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John Warrillow: So typically, on this show I interview people who have recently sold their business, which is great. A recent sale means that the details are right at someone’s fingertips, it’s very fresh. The problem with those deals, however, is that sometimes the guest can’t be quite as candid as I’d like them to be because they’re in the middle of an earnout, for example, or it’s still in the public eye and they just can’t talk too much about what happened after the sale, which is why my next guest is such a rare treat.
John Warrillow: Ann Bennett sold her company all the way back in 2000, and before you say, “Oh, that has no relevance for today,” remember that this is a really unique opportunity to look back at what happened to a company owner over the years after she sold her company. She sold AIS, which she built up to 30 employees for around $5 million dollars. What I love most about this interview is actually what happened after she accepted the offer. She went through a process of selling her employees and I’ll let you … have her describe that, what advice she would have for you if you’re negotiating your deal, in particular details around how your life is going to be after your sale. She reveals some really interesting insights about life after you sell your company.
John Warrillow: Here to tell you the rest of the story is Ann Bennett.
John Warrillow: Ann Bennett, welcome to Built to Sell Radio.
Ann Bennett: Thank you very much for having me on. I appreciate this, John.
John Warrillow: Yeah, no problem at all. So tell me a little bit about AIS. What did you guys do?
Ann Bennett: AIS was a very niche PC based software program that processed K-1s for investors.
John Warrillow: So what is a K-1? Remember I’m from Canada. We’re all wet here. I have no idea what a K-1 is.
Ann Bennett: A K-1 is given when you have a partnership. The K-1 is given to the investors that provides their tax information.
John Warrillow: I see.
Ann Bennett: And under the tax law can be real estate, can be energy and some-
John Warrillow: Got it. So that sounds like an accounting firm to me.
Ann Bennett: Yes, it was done by accounting firms. It’s exclusively almost exclusively.
John Warrillow: So that’s what you guys did at AIS? You were an accounting firm?
Ann Bennett: No. The accounting firms had mainframes. And they were difficult to process K-1s because your investor changes. They get married, they change brokers, they buy and they sell, they do all sorts of things like that. So we were … had the opportunity to process it, to develop the software in a PC based system, which is very flexible, and so we did.
John Warrillow: And did you own the software, Ann? Did you own that software?
Ann Bennett: Yes, we wrote it.
John Warrillow: So you had unique software that would enable you to do this K-1 reporting and it was a differentiator relative to the Big Four accounting firms because they were using this legacy mainframe computers.
Ann Bennett: Yes. That and two other items. Because we are not an accounting firm we could be a transfer agent and we could do investor relations, which allow-
John Warrillow: I don’t know what a … what’s a transfer agent?
Ann Bennett: When you transfer a share from one person to another it goes through a transfer agent. And we could do that for non-trading partnerships, which were all the public and the private partnerships in real estate. You have to have a formal transfer from one person to another.
John Warrillow: Wouldn’t a lawyer do the transfer agent thing?
Ann Bennett: No. Lawyers don’t do that. Transfer agents do. Registered transfer agents.
John Warrillow: How did you get into these businesses? Because they seem so different. I mean the name of the company, AIS, Applied Information Solutions sounds to me like a technology company. Yet you sound almost more like an accounting firm and a law firm. These seem like … did these services to you, were they connected? Did they feel like they were nested together naturally, or were they very different businesses?
Ann Bennett: They were connected together because of my CPA background, which was Deloitte, on the audit.
John Warrillow: So you’re a trained accountant.
Ann Bennett: I’m a trained accountant. And so if you just do K-1 processing you have a peak and valley of income come in from November to … so we had to figure out how to level out the income. Well, the next offshoot was we have all the information of the investors, why don’t we do investor relations for the partnerships? That allows us to spread revenues throughout the entire year. And oh, by the way, they will transfer because of death, or something transferred their units. We could do that and that would happen all during the year. So that gave us a revenue stream throughout the year.
John Warrillow: Got it. So the K-1 was lumpy and the transfer agents stuff and investor relations was a bit more steady throughout the year.
Ann Bennett: Yep.
