that these individuals could work in the field and knew how to draw blood. And that was the orientation of NHA. And it was a 15-year build of a business and I was happily able to sell it, really shockingly.
I was six months into a five-year growth plan when I was called by a private equity firm that really wanted what we were doing and I wound up selling the company to them 15 years after starting it. It was exciting.
Talk more about the private equity firm and how you knew it was time to sell the business. And who was on the team to help you make that transaction happen?
In January of 2009 I sat down my wife and I said, “In five years we’re going to sell the company for this number,” and I was on vacation in December. And literally, three weeks later in January, I get a call from a private equity firm, and I was getting calls, a lot of calls over the year, year and a half. But this one was particularly interesting because they called me and they really wanted this and really understood what I did and very interested in buying my company.
And I really wasn’t interested but I wanted to find out okay, what’s the value of my company, I don’t even know. And we started talking and one thing led to another and I felt like wow, I got an interesting company here that really wants to buy me. I reached out to an M&A group that was very helpful in helping me negotiate and put the deal together.
More importantly, they helped me through the due diligence process. I had to stay focused and keep growing the company so when we did enter into due diligence I wouldn’t be distracted.
What was the due diligence process like? On a scale of one to 10 how painful was it and how did your M&A team help you through it?
Yeah, I would have blown it if I didn’t have that person to rely on, I don’t think we ever would have gotten a deal done.
If you decided to sell your business don’t bring the emotions into it because no one’s going to treat your baby like you treated it. You have to be able to separate the emotions of it as opposed to your ultimate goal. The ultimate American Dream is to build the business and sell it, right. And I was able to do that. To me that was the bottom line that I always had to look at and it worked out well for me.
Last year I invested in a company called Higher Next and we sold it to a company called Procter U. I was able to be a part of the board and help that process happen. So it was an exciting to experience an acquisition from a different angle.
Jon, thank you so much for being a part of our E’s with X’s series, I really appreciate it.