Cashing out: An entrepreneur's dream or nightmare?

October 31, 2011
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Some would say Larry Howald accomplished every small-business owner’s dream: Selling his company to a big competitor for “good” money.

Many entrepreneurs aspire to do just that, then use the proceeds to live on—or start over.

As IBJ reported this week, Howald didn’t spend much of the cash he got when he sold Broad Ripple Heating & Air Conditioning to Lennox International in 2000. Instead, he stayed at the company for more than a decade, trying to preserve the family atmosphere his dad created when he founded the firm in 1962.

That’s a long time for someone used to calling the shots, experts say. It’s not unusual for owners to stick around for a while after a sale to ease the transition, but Indianapolis attorney Eric Manterfield advises his clients to keep it short.

“You need to be able to walk away,” he told IBJ.

Howald left Lennox in February, then spent the spring and summer working to launch Howald Heating & Air Conditioning. It opened Sept. 1.

He’s far from alone. Tom Godby sold his HVAC firm to American Residential Services in 1997, then started Godby Heating and Air Conditioning seven years later. He also owns a stake in a several other local companies.

At 56, Howald has a new enthusiasm for his job. He starts his days early and works late. And he can’t even fathom retirement—let alone another sale of the business.

“I don’t ever want to quit, really,” he said.

Howald learned from his experience, but is there a lesson here for other entrepreneurs? How can business owners cash out of the enterprise they built and move on without looking back?

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  1. I took Bruce's comments to highlight a glaring issue when it comes to a state's image, and therefore its overall branding. An example is Michigan vs. Indiana. Michigan has done an excellent job of following through on its branding strategy around "Pure Michigan", even down to the detail of the rest stops. Since a state's branding is often targeted to visitors, it makes sense that rest stops, being that point of first impression, should be significant. It is clear that Indiana doesn't care as much about the impression it gives visitors even though our branding as the Crossroads of America does place importance on travel. Bruce's point is quite logical and accurate.

  2. I appreciated the article. I guess I have become so accustomed to making my "pit stops" at places where I can ALSO get gasoline and something hot to eat, that I hardly even notice public rest stops anymore. That said, I do concur with the rationale that our rest stops (if we are to have them at all) can and should be both fiscally-responsible AND designed to make a positive impression about our state.

  3. I don't know about the rest of you but I only stop at these places for one reason, and it's not to picnic. I move trucks for dealers and have been to rest areas in most all 48 lower states. Some of ours need upgrading no doubt. Many states rest areas are much worse than ours. In the rest area on I-70 just past Richmond truckers have to hike about a quarter of a mile. When I stop I;m generally in a bit of a hurry. Convenience,not beauty, is a primary concern.

  4. Community Hospital is the only system to not have layoffs? That is not true. Because I was one of the people who was laid off from East. And all of the LPN's have been laid off. Just because their layoffs were not announced or done all together does not mean people did not lose their jobs. They cherry-picked people from departments one by one. But you add them all up and it's several hundred. And East has had a dramatic drop I in patient beds from 800 to around 125. I know because I worked there for 30 years.

  5. I have obtained my 6 gallon badge for my donation of A Positive blood. I'm sorry to hear that my donation was nothing but a profit center for the Indiana Blood Center.

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