How I Got Acquired: Listen to Customers Inside and Outside of Your Business, Says Founder of MyWorks 

Imagine attending a family wedding in Jordan while also closing a life-changing acquisition. Between champagne toasts and flying bouquets, you’re on the phone, covertly typing emails before the next auntie-in-law whisks you away to meet more of your cousins. 

A family holiday far from home isn’t the best time to negotiate the fine print on one of the most transformative agreements you’ll ever sign. But Peter Leonard, founder of MyWorks Software, made it work. In a win for him and his family, Peter sold MyWorks to SaaS Group earlier this month (September 2022). 

Peter started MyWorks as a web development agency out of college. After building a product that solved an internal business problem, he offered it to customers complaining of the same issue. Then he beat his competitors by reading reviews and fixing where they’d gone wrong. 

But four years later, with revenue growing fast and thousands of users in over 100 countries, Peter realized the cost of his success. His daughter, Olivia, was already two years old, and he’d missed out on so much. He loved entrepreneurship, but it was time he retreated from the business he’d worked so hard to build to spend more time with his family.

Peter reflected on past acquisition offers. Weeks of vetting buyers and due diligence often ended in disappointment. What could he do differently this time to guarantee an early exit? After learning of Managed by Acquire, Peter enlisted Paul Kelley (our VP M&A) to help. 

Thus began a smooth acquisition process that ended in a seven-figure deal. Read on to learn how Peter built a multimillion-dollar business, switched from agency to product, and why he can’t thank Paul enough for that acquisition help. 

From Fixing Macbooks to Building Websites

Peter grew up in the Colorado suburbs, the oldest of six siblings. At 13 years old, needing a little extra pocket money, he began trading Macbooks on the internet. He’d buy cheap faulty machines, fix them, and then resell them for profit – an enterprise that made him so much money he needed a way to track it. 

“I was the only teenager playing with QuickBooks and not a Playstation,” Peter said. “I made all this money tearing up old Macbooks and needed a way to track my earnings. I’d like to think QuickBooks started my interest in accounting – but maybe it was seeing the money roll in.”

Peter’s entrepreneurial instincts sharpened as he approached adulthood. At 14, he washed dishes and waited tables at a local restaurant. In the last year of high school, he ran a coffee shop with his father where he learned the franchise business model and how to manage people. (No longer just counting beans, but roasting them too.)

After graduating high school, Peter majored in entrepreneurship and minored in franchise management at Northwood University, Michigan. He bartended in the evenings, getting another taste of structured employment, but knew he wanted a business of his own.  

“I’m comfortable with a position where you work with and under people,” Peter said. “But it’s much more interesting and fun to take on the responsibility for everything yourself. I’d always enjoyed learning about technology, so between bartending shifts, I started building websites.”

The Allure of Recurring Revenue

The technology component of Peter’s entrepreneurship studies was short. While it didn’t teach him to code (he did that himself), it deconstructed the business models behind some of the most successful technology companies in the world – and dreams of recurring revenue followed.

“Recurring revenue has always been attractive to me,” Peter said. “If ten or a hundred people subscribe, your workload mostly stays the same. That fascinated me, but I didn’t hit on it immediately because I needed to earn money. I started with the agency to generate instant cash flow.”

Peter sought clients online, advertising as much as he could afford and counting on referrals. Over time, his agency, then named MyWorks, became popular for building WooCommerce websites. It was steady work, and everyone was happy except for Peter. Why?

“The agency model was time-consuming and laborious,” Peter said. He’d spend most of his time on client emails and phone calls. Like a game of snakes and ladders, his team would finish a project only for a surprise request to send it back weeks. It was demoralizing at times.

As the business grew, its accounting and sales systems took more hours to reconcile. It was a full-time job keeping everything aligned, and Peter wanted to automate the pain away. “We had the engineers, so why not build a single platform internally to manage everything?” he said.

Peter’s customers wanted the same thing. They raved about the websites he’d built but complained that they couldn’t synchronize their accounting systems and sales data, resulting in a lot of cross-checking, double-keying, and manual entry. Time they could’ve spent selling.

“We started building the software for ourselves,” Peter said, “but after months of listening to customers, we realized this would be a huge time-saver for them, too. We began to plan our roadmap around their needs and not our own.”

How Peter Switched From Agency to SaaS 

Peter tasked his engineering team with building a product that would integrate QuickBooks accounting, CRMs, and inventory management. Meanwhile, he researched ecommerce app stores to see if anything like it existed in the market.

“It didn’t matter what others did as long as we did it better,” Peter said. “Reviews of our competitors said things like, ‘This looked perfect, but didn’t work,’ or, ‘No one answered my questions.’ They either lacked a solid product or the support team to back it up.” 