John Warrillow: Got it. So I see how they’re coming together. And investor relations, to be clear, I’m an investment partnership, I’ve got some investments I’ve got to communicate to my investors. How’s the investment doing? Do we need more money? What are the problems and opportunities?
Ann Bennett: Exactly.
John Warrillow: Got it. Got it. And so that sounds to me like investors services sounds to me like a kind of classic service business. What was the business model in each of these three? How did you charge?
Ann Bennett: Number of investors. Number of activity within the investors, ’cause we had those statistics. So we knew approximately, and also they do the quarterly report mailings, so we could do that for them ’cause we knew who all the investors were.
John Warrillow: I get that, but how did you charge for your services, like did you charge by the hour? Or by the project? Or a commission?
Ann Bennett: No, by the project. No, by the project.
John Warrillow: I see. Okay.
Ann Bennett: Yeah. And the size of the deal, the size of the partnership and the number of investors within the partnership.
John Warrillow: Got it.
Ann Bennett: Activity based.
John Warrillow: So you’re working … Okay. That’s helpful. But a classic service firm, it sounds like you had some proprietary technology in this K-1 processing software you built.
Ann Bennett: Yes. Tremendous flexibility. I could reprint K-1s from three years prior. I could quickly change your name, change your address.
John Warrillow: These days that sounds like pretty basic technology, but I guess we’re going back to the year 2000, right? Where-
Ann Bennett: Yeah.
John Warrillow: The Big Four are still on mainframes?
Ann Bennett: Yes.
John Warrillow: Got it. So your unique … we call it Monopoly Control, but that unique sort of piece of the business was this software that you developed to process these K-1s, through a PC as opposed to a mainframe.
Ann Bennett: Right. And there’s one more key element. We used the software program that was developed by the Army in the 60s called Revelation, and it is, was extremely flexible and the Army developed it and nobody picked it up. And we found it and that’s what we used, which was invaluable. So the foundation of what you do is so important.
John Warrillow: So Revelation, is that a different software than the software you built to process the K-1s?
Ann Bennett: No, it’s the same. That’s what we used.
John Warrillow: Wow. So you were essentially using software that was available in the public domain? How did you get it from the Army? Did they make it available for-
Ann Bennett: Public Domain.
John Warrillow: So you’re using a software someone else developed that you didn’t own.
Ann Bennett: No, no, no. The code … it’s the language, not the software.
John Warrillow: Oh, I see.
Ann Bennett: The language we used to develop the software.
John Warrillow: That’s helpful.
Ann Bennett: Yeah.
John Warrillow: That’s helpful. I was misunderstanding. I thought it was the software itself. Okay, the underlying kind of language of the software was this Army based Revelation. Got it. Okay.
John Warrillow: I think I’m getting the picture. You can tell I’m a complete ignoramus when it comes to this industry, so it’s helpful for me to educate me. Thank you for that. I think I get it, so how big did you get this firm before you decided to sell it? Like when I say, “big” I’m thinking like number of employees. Give me a sense of the size of the size of the company before you went to sell it.
Ann Bennett: The majority of the year we were anywhere from 30 to 45 to 50, consisting of our tech staff, our customer service, our sales, and then our tax technical because this is very tax technical. During the K-1 season, which started around March 15th and went through August, we went up to 100.
John Warrillow: Got it. So you’ve got some temporary folks that come in for the … yeah, that makes sense. But the core team was sort of 30 to 50, depending on the time.
Ann Bennett: Yes.
John Warrillow: What was the trigger that made you want to sell? This sounds like a very unique business. I’m assuming you could have kept it for decades. What made you think maybe’s now the time sell?
Ann Bennett: Outside circumstances. One is, we pushed out about three million K-1s a year. That’s significant, in a period of four months. The second thing is, is there were … from middle 90s to 1998 there were three people in the business, Coopers & Lybrand, Price Waterhouse and AIS. In 1998 Coopers and Price Waterhouse merged and they called me. And they said, “Ann, we’ve just merged and we’re gonna call you in a year because we want to talk about buying you.”
Ann Bennett: Now keep in mind that I had been a thorn in their side for years and they had … Price Waterhouse especially had done, was a form of a competitor, as we say. And I knew when that merger happened there was going to be a significant effect on our business because if they had the audit they would give away the K-1 processing to get the audit.
