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How to Grow Your Business While Trying to Sell your Business, with Robbie Hardy


It can be tricky to grow your company while trying to sell it, because growing and selling are both full time jobs and then some.

So how can a founder be expected to do all the things to maximize the offer?

Today, “entrepreneurologist” Robbie Hardy joins us to answer this question. She and host Izach Porter discuss:

  • The importance of maintaining operational excellence and long-term growth to attract potential investors
  • Documenting standard operating procedures (SOPs) to enhance business value
  • The role of financial indicators and realistic projections in transactions
  • Deal structures
  • Sales cycles
  • Negotiation tactics
  • The balance of it all!

Robbie Hardy is the Executive Mentor in Residence at Duke University, angel investor, author, and keynote speaker.

This episode of Deal Closers is hosted by Izach Porter, brought to you by, and is produced by Earfluence.


Robbie Hardy – 00:00:05:


I don’t know why partway across the country, I think, well, what am I going to do? I mean, I’d had corporate experience. I mean, I know the importance of pausing in negotiations and I can’t go out outside the room and look out the window. I could. But anyway, long story short, we’re in the price negotiation sitting around the table. And they throw a number out and I know it’s not enough. Well, I have no idea, I reach in my briefcase and say, well, what does she say?


Izach Porter – 00:00:42:


All right, you’re listening to The Deal Closers Podcast brought to you by, a show about how to build your e-commerce business to be profitable, scalable, and one day even sellable. I’m Izach Porter, and today’s guest on our show is Robbie Hardy, executive, mentor and residence at Duke University. Angel investor, author, and keynote speaker. Robbie’s career has spanned big corporations, startups, and boardrooms, and she’s been involved in huge successes and miserable failures from time to time. We could hear stories all day from her, but we’ll try to focus on a few specific topics today. How to grow your business while trying to sell your business. Hey, Robbie, how you doing? Thanks for being on the show today.


Robbie – 00:01:28:


I’m good. Thanks so much for having me.


Izach – 00:01:30:


Yeah, really, really glad to have you. So I’m excited to talk with you. I’ve looked through your background. You’ve got a tremendous amount of experience in M&A and putting deals together and financing. And I think it’s a topic that will resonate with a lot of our listeners. How do you grow a business while you’re trying to sell it? How can you be attractive to investors? And so just really interested to get your perspective and some of your experience on those points. So I guess along those lines, one of the common challenges that I see when I’m taking companies to market is the challenge of a founder staying focused on executing in the day-to-day operations of the business while they’re going through the process. As a broker, I try to take as much of that work off of their plate as possible. But I know it can be a juggling act to do both things, to sell your company while you’re continuing to grow it or try to grow it and run it. What kind of experiences have you seen, maybe both good or bad around those lines? Are there some best practices that you’re aware of there?


Robbie – 00:02:36:


Yeah, I mean, I think it is a challenge. And I always tell when I’m mentoring or coaching founders who are in that process, run your business with your right hand and sell it with your left, assuming you’re right-handed, obviously. Because you just deals, it doesn’t happen. They look like they’re moving along. You take your eye off the ball. The deal starts to waver or the acquirer is trying to see exactly how strong your numbers and your projections, et cetera, are. So if you take your eye off the ball, you’re feeding right into that price negotiation or a walk away or whatever. And I know it’s extremely hard to do that, but it is something that your first priority is to grow your business or in my advice and opinion and experience is. And if you keep doing that, an acquirer or an acquisition will probably happen. Maybe not as fast as you want, but eventually it will come together.


Izach – 00:03:40:


Okay. So that’s an interesting point. I think what you’re getting at there, is there could be a trade-off of am I making long-term decisions for growth or maybe am I making shorter-term decisions to dress up the P&L, to try to get well.


Robbie – 00:03:55:


Well, yeah, and they both, they come together because if you’re growing it, doing it for long-term growth, you’re dressing it up at the same time. So it’s when you stop sort of doing either and just focus on everything that the lawyer, all the things you have to get your data room and all the pieces that have to be put together for the deal and take your eye off the revenue and expense management.


Izach – 00:04:21:


So I think this is such a good topic because one of the things that I feel like most sellers are underprepared for, and I work really hard to get them prepared for this. But one of the things that people are often unprepared for is how much time and effort it takes to get an acquisition for the seller, how much time it takes to get it through diligence and to the closing. And so… Maybe, I think it’d be interesting, what are the challenges you see maybe that have come up during diligence or just from themes? Like what are the big rocks that can kind of slow a transaction down or suck up the time of the owner if they don’t have the right team in place to help them?


