How To Buy An HVAC Business and Get In the Game

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Learning how to buy your first HVAC business can be a lot, but it’s also one of the best feelings in the world. Drawing from personal experience, here’s a detailed guide on the process and what to expect along the way. Keep in mind: There’s no real blueprint, but there are a number of expectations to keep in mind and signposts you’ll want to keep track of as you start out.

My first acquisition taught me that getting your foot in the door is the most important step, even if you pay a premium.

In 2022 the markets were booming, and multiples were through the roof. This made the acquisition process highly competitive and expensive.

I had to keep my options open, talk to multiple brokers, and network extensively. Persistence and having all my feelers out eventually led me to my first acquisition.

The Search Process

I almost bought an appliance repair company with interesting numbers. Despite not closing that deal, I kept it on my radar.

This highlights a big part of the acquisition process: never lose sight of opportunities, even if the timing’s not right.

I eventually narrowed down my search to Nashville, a market I believed had huge potential. It was there I found a small HVAC company named Rapid Response.

This company was the true definition of a "Chuck in a truck" setup–two technicians and an owner who primarily played the role of a salesman.

And that’s not an insult, by the way. These operations are the perfect place to start because they have an established base and a lack of ability to grow on their own. 

Evaluating the Business

When evaluating an HVAC business, it's crucial to understand its operational dynamics.

Rapid Response was straightforward: low overhead, no debt, and high net margins.

The owner had a hands-off approach, delegating most tasks to his technicians and a low-cost dispatcher. 

This simplicity can be advantageous for a first acquisition, as it eases the transition process.

The Due Diligence

Due diligence is big, especially for larger acquisitions. However, for smaller deals like mine, the process was relatively straightforward.

The key aspects to verify include:

  • The legitimacy of the financial records
  • The absence of hidden debts
  • The reliability of the customer base
  • Since Rapid Response was a small operation, the due diligence was quick and efficient. This made the acquisition smoother and less risky.

Financing the Acquisition

Financing the acquisition was another critical step. I utilized an SBA loan, which required a relatively quick and efficient process.

From initial contact to closing, the process took about 40-45 days.

Working with professionals like Kevin Henderson from SMB Law Group was instrumental in navigating the legal and financial aspects.

The Transition

Transitioning into ownership was surprisingly smooth. I visited Nashville, met with the owner, and understood the business operations firsthand.

This on-the-ground experience was invaluable.

Seeing the day-to-day operations, meeting the team, and understanding the market helped me prepare for taking over.

Scaling the Business

Post-acquisition, scaling the business is where the real work begins. For Rapid Response, my goal was to expand its operations significantly.

This involved implementing better systems, hiring additional staff, and improving service delivery.

While it was challenging, the foundation was solid, and we have seen substantial growth since the acquisition.

Lessons Learned

Reflecting on my first acquisition, a few key lessons stand out:

Persistence is Key: Keep networking until the opportunity presents itself.

Understand the Market: Choose a market with potential, understand its dynamics.

Simpler Can Be Better: A simple business model can ease transition, reduce risks.

Thorough Due Diligence: Verify financial records, practices to avoid surprises.

Professional Guidance: Utilize pros for legal, financial aspects to streamline.

Acquiring an HVAC business is a significant step that requires planning, evaluation, and strategic execution.

Good luck.

For more insights and resources on business acquisitions, visit Owned and Operated.

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