After they closed the sale of a Dallas skydiving company this April, dealmakers at Generational Equity felt pretty confident about themselves.
“It was one of those crazy companies,” says Ryan Binkley, president of the small- and middle-market mergers and acquisitions advisory firm. “We thought there’s no way we’re going close this. There’s so much risk involved, so much insurance involved.”
There’s some truth in the cliché that every deal must die at least three deaths before it’s done, Binkley says from his seventh floor office off the Dallas North Tollway. Take, for instance, that man who made a living helping people jumping out of airplanes in Houston and wanted to expand to Dallas. The skydiving deal almost cratered when a storm with 100 mile-per-hour wind gusts tore up the company’s base facilities. Other deals have seen a marina catch fire just before closing, and a Japanese buyer ask for a postponement on account of a tsunami.
“It’s just the way it happens,” says Binkley.
Still, the 48-year-old executive who founded Generational Equity in 2005 is closing in on his 500th sale, and his company has been climbing in national M&A advisory firm rankings. At the end of 2015, it ranked second in the number of deals closed worth up to $100 million, and fourth in values up to $1 billion. Goldman Sachs & Co. is among the three firms Binkley is looking to edge out for those bigger deals. In deals up to $25 million, Generational Equity ranks No. 1.
Working only from the sellers’ side, the firm will take on a company for as many as five years, offering consulting services to bring a higher valuation. Clients run the gamut of the U.S. small business world: software and other technology, engineering, oil and gas, industrial companies; basically everything but “mom and pops valued under $1 million.”
Binkley got his start in the business working for his father’s valuation firm. He majored in marketing and finance at the University of Texas at Austin and earned his MBA at Southern Methodist University. He had been working in sales, marketing, and management positions at Procter & Gamble and then Boston Scientific Corp. but decided to join the family business in 2001 after his brother’s death at the hands of a drunken driver.
After four years learning the valuation business, the family sold that company, and Binkley started a wider-angled M&A firm.
“I know within three minutes of meeting someone whether they’re going to ace the interview and get the job, and I tell you, Ryan is exceptional,” says Bob Beaudine, a sports management recruiter whom Binkley counts as a close friend. “He cares about people. When someone is letting go of the business they built, that’s a big decision. People feel comfortable making it with Ryan and his company.”
Binkley, who with his wife Ellie is raising five children and lives in North Dallas’ Bent Tree area, is a pastor in his church and, when he’s not “doing anything my kids are doing,” he plays a little golf. As much as anything, the M&A business relies on the underlying economy and financial markets, and Binkley says he believes the recovery that began in 2011 has “three or four more years to run.”
“The business environment is very good,” he says. “With the Fed making smart but nominal moves, it has kept the market steady, and that’s very helpful.”