Everything you need to know about Jonathan Jay’s The Dealmaker’s Academy

whether it’s the right course for you

This is a review about Jonathan Jay and his course The Dealmaker’s Academy.

Conducted by one of our researchers in conjunction with course attendees, this review will teach you everything you need to know about the course. This includes what’s covered, the level of depth it goes in to, what strategies are used, and whether it really is value for money.

So, if you’re ready, let’s dive right in.

Jonathan Jay is regarded as one of the UK’s leading authorities when it comes to buying and selling businesses. He states that he has a track record of achieving multi-million-pound exits in a career spanning well over 20 years.

According to his biography, he’s run his own businesses since he was 19 years old, selling his first one when he was 26. He’s also been advising companies on their marketing since 1999 and has written books on the subject.

In the past he’s run various workshops and seminars for the entrepreneurially-minded, focusing on areas such as marketing and how to grow faster by acquisition.

That gives you a brief background about the man himself. So now, let’s see how The Dealmaker’s Academy shapes up.

Is it worthy of all the hype that surrounds it? And more importantly, is it worthy of your hard-earned money?

Well keep reading and let’s find out…

In order to provide as thorough and impartial a review as possible, we put each course or seminar we review  through an extremely  rigorous testing process. And we’ve done exactly the same with Jonathan Jay’s and will rate it out of 5 for the following criteria:

  • Sourcing

    In other words, how do course attendees learn how to find businesses to buy? How effective are the strategies taught in this area?

  • Fact Finding and Meetings

    One of the most important aspects of successful M&A is conducting meetings to gain the information needed to make an informed decision on whether to proceed with the deal. So, is this covered in any great depth and what strategies and other tactics are taught?

  • Deal Structure

    Does Jay teach attendees how to structure deals and what types of deal structure are discussed?

  • Closing

    Having secured a meeting and gathered all the information needed, now it’s time to close. How does The Dealmaker’s Academy approach this and what level of detail is delivered?

  • Financial Engineering

    This is all about business maths and uncovering hidden cashflow and profits. What did the course attendees we interviewed think of how Jonathan Jay covered this area? And did it provide them with the required knowledge to go out and improve an acquired business?

  • Legals and Due Dilligence

    Although you would hire professionals to undertake these two aspects of completing a deal, it’s always useful to have at least a grasp of the basics. Is this covered during The Dealmaker’s Academy and if so, to what extent?

  • Actionability After the Course

    Perhaps the holy grail of all M&A courses is actionability once you’ve left the venue or completed the course. Does Jay give you everything you need or is it a conduit for future upsell?

  • Price and Value for money

    How much does The Dealmaker’s Academy course cost and did the attendees we interview consider it good value for money?

  • Support

    Having completed the course, what level support (if any) is provided?

  • Credibility

    Based on their experiences of attending the course and taking action on what they were taught, what do the attendees we spoke to feel about Jonathan Jay. Is he credible? Does he walk the walk?

Sourcing
3/5
Fact Finding and Meetings
3/5
Deal Structure
1/5
Exit
1/5
Financial Engineering
0.5/5
Legals and Due Diligence
1/5
Actionability After the Course
2/5
Price and Value for money
2/5
Support
2/5
Credibility
0.5/5

Pros

  • It’s a quick, inexpensive introduction to the art of mergers and acquisitions.
  • Information is given face-to-face in a group of a reasonable size, so you do get some face time with Jonathan Jay.
  • The option of entering a mastermind group to get access to more resources, or alternatively use Jay’s deal team instead of assembling your own.

Cons

  • The introductory seminar is limited to just headline-level information. The book contains essentially the same material as the seminar.
  • Much of the content appeared to be very closely related to a similar course, which Jonathan Jay himself attended and for which he provided a testimonial.

Introduction

As you probably know, building a business from scratch is extremely hard work. And the odds of success are heavily stacked against you, therefore why not just buy a business instead?

Acquisition is how many of the richest business men and women accelerate their wealth! (Think of Warren Buffett or Sir Philip Green.)

That’s a great idea. 

However, whilst it’s less work in the long run than launching your own business, acquiring a business is not that easy or obvious. And the processes certainly can’t be distilled into a super simple ‘how to’ guide – it’s a bit more complex than that.

Even entrepreneurs with many years of experience make mistakes.

Do you recall when Sir Philip Green sold BHS to Dominic Chappell for £1. This was  a potential dream deal that soon became a very real nightmare for Sir Philip. Soon after the deal was concluded, BHS collapsed, and under threat of losing his knighthood, Sir Philip paid £353 million into its depleted pension fund to reduce the heat.