John Warrillow: So in a lot of ways this was a defensive play. You thought you could see the writing on the wall knowing that this little niche you’d created for yourself was in jeopardy-
Ann Bennett: It was going to be tough. It was in jeopardy, it was gonna be tough. So I spent the year that they were figuring it out before they called me again selling as many as I could. In fact, I just closed one. They called me on April the 16th, day after tax season, one year exactly. And they said-
John Warrillow: And what did they say?
Ann Bennett: They said, “We’d like to talk.” And I said, “Well, it will have to be highly confidential. I’ll meet you at the airport.” And we rented a room at the airport.
John Warrillow: Why did you choose the airport?
Ann Bennett: Because the restaurants … growing up in Denver and the consulting area, we always watched where we went to lunch, who we talked to because you were very well known in Denver and somebody would see that and recognize it immediately. So the airport was … and it was neutral ground too. They certainly couldn’t come to the office.
John Warrillow: Sounds very Jason Bourne’ish. I love it.
Ann Bennett: Yeah. It was a little bit.
John Warrillow: So you’re meeting at the airport, you bring your three passports with you. Anyway, you’re meeting at the airport, so what happened next?
Ann Bennett: So we sat down and talked. We talked about conceptually how it might work. Then they got back to me again, about a month and said they were interested. We decided on it on … we agreed on the terms August the 1rst, then we closed it August the 30th.
John Warrillow: Wow. So-
Ann Bennett: We closed in one month, due diligence and everything.
John Warrillow: That’s incredible. Before we get into that, I want to know what you talked about conceptually. So you mentioned the airport meeting, you talked conceptually. And for our listeners who have never gone through a sale it may be a little vague when you say conceptually. So what was discussed in that conceptual meeting? Like what sorts of things would you have covered in that airport meeting?
Ann Bennett: The employees, longevity, what their plan was for my 30 employees, location. Because I knew we’re a tech company, even though I was multi, we were basically a tech company and they were a public accounting firm and their tech environment is not the same as my tech environment, AIS’s tech environment and I knew it would be significant for them. While I knew their Price Waterhouse would be very valuable on their resume, the culture shock would be significant. So I discussed with them about not moving the office for a year. What their hiring policies would be with my employees and what they planned to do with the customers as far as keeping them on our flexible AIS system as opposed to converting them to their mainframe.
John Warrillow: Got it. So you’re really dealing with the integration questions, employees, technology, location. What about price? Did you guys start talking about price at that airport meeting?
Ann Bennett: No, we didn’t.
John Warrillow: Interesting.
Ann Bennett: No.
John Warrillow: Interesting. So how did the-
Ann Bennett: Price did not come up.
John Warrillow: How did the price come up? When did you first learn what they were willing to pay for AIS?
Ann Bennett: About six weeks later. Which would have been about the … sort of the end of July, I think we went back-and-forth a little bit. Meanwhile, this is our selling season so we were both out there selling and I was closing deals. So I wasn’t waiting at all for them to come back. I believe they came back with a price offer towards the end of July. And I made an error. I did not feel … because they had been such a former competitor negotiate that I should negotiate this myself. So I called … don’t do it! I called my brother-in-law for a recommendation. No. Don’t do that. Bring in the M&A and interview each one just like you would a real estate agent. Do not call your brother-in-law for a recommendation. Because he was out of Minnesota, he was not tuned to this type of a deal.
John Warrillow: Just to be clear, just to make sure everybody kinda … so you’re saying you called your brother-in-law for a recommendation on an M&A professional to represent you in the transaction. Is that correct?
Ann Bennett: Yeah. Yes. Yes.
John Warrillow: Got it. And so your brother-in-law is out of the market, doesn’t know Denver, doesn’t know your industry and recommends somebody.
Ann Bennett: Right. That was the mistake I made. So they called the M&A guy and they gave the price. And I said, “I’ll think about it.” And I went up to the mountain skiing – not skiing – I went up to the mountains. As you come out of the mountains there’s something called Floyd Hill and it gives you a panoramic view of Denver. And it’s significant. And I said to myself, “A million more.”