Robbie – 00:05:02:


Right. Well, I mean, in coaching founders, I always say start your data room from day one. People have no idea what I’m talking about. It’s, you know, I want them to think about the fact that what if somebody comes tomorrow to buy your business. You don’t want to, you don’t want to have been commingling funds or do you want all of those kinds of straightforward things put together, you want one place with all your contracts, you want one place with all your legal documents, you want one, you know, all these, you know, you want if I’ve come from the software world, you want to have your site, your code, and all that commented. And the details are endless, because while an investor may not want to look at that, an acquirer certainly does. And so I think it’s the difference due diligence is not the same, there’s certainly a lot of overlap. But there’s a lot more depth, I mean, you feel like you have to get, you know, they want your firstborn or something, by the time the deal is done, you’ve given them everything and told them so many things, and they keep asking for more or asking the same thing in a different way.


Izach – 00:06:07:


Yeah. Yeah, that’s definitely something, I think.


Robbie – 00:06:11:


So it’s, yeah, it’s, so the, the amount of, and it’s, you know, there’s sort of, it’s always put more away, put it somewhere. And we just, for the terms of a data room, it just has all, everything about your company, everything about your employees, everything about your healthcare, everything about, you know, whatever, all the infrastructure, all the boring stuff. Along with the fun stuff, along with where the, who the customers are and all that kind of thing. It’s that digitized version of your world. It used to be digitized. It used to actually be a physical paper data room. So, and it may be in some cases still.


Izach – 00:06:52:


I haven’t done that yet. I’ve been, I think I’ve been fully in the digital, the digital data room space.


Robbie – 00:06:58:


Well, yeah. And I obviously a lot older than you are. And so, yes. Yeah. And the paper room that you, I mean, if anybody’s complaining about the digital room, they just need to go back and think about all those piles of paper, all those notebooks, all those files. Oh my God.


Izach – 00:07:13:


Oh, yeah. That’s interesting. I hadn’t ever thought about that.


Robbie – 00:07:16:


You can’t search them. You can’t just go in and do a search for things. You search.. Anyway, those days are over.


Izach – 00:07:24:


I think that’s really, you said, start your data room from day one. I think that’s a really interesting way to just think about running your business and probably helps you make decisions along the way that will move you towards a goal of a potential sale or equity investment at another point in the future. Let’s talk about something that would maybe go into that kind of early planning process. I think a lot of businesses don’t really have well-detailed out, and that’s SOPs, standard operating procedures. How important is that? What are some best practices you’ve seen around companies that really had those down well and did it add value to the deal or make it easier for them to transact?


Robbie – 00:08:08:


So, you know, having the standard operating procedures written down sort of for a manufacturing business or something like that is really obviously very critical. And it being digitized or whatever, you know, every business is different. The things that you do to make your product or service worthy of someone looking at buying, then you have to be able to document in a variety of ways, you know, what goes into making that product or service so great. And in my world of software, it’s what does the code look like? How is it tested? What are all the processes that go into place before you move it from development to test to production to when the customer has it? Because in that process, and it’s the same, there’s steps similar in other businesses. So having that, so that not only is it ingrained in everyone who works there, it’s documented for when new people come, it’s in a handbook, it’s all, you know, everybody, everyone knows about it. And it’s in the room. And it gets modified as things change or as companies get more sophisticated or problems happen and you realize, oof, there’s a lesson we learned. How can we not have that happen?


Izach – 00:09:26:


Yeah. Yeah, that’s a great point, right? Document the lesson.


Robbie – 00:09:30:


Yeah, that sort of tripping, it’s sort of the old-fashioned way, but a lot of it gets thrown into manuals or there’s a company website that has a lot of this in it, which the protocols and the sign-offs and the checklists that you go through to, and a lot of it can be put into checklists to simplify it when you’re trying to explain to somebody how you take your product from idea to production, and that steps them through it, then they can, you know, then in due diligence, they can look through it and see sometimes, you know, you start telling them the process and you lose them because it’s not always the most interesting.


Izach – 00:10:09:


Yep. So shifting gears just a little bit. You’ve been working with Duke University for some time. You’re, I think, an executive, mentor and residence there. And you worked with a lot of women-owned businesses and a women-owned angel investor network. Can you just tell us a little bit about xElle ventures and what you’re doing there and kind of what, what projects..