Diving in is hazardous and ‘book learning’ isn’t enough. Nuances matter.

And so as with any learning, the devil is most certainly in detail. And we’re going to be giving chapter and verse on the level of detail that The Dealmaker’s Academy delivers.

For anyone who has attended the Harbour Club, some of Jay’s content would seem very familiar. We’ll say no more than that. The delivery style is good and Jay is a dynamic and eloquent speaker.

Whether you’re buying or selling a business, your success will be dictated by your knowledge, confidence and input from several professionals who’ll get involved at various stages of the deal process.

And this is where a program led by someone experienced in M&A can help, as they can teach you what you need to know and hook you up with the requisite professional support.

Enter: Jonathan Jay and The Dealmaker’s Academy. 

#1 SOURCING

How do you find potential deals? Where should you look? How should you approach business owners?

Let’s find out what The Dealmaker’s Academy teaches…

Jay states when looking for possible businesses to buy, that you must remember that only one in five are ever advertised. This means you need to take the initiative, be proactive and seek out prospective sellers, as opposed to simply relying on adverts and listings on business-for-sale websites.

We agree, because the best businesses often AREN’T actually for sale.

But to give a degree of balance to sourcing for opportunities, he does discuss the ways in which you can approach business brokers and outlines the advantages and disadvantages…

Jay believes that brokers are likely to have insider knowledge into businesses that will be coming up for sale soon. Also, they may already be working with willing sellers, which can speed up the sales process.

Of course, one of the main downsides to using brokers is that they often have outrageously unrealistic valuations and deal terms. This is one reason why brokers only sell, on average, less than five percent of the businesses they list each year.

Jay then gets to the nuts and bolts of his sourcing method, which includes strategies such as:

  • Clients

    if you or a colleague/associate has clients, then you/they may know people that may be looking to sell their business.

  • Network

    ask those in your professional network whether or not they know of any possible opportunities.

  • Pitching to competitors

    if you already have your own business, you could approach a competitor with the proposition of merging the two companies.

  • Advertising

    you could place adverts in targeted and relevant publications (could be sector specific) that communicate that you’re looking for businesses that are considering a potential sale.

  • Social media

    Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn can be leveraged to make it known that you’re on the look out for businesses to purchase. Jay himself claims that from just one post on LinkedIn he received 17 responses!!

  • Other dealmakers

    by mingling with other dealmakers, you can find out about other deals that they may not be interested in or where they are looking for joint venture partners.

  • Trade shows

    specifically sector-focused trade shows are, Jay believes, a potentially lucrative environment for uncovering business owners looking for an exit.

  • Web listings

    you can also look at the glut of online business-for-sale websites that often have listings directly posted by the business owner and NOT the broker, such as www.rightbiz.co.uk.

VERDICT: Credit where credit is due, The Dealmaker’s Academy does give attendees a host of options to find potential deals. And whilst Jay doesn’t necessarily reveal ‘his secrets’ to how you approach and contact business owners, you should get some dealflow.

#2 FACT FINDING AND MEETINGS

The phone rings… your email pings… you’ve got a business owner interested in talking to you. But what do you do next?

When it comes to conducting fact finding calls and meetings, has Jay got everything covered?

Jay claims that when buying any business, asking the right questions is the key to success for any dealmaker.

He explains that once the introductions and pleasantries are out of the way, you should ask the seller to tell you about the business and its background. He also emphasises the importance of listening carefully to what a potential vendor is saying, as the more that can be gleaned from the beginning, the better.

Good stuff so far…

Jay then goes on to explain that most of his first-meetings are conducted via a telephone call. He prefers to not leave the comfort of his office or living room until a level of interest has been confirmed. One strategy he uses for this is to ask open-ended questions… and then listening carefully to the answers.

He also stresses on the importance of establishing who owns the company, whether there is more than person in control, and what their percentage shareholdings are. This ensures that you’re talking to the right person – someone with decision-making ability, and whether or not future talks need to include other individuals around the negotiating table.

According to Jay, in an ideal world you should be targeting businesses with a single owner, as they’re much less complicated. You generally only have to deal with one point of contact and one decision maker. However, it doesn’t mean that multiple owner ones should be dismissed, if the company is sound and there’s an opportunity to be had.

And of course, during your fact finding, you can evaluate many of these details by searching on the Companies House website. This will show you the latest accounts (although abbreviated), the name of the limited company, who the owners are and if there are any charges over the company, amongst other things.

Jay also touches on using the right language during conversations with business owners and reveals how he believes it can make the difference between deal or no deal. He also explains how you should present yourself when you go to meet business owners. Afterall, you only get once chance to make a first impression.

