Story by Brad Carlson, Photos by Jim Peterson
The business of selling businesses looks a bit different lately to veteran practitioner Bill Laska, who likes what he sees: some increased activity, and many clients happy to park in front of his newish office in Eagle.
He became an Eagle resident in September 2014 after selling his longtime home in southwest Boise. He moved his office at the start of 2016 from Ninth and Main streets in downtown Boise to Eagle. Laska Co. is at 801 E. State St.
“It’s easier to set up a meeting,” Laska said. Eagle offers easier access and parking for many clients who come to see him, a handy starting point for visiting them, a relaxed atmosphere with plenty of good restaurants, and a short commute to his townhome residence, he said.
His business, Laska Company M&A Advisors, was based in downtown Boise for more than 20 years. There, he established many business relationships and was seen frequently at networking events.
“I was a downtown Boise fan … But we are establishing new social relationships in downtown Eagle,” such as with bankers, restauranteurs and various community members, Laska said. Also in Eagle, he owns a small office building leased to another tenant.
Though many of his clients live in west Boise or western Ada County, he serves people all over Idaho. He specializes in business sales and acquisitions – work he began in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn., some 27 years ago.
Large private-equity investors looking to buy sizable enterprises dominated the acquisition market in recent years as small businesses changed hands at a slower pace, said Laska, who works with small businesses primarily.
Valuations reflected in selling prices have been up in recent years for bigger enterprises – like those the private-equity players sought with greater enthusiasm – but flat for smaller businesses, he said. For many prospective buyers of the latter, qualifying for financing remained challenging as the economy stayed sluggish.
“The year 2011 was the bottom and it has been coming back slowly since, about like the economy has,” said Laska, a Boise Rescue Mission board member. “The biggest hindrance since 2011 has been the deterioration of the middle class that are typical buyers of small businesses – and the lack of available financing, which is now improving.”
Getting financing is becoming easier, he said. That’s partly because credit unions have entered the market for U.S. Small Business Administration-backed loans and have money available to qualified buyers. “The credit unions have made it easier to get a loan on a business.”
Business activity and optimism picked up following the presidential election after slowing a few months earlier, Laska said.
Recently he has helped put together sales of home health care, construction, technology, and industrial businesses as well as restaurants. This year, he expects more activity with service businesses and possibly in manufacturing and distribution.
“I expect because of the renewed optimism in the business environment, we will see more qualified buyers step up, and easier financing,” said Laska, 66. “I believe I am in the right place at the right time now.”
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