Robbie – 00:10:31:


Yeah. Duke is completely different. I mean, it’s, you know, that’s I work with Duke founders and, but my rest of my life is focused on working with women. I’ve been doing that for 30 years. Well, years ago, I had a secretary when I was, and I got promoted in the corporate world. And I had an office and a conference room and a secretary back in those days. And so then this woman, her name was Ruby. She was German. She was so smart. And I was like, holy crap, she should be in here and I should be out there. Although I don’t think I could have done what she did. And I recognized how smart she was and how talented she was and how she certainly didn’t see that in herself. So, I started trying to help her and push her to take on more and do more and letting her know that I had her back. And so that experience was life-changing for me because I learned a lot. She flourished in a way that was astounding. And so I get addicted to paying it forward and helping women stand tall and own the room, know they’re enough, all those kinds of things. And so I always have, regardless of my businesses, I always have three or four women that I’m coaching on something that they’re trying to achieve. So I wrote my first book, Upsetting the Table, which was to help women in the corporate world, young women. How do you climb that corporate ladder? How do you forge all those paths, how you take your seat at the table and know that you belong there.


Izach – 00:12:08:


That’s awesome.


Robbie – 00:12:09:


Yeah. So it’s kind of morphed into all that. I’ve been an Angel investor since 1995. And I was for many years the only woman in the room with white men over 50.


Izach – 00:12:20:




Robbie – 00:12:21:


And I really thought, God, you know, the entrepreneur in me, there’s got to be another way. And so in 2000, I wanted to raise an angel fund that was all women investors. Wow. I was a little premature here in the triangle. We did not have enough entrepreneurial women who had had an exit or some kind of success. And so I had six women. And so I opened it up and had 75 men join me in about 10 days. And so I had that experience. And I always said I was going to come back and do an Angel fund for women investors. And of course, time moved on and we started getting data on the fact that women founders get so little of the venture money, you know, two, two and a half percent of investors. So.


Izach – 00:13:04:


No kidding.


Robbie – 00:13:05:


Oh yeah. Oh yeah. And well, you know, and it’s hard for women to get funded partially because there’s no one that looks like them at the table of investors. So while I beat up all my mail, investor friends and said, look, we got to do better about this. I finally looked in the mirror and said, women have to, we just have to do it ourselves. So I’ve been on this mission to get more women to be Angel investors and to move outside of just the entrepreneurial world. There’s a lot of high net worth women who, you know, are not involved in small businesses and don’t know anything about this world, but are smart and can, you know, and are accredited, et cetera, et cetera. So in 2019, 2018, I guess I gathered together 25 women from various walks of life and said, let’s do, you know, you want to do this. And 15 said, yeah, let’s do this. And so xElle Ventures was born. It’s women investing in women. It’s early stage. It’s startup kind of investing. But the way xElle Ventures works is it’s debt. It’s hard to get women to do things they don’t understand. And equity has its own language. It’s not that it’s complicated, but it appears like it’s complicated. And so women like to understand what they’re doing. So understanding loans helps them put their toe in the water. And then they’re like, oh, yeah, I get this. Oh, OK. I see what due diligence is. I see what screening is. I see what all these things are. So, yeah, I’m comfortable doing it.


Izach – 00:14:36:


Okay. So you’re at the xElle Ventures as a private debt fund.


Robbie – 00:14:40:


It’s a, yes, it’s a debt fund.


Izach – 00:14:42:


Okay. Very cool. That’s awesome.


Robbie – 00:14:45:


Yes. And so that’s good for businesses where they, and it’s small money. It’s twenty five to one hundred thousand dollars.


Izach – 00:14:51:




Robbie – 00:14:52:


Is that money that they can buy product, you know, whatever it doesn’t make sense to do equity with or if they are not ready for equity, this solves problems for them.


Izach – 00:15:04:


Interesting. Very interesting.


Robbie – 00:15:06:


Yeah. So we just kind of changed the model. While everybody thought it was the stupidest idea I’d ever had, it’s actually been working out.


Izach – 00:15:13:


Yeah, no, I love it. I love it. And you mentioned that you wrote a book. I see you’ve got some books behind you.


Robbie – 00:15:18:


I do.


Izach – 00:15:19:


What’s your most recent book? And what can you tell us about some of your books?


