Max Friar, managing partner at Grand Rapids-based M&A firm Calder Capital LLC, routinely found his company passing on potential clients because of the size of their businesses.
Wanting to do business with these small, “Main Street” companies, Friar tapped then-intern Matthew Baas to develop a way to harness Calder Capital’s existing infrastructure and resources to provide a helpful, cost-effective service for this brand of businesses.
That’s when the idea for Small Business Deal Advisors LLC was born and Baas, now age 24, found himself leading the venture.
“Matt was instrumental in the founding and the initial running of all SBDA deals,” said Friar. “I would not have done it alone. Presently, Matt is the ‘glue’ — a CEO/COO that makes sure new clients are on-boarded, set up, the prep work is coordinated and clients get out to market (in a) timely (way).”
Baas, who also works for Calder Capital, was this year’s Rising Star Award recipient for the 2021 MiBiz M&A Deals and Dealmakers Awards.
Baas originally came to Calder Capital in 2016 as an intern following his sophomore year of college at Michigan State University. Assuming a role in which Baas said he learned about every phase of the M&A process, conversations soon sparked about ways to effectively serve the many smaller businesses — restaurants, retail shops, franchise re-sales — that submitted inquiries.
These business owners found themselves trapped on an island, generally unable to foot the bill for the fees associated with working with a traditional M&A firm while finding cookie-cutter business brokers to be ineffective.
“That was the biggest thing: You’re going to end up with kind of a crusty old business broker,” Baas said. “A lot of times, they have this Rolodex, and once they get through the Rolodex with calling for a day, they kind of just sit and wait. Typically their contracts are two years exclusive. The seller is stuck. Our goal was to shake that up.”
The model adopted by SBDA featured a month-to-month, non-exclusive contract with the sellers along with 8 percent commission rates. The flexibility and affordability spoke to small business owners.
“The flexibility around the non-exclusivity is a huge selling point,” Baas said. “If they’re able to go and find a buyer on their own without us involved, they don’t owe us anything.”
SBDA officially launched in 2017 and closed its first transaction in October of that year — the sale of Echo Hair Salon in Grand Rapids.
Small Business Deal Advisors has closed 40 transactions since its inception, including 19 deals in 2020. While it relies on Calder Capital for leads and other resources, SBDA is beginning to generate leads of its own.
Baas’ jurisdiction is not confined to SBDA, either. He also leads larger transactions for Calder Capital.
Friar pointed to a recent deal as an example of Baas’ handywork. In January of 2020, Baas managed the successful closing of Rochester, Ind.-based Topps Safety Apparel. Before becoming a client of Calder Capital, Topps Safety Apparel was being advised by another investment bank. After years into the process without success, the company engaged Calder Capital and Baas was asked to lead the sale.
He repositioned the business for relaunched marketing efforts and did extensive market research to identify hundreds of prospective strategic buyers and eventually sold it.
Baas said his age doesn’t necessarily creep into the conversation much anymore — especially with so much experience to his name.
“Back as an early intern (with Calder Capital) or with the newly founded SBDA, I tried to avoid conversations about my age and really emphasized the team we had and the systems and infrastructure we built,” Baas said. “Luckily, it wasn’t critically important that I have decades of experience because of those factors. I was just willing to put my head down and work and the rest came together.”
News coverage in the small business section of MiBiz is made possible by advertising support from the Small Business Association of Michigan. SBAM is the statewide and state-based association that focuses solely on serving the needs of Michigan’s small business community. This advertisement has no effect on editorial consideration in MiBiz.