VERDICT: Once again, Jay does deliver a fair bit of value in this part of his course. Although he doesn’t provide templates or fact finds, which would make implementation easier, he does deliver a lot of knowledge and experience. The attendees we spoke to did indicate that Jay did skirt over some areas and go into detail about others, but overall, they felt it did provide adequate knowledge to at the very least get started.

#3 DEAL STRUCTURE

The art of structuring deals is something Jonathan Jay talks about a lot on videos on his YouTube channel and on LinkedIn. But does he walk the walk and share his innermost secrets to those that pay money for his advice and expertise?

Let’s find out…

Members of the Dealmaker’s Academy are shown how to buy businesses for £1. Jay looks at three different types, which are: profitable, stressed and distressed.

Let’s look at those one by one, shall we?…

Profitable

The first strategy covered is how to structure an offer for a profitable business. This business could be in any industry, it really doesn’t matter.

Jay explains that as a dealmaker, this type of business makes an ideal acquisition because it’s already generating a profit. And that with a few tweaks here and there, cutting costs, making operational improvements and implementing marketing hacks, you can turn a reasonably profitable business into a really profitable business.

Stressed

Stressed businesses are the second category Jay covers. A stressed business is one that is under performing, resulting in poor numbers and therefore a reduced valuation.

This means that in terms of getting a deal done, you can often structure it quite favourably and achieve an acquisition for a reasonable price. Then the hard works starts, as you’ll want to start implementing changes to reverse the company’s performance and get it generating a profit again.

Distressed

Finally, Jay talks about distressed businesses – a topic he’s particularly keen on. Given the circumstances of a distressed business – it’s likely to be either on the verge of insolvency or in fact already insolvent – you can acquire them for little or no money.

But a word of caution: only buy a struggling business if you’re absolutely clear on why the business is currently in trouble. You should also already have a plan in place to turn it around, and potentially have earmarked an exit strategy.

Careful due diligence is critical whenever you’re buying a distressed business. Oh, and you may well have to take on all of the business’ liabilities, too. 

Attendees of The Dealmaker’s Academy are taught the basics of how to go about purchasing all three types of business. But those that our researcher spoke to were quick to point out that they didn’t feel strategies were covered in sufficient depth.

They also explained that they would not feel confident in structuring a deal themselves and would have to bring in someone else to help.

VERDICT: Unfortunately, Jay doesn’t explain all of the deal structures in the required detail for someone to approach a business owner with any degree of confidence. The course appears to only touch on the basics. He even states during the training that it is preferable to work with professionals who will take charge of all the structuring. Jay continues by adding that he’s happy to hook people up to said professionals, but it comes at a price... £25k to be exact.

#4 CLOSING

You’ve created some deal flow, you’ve shortlisted potential acquisition targets and you’ve attended meetings with business owners.

Now you have a potential deal on the table and all that’s left is to get it over the line.

Does Jay give you the ammunition you need to do so? Let’s find out…

Jay’s belief is that a vendor needs to be motivated to sell their business, and that you need to understand those motivations before you get to the negotiating table.

Pretty sound advice…

He also focuses on the negotiating stance of the buyer and what pressures may be on the vendor. He is a firm believer that once you understand why the vendor wants to sell – whether it’s retirement, spending more time with family or just a change of scenery – you can shape your negotiation around those reasons.

Jay also stresses that often money is not the main motivation for selling.

One of the keys to negotiating a deal is understanding the other party’s motivation for selling. By understanding this, you can craft a deal that satisfies that motivation.

VERDICT: We can’t really add anything in addition to the above. Having quickly skimmed through why it’s important to exit, without actually explaining solid strategies of how this can be achieved, Harbour proceeded to roll out the red carpet for the Agglomeration model.

It is far more common for a business acquisition to take more time, effort, thought, creativity and money than Jay’s seminar leads people to believe… especially for people who are relatively new to it and haven’t been shown the realities of closing deals correctly, if at all.

#5 FINANCIAL ENGINEERING

Financial engineering is an area where a lot of the M&A magic happens. The ability to look at a company’s financials and understand the profit leaks and cash flow challenges is invaluable to any dealerpreneur.

So, to what level does The Dealmaker’s Academy teach such knowledge?

In a word, not much (ok, that’s two words 😊)

The course doesn’t really cover any financial engineering, which is doing attendees a disservice, when it’s a fundamental aspect of dealmaker’s tool bag.

The only area that was touched upon that even remotely resembles financial engineering was that having acquired a business, you should approach all suppliers and ask for a payment holiday. You can then negotiate with HMRC to strike a deal with them regarding any monies owing.