Robbie – 00:15:23:


My most recent book is this one, is when I Fed Up to Start Up. And it’s when I, it’s a story. Upsetting the Table and Fed Up to Start Up are, they’re like a business fable. They’re told as a story rather than a business book, you know, do this and this and this. And the lessons are embedded in the dialogue and the story, et cetera. So Fed Up to Start Up is about a young woman who got fed up in the corporate world and decided, even though she’d been very successful, she didn’t feel successful and left and started. And the rest is history.


Izach – 00:15:57:


Yeah. And what was the end of the story with Ruby? How far did Ruby go?


Robbie – 00:16:01:


So Ruby, you know, and I’ve lost touch with her. I’ve tried to find her. So Ruby ended up, moving up in the administrative ladder of a big company. And then she finally left. And I don’t know where she is. But she went from this, you know. Yeah, very insecure. And it was just there inside her and she didn’t know it. And I’ve seen that happen a lot. So it is very-


Izach – 00:16:27:


That must be really rewarding if you can unlock that in someone.


Robbie – 00:16:30:


Oh my God, yeah. And I learned something from these people. They are talking about it, and I think, well, I never thought about it that way or whatever. So, yeah.


Izach – 00:16:38:


Yeah. Very cool.


Robbie – 00:16:39:


Yeah, so it’s very fun.


Izach – 00:16:41:


Going back a little bit to investment and acquisitions and potential sales of a business. From your perspective, what are the financial indicators you think kind of get the most attention and will move the needle the most in a transaction?


Robbie – 00:16:59:


So in my world, it’s usually a build or buy question. Because it’s mostly software. So I, a lot of these other industries, I don’t know, you know,-


Izach – 00:17:09:


No, but software is a great interest industry and it’s topical for our listeners. So we’ll stick.


Robbie – 00:17:15:


So know that it’s a, it’s nine out of 10 times a builder buy for the, the acquirer. The company is like, we need to, you know, we have this hole or we want to have this feature. What do we do? And so when in the initial phase, it’s about does this product or service fill this hole? Then you start peeling back the onion. Well, what’s really in this hole? Is it a hole or is there something here? And customers are very key. The team, I think the team was, the team is always key, but the team, the whole team, you know, being perfect doesn’t get the due diligence that it used to, in my experience. It’s about the customers. It’s about the stability of the product. It’s about, you know, sort of the, in the software world, you know, could, if this team got hit by a truck, could somebody pick it up and do something with it? Or is it dead if we aren’t able to retain everybody? So the acquirer has a lot of things to look at. Revenue is obviously key. What’s the margin? How, when you’re investing, you’re looking at how does the team spend its money and are they really using it well and whatever. When you’re the acquirer, it’s like, okay, what did they spend it on? Well, we don’t need that. You know, you start eliminating things that, you know, as the acquirer, you already have that covered. So they look at the financials very differently, but the margins really matter. The customers matter. The repetitiveness of the customers matter. The pipeline of the customers, and they have to be real and not some, you know, oh, you would get 25 names. You can name phone calls can be made, et cetera, that this is actually real. The smoke and mirrors part of every business because you’re always saying you’ve got more than you have because it’s coming along. It’s hard to grow. It’s hard to do. You do that in the beginning of an acquisition, and then you have to get very real because you have to be able to demonstrate that all these projections and all these things that you’re showing to them have some basis to them when they peel back that onion of what’s in there.


Izach – 00:19:26:


Yeah. I’ve done a lot of projections and a lot of projections for the purpose of…


Robbie – 00:19:32:


They’re always very conservative.


Izach – 00:19:34:


Acquisitions. And when I’m talking to my clients, I talk about being conservatively optimistic. We want to show a projection that has a positive trend and is going to show a growth story, but it’s got to be something that as we go through the process, that we can actually be hitting the numbers that we projected.


Robbie – 00:19:52:


Well, and you can’t hit them if you don’t know who they are.


Izach – 00:19:55:




Robbie – 00:19:56:


I mean, there has to be. I mean, having done lots of projections myself and worked with hundreds of companies doing projections. It is in theory, we do the percentages, we can hit this many this day, this week, this month, the percentage of this one and all those things that go into it. But at the end of the day, who are they? And how are we going to go about getting them? And what’s the cost of that customer acquisition? So really getting, it’s painful, but really beneficial. It keeps you from spending money in the wrong places. And so the things that you’re going after to get a customer is, you know, how measurable are they? So you know that that actually worked. Not, so people throw a lot of money at certain advertising or whatever, and they get nothing out of it, but they’re not really looking. They’re just trying to. They tell them. I’ve heard this a million times, the acquirer, well, we’re out here, there’s thousands of people doing this and they’re all doing that, but the return on that investment is not showing itself in the way that the acquirer is expecting it to happen.


