Grow Your Business: Sell Your Company

Letting go isn’t easy, but sometimes selling your company is the best way to help it grow.

Growing companies always need money to continue growing. But sometimes that hunt for cash takes an unexpected turn in the form of an offer to buy the company. When the Vancouver pay-parking-by-cellphone company Verrus Mobile Technologies Inc., which was the subject of a “Game Plan” in April 2008, went searching for cash last year, its expansion plans hit that surprise moment. It had to decide whether to sell out or continue looking.


Verrus needed a cash infusion in order to consolidate with its U.K. partner, Verrus U.K., into one company and then expand into the lucrative European market. But in late 2008 and early 2009, financial markets around the world were crashing, and financing was not easy to find.


Verrus, which has been quietly building its business for 10 years, wanted to buy out its U.K. partner so that it could consolidate all operations in Canada, the U.S., the U.K. and France. It had scored big in Europe by providing pay-by-phone parking services to, among others, the cities of London and Paris as well as about 100 customers in North America. But when markets began crashing, investors shied away, concentrating more on nurturing their existing investments than making new ones. 

The Verrus board decided to meet that obstacle by engaging an investment bank to find the growth capital. As the recession eased, however, several strategic players in the market suggested that they would rather acquire the company than invest in it. 

Soon there were as many as 10 bidders in line for Verrus and CEO Desmond Griffin and board members had to make a difficult decision: sell the company or continue looking for investment and try to grow it on their own.

According to Griffin, many shareholders who had been with Verrus since its inception in 2000, himself included, decided that as long as the company continued, they might as well cash in on their investment. “Eight years is a long time to wait,” he explains. 

Verrus sifted through various bidders and found one that not only wanted to leave the company intact but also wanted to use its expertise to enhance its own lines of business. As a result, last March, PayPoint PLC, a British cash and Internet payments company, acquired the Vancouver company for 25 million pounds and another 8 million pounds in consideration. That works out to something in the mid-$40-million range.

This cash infusion allowed Verrus to continue its expansion plans under the umbrella of a much larger partner. In fact, Verrus is now aiming to conquer the European market. 


• Set goals. You have to establish a purpose when you start hunting for funding. But you also have to know when to shift your strategy to suit what the market is telling you. 

• Find a partner you’ll like. Whether it’s a major investor or a buyer, anyone who sinks money into a company has to respect its culture and employees. Sometimes this is more important than cash. PayPoint allowed Verrus to continue its business as part of PayPoint’s expansion plans.

• It’s hard work. Finding funding or being acquired is an enormous amount of work that can dominate the time of a CEO if he or she runs a lean shop. For example, Griffin was closeted at a lawyer’s office closing the transaction when his pregnant wife texted him that she was about to give birth to his son.

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