John Warrillow: A million more. What was the original-
Ann Bennett: Picked up my cell phone right then, on my car, picked up my cell phone, called the M&A guy and said, “Offer them a million more.” He said, “They’ll never take it.” I said, “Yes, they will.”
John Warrillow: So what were they offering to begin with? Ball park. I know we can’t maybe talk the exact amount. What was the original?
Ann Bennett: Around $4 million. Yeah, around $4 million.
John Warrillow: Got it. And so how are you valuing the company in your own mind. It sounds like when you came across the horizon, and you looked at that panoramic view you thought it was closer to five, or you wanted another million. Why? What is the basis on which you are basing the value of this company?
Ann Bennett: Because I knew Price Waterhouse. And that’s another thing that’s very important, know who’s buying you. Know why they’re buying you and the things that were the intangibles. I was giving them a cohesive tech group of which no tech person wants to go work for Price Waterhouse. So I was giving them a pool of technical people that were very strong. I was giving them IT software, the only PC based system in the country, fully developed with a client base. And this PC allows them to go into the market that they were not in, like the UPREITS and the private and public partnerships, that their tax department is struggling getting their K-1s out for. This is a system that’s already developed that they can use, and our process and procedures.
John Warrillow: So clearly, you had some important assets to the company and you knew that PwC wanted those. But again, I want to go back to … they offer $4 (million), in your mind you think it’s worth more, you say, “A million more.” Why not $100,000 more? Why not $10 million more? You must have had some inkling of what the business was worth. Was there some valuation?
Ann Bennett: Yes, I do because-
John Warrillow: Yeah, go ahead.
Ann Bennett: If you look at the structure of the public accounting firm because they were getting this system it allowed them to compete effectively with Ernst & Young with all the other accounting firms because they didn’t have a system. So Price and Coopers merged, they were both two systems then us, they buy us they’re the only system in the country.
John Warrillow: So you weren’t using some valuation formula that someone gave you? Like one times the revenue or something. You were trying to say what it’s worth to PwC.
Ann Bennett: Going forward. What did the system give PwC in their competitive marketplace.
John Warrillow: Got it. Okay. So get back to the story. So you call your M&A professional. Before we go further, you referenced calling your brother-in-law and getting a recommendation from an M&A professional and then you said that was a mistake. But you never clearly said why it was a mistake. Maybe you could just tell us why it was a mistake. What was it that the M&A professional did that lead you to believe that it was a mistake hiring them?
Ann Bennett: He undervalued the company because he didn’t know the industry. He was ready to accept their initial offer because he didn’t understand what this would allow Price Waterhouse to gain in the marketplace. You have to sit back when something like this happens and look at … maybe go on websites of other M&As and look and see what kind of deals they’ve done so they have a good feel, because he was a representative of our company not of Price Waterhouse.
John Warrillow: Sure he was representing you in the deal but didn’t have a lot of industry knowledge, necessarily.
Ann Bennett: No.
John Warrillow: So you drive over the horizon and you say, “A million more.” Did you have another bidder at the table, Ann? Did you go to Ernst & Young? Was there any conversation about bringing a competitive bid to the table?
Ann Bennett: No. I didn’t. And the reason is, it’s difficult to get into this business even if you’re a Big Four, a Big Five. It’s not that easy to get into. And I didn’t. And maybe I could have. We also are very seasonal and we’re bumping up against the K-1 season. So that’s why it was closed in a month because our first … the tapes start, the data starts coming in on the first and second quarter of trades, because we get buy and sell information from 350 broker dealers.
John Warrillow: I see, so in a way you had a natural sense of urgency that if the season picked up again-
Ann Bennett: Right.
John Warrillow: It would be difficult to get the deal done. At PwC, just to be clear, PwC was already in the business of processing these K-1s, whereas, if I’m correct Ernst & Young was not in that business?
Ann Bennett: No. None of them.
John Warrillow: So it would require them to get into a new business. Got it.
Ann Bennett: Exactly.
John Warrillow: And did you feel … one might interpret that information as saying, “Well, that actually undermined your leverage.” And maybe you had less negotiating leverage because PwC in a lot of ways was really the only game in town and to your own point might even have started giving away the K-1 processing. How did you-
Ann Bennett: They did give it away.
