Based in Chicago and founded in 1995, General Learning Communications (GLC) has grown to be a comprehensive content marketing agency focused on the healthcare and association industries. For 26 years, GLC has been providing stellar services to their hyper-specialized enterprise healthcare and association clients. With notable clients like United Healthcare, the Muscular Dystrophy Association, and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, GLC has built a reputation for excellence in their niche for publication content marketing.

The Right Time To Get Top Dollar

With industry consolidation happening across the board, GLC Partner John Cimba believed it was the right time to sell the agency he’d spent over two decades building. Over the years, GLC had been approached by small independent groups but John knew the right buyer for GLC was someone willing to pay the top dollar he knew they were worth. He wanted to find a strategic partner for GLC who could provide additional expertise on continued growth strategies and scaling.

He reached out to us because that’s what we do best at Barney: help agency owners find buyers that will pay for their agency’s big value and support their growth for decades to come – not wreck the business they spent their lives building.

John was open to staying on board in advanced leadership capacity post-transaction with the right buyer, but the CFO Ed had already started planning his exit and wanted to move on to other non-competitive ventures. During the previous year, Ed’s sole focus was completely replacing his role within the company with amazing talent so GLC was set up to thrive post-sale.

A Hyper-Specialized Storytelling-Focused Agency

At Barney, we love to see an agency that’s specialized and killing it within their niche. GLC is an agency hyper-specialized in healthcare and associations, and over 80% of the work they do is ongoing publications for brands. They know that every brand has a story and they specialize in using that story to connect brands to their ideal audiences. With their expertise in storytelling, unique culture and strong leadership team, GLC knows what they’re good at and they do it over and over again for their clients.

They start by setting a content strategy based on the client’s business, marketing goals, and audience engagement preferences. Once they understand the audience, their long tenured team chooses the tactics that will foster connections. Their ultimate goal is to position brands at every step of their audience’s journey, from awareness to consideration to decision-making and advocacy, and build lasting relationships.

We weren’t surprised to see their high profits and 3+ year average client retention rate as they continued to thrive working remotely through the pandemic.

Looking Towards Massive Growth Potential

We were thrilled to partner with GLC to find their perfect-fit buyer. With a historical track record of success, award-winning portfolio, strong client relationships, highly efficient operating processes, seasoned team and high recurring and stable revenue base, we knew we could get John top-dollar for GLC.

But it wasn’t just about where GLC had been, it was about where they could go. We could see their massive growth potential in cross-selling their existing client base, expanding digital service offerings, and expanding industry specialization. They had opportunities to cross-sell additional services with their current amazing clients, add additional service lines like web development and social, and broaden their niche outside of just healthcare and associations.

With their expertise and seasoned team, possibilities were endless. We knew the right buyer needed to understand that and be willing to pay for it. A strategic buyer who had a need for the agency’s niche industry and service or a buyer who could cross-sell to their mid-market client bases would be a perfect fit. We just needed to find them.

Starting To Sell

With industry specialization, a short timeline, an awesome pool of strategic buyers, and a simple, personalized process, we knew we could find GLC their dream buyer. We got to work with financial and valuation assessments, putting together amazing marketing materials to help potential buyers see GLC’s top-dollar value, and tapping into our huge network of highly-qualified buyers. With our deep-seated relationships with both strategic, financial and entrepreneurial buyers, we quickly narrowed down the perfect buyer for GLC: SPM Marketing and Communications, a leading marketing agency in the U.S. focused in the healthcare sector.

Finding GLC’s Perfect Fit

SPM was impressed with GLC’s strong content marketing expertise, footprint in the growing healthcare marketing and advertising segