Episode Length: 30 minutes

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Is there a right time to sell your business?

This was what Jon Hainstock and his co-founder, Ben Bartling, had to figure out when they were planning their exit from ZoomShift.

Learn how they chose the right moment to agree to a 7-figure deal — and how they approached building one of the top small business scheduling softwares on the market.

Here’s what you’ll learn:

  • [2:93] The hardest decision around selling ZoomShift
  • [3:32] How Jon Hainstock met his co-founder, Ben Bartling
  • [5:18] How Jon and Ben used an agency to fund their software company
  • [6:11] Blowing through his family’s savings to build the company (and how that felt)
  • [8:28] Why SEO (search engine optimization) became their focus for business growth
  • [9:30] Why they offered and then abandoned a free tier for ZoomShift
  • [10:48] The never-ending product build phases (and why it can kill morale)
  • [14:03] Why Jon and Ben passed on the first purchase offer from Ramp Ventures
  • [15:44] How they decided to sell (and why it was so stressful)
  • [17:23] The deal terms and why it was a win for Jon’s family
  • [21:21] How a miscommunication about QSBS (Qualified Small Business Stock) almost killed the deal
  • [26:27] What Jon asks founders who are thinking about selling now that he’s an advisor at Quiet Light
  • [27:22] Factors to consider when you’re deciding if it’s the right time to sell your business

We’re so grateful to Jon for sharing his story and expertise. You can connect with Jon on Twitter @jonhainstock and his website.

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How Jon Hainstock and Ben Bartling sold ZoomShift

ZoomShift, a scheduling and time-tracking tool for hourly employees, was acquired in a 7-figure deal in early 2020, just a few months before the pandemic took hold in the U.S.

The software simplifies scheduling and payroll by tracking employee availability and shift swaps, helping companies avoid errors and save time.

ZoomShift was founded in 2011 by developers Jon Hainstock and Ben Bartling. They raised money initially, then bought back the shares and bootstrapped instead.

The duo wasn’t looking to sell when private equity firm Ramp Ventures approached them in 2018. Led by internet marketer Sujan Patel and startup investor Bob Senoff, the firm holds a portfolio of SaaS companies.

However, they couldn’t agree on an offer, Hainstock wrote in a Medium post. That delay ended up being a blessing in disguise as it allowed the founders to increase the company’s revenue, making it more valuable.

“We wanted to see if we could get some more growth before we exited, which was wise in hindsight,” Hainstock told They Got Acquired in his podcast interview. “I think the real reason around it was that we weren’t going to get the number we were happy with.”

About a year later, Ramp Ventures returned with another offer. While the terms had improved, it was still stressful for Hainstock and Bartling. The two had different ideas about how to proceed, which created tension.

Should they invest another few years, hire more people and try to grow the company to a more lucrative exit? Or take the deal that was in front of them?

“It’s really difficult to decide when is the right time,” Hainstock said. “There’s just no good answer to that. You have to figure out for yourself where you’re at psychologically, how you’re feeling about the business and where the business is at.”

Ultimately, the two founders agreed to accept an offer that allowed them to exit right away and keep a minority stake in ZoomShift. The 7-figure payment was “a life-changing amount of money,” Hainstock said.

“It was surreal. It took a few weeks for the reality to set in. I no longer needed to worry about the direction of the company. I no longer needed to check support or take my phone with me everywhere. For the first time, in a very long time, I was at peace.”