Welcome to the Talk Local Podcast: a weekly chat with business owners in Victoria, Vancouver, and throughout British Columbia to learn what they’re doing to create stronger connections with local customers.

This week’s episode is sponsored by Time2getonline.com and hosted by Alan Ford. 

In this week’s episode of the Talk Local Podcast, we chat about the secret to growing and selling your business according to Neal Cropper, former co-owner of Growlies Pet Food Inc.

All Good Things Must Come to An End: That’s Why, After 15 Years in Business, Neal and his Wife Jo-Anne Sold Off Growlies Pet Food Inc.

Although Neal and his wife and business partner, Jo-Anne, have now successfully sold off their business in order to enjoy an early retirement, Neal’s memories of how Growlies started out are fond. “Like most small, independent retailers, we started off with a common story: a sick dog,” Neal says. “This was in late 2007. We had had the largest pet food recall ever undertaken in history at that same time. So all of the pet foods that we thought were good and healthy were off the shelf because of poisonous ingredients, which killed more dogs and cats than are imaginable.

“With that happening, that started our journey. At the time, there was nobody retailing raw dog food like we wanted to so we built a customer base just by being here and marketing our values to other pet owners just like us who value fresh food over processed foods.”

Together, Neal and Jo-Anne built Growlies from a tiny retail space that didn’t even have the room for a bathroom into the well-known brand it is today. In 15 years of running their biz, they remark that they had only one vacation. Talk about working to the bone!

“Grow It or Stow It”: Neal’s Advice for Preparing for a Sale

Once a business owner has decided to “stow away” their business via selling it, Neal has this to say regarding preparing for a sale: “The first thing we did (and that we recommend you do!) was to bring in an accountant who went through our numbers and told us what we were worth, as well as some of the ways in which we could improve the value of the business.

“We also had a policy report done so that it would be easier for the new owners to stick to our original value system: the story of Tylenol, for example, always comes up, where they had a tampering incident across North America and, even though the stakeholders were arguing to keep them on the shelves, the CEO went back to their original values policy and took all Tylenol off the shelves in order to retain client trust. And the next quarter was stronger than ever for them.”

To mitigate the stress of selling your business, Neal also advises to:

  • Hire experts to cover areas that you yourself may not be familiar in
  • Start the process early
  • Ensure you find a trusted buyer
  • Determine whether your current location is more chain-oriented or independent retailer-oriented
  • Invest in infrastructure first 

His last tip? To enjoy! Preparing (and selling) your business is hard work, so he can’t recommend congratulating yourself enough on a job well done once it’s all complete.

The Importance of Finding Your Niche Early

“I believe that everyone needs a niche,” says Neal. “I’m also a firm believer that the Internet is a great equalizer between you and your competitors, whether that be a franchise model-type competitor or a large competitor with pockets, like Nestle. It gives you and your competitor the same microphone and you can build a customer base using your own specialized voice.”

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