I have been looking at business sales websites for many years. I have approached a few sellers, but nothing ever got serious. On 11 October last year, that changed. There were three reasons for that.
1. Sustainability Focus
The business is a school camp in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland with a really strong focus on sustainability. It ticks my 6 categories perfectly.
Every single person I spoke to about this camp was joyous to work there. They love the outdoors, they love what they do, they love the focus on sustainability. The teachers and children are being surveyed after each camp and they rave about the experience as well.
On one hand, the camp provides the climbing, rope and water activities that exist in other places, but it also backs against a National Park and involves hiking and camping out in nature. Definitely something that I love and that keeps people fit and healthy. And it gives the students a taste and hopefully brings some closer to wanting to live like that in the rest of their lives.
The land is absolutely amazing. When I first walked on it, I felt so connected. It gives me hope that we can live close to nature and create a living on it while looking after it.
A lot of the activities are focused on building trust in ourselves and trust in the students’ friends. This is the essence of being hopeful.
For me, it represents a connection to community here on the Sunshine Coast. After all the virtual business of my past, that feels very grounded.
Closing natural resource loops
The whole camp is using rainwater only, effluent is treated on-site through a sand filter system. Organic waste is fed to the worms in the worm farm. There is some cattle on the property, which is used to feed the children. And we are hoping to add more food production examples to showcase where food comes from.
All the lighting (and the aircon in the office) is solar-powered. We are planning to add more solar PV and solar hot water. Maybe we even manage to set up a small biodiesel plant to make the fuel for the tractor. And I have started looking into wind power to showcase even more possibilities.
The back of the property has rainforest on it with some Koala habitat. As part of the DA process, a lot of additional trees were planted and there are conservation areas on the land.
2. The People
I only want to engage with people I like. A lot.
I mean, I want to engage with people when I like them a lot, when they delight me anew every day, delight me with their outlook on life, their passion, their vulnerability, their truth, their actions to achieve what they want to achieve and their care for others and our planet.
The founders of this camp are absolutely phenomenal. On one hand, it is really impressive what they have built from a physical perspective, how they have navigated the development approval process with council. On the other hand, the inspirational legacy they have left is clearly flowing through the team.
But probably most impressive, because this was visible to me first hand is the care with which they handed over this business. In these last few weeks, they have worked tirelessly to hand it over in top shape.
The other essential part of people is the team that is staying to run the business from here. They are dedicated and passionate about sustainability. And they are ready to step up. I have a lot of trust and faith in them and I am sure that we will work through the harder bits together and make it work. Without that trust, I would not have dared to take on this business.
I want to remember that:
No matter how great any investment sounds, if I don’t like the people, I will walk away. Time on this planet is too precious to be wasting it with people that are not a joy.
3. Finances Stack Up
Most of the businesses offered for sale come with the brokers adding back so many expenses that the figures look great at first glance, but when you pull them apart nothing much is left and it is just not worthwhile investing in them. Here, we could actually make the financials work.
What that means is that I can continue on my pathway to creating more team-owned companies. The management team owns some of the shares from day one. Then we’ll use the generated profits to buy the investors out. In somewhere between 7 and 10 years, the team should own the whole business. And we have structured it in such a way that changes in the team can be replicated in the share ownership.
Basically, new teams would continue to buy out the older team (in a slow and delayed way so as to honour the value that gets built over time). The team never has to pay any cash or has to wait for shares to vest. To give a fairly quick result, we are reviewing the profit every six months and distribute based on that.
Inviting Other Investors
As part of my interest in sharing investments with friends, I prepared an overview of this opportunity and shared with a few friends that I knew were interested in investing. No on ended up joining us.
One reason might have been that I outlined in quite a bit of detail how the mechanics of this investment would work so that it is a tax-effective process. I should have probably kept it simpler, focusing on the vision and the outcomes for an individual investor. Something to lean in future transactions.
Others felt that it was too high risk, which might be true when you come from a corporate background. But for me, it actually feels to be a fair risk-reward ratio.
Tomorrow is my first day after the official hand-over. I am planning to be there for the team to help them grow as individuals and leaders of this business. It will be interesting to see how much I can keep out of operational processes. On one hand, I think that will be very easy as I have no idea about running school camps or looking after a large property. On the other hand, I am so excited by it, that I might not be able to help myself…