Key Points From the Interview
ike Botkin acquired Orlando-based B&B Landscaping in December 2020. That first acquisition (which he discussed in a previous episode) taught him “the playbook for how to operate a landscaping business.”
The initial plan had been to wait 12-18 months before buying another business. But after overcoming some significant challenges at B&B Landscaping earlier this year, Mike was itching to use his playbook to grow another business.
Just 10 months after acquiring his first company, Mike bought Justin’s Superior Landscaping Business (which wasn’t listed for sale when he approached the owner). He didn’t know it at first, but Justin’s was also significantly bigger than B&B, with 3X the number of employees as well as an established management structure.
“If you can just block and tackle and treat your employees right, take care of your customers, be responsive, be proactive — these businesses can explode internally.”
The deal came together quickly — it took about 30 days from initial outreach to funds committed. Now with the addition of Justin’s, Mike’s company is the largest residential landscaping business in Central Florida.
In his second appearance on Acquiring Minds, Mike explains what he loves about the landscaping business, why he doesn’t like traditional search funds or SBA loans, and how cutting his teeth on a smaller business prepared him for a larger acquisition. He also shares his plans for continued growth and future acquisitions.
✳️ Top takeaways from the episode
✳️ Episode highlights with timestamps
✳️ Links & mentions
Acquisition Entrepreneur: Mike Botkin
💵 What he acquired: After acquiring B&B Landscaping in December 2020, Mike was eager to take the lessons learned from running one landscaping business and apply them to a second one. In October 2021, Mike acquired Justin's Superior Lawn Care, making his company the largest residential landscaping business in Central Florida.
💡 Key quote: “We're going to take our time. We're going to execute our plan of getting this operating properly, getting our strategy in place, and making sure that the ship is healthy and on course. And then when we do that and we all feel comfortable, we're going to turn the switch on and go get another [business].”
Acquisition Tips From the Episode
Top takeaways from this conversation
📒 Leverage the lessons from operating one business for future acquisitions.
Aside from the fact that both of his acquisitions were landscaping businesses, there weren’t a lot of similarities between Mike’s first and second acquisitions. But B&B Landscaping gave Mike the opportunity to cut his teeth in the industry and develop a playbook for operating a landscape company, which helped him feel confident enough to make a second acquisition.
“I know what to do. And I also know what to avoid. Not to say I have it all figured out, but in terms of the blocking and tackling and what I've learned … no matter how big or small the company is, when you're dealing in a service industry like this, a lot of the same problems come about,” Mike says. “I can now see them coming. We can be proactive versus reactive, and I know what the consequences are or the effects are of every decision we make.”
🤝 Owner willing to stay on? You might have struck gold.
Mike acquired Justin’s Superior Landscaping Business from the second owners of the company. The original owner, Justin, sold it in 2018 and stayed on to run the sales and business development division. For Mike, having Justin around is an invaluable resource and sounding board for ideas.
“Think about what I have at my reach. A guy that started a business from scratch, his name is on the truck, and every customer knows him, every employee knows him, he's well regarded,” Mike says.
🏦 Partnering with an investor offers potential benefits that can be elusive with SBA loans.
Mike doesn’t like the transactional nature of an SBA loan. Instead, he wanted to find a partner to invest in the business. For Mike, it’s not just about the capital; he wanted to partner with someone who could bring intangible resources, like operational knowledge.
Mike gives the example of wanting to test autonomous lawn mowers for his business. He was trying to get in contact with the largest manufacturer in that space, but he wasn’t getting anywhere on his own. He reached out to his partner, who could get in touch with the CEO of the autonomous lawn mower company and get negotiations started.
“That is worth its weight in gold. The SBA will never even take my call. And this is why you choose partnership over SBA,” Mike says.
Inflection points from the show
[2:40] Growth through acquisition: From the start, Mike’s intention was to acquire multiple businesses, but he made his second acquisition sooner than planned. Mike talks about the acquisition of Justin’s Superior Landscaping Business — less than a year after his first acquisition.
[5:34] Unit economics: When Mike acquired B&B Landscaping, his first landscaping business, he found the previous owner had a similar trait to a lot of small business owners: taking every customer he could, even when that’s not the best strategy.
[10:08] Experience matters: Going into his second acquisition, Mike had more confidence in his ability to handle it due to his experience with his first acquisition.
[12:20] It’s different when your name is on the door: Despite past experience as a Chief Operating Officer of a large company with more than 50 subsidiaries, it’s different when it’s your company. Many of the skills Mike learned as COO helped him as an entrepreneur, but there are some things you can only learn by going through them.
[16:25] Looking at landscaping as logistics: A big part of the landscaping business is about getting from point A to point B efficiently, which is why Mike looks at it as though it’s a logistics company.
[19:07] Having the original owner around: Mike bought his newest acquisition from the company’s second owners. He didn’t know it when he originally started looking at the business, but the original owner was still working there. Having him working in the business is like a hidden gem.
[22:14] Playing tight versus playing loose: With Mike’s first acquisition, the seller had been working in the business, but it was the opposite at his second acquisition. Mike explains the different styles and the effects on each respective business.
[25:02] Acquisition goals: There’s no timetable in place, but the intent is to continue to grow further through acquisitions, and Mike discusses his plans for future growth.
[29:16] The problem with traditional search funds: Mike explains why he’s not a fan of the traditional search fund model and the benefits of cutting your teeth on a smaller business.
[34:17] The problem with SBA loans: The transactional nature of SBA loans is a big reason why Mike doesn’t like them. And why he prefers having a partnership with his investor.
[36:25] An investor who’s a partner: Mike talks about what he sought in an investor and how he ultimately ended up partnering with his current investor.
[40:36] The landscaping business: Mike gives his thoughts on landscaping, how much he’s learned about landscaping since acquiring his first business, the positives and negatives, and the opportunity in the industry.