John Warrillow: How did you muster the courage to ask for another million when you knew that maybe there wasn’t really another bidder at the table?
Ann Bennett: Well, I guess I live in the wild west of Denver and we just asked. I just did. I just knew. They have tried to develop a PC based system for three years prior to calling us and they couldn’t get it done and I knew that. So I knew that-
John Warrillow: How did you know that, Ann?
Ann Bennett: That’s Denver. That’s why we met at the airport. I just knew that … you know, talking to customers.
Ann Bennett: “Why did you pick us rather than PwC?”
Ann Bennett: “Because you’re PC based.”
Ann Bennett: “Doesn’t Price Waterhouse have a system?”
Ann Bennett: “No, they can’t get it developed, Ann.”
Ann Bennett: “Oh, okay.”
John Warrillow: Interesting. So what was their reaction when your M&A professional asked for a million more?
Ann Bennett: They came back in 24 hours and accepted it. I don’t know what their initial reaction was because he never told me. But they accepted it.
John Warrillow: How did you feel?
Ann Bennett: Great! Great! Now we’ll go into the next components of the deal. Yeah.
John Warrillow: Which were-
Ann Bennett: Because once that was accepted, 100% of my employees, all 30 employees were hired, they immediately invested in 401(k). They gave 10% signing bonuses and they gave equal raises in salary, and we will not move from our offices for one year, because I incubated them.
John Warrillow: What do you mean you incubated them?
Ann Bennett: The tech staff.
John Warrillow: The PwC tech staff?
Ann Bennett: No. My tech staff were 100% hired by PwC.
John Warrillow: I see. So you-
Ann Bennett: We have a culture situation and PwC was housed in a high rise and we were in downtown, lower downtown. My dog, Amber came to work. And it was a very intuitive, flexible … we would solve problems over lunch. “Come to the conference room we have a tech issue.” And we would resolve it with the tax people and the tech people together collaboratively. That type of environment is somewhat difficult in the Big Four. It requires five and six meetings and approvals and we could just get it done.
John Warrillow: And what was your requirement as part of this deal? I understand your employees were treated fairly. What did you have to sign up for? Was it an earnout component, or some portion of your proceeds that were at risk?
Ann Bennett: No. I didn’t have an earnout. I got a commission for three years on the sales, but it wasn’t necessarily an earnout ’cause I had four of their investors. I had brought in four investors for a very small piece, very early on and so I paid those off. But I had a three year Director of Tax at Price with a commission, but I had to sign a four year non-compete.
John Warrillow: Got it. And so as a … for your three years with Price Waterhouse, just to be clear, you had a commission. Were you also a salaried employee?
Ann Bennett: Yes.
John Warrillow: With sort of a commission bonus structure?
Ann Bennett: Yeah, I was a … it was a commission just based on the clients of AIS and then I had just a straight salary comparable to what a Director makes at Price.
John Warrillow: Right. Okay. I’m just trying to get a frame of reference for your commission, just to give the audience a sense of was that sort of a cherry on top of the cupcake? Or was it a major part of your compensation?
Ann Bennett: No.
John Warrillow: As a percentage of the overall price, would it have been, a commission over a three year-
Ann Bennett: Just a cherry on top. Probably-
John Warrillow: Okay. So really you got most of your cash upfront then at closing?
Ann Bennett: All of it. There was no earnout. Now, part of the difference is because we were trading partnerships and that was a niche that Price Waterhouse knew and knew very well. So as far as sticking us to the client, so it was gonna be no question. Unless they changed their form of doing business to a C Corp, they were going to be processed with Price Waterhouse, period.
John Warrillow: Given the speed with which PwC came back and agreed to your extra million, was there any sense that maybe there was more that they would’ve done? There’s even more money that you could’ve gotten? Had you asked for $2 million do you think you could’ve gotten more? Do you ever ask yourself that in retrospect?
Ann Bennett: Slightly, in the back of my mind but you have to look at the whole picture as far as the whole package. The trade off might’ve been to affect the integrity of AIS in the employees benefit package, customers. You know, when you start … you’re sort of trading pennies and you had to look at the whole package. Our ability to stay in our offices for a year, my Director position for three years at Price Waterhouse. So I did not. My investors made out … they got a return of 1000% so-
John Warrillow: Wow!