Oh, and he does touch on a little English Law for UK Businesses. But that’s it.

VERDICT: There are other courses on the market, such as SQF and the Harbour Club, that understand the importance of financial engineering and include sessions teaching attendees an array of strategies. To not include it is detrimental to those wanting to succeed at M&A, as they’ll have a huge knowledge gap.

#6 LEGALS AND DUE DILIGENCE

This section assesses whether The Dealmaker’s Academy covers due diligence, including research and the legal requirements of M&A – and if so – to what extent.

Due diligence, financial and legal necessities are all part of the deal making process and can be pricey. And whilst you don’t need to be anywhere near an expert in these areas, which is frankly unrealistic anyway, it does pay to understand the basics.

Jay believes that the professionals you hire as part of your ‘deal team’ can be persuaded to defer their fees until the transaction occurs. This means, you don’t pay them until you get paid, giving you the ability to use cash freed up in the deal.

The attendees we spoke to mentioned that from their experience of attempting to do deals, they didn’t find it quite so easy to make such arrangements. Sidestepping demands to show proof of funds and arranging financing have also proven harder than the seminar suggested. 

Jay does reiterate on more than one occasion that due diligence should always be conducted by a professional and that members should never do it themselves. But nothing is taught to give attendees even a grasp of what due diligence entails.

It also appears that Jay is also quick to recommend his in-house guy, who doesn’t come cheap.

VERDICT: Yes, it’s an area for the professionals, there’s no question about that. Due diligence and legals should only be conducted by those with the required expertise and qualifications. However, a little knowledge and understanding helps and at least gives confidence when talking about the topics with vendors. The fact that nothing is taught about this at The Dealmaker’s Academy is somewhat disappoiting.

#7 ACTIONABILITY AFTER THE COURSE

So, you’ve invested time and money attending The Dealmaker’s Academy. You’ve met Jonathan Jay and now it’s time to leave the course and start/continue your deal making journey.

Will you hit the ground running not get off the starting line?

You’re about to find out…

So, let’s begin with ‘The promise’.

The seminar is titled How to Find, Fund, Fix and Flip A Business – Without Risking Your Own Money.

It claims to show you how to buy a business without risking your savings or taking on personal liability. Jay also promises to reveal what he believes are the best acquisition strategies out there.

A copy of Jay’s book, which covers the same material as the seminar, is available via his website (for free).

The strapline that Jay uses as the core for this seminar is “More money in the bank… and more time to enjoy it! Start living the Dealmaker’s Life”. 

“More money in the bank… and more time to enjoy it! Start living the Dealmaker’s Life’... – This is the strapline Jonathan Jay uses as the basis of his seminar.”

He also claims that by spending a day (yes, that’s right, just ONE DAY) with the dealmaker himself, you’ll discover how to: 

  • Buy, fix, and sell businesses for a profit;
  • Knock office life on the head – work anytime from anywhere;
  • Remain at the forefront of the business and leave the details to employees;
  • Benefit from a solid monthly income or receive the ultimate payday

Jay explains that he will share every lesson he has learnt over the past two decades as a result of building, buying, and selling a raft of companies – as well as exiting with 7 figures every time. 

Is it really feasible to condense two decades of experience into one day?! 

Jay believes it is.

And once equipped with this information, he also believes attendees will be able to: 

  • FIND businesses to buy without a bidding war;
  • FUND the purchase using creative finance – meaning no capital is needed;
  • FIX the business as a result of driving in more revenue and cutting costs;
  • Finally, FLIP it, sell it on and then sit back and retire – or alternatively put together a brand-new deal and repeat.

Jay suggests that the one-day event will be a lively day, that the ideas will be flowing and, on top of that, there will be an abundance of practical work.

He also purports that at the end, attendees will be primed to scout out their first deal, negotiate the sale, discover the hidden profit, then go ahead and finance the dream life. 

Phew, that’s certainly quite a claim.

So, the question is:

Does the seminar live up to its hype?

OK, let’s be clear. We’ve taken a slightly skeptical tone to this last section, purely due to trying to teach a life’s work in one day.

Therefore, don’t expect to emerge from the one day with a step-by-step blueprint and ready to strike an acquisition deal.

Honestly, one day is not enough for that!! 

However, what is possible is to get a reasonably broad overview of M&A and all it entails and decide whether his follow-up program is right for you.

By the end of the day you should have:

  • A sense of whether you have the right knowledge to tackle it;
  • A sense of what you need to learn before you try to do it;
  • A sense of whether Jay’s mastermind group program is the type of support you need to move forward.

