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How to Build a Business You Can Sell with Charlie Gunningham – The Network Pod

It seems obvious in retrospect, but one of the most common questions Charlie Gunningham was asked when he sold AussieHome.com back in 2010 was 'Why are you selling such a profitable business?' Charlie's answer was almost as simple as it was true: 'Because that's precisely when you do.'
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For my full interview with Charlie Gunningham listen to his episode of ‘The Network with Mike Drysdale’ podcast below.

It’s quite a special experience to be able to say that you’ve experienced the full life cycle of a business. To go from conceiving the idea, to executing on that vision and eventually selling the result on your terms is exceedingly rare. But that’s exactly what Charlie Gunningham did back in 2010 when he sold AussieHome.com to the Real Estate Institute of Western Australia.

Ten years after he started his business in the heat of the dot com boom, Charlie had been part of a real estate revolution, taking home listings off of newspapers and putting them online. He and his team had developed mapping software to show housing locations, six years before Google maps was even a thing. He’d built a portfolio of around 150 to 200 real estate agents in the Wester Suburbs of Perth and had created a business of genuine value to his competitors.

“You had about 15% of the market?”

“That’s right. We had the nice juicy bit though. The people that won quite a lot of the awards at Reiwa were Aussie Home members, but not necessarily on Reiwa.com”

But that wasn’t all. By listening to his customers and expanding their offerings over the years, AussieHome had developed additional revenue streams that could effectively be replicated across Reiwa’s database, which was close to 7x the size of the Aussie Home’s membership.

“I think they also wanted us to run Reiwa.com. Stuff we’d learnt over the course of ten years we could actually deploy at Reiwa.”

He even remembers the specific conversation that sparked the sale back in 2010.

“I remember Anne telling me ‘it’s quite difficult to find someone to run Reiwa.com who has that skill and is on a realestate portal.’ and I said ‘well you’re looking at him.’ I’ve been doing that for ten years. Our team has been doing it… And I’m not leaving AussieHome.com to come and help you run Reiwa.com but if you bought AussieHome.com we’d all come and we’d bring our web development work with us and everything else that we’ve learnt.”

It was the perfect storm. AussieHome had cultivated a valuable asset in attracting some of the most successful realestate agents in the Western Suburbs to join them as clients. They’d then added to that by developing systems and products that maximised the value of each client and could leverage that IP as extra value to contribute to the sale. The result was a home run.

“Reiwa were excellent with everything I looked for in the deal. There were four things:

  1. Obviously the price, little bit of negotiation, but that was done.
  2. Pay out my shareholders, cash 100%. Done.
  3. Look after my staff, give them full time jobs on at least the salaries they were on at AussieHome, done. They were fantastic with that one.
  4. And the client should still be able to use AussieHome if they want to, they shouldn’t be forced to use Riewa.com or even go on Reiwa.com if they don’t want to. Done!

So great deal.”

Charlie then went on to run Reiwa.com for the next three years, before eventually moving onto positions like the CEO of BusinessNews.com.au and eventually into the role he holds now at “Accelerating Commercialisation.” A government initiative that provides dollar for dollar funding for novel, pre revenue businesses with a genuine need for funding.

That means tech based, innovative ideas, that might be patentable or have never been done before. It could be a gadget, a medical device, some cool piece of software for the mining industry or an adtech product. The key is that the Australian Government needs to feel that if they didn’t fund this, it probably wouldn’t get up and it must be worthy.

As an advisor, it’s Charlie’s job to scour the business landscape looking for potential initiatives that could fit the bill. His favourite part of the job is helping people at the stage of business most entrepreneurs dread: ‘The Valley of death.’

“We managed to get through it just by slashing costs and going right well Nick and I won’t take a salary for 6 or 9 months and we went through that really dark period between 2000/ 2001 to get through it.”

“You only sell businesses when it’s your idea, you’re profitable and you get a good price. People won’t be interested when you’ve got losses and you’re maybe pre revenue and things haven’t got traction yet, that’s when you actually need investors right, which is why I like the Accelerating Commercialisation program because we can only invest then, in The Valley of Death.”

With his knowledge, skill and years of experience, I barely think there could be a better person for the job. And while roughly only one in every forty companies that Charlie speaks to will be right for the program, he attempts to provide assistance of some kind to every business owner he speaks to.

“Can I introduce them to an investor or a cofounder of just listen and be sounding board for what they’ve got. We’ve got to diversify the economy, we’ve got to support the tech sector. The future is technology. We’ve got to help these companies innovate and this is the program that does that.”

From starting his own business, to selling it and now helping others succeed, Charlie is giving back to a startup community that he feels beholden to and entrepreneurs in Perth couldn’t be luckier. If this article, (which only scratches the surface of the insights he shared during our 55 minute episode of the podcast) is any indication, Charlie is a fountain of knowledge and a resource that any startup founder would be lucky to tap into. For the full interview and a number of others with some of Perth’s most impactful leaders, influencers and entrepreneurs, subscribe to “The Network with Mike Drysdale” on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher or Soundcloud.

To stay up to date or get in touch with Charlie Gunningham checkout the links below:

Twitter – @ChazGunningham

Personal Blog – www.damburst.com.au

Or Email – Charlie@startupnews.com.au or www.startupnews.com.au

 

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