Ann Bennett: They were happily compensated. You know, they were very happy.
John Warrillow: I’d imagine. Yeah. Take us inside the offices of AIS when you told your employees that you were selling to PwC. Can you describe that situation to us and how you handled it?
Ann Bennett: It was awful! Because Price Waterhouse was a very formidable competitor of ours. So I explained to them why I did it. And I did it because I was very, very tired. You don’t push out three million K-1s every year. I explained to them how I felt the merger between Coopers and Price would affect AIS negatively. I told them that I felt that this Price Waterhouse on their resume would be significant and they should take advantage of that and all the continuing education that was available at Price Waterhouse. I could not duplicate it.
Ann Bennett: The very next day within … well, Price was there, they were waiting in the wings and we went out and did a social event with Price Waterhouse and AIS so they could get to know each other. The very next day at 8:00 they did the interviews. They had the employment packages ready, all ready to go. They came to the table with exactly what they promised, which is exactly what I discussed with them vaguely, not specifically, but in generalities.
John Warrillow: How did your people react when you first told them?
Ann Bennett: They were angry. We had a big meeting in the conference room and they were angry. I said, “Just wait and hear me out. Now, I’ll answer all your questions. Honestly, to the best of my ability why, but hear me out.” And then they-
John Warrillow: How did you know they were angry?
Ann Bennett: I could see it in their faces. These are people I’ve seen every day, I could … I knew they were. They weren’t angry, they were surprised. Anger probably is not … they were very surprised and the first question was, “Why?” And confused. Confused. “Why?”
John Warrillow: And so you had an answer to that.
Ann Bennett: Yeah, I did. I went down step by step ’cause I had thought about this a lot. I had thought about it a whole lot in those two or three months. I had agonized over it.
John Warrillow: Why did you agonize over it?
Ann Bennett: Because I knew it would be a significant event, both in the MLT industry and also with my employees. Because they had been used to lower downtown, Amber coming to work. You know, we got things done. We got things done rapidly, effectively. With Price Waterhouse, you have to have five or ten meetings. They felt a little bit … the tech staff felt that their ability to develop was in the tech world would be inhibited a little bit with Price because they were old school technology and with AIS we were fast track. But I assured them that we were moving the PC, our system over there and they would be working on the same system they were working on at AIS.
John Warrillow: How did their attitudes evolve? When I say, “they” I mean your employees, your legacy, these 30 people that you had going into the deal. How did their experience in this buyout evolve over the next few weeks? You said that they were quite surprised, maybe even a little angry at the beginning. How did that evolve over time?
Ann Bennett: Best decision I ever made was not to move the office. If I had moved … if I had allowed the office to close down and move down to a high rise building it would have not been favorable. I’m not sure how many of them would’ve stayed regardless of the monetary package they got. But the fact we stayed in my location in the lower downtown location for a year allowed things to change gradually because Price Waterhouse employees had to come to my office. We never met in their office. All meetings, tech meetings, sales meetings and so on were held at my office, at our office, at AIS’s office. That makes a big difference.
John Warrillow: I wonder why it’s such a big deal?
Ann Bennett: They were comfortable so the only change they had to make was we had to integrate gradually the tech process and procedures so that we complied with Price’s, as far as new enhancements to the system, testing, so on and so forth. But the rest of the environment stayed pretty much the same. The Call Center, the Investor Relations, that stayed the same.
John Warrillow: So how did things evolve over years two and three, after the one year commitment was passed?
Ann Bennett: The second year was a little … it wasn’t as difficult because we had assimilated within Price Waterhouse, but we did move down to the high rise. Of course, they had nicer offices and we had a much bigger staff up space for the Investor Relations, you know with all the latest technology and phone service, and so on and so forth. So for that group it was, “Wow! I got a bigger office and I’ve got nicer phones.” And so on, so that worked out pretty well. There was no change there. A couple of the tech staff had the offer to move to Dallas, where their tech group was and they accepted the offer and they were pleased.
