From Books to Blinds: How One New Ottawa Business Owner Found His Right Fit

no more window watchingAs an accountant for over 20 years, André Lefevre had worked on the books of other entrepreneurs. He saw how owning your own business can lead to financial success as well as to other rewards. “Other people are doing it. Why can’t I?” André thought. He had caught the entrepreneurship bug.

André had no idea of what business he wanted to take on. But business is business, and he felt that his experience and education equipped him to take just about any company to the next level. In 2014, the time was right; the opportunity was right: So André Lefevre bought Blinds with Flair in Ottawa.

Beginning the Search

André’s story of entrepreneurship started in 2013 with an Internet search. He found one business that seemed to offer promise as well as challenges. Listed by the Ottawa office of Sunbelt Business Brokers, the business was a service centre with multiple commercial tenants off a busy highway. He contacted Sunbelt Ottawa owner/broker Greg Kells  and the process began on this multi-million dollar deal.

A year of negotiation followed—only to end when the owner backed out at the last minute. After a month of reflection, André called Greg to say that he was back in the market for a business. Another motivating factor was that by then, André had complete faith in Greg and in the services of Sunbelt, so resuming the original goal of buying a business with their help was a no-brainer. “You can’t buy the kind of experience and background that Greg offers.”

Finding the Right Fit

Greg showed André two other businesses, neither of which felt right. But in 2014, Blinds with Flair came on the market. Greg called André (“How are your selling skills?” Greg first asked André). The owners were moving out of the country and wanted to sell their business, which was well located and adjoined a busy shopping centre with other home stores such as Rona, The Brick, and Canadian Tire.

The process of due diligence began. André studied the company’s books for the past five years. While he saw a company that was in good shape, he also saw where it could move forward.

Through the negotiating process, André and the owner communicated well. Greg and Sunbelt also helped to arrange the financing. In October 2014, André took over Blinds with Flair. With a good base of residential and commercial business and lots of referral business, Blinds with Flair was on solid footing to grow under a new owner.

André was so happy with his service from Greg that he made sure that his closing deal for Blinds with Flair included a clause that made sure that Sunbelt got paid right away.

Making It Work

In taking over Blinds with Flair, André set a number of priorities, starting with where the emphasis of the business was placed. While almost half the business is residential blinds and shutters, draperies dominated the store. Yet draperies make up just 10% of the business. André, with help from Trishna, his capable new interior designer, changed the focus of the floor space to feature more blinds and shutters while creating a special area for draperies.

Another priority is making the website mobile-friendly: André wants to make it easy for all potential clients to see all that Blinds with Flair has to offer.

André also had to consider the store’s staffing. He believes that any entrepreneur has to build a business with help from the best people. He inherited two great sales people. He hired an interior designer and coaxed the former installer to rejoin the company. His staff have helped him tremendously, forming a good fit for his skills and personality.

With a staff of full and part-time employees, André has the expertise he needs. When big jobs come up, like installing blinds on four floors of a government office building, everyone helps to complete the job.

Giving Good Advice

Let’s look at André’s advice to entrepreneurs who want to purchase a business:

  • Do your due diligence: Make sure you open the books. Get a good accountant to help you dig for all the facts.
  • Make sure that the business doesn’t have any left-over debts.
  • Surround yourself with good people and keep your employees happy.

And the final piece of advice? “If you ask me, I would recommend calling Greg and using Sunbelt. Right from the beginning of my dealings with them, I found the people and experience professional. The service is fantastic.”

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