Many alternatives were also too technical for most startup founders. 

“Our competitors seemed to build their apps for developers, not the people suffering the problem,” Peter said. “We listened to customers on live demo and setup calls and noted their feature requests. That’s how our product evolved into something so popular among founders.” 

Peter learned from customers inside and outside of his business, building synchronization tools that were easy to install and run without an engineer. As a result, founders would save time and minimize errors without extra development costs. Now he just needed them to sign up. 

Word-of-mouth had worked in the past, but it wouldn’t be enough to scale before copycats ate into MyWorks’ market share. Peter and his team experimented with different growth tactics, finally settling on a campaign encompassing SEO, Google ads, and software partnerships. 

“Early on, we started investing in Google ads, and we knew SEO wouldn’t be a quick win but would work out in the long term,” Peter said. “We updated the website, started blogging about topics ecommerce companies liked, and included case studies and FAQs on the homepage.” 

Peter and his team also worked with hundreds of ecommerce software vendors to sell them the benefits of a partnership. Each signed contract opened a new market, a new distribution channel, without the high marketing cost of finding and creating one from scratch. 

Scale the Business or Spend Time With Family?

Time passed and MyWorks thrived as Peter wound down the web agency and focused on software. The SaaS product made seven figures in annual recurring revenue (ARR), bigger and more profitable than he’d ever imagined. But like many founders, Peter struggled with burnout. 

His wife had given birth to Olivia, and for the first two years of her life, Peter couldn’t give her the attention she deserved. He craved more time with his family. He wanted to watch Olivia grow up, to be there for the first walk, first word, and all the other firsts awaiting new dads. 

“My daughter is two years old in September,” Peter said. “And while I enjoy every moment of running the business, I knew that the more we scaled the busier I’d get. I tried to plan my time better and delegate, but we were in a high-growth phase and the business demanded all of my attention.”

About a year before getting Acquire’d, Peter had considered several acquisition offers. Either the deals weren’t right or failed to gather enough momentum to close. Peter was on the verge of shelving his acquisition plans when his brother referred him to Acquire. 

“I got into things with a private equity group, but they never stumped up the cash,” Peter said.  “You’d go through due diligence, answering all the questions and providing the evidence, and never close because they couldn’t find the investors. I’d kept my expectations low but wanted to do things a better way. 

“Eight months ago, my brother said, ‘Hey, you should check out Acquire.’ But when I googled the marketplace, I thought it was too small for MyWorks. I checked again more recently and saw that it was closing bigger deals. It seemed worth a shot.”

Soon after listing MyWorks on Acquire, our VP of M&A, Paul Kelley, asked Peter if he needed help with selling his business. The Managed by Acquire program had recently launched, and Paul was emailing companies he knew we could help. 

“Paul and I clicked from the start,” said Peter. “I loved the idea of being introduced to a shortlist of well-funded buyers familiar with the process and serious about buying. He also helped build a CIM and managed the relationships, which saved me lots of time and headaches.”

Peter also learned how to think like a buyer. In the past, he’d received an extremely high offer and rejected it because he couldn’t figure out the buyer’s play. The big number was tempting, but begged the question why was it so big? Paul helped him to understand the market. 

Of the buyers who’d made offers, Peter considered three. The winning offer wasn’t the biggest, but the buyers, SaaS Group, offered founder-friendly terms in which Peter recognized the hidden value. An earnout was also on the table, but Peter didn’t mind as he’d decided to stay on. 

“I expect to be there for at least the next two years,” Peter said. “I’m not selling because I don’t love what I do or want to do something else. I just want a better work-life balance. We agreed on a deal where I can take some money off the table while gaining more time with my family.”

Does Peter have any regrets about selling? 

“None at all, really,” he said. “Maybe if I’d sold a year or so ago, I might’ve got better terms, but I’m happy with the deal we closed. I’m also open to new opportunities with SaaS Group, whether that’s in their larger business or the one I founded.”

The acquisition closed fast, with no last-minute surprises or setbacks. Peter credits that to three things: his previous dealings with buyers, Paul’s help during the process, and having organized his business long before trying to sell it.

“So many businesses haven’t documented or systemized their operations,” Peter said. “Not only does this make it harder to run a business, but it extends due diligence. Clean up your financials if you want to avoid headaches later.”

At just 28 years old, Peter has done the extraordinary. Not every founder can competently handle the transition from agency to SaaS (and the needs of a newborn baby), let alone scale their business to a seven-figure acquisition. But in so doing, Peter discovered that chasing big numbers only pushes the happiness needle so far. 

“The money is exciting,” Peter said, “but it’s the time with my family that’s the bigger reward.”  


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