Izach – 00:20:58:


For sure.


Robbie – 00:20:59:


Naivete is okay, but it doesn’t go very far.


Izach – 00:21:02:


Yeah. So that’s kind of a lead into another thought is, how far and maybe just speak specifically in the software space, how far can you lean into the projections in terms of. Getting the deal done. Will buyers look three months forward, six months forward, 12 months forward, and actually pay for that? And how does it impact maybe the deal structure?


Robbie – 00:21:25:


Yeah, I mean, it depends on whether it’s consumer sales, business to business, enterprise sales, because they all, you know, I mean, an enterprise sale is a year. I mean, if you’re lucky. So it’s, you know, those are, if you look at those differently. So you really have to have a lot of them and where are and there has to be a sales cycle that is demonstrable to the buyer and to everybody in the company. What does it take to get our particular customer, whether it whether it’s consumer or business to business or whatever through the cycle? Is it a day? Is it a week? Is it a month? Is it a year? Is it the government? I mean, all those things come into play. So how far a buyer looks, you know, you’re always asked for five year projections. Well, that’s lovely. But if you’ve got a lot of experience, you know, if you’ve got 10 years of experience, you might be able to do that. But they’ve got to be able to see a year to 18 months out.


Izach – 00:22:23:


Yeah. And I love and talk to companies just about the practice of having projections in place in their normal operations. And, you know, a lot of companies don’t do projections even for the current year.


Robbie – 00:22:37:


I think if they don’t have investors.


Izach – 00:22:38:




Robbie – 00:22:39:


Because you’re not reporting to anybody.


Izach – 00:22:41:


That’s right.


Robbie – 00:22:42:


But themselves.


Izach – 00:22:43:


But themselves. But I think one of the benefits of having a projection in place and going through that process of thinking, you know, really what are the levers to pull to drive this business and what are the costs associated with doing it, is that you can track that expectation against what actually happens.


Robbie – 00:22:58:


Oh, absolutely.


Izach – 00:22:59:


By the time you get to a sales process, you’ve probably gotten better about projecting. And you’ll feel a lot better about the projections that you’re representing because you’ve been in the practice of doing projections over maybe a year or two.


Robbie – 00:23:11:


Right, right. And it keeps the crises down.


Izach – 00:23:15:




Robbie – 00:23:15:


You know, the cash flow nightmares that occur when you don’t have those. But it’s really hard to convince people that they need to do projections. I mean, they understand they have to have a legal entity and they have to pay taxes and they have to sort of follow all the laws. But there’s no law that says you need to do projections.


Izach – 00:23:34:


That’s true.


Robbie – 00:23:36:


It isn’t, and it’s unfortunate because it’s probably, it’s as important to understand how do you, you know, what are the, what are all the elements that go into revenue for your company? You’re absolutely right. And the sooner that you, you know, in your process, the sooner somebody starts thinking about wanting to sell their business for whatever reason, that if they haven’t been doing that, they start doing it right away. And perhaps in some cases can go back and say, OK, we got these five customers this way. OK, so where would they have been? So there’s a little bit of that.


Izach – 00:24:10:


Can you share a few case studies of companies that you’ve invested in or advised and kind of maybe just some stories of what’s gone really well, or maybe cases where things haven’t gone so well?


Robbie – 00:24:23:


Well, I mean, they all take, you know, they’re all very different. They all take on their own. And I’m sure you know that from being in your business. There’s certain cycles along the way. I think when it goes really well is when I think that the CEO or the owner pays attention to the business first and make sure that they doing everything that they can do to grow the business and show good profit, et cetera, et cetera. And don’t get so in love with the acquisition and looking beyond. The end game because it’s not over till the fat lady sings. So a deal can go right up to the day of closing and still not go through.


Izach – 00:25:11:


Yeah, painfully, painfully aware of that.


