“This business changes destinies,” says Cal Lawson, president and co-owner of Amherst-based Sunbelt Business Brokers who has spent more than 24 years evaluating people and entrepreneurial opportunities across Western New York and beyond, looking for the right match for buyer and seller.
“We pick and choose,” says Lawson’s partner and co-owner Lidia Couzo who has been with Sunbelt since 1994 after working as a financial broker for a local bank and who just completed a deal that helped a Toronto man find the right business to make his dream of owning his own restaurant come true with the purchase of the well established Wehrle Restaurant in Amherst from the woman who owned it with her late husband and was looking to sell. It was the right match for buyer and seller.
Getting the right fit, if you will, is a big part of what Lawson and Cuozo do in their business, working from their many years of experience to align the interests of buyers and sellers for mutual benefit.
“Some people may not be entrepreneur material,” says Lawson, “and we conduct a thorough interview and evaluation process to try and make sure they are going in the right direction and not heading down the wrong path,” suggesting some would-be entrepreneurs are not cut out for what they want to do.
The local Sunbelt offices are located on Audubon Parkway in Amherst and they do business throughout Western New York with deals from $200,000 up to $5 million, with helping to arrange financing a big part of their work. But the firm has even a bigger reach for those who need it with 200 offices in the United States and in six countries around the world. Sunbelt is ranked as the largest business brokerage in the U. S., offering a wide range of services including business evaluations, turnarounds, and consulting.
There are many success stories on the Sunset books, including the recent $2 million deal that kept a local industrial electronics control repair service in business when the owner decided to retire after 46 years but was looking for the right buyer to keep the business going.
Control Systems Laboratories, established in 1970 at 1501 Kensington Ave. in Buffalo, still has more than 15 workers gainfully employed after Sunset brought in local buyers Gary Fredricks and Edward Bialek to meet with longtime owner Edward Bartle who was retiring but wanted to keep the doors open on the business he started 46 years ago. It was another perfect match and buyer and seller were the beneficiaries.
And a few years ago, Lawson—who owned several auto dealerships before joining Sunbelt in 1994—pulled out all the stops and used all his powers of persuasion and experience to find a buyer with virtually no notice to save a Jamestown business with 120 employees from going out of business.
“It was pretty much around-the-clock for about a week, with so much on the line,” recalls Lawson about his work in dealing with MetalTech, a metal stamping manufacturer that was closing its doors before Lawson stepped in, working with local officials including the IDA, and found a buyer and kept the business in Jamestown. Even now, several years later, the expression on Lawson’s face tells it all, the satisfaction from saving all the jobs at the Jamestown facility and keeping the business going.
Lawson and Cuozo emphasize there are many traditional businesses that are real success stories that are available for the right young buyer to walk into and change his destiny, as Lawson said at the beginning of this story. And Lawson said the Buffalo market ranks as the number one place to open a new restaurant.
Helping young entrepreneurs looking for the right opportunity and working with established businesses who are looking for the right buyer is what Sunbelt is all about in addition to turnarounds for existing businesses that may have lost their way and need a new look or style. As both Lawson and Cuozo stated repeatedly, it is about finding the right fit for buyer and seller, at times an exhausting and frustrating experience but one that is absolutely necessary to give both sides the best chance for success.
You can make you own evaluation of Sunbelt by checking out their website at www.sunbeltnetwork.com.