Sometimes one plus one equals three. Such was the case when Sunbelt helped two complementary, Ottawa-based law firms become one with more to offer the sum of each.
Since 1981, Don Good had been running his own law firm specializing in cases involving food, agribusiness, farm law, and environmental law. A big focus was litigation. But by 2012, two factors came into play for Don: the readiness for a lifestyle change and a heart health issue that caused him to think about his future.
Since 1992, Gaetan Buttigieg had been running his own full-service law firm, AGB Lawyers. Like Don, Gaetan reached a point in his professional life where he wanted to control his future and to plan for an exit strategy. Through business coaching, he realized that over the next 15 years, he needed to build value in his firm.
Here’s where Greg Kells, Sunbelt Ottawa owner/broker, entered the picture. Don had previously met Greg at a seminar and knew that he would be a good resource in planning for a change. After Don and Greg got together, Don listed his law firm for sale with Sunbelt.
Meanwhile through his business coach Grant Mellow with ActionCOACH, Gaetan met Greg who introduced the two lawyers, each ready for change. Both Gaetan and Don soon realized that they just might have a good fit for a deal.
AGB Lawyers was already a successful, well-managed legal practice. But it lacked strength on the litigation side. Don’s firm, however, was strong in litigation yet ready for a stronger management presence. For his part, Don was eager to concentrate less on management and more on the cases and law that he so much enjoyed.
Don and Gaetan both praise Greg for the non-pressurized environment that he provided. Greg helped the two men focus on their goals and aspirations, letting the two lawyers grow their relationship at their own pace and in their own style.
Greg worked to help Don and Gaetan recognize that joining the two firms could produce results and achieve their individual goals. He also helped the two men demonstrate that concept to each other. “Greg was there every step of the way,” Don said. “He encouraged us to do what was necessary to make the right decision.”
Between Don and Gaetan, trust was critical. During the interview for the preparation of this article, they both kept returning to this theme of trust. Greg’s professional style enabled Don and Gaetan to build that trust in each other together, which in the end, was what allowed them to move forward.
Part of securing that mutual trust was that Don and Gaetan shared similar philosophies on things such as the delivery of personalized customer service, the respectful treatment of each client, and the ability to work within a client’s budget. Both Don and Gaetan believe in taking a holistic approach to the delivery of legal services. Together, they’ve developed a process for delivering solutions.
Don and Gaetan are very happy with the outcome. Don and some of his staff moved into the AGBL offices, where Don now handles farm law cases and consults on all matters litigation for AGB Lawyers. Don asserts, “This turned out better than I have ever hoped it would.” For Gaetan’s part, he’s so pleased with his Sunbelt experience that he’s looking to Sunbelt again, this time for a corporate practice.
One thing that Don stressed is the value of his staying on with the firm. For professional service businesses like law firms, he feels that it’s essential to the success of the buyer. Don cautions, “You can’t just walk away.”
Buyers want assurances that the seller’s business will be profitable and continue to grow, notes Greg. “One factor in providing that assurance is to take steps to retain the most loyal and knowledgeable staff.”
In this case, Don was eager to continue working and has provided valuable expertise on which Gaetan depends. Gaetan would add, that together they created the right environment to encourage another key player, litigation associate Lisa Lemieux, to participate and endorse the move and merger. Having made the move with Don Good, she is a critical component of the litigation team at AGB Lawyers.
Don also can’t stress enough the value of using a business broker like Sunbelt. “Put yourself in Greg’s hands,” he said. He added, “It’s the best money I ever spent. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Greg Kells and Sunbelt to anyone wanting to buy or sell a business.”