Robbie – 00:25:14:


It is painful. And sometimes we don’t know why. Because something’s happened on the buyer side, generally speaking. Now, so trying to keep people present and not, I mean, it’s hard not to look forward to the day when you’re going to get this big windfall of money. But usually the windfall is there’s usually there’s strings tied to it. I mean, you have some type of escrow of the funds in place so that there’s an earn out. There are things that people don’t realize that when the wire hits the bank, that that’s the end. It’s certainly not. And of course, to get there, you know that because you’ve had to go through all these things and you have to put projections in your earnouts. So for me, it’s been-


Izach – 00:26:03:


We could probably do a whole conversation just on earnouts and how to structure them and playing for them. There’s some of the strong teams.


Robbie – 00:26:10:


Yeah. And there’s a lot of creative ways people do it. And so you just think, I can’t make this up, but this is what they want to do. So here we are. So I think that from my experience, it sounds really simple, but it really is keeping your eye on your business and staying present and doing, you know, and it’s on nights and weekends, you have to work on the deal. It’s sort of your side job because you don’t ever know what might come from it. Maybe the deal doesn’t go through or maybe some other opportunity shows itself. So it’s keeping that going. I’ve had deals the same as you fall apart for seeing deals and been an investor in deals, which is painful too, where it’s supposed to close on June 1st and June 1st comes and goes and June 15th and June 30th. And there’s just more questions and more detail. And oftentimes you just don’t know. Or somebody does know and enough buyer has uncovered something that they don’t like, or they have found another product that does what yours does, but does it better, cheaper, faster, et cetera. So there are so many, there are factors that can, that can go in there. I think it’s another time it can fall apart and don’t get very far is when you get into the conversation of, you know, but they have you, so they have a broker. If they don’t have a broker, what’s the business worth? What’s the valuation? And the valuation for the buyer is very different than for the owner. And so is there a methodology? You know, there’s a lot of them out there and a lot of it is just sort of a, you know, right out of thin air. And so if the price is too much, they’ll walk away. You won’t get very far.


Izach – 00:27:59:


Yes. It’s such a good point, Robbie. And I think it’s one of the benefits of using a broker and having a process, a formal process, is that you get to see multiple offers. And those are actual market offers for your business. And then you can use those offers to get a pretty good view of how the market is viewing your business, what the strengths are, what the weaknesses are, negotiate against those offers. And it’s, I think very helpful to have a little bit of leverage as a seller when you go through the process to help you negotiate the deal and make sure that you’re not leaving money on the table. Because if you see three or four offers and they’re all converging around a value, you might’ve had a different opinion of value, but the market’s speaking, telling you how they value the business. And it might be more than what you’re expecting in some cases, but it’s good to get that.


Robbie – 00:28:46:


Right. I mean, yeah, having a broker is having a third party like that is so, so helpful for so many reasons. Because negotiations, et cetera, you know, I talk to people about the need to pause when you get into those tense conversations about pricing and deal elements. And as the owner or the founder, you’re just, you know, you’re like, no way, or I’m going to, you know, it’s, that doesn’t help, because it’s their baby. And so there’s a lot of emotion that’s attached to this.


Izach – 00:29:23:


Totally. Yeah. Totally see that.


Robbie – 00:29:25:


Emotion out is hard. So having a broker certainly helps that, you know, or your lawyer is somebody that can help.


Izach – 00:29:32:


I’m kind of an intermediary to help you.


Robbie – 00:29:34:


I sold my first company. I didn’t do that. And I used an eight ball. So that’s a whole different conversation. But-


Izach – 00:29:46:


Literally, like the magic eight ball.


Robbie – 00:29:49:


Yeah, hang on a second. Here it is. It’s the dealmaker and it says May 16th, 1995, and it’s an eight ball. So this is embarrassing, but, and why it worked, I have no clue. So I was, the company that was looking to buy my first company was in California and we were bootstrapping and I had some Angel investors and I was in the process of trying to raise VC money. And this acquisition opportunity showed up out of the blue. And so I had been there a few times and we were at the point where it was time to negotiate price. And I ha gotten a price. The board and I had come up with what’s the least we’ll take, blah, blah, blah. I get on a plane. I have my CTO with me to go through the technical stuff, but I know I’m going to be the only one in the room with the CEO and their acquisition person, et cetera. So I don’t know why partway across the country, I think, well, what am I going to do? I mean, I’d had corporate experience. I mean, I know the importance of pausing in negotiations and I can’t go outside the room and look out the window. I could, but anyway, long story short. I decide that I’m going to get a Ouija board. When I land in California, don’t ask me why. And I’d never used one. So it’s a good thing that Toys R Us, which was still around then, didn’t have one where I was. They said, but we have an eight ball. And I had, you know, I didn’t have a lot of time because I had to get to my meeting. So I took it, unwrapped it, this $8 eight ball or $5 eight ball, whatever it was. And put it in my briefcase. We’re in the price negotiation sitting around the table. And they throw a number out and I know it’s not enough. And why? I have no idea. I reach in my briefcase and say, you know, well, what does she say? And, you know-


Izach – 00:31:55:


In the meeting, you do this.