John Warrillow: How did you personally handle working for PwC? You strike me as a very entrepreneurial woman, quick decision making, get things done up by the bootstraps. I mean how did you survive those three years?
Ann Bennett: It was tough. I think any owner that sells a business needs to come to grips with that and figure out how he’s going to separate himself from the business.
John Warrillow: What was tough about it for you?
Ann Bennett: I was basically not invited to any sales meetings or asked for my opinion basically on anything. Except for-
John Warrillow: How did that make you feel?
Ann Bennett: Not good, but I knew the environment. I wasn’t new to the Big Four. I had worked for Deloitte and I had worked for Coopers and I had competed against Price, so I knew the culture. I was … found other things to do. You know, divorce myself from the personal involvement, strictly business. But you have to do that. I had to prepare myself before. I didn’t know it would be as significant as it was, but I knew there would be something.
John Warrillow: The D word, divorce is a pretty heavy word. Did you really divorce yourself? I mean when you say, “divorce yourself” maybe elaborate on that a little bit.
Ann Bennett: I was not involved in the sales process at all. I offered … it’s your feelings. It’s your feelings. You just take every day as it comes. You give what value you can, but you don’t expect any true involvement in the company after it’s sold. You will be given certain tasks or jobs or tokens for the three years, but you will not be making a difference in your company going forward once it’s sold.
John Warrillow: How do you feel about that? I mean there’s a lot of time that’s passed, right? So we’re recording this in 2019. This is, believe it or not, coming up on 20 years ago. How do you reflect back on that time now having the passage of time? Provide a perspective.
Ann Bennett: I don’t because I used what I’ve learned to help other companies.
John Warrillow: So you don’t look back on that and realize-
Ann Bennett: Well, there was one thing that I did do. In 2010, KPMG … remember there’s only one system in the country and that’s Price Waterhouse. 2010 Deloitte & Touche and KPMG decided they were going to write a competing system. And my non-compete was over for six years. I was invited to consult for three years with KPMG in developing a competing system, which I did.
John Warrillow: And how do you feel about that decision given-
Ann Bennett: Great! Because now there’s three of them.
John Warrillow: Right. So you don’t feel any specific loyalty to PwC given that you honored your non-compete, you did your job and you’re sort of a free citizen to go about your business.
Ann Bennett: That’s right. And they invited me and I said, “Fine. Yep. I’ll be happy to help you consult to build a competing system.” Because you know competition is the way we do things here in the States. Competition is good.
John Warrillow: Sure. Sure. Yeah, for sure. As you look back on the entire experience, growing AIS, selling it, and even those three years as a Director for PwC, is there anything that you might … or if you had to do over again. Let me ask it this way. If you had it to do over again what one thing might you do just a little bit differently if you had it to do all over again?
Ann Bennett: I probably would carve out what my responsibilities were going to be for the three years and have those in writing so there’s a commitment on their part of what was expected of me for three years, so I wasn’t floundering so much because that was never really defined. When I made an attempt to get involved in sales there was pushback on their part. I should’ve had that further defined. That would be true for anybody that’s selling, that’s going to be an employee of the acquirer.
John Warrillow: Get that job description, your KPIs, your incentives really locked down.
Ann Bennett: Yeah. Exactly.
John Warrillow: Got it. Got it.
Ann Bennett: Locked down. Yeah.
John Warrillow: Ann, what a phenomenal story! I’m really glad that you told this to us. We spend a lot of time talking about pre-sale, but today we spent quite a bit of time talking about post sale, which I really enjoyed. I’m grateful for you spending the time to do that.
John Warrillow: Ann, what’s the best way for people to reach out? Is there a website? Or do you accept LinkedIn Connections? If people wanted to reach out and say, “Hi.” What’s the best way to do that?
Ann Bennett: LinkedIn Connection. Ann C. Bennett on LinkedIn and I have a website KBAAssociates.com.
John Warrillow: Awesome. KBAAssociates.com and Ann C. Bennett, and Bennett is B-E- double N-E double T, I think, correct?
Ann Bennett: Right. Right.
John Warrillow: On LinkedIn. Awesome. Ann, thank you so much for joining us.
Ann Bennett: Thank you for having me.