VERDICT: Although we don’t believe it’s realistic to learn everything you need to know in one day, The Dealmaker’s Academy does provide you with some valuable content and an overview of whether you are on the right path to success in M&A. 

#8 PRICE/VALUE FOR MONEY

So, how much does The Dealmaker’s Academy come in at and does it represent good value for money for what you get in return?

Keep reading and let’s find out…

The cost and time commitment for the initial seminar are modest – totaling a couple hundred pounds for a day which weeds out most time-wasters. It’s a quick, inexpensive introduction to the world of mergers and acquisitions.

The attendees we spoke to believe you definitely get what you pay for. It’s a relatively cheap course which understandably, is limited to headline-level information. The book that course attendees receive also contains essentially the same material as the seminar.

For those who want to go beyond the basics, Jay has a mastermind group that costs high four digits to low five digits, comparable to the price of the program he attended before starting his own program.

The seminar allows Jay to assess which people in the room are the best targets for that pitch.  It is also their chance to decide whether they feel it’s worthwhile to step up a level with him.  People who don’t step up can participate in a free Facebook group with each other and with Jay after the seminar.

VERDICT: The one-day seminar and book do contain valuable content, but lack the depth and detail required to arm anyone with all the knowledge they’d need to go out there and start doing deals. In order to gain that knowledge, you’d have to pay for Jay’s mastermind group, which is promoted to all attendees at the end of the one-day seminar.

#9 SUPPORT

If there is one thing that separates the great courses from the average ones, it’s support after the event. It’s all too easy to be forgotten and have your emails go unanswered once the event has finished.

However, there are courses out there that do a great job of ensuring past attendees are kept engaged and motivated to continue on their journey.

In this section, we’ll have a look at exactly what support Jay offers, so if you’re ready, let’s dive straight in…

Attendees of the one-day event can join a free closed Facebook group. Within that group, they can pose questions, get feedback about opportunities they come across and ask for or share advice.

Jay participates but help often comes from other group members. The group is a window into how people who attend only the seminar fare after the day. 

Although opportunities are passed from one person to another in this group, the value is somewhat limited – unlike those who stepped up into the mastermind group, who are on another level. The latter tend to be more serious, focus more intently on their quest, and bring more personal skills and resources to the table. 

VERDICT: Jay does offer a little support – although most input and contributions come from other members of the Facebook group. It’s quite apparent that those in the mastermind group receive far more, which may be to do with the high-ticket nature of membership or the fact that this is where the juiciest deals lie.

#10 Credibility

Jay has certainly achieved some success in the M&A space. His courses have also proven to be popular and he actively promotes his book on his website. However, our research time noticed that a considerable amount of content appeared to be very closely related to another course that Jay himself attended not too long ago.

Also, dig a little deeper, and it appears Jay was positioning himself as a marketing guru in the not-so-distant past. So, whilst we’re not doubting his recent M&A successes, the extent of his 20+ years M&A experience appears to be a little foggy.

Verdict: Ultimately, in this digital age, you are who Google says you are. When credentials don’t appear to match the story being told and a simple Google search unravels the story, it raises suspicions.

Summary

So, is this course the right one for YOU?

Some attendees were disappointed to get only headline-level information at the event. They wanted detailed how-to guidance. They wanted checklists, forms and templates. They wanted unique insights or methods.

However, it isn’t reasonable to expect all of that in a single day for just one or two hundred pounds. 

Those types of expectations are more appropriate for premium mastermind group membership. At that price point, you would expect to receive all the necessary materials and guidance from someone who (they claim) has a 20+ year track record of buying and selling businesses. 

Ultimately, the day is perfect for learning the basics and finding good contacts for every key position when forming your own deal team. . 

If you are not ready to go into M&A on your own, you can:

  • Step up to the mastermind group to get access to more resources and optionally use Jay’s deal team instead of assembling your own, or
  • Choose another course or group that can provide training and support, especially if you want a more international flavour or more extensive resources, or
  • Partner one-on-one with an experienced acquisitions practitioner (ideally one who already has a deal team) if you are able to bring enough to the table yourself.

During the seminar, you may meet a few people with whom you may be able to partner later. If you are already experienced at acquisitions, you would find people might be willing to joint venture with you, help you get more leads (for a commission in return), or operate and streamline the businesses you buy.

Now, over to you...

Have you attended The Deal Makers Academy? Did you find any deals?

What are your thoughts? Let me know by leaving a quick comment right now…

Meanwhile, if you’re looking for FREE and UP-TO-DATE strategies on how to do M&A successfully, just click here:

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