Buying a Business with Help Every Step of the Way

Pirate Adventures, OttawaImagine a business where every day is Talk Like a Pirate Day! Well, that’s the case when you own Pirate Adventures. Meet Brock Harrison, owner (and sometimes pirate) of Pirate Adventures in Ottawa.

On multiple sailings each day during the summer season, Pirate Adventures stages theatrical pirate experiences. Departing from Parks Canada land near Mooney’s Bay Beach, the pirate adventure ship spends about 75 minutes cruising Mooney’s Bay and the Rideau River. During the sailing, the cast talk like pirates as they entertain the passengers on a fun adventure complete with a swashbuckling villain.

While the experience offered by Pirate Adventures is a hit with kids and families, Brock hopes to attract more pirate-inspired sailings for grown-ups and corporate groups.

In a wooden structure on site, Brock also has a small retail outlet where he sells pirate-themed merchandise that helps to create a shiver-me-timbers experience. Picnic benches allow party groups to serve food.

Setting Sail to Find the Right Business

As a member of the Canadian Navy, Brock had a successful career navigating warships. As he considered life after retirement from the service, Brock considered running his own business. A friend suggested that he explore what business brokers have to offer. An Internet search led to Sunbelt Business Brokers and to Khaled Bitar, a broker in Sunbelt’s Ottawa office.

Through Khaled, the search started for suitable businesses. Brock thought he had found one opportunity, but in the end, the seller backed out. When Pirate Adventures came up for sale,  Brock was tempted enough take the adventure cruise himself. Since confidentiality is important to protect the seller, Brock had to show some commitment before he was allowed to look deeper into the business. Finally, Brock met with the owner, who was selling his business through another broker in the Ottawa Sunbelt Office.

Pirate Adventures boatThe decision was made easier by the seller’s commitment to see Brock succeed as the new owner. This was an early, positive sign that taking over Pirate Adventures would be a successful endeavour.

Brock also liked the seasonality of the business. Since his wife runs a bed and breakfast business in downtown Ottawa, it meant that they would both be able to enjoy time together during the slower off-season. While Brock’s nautical background is a coincidence, it helps him when he needs to act as captain to steer the ship.

A Long Journey of Discovery

Buying any business can be complicated, and buying Pirate Adventures was no different. The process involved many steps with various levels of government and financing stakeholders. “I definitely faced a learning curve,” Brock remarked. “But Sunbelt sets everything out well. Khaled was fantastic at giving me the direction I needed and taught me what I needed to know to get through the process.”

Brock warns that the purchasing process can at times be frustrating. So much happens: the offer, the contract, the financing. The lawyers get involved; the bankers get involved. About using Sunbelt to handle the process, Brock said, “Without Sunbelt, I would have overpaid; I would have missed essential elements in the contract.

Brock also praised the role of his broker, Khaled. “He’s a great guy,” says Brock. “During the process, he really demonstrated his ethics.” He also appreciated the help given by Patrick Ryan, the Sunbelt broker who worked with the seller.

Advice from the Captain’s Chair

Brock Harrison

Brock Harrison
Pirate Adventures Ottawa

Because the process involves so many steps, Brock warns prospective buyers of a business to expect the purchase to take time. “Be honest with yourself and with the numbers. Don’t fall in love with a business,” he says, “without first looking at all the facts behind it.”

With a positive view of entrepreneurship, Brock encourages people to consider it as a career choice: “Think about owning your own business. Kick the tires on a business.” When it comes to running their own businesses, he feels that more people are capable than they think they are.

In other words, do your homework and take the plunge; you won’t regret it. Brock feels that the rewards of entrepreneurship outweigh some of the negatives, such as working seven days a week through the summer and doing the less desirable tasks that you can’t always pass on to staff.

Brock also warns that buying a business isn’t something that you can do on your own.  He cautions, “If you’re not experienced in these things, it’s essential that you use a business broker like Sunbelt.”

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