Exiting a Growing SaaS: Lessons from MyShopManager

Dave and Jon Dickson are the father and son duo behind MyShopManager, a highly successful SaaS tool that provides a marketing and sales solution for auto shops.

As they scaled MyShopManager, their focus was on making sure the business would be attractive and sellable down the line, and in so doing, they were able to build a business with low churn and high MRR growth. Their approach paid off when they decided to exit for what they refer to as “a life-changing amount of money.”

Creating a Sellable Business Via Automation

 Both Dave and Jon are successful entrepreneurs with decades of experience between them when it comes to establishing, scaling, and exiting companies.

Dave is knowledgeable within the automotive space, spending most of his career in the auto industry in some form. At one point, he owned an auto repair franchise with 21 locations, but his true passion was always helping other business owners grow their shops.

“I took an auto repair shop, just one of them, as an owner-operator to see what it was like. The year before I got there, it did $250K in sales. The first year I was there, it did $1M, and it was easy. It was: say, please and thank you, and do what you say you’re going to do. That rapidly grew from one shop to 21 shops in less than five years. I created a franchise system and grew it,” Dave explains.

Word of his success got around to other auto shop owners, who would ask him to share how he did it. Dave started consulting, running his whole operation analog – just one customer at a time.

That changed when his son Jon, a successful businessman in his own right, came into the picture.

“When I got into Dave’s business, the first thing I saw that was just obvious to me was that they were doing everything by hand,” Jon says. With a background in coding, Jon was able to streamline Dave’s processes. Then he started helping their auto shop clients streamline their processes, too.

“Part of Dave’s process was to ask shop owners to send customer and sales data over manually via email. The first breakthrough was when I got sick of asking the shop owners to email Excel sheets to us and said, let me just hop on your computer, let me just remote into your shop’s computer and take a look at this database behind your point-of-sale system,” Jon explains. “It turned out that they were mostly SQL databases that I was already familiar with, so I wrote a quick little program over a week or two that would just hook to their database and send me their customer data instantly.”

The second big breakthrough for MyShopManager and their clients came when they started sending out text messages.

“We hooked into Twilio and started using the same customer data to send out text messages to old customers. We have customers’ phone numbers already. We have their names. Let’s not send spam, though, I don’t want to blast people with ‘10% OFF YOUR NEXT OIL CHANGE!’, it doesn’t work. Instead, we would send small groups of customers a really soft, personal message because these were independently-owned shops where the customers often had relationships with the owner or staff.”

Jon’s soft, open-ended text messaging strategy worked. Shops would send out 100 texts and the result would be 10-20 repair jobs.

By automating these and other marketing processes, Dave and Jon were able to, not only, help their clients grow but, also, grow MyShopManager.

The Importance of a Reliable Valuation

While MyShopManager was still on the rise, Dave and Jon decided that it was time to focus their attention on a different matter: family. And knowing whether they were ready for that change all came down to knowing what their “enough” number was. If they could sell MyShopManager for a certain amount, they would exit. Thus, getting a reliable valuation of their business was vital.

“One of the things that were most important to me was that very early on in the process, (FE) analyzed the business and came up with a number. A number range, but a solid concrete number range that (they were) confident and emphatic that the company would sell for. That made it possible for us to make a decision,” Dave explains.

With a solid number on the table, they felt good about moving forward with the sale.

“We were in a situation where we were growing successfully, but the valuation was large enough that it would change our lives,” Jon says.

Life After an Exit

Dave attributes much of his success in life to the fact that he was chronically early for everything. “I had a clock in my head that was as good as any atomic clock. I knew everything was related to time. Now, I sometimes forget what day of the week it is, and it’s a wonderful thing. It’s probably one of the biggest luxuries of retirement,” he says.

In a different stage of life, Jon, with 3 young kids at home, sees this as an ideal time to invest in his family. “How much more money is it worth for me to not be around when my kids are two, three, or four? Could we have made more money? Absolutely. The business is kicking ass right now but I knew that, as long as I was involved, it would keep grabbing my attention. Instead, I’ll be home to play Legos with my kids. I can always buy back into another business but I can’t buy that time with my family back.”