Robbie – 00:31:57:


I did this in the boardroom at a multi-billion dollar company. Anyway, and the CEO gets out of his chair, grabs my hand, takes me down to his office, and sitting on his credenza is like a Buddha. And in the Buddha, in his hands, is an eight ball. I mean, this is this elaborate thing. And he grabs it and he takes it and he said, okay, we’re going to have dueling eight balls.


Izach – 00:32:27:


I love this.


Robbie – 00:32:29:


So there you go.


Izach – 00:32:30:


Wait, what’s the, what did they, hold on, wait, wait, no, you can’t end it there, Robbie. What did the eight ball say? And how did the deal end?


Robbie – 00:32:36:


The eight ball just sort of became a symbol. Because obviously the eight ball says, who knows? And it was, you know, so I don’t recommend this. This is not a good idea. Why I did it, I don’t know. I didn’t, anyway. And so they said-


Izach – 00:32:52:


Disclaimer noted. Yeah.


Robbie – 00:32:55:


Everybody ballsy enough to do this, it would probably be a great asset to our company.


Izach – 00:33:01:


I love this story so much. This is the best.


Robbie – 00:33:05:


But the moral to the story is that everything usually doesn’t go like you read about. There’s these meetings and these papers and people are signing. I mean, there’s a lot of things.


Izach – 00:33:18:


But what a great icebreaker at an impasse.


Robbie – 00:33:23:


Yes. Well, but-


Izach – 00:33:24:


I understood that you’re not recommending it, but I think it was genius.


Robbie – 00:33:27:


Well, no, I mean, you know, so it became the deal, you know, everybody, all the investors.


Izach – 00:33:32:


Is that the eight ball? You’ve got the magic eight ball, and you got it engraved with the date on it.


Robbie – 00:33:37:


Yeah. This is the one I used, but everybody got one that was engraved like this.


Izach – 00:33:42:


That is fantastic. That’s fantastic.


Robbie – 00:33:46:


Yeah, and then the company wanted some too. So anyway, so the deal team ended up with them.


Izach – 00:33:52:


All right, so we won’t recommend that as the go-to strategy, but I will give you all of the respect deserved for having done it yourself. But maybe –


Robbie – 00:34:01:


Well, it’s about the pause. The point is, even with a broker, you need pausing in this process all the way along the way is really important. And I’m a software person, so I always think somebody who’s in a garage up the road is building something bigger, faster, better than what I’m building. So I’m always trying to stay ahead of them. So same way, I can be that way in a deal. And there are times you need to pause and kind of take another look at what you’re doing, not necessarily with an eight ball, but that was – I was trying to save money by not paying for my lawyer to come with me. Which I would never do again. I don’t think we want to call that a serial entrepreneur idea.


Izach – 00:34:45:


I think it’s fantastic. I love it. I love those stories because, I mean, that’s real, right? That happened.


Robbie – 00:34:52:


Yeah, just make that up.


Izach – 00:34:53:


You know, you leverage that situation into a, into a positive outcome. So that’s awesome. Well, hey, Robbie Hardy, how can our listeners connect with you if they’re interested in reaching out.


Robbie – 00:35:07:


Well, they can buy my books on Amazon, obviously. They can find me on, my website, or on LinkedIn. I’m Robbie Hardy there. I’d love to talk to you.


Izach – 00:35:26:


That was Robbie Hardy, who you can find at That’s Thanks, everyone, for listening to this episode of The Deal Closers Podcast brought to you by If you like the show, be sure to rate us, write a review, and press the follow button to share it with your network. And of course, if you’re looking for help selling your e-commerce business, be sure to visit This episode was edited and produced by Earfluence. I’m Izach Porter. Follow me on LinkedIn, and we’ll see you next time on The Deal Closers Podcast.