My family has 1st, 2nd, and 3rd generation immigrant elements. Three generations ago, one of my great grandfathers left Russia when the Czar fell traveling to the west in pursuit of freedom and opportunity, two generations ago my maternal grandfather left Poland as a child traveling to America as many did early in the last century, and to my fortuitous benefit, my wife, who was born in the former East Germany, sought employment in the United States after the wall came down to experience firsthand the beautiful vision broadcast by Radio Free Europe (https://www.rferl.org/) which could only be surreptitiously listened to in her youth. These individuals and their inspiring, personal stories instilled in me respect and admiration for people who came to America, as Neil Diamond so beautifully conveyed in song (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ttDUGM-1mU&t=74s). IBA has since 1975 been honored to serve the first-generation immigrant community in the sale and purchase of their family businesses in the Pacific Northwest. Business ownership is one of the easiest ways to enter American society as an immigrant and it historically has been the fastest path to personal fulfillment and financial prosperity. Entrepreneurship can take the form of buying an existing business or starting one. The business brokers on the IBA team have successfully facilitated transactions with people of Chinese, Russian, Egyptian, Argentinian, French, Mexican, and many other national origins. Today, I would like to share one of the inspiring stories I personally experienced as a business broker.
I could tell you about the eight figure deal I negotiated that had to get CFIUS approval from the United States government for a Japanese buyer to complete the acquisition, instead I am going to share the story of one of the smallest deals I ever brokered, but one that in my life as been one of my most rewarding experiences.
In the 1990’s I was contacted by the owner of Redmond Pet Stop, a well-established dog grooming business with a loyal customer base. The female owner/founder was ready to retire and contacted IBA to explore a business sale. Her primary motivation for sale was providing a quality transition for her customers that would impact them and their pets as little as possible, more than maximizing the value of the business in the marketplace. I was compelled by her story, wanted to help, took on the project, and began marketing the business for sale. Multiple buyers emerged for the profitable service company. One of the potential buyers was a gentleman named Wan Kim, who had been professionally trained in pet grooming in South Korea and immigrated to the United States in the last couple of years. Mr. Kim and my client connected naturally and often got lost in discussion related to the art of styling each breed. Agreement was reached on a Letter of Intent, supported by family money, and Wan Kim purchased the business. The smile on his face at the closing table provided warmth to all present.
Mr. Kim and his wife, Heui, had two young daughters at the time. Through the business, they were able to buy a home and live a comfortable life. Wan & I stayed in touch and once a year would go to dinner and catch up. He would never let me buy out of gratitude and always wanted to take me to my favorite restaurants. I was excited to learn one year that he was opening a location in Seattle.
Numerous years later, Wan reached out to me as a resource. His eldest daughter was a strong student and wanted to be a doctor. He needed help with the FASA application (https://studentaid.gov/h/apply-for-aid/fafsa). We spent an evening completing the application and she proceeded to the University of Washington as a student taking advantage of the wonderful academic financial support available to any willing and capable student in the United States. She later graduated from medical school, as did her younger sister, and today both are doctors.
Wan & Heui’s family story is not a rare one in America. It is one that has occurred in every state in the union and with immigrants from every country around the world. Frequently, the entry point into American society for immigrants is through entrepreneurship. Commonly, their children do not follow in their footsteps into the family business but taking advantage of our public education opportunities spread their wings and soar to heights in professional achievement and financial prosperity not available to the previous generation. Others, remain entrepreneurial (I believe it is in some family’s DNA), but create and execute on their vision in alternative industries than prior generations.
IBA welcomes the opportunity to facilitate first generation immigrant acquisitions of businesses, as I did in the preceding story. We have members of our staff that are native speakers of Chinese, Russian, several Indian dialects, Spanish, and German. They are happy to answer questions in these tongues. We also consider it an honor to represent previous immigrants who are frequently now proud American citizens in the sale of their family businesses. We promise to represent all IBA clients like family members seeking deals where a strong market value is achieved for their life work and the transaction is facilitated employing best practices in an environment of confidentiality.
IBA, the Pacific Northwest’s premier business brokerage firm since 1975, is available as an information resource to the media, business brokerage, mergers & acquisitions, real estate, legal, and accounting communities on subjects relevant to the purchase & sale of privately held companies and family-owned businesses. IBA is recognized as one of the best business brokerage firms in the nation based on its long track record of successfully negotiating “win-win” business sale transactions in environments of full disclosure employing “best practices”.