The Twin Cities company is expanding here with a focus on assisting in the buying and selling of businesses

November 3, 2022

Jill TenHaken knows from experience that the decision to buy a business can be equal parts emotional and financial.

“Not all business owners are looking far enough ahead to plan their exit and think about an exit plan,” she said. “It brings up mortality and what are you going to do next, so it’s a tough discussion.”

It’s also one she personally had when the family sold TenHaken Click Rain, the business her husband Paul had built from the ground up.

“I feel like business owners need this support because it rocks your world,” she said.

TenHaken’s background is in sales and marketing, including graphic design. She held corporate roles at former Home Federal Bank and electronic medical software company Solarity, among others, but left full-time employment after the birth of her third child.

“I knew I was doing the right thing for our family and the intention was to come back when Nora was in kindergarten and then Paul got this little job,” she laughed.

Paul TenHaken was elected mayor in 2018, “when I encouraged Paul to do that, I knew what that meant,” she said. “That meant I wouldn’t be coming back for a while.”

About a year ago, she was introduced to Brian Slipka, a Minneapolis brokerage franchisee who is part of the global network of Sunbelt Business Advisors, and was drawn to the opportunity to help build the business in Sioux Falls.

“It was the need for service and knowing that I can add value to someone going through this situation,” she said. “We help people buy and sell businesses.”

She joined the Sioux Falls office earlier this year after receiving a real estate license. The office at The Plaza, 101 S. Phillips Ave., held its dedication ceremony today.

Headquartered in Ohio with offices across the country, Sunbelt is a Minneapolis-based franchise that has received multiple awards for company-wide achievement. Sunbelt markets itself to sell more privately held businesses than any other brokerage franchise in the world.

The Minneapolis brokerage, which includes Minnesota, portions of Wisconsin and Illinois as well as some work in North Dakota and the new Sioux Falls office, completes more transactions by number and volume than any other Sunbelt brokerage.

In addition to being a franchisee for Sunbelt, which primarily works with companies with sales of $5 million or less, Slipka founded True North Mergers & Acquisitions to support those with larger sales and to do business with a different buyer base . Slipka is also a partner in the Sioux Falls Canaries.

“Sunbelt is really about helping this small business owner on Main Street,” said Chris Jones, President of Sunbelt Midwest. “It’s confidential mass marketing. The agent is truly a matchmaker, qualifying the buyer, bringing in someone the owner is genuinely comfortable with, and maximizing the chances of the buyout being successful. Our core value is helping people and success will follow.”

Slipka was born in Sioux Falls and visited the town frequently while growing up in southeastern South Dakota. When the opportunity to acquire the Canaries took him back to the community, “it felt natural to double the stakes” by bringing Sunbelt to town, he said.

“Sioux Falls is extremely well positioned due to the loosening fundamentals, which makes the business flow, speed and momentum of the business elements super strong here,” he said. “We want to be there.”

The climate for buying and selling businesses remains strong, Jones and Slipka said.

While three-year financial metrics are typically used for valuations, the buyers’ market is treating 2020 “like a one-off event” and focusing on 2021 and 2022 performance, along with forecasts, said Jones, whom Slipka calls “a titan of the world.” denotes industry.”

“If a company is still profitable, it’s still a seller’s market,” Jones said, adding that funding is starting to become scarce and sellers may be asked to provide additional funding to make a deal work.

“You will experience a flight to quality,” Slipka added. “Such able buyers with plenty of liquidity or cash to deploy or in deep waters where they are swimming with capital capabilities will be uniquely positioned.”

During TenHaken’s first few months at Sunbelt, she worked with both potential owners looking to acquire businesses and those looking to sell.

Buyers are either an existing company looking to grow through acquisitions, or “they just want their own voice,” she said. “They want their own thing. I have a buyer who just moved here internationally and could have gotten a job just about anywhere but would like to have his own business.”

On the sales side, she just completed her first transaction – a local retail store whose owner was looking to retire, and TenHaken was able to find a buyer.

“There were buyers who were passionate about the industry and always wanted to have their own store,” she said. “So that was fun. Where I really see the value of a business agent is when they are going to close the shop and they could have benefited from all the work that they put in there.”

Sunbelt offers businesses a free value range assessment, “and at that point they can decide whether to engage,” she said.

Through the company’s broader network, TenHaken is able to work with brokers who specialize in specific industries.

For example, she is currently working with an accounting practice and an optometry clinic that are looking to sell – both areas in which Sunbelt has specialists.

“There are 40+ brokers in Minneapolis that I work with on a daily basis, and one — me — here, but they’re great resources,” TenHaken said, adding the hope is to add brokers in Sioux Falls if demand this supports.

“At this point, it just creates an awareness of it,” she said. “I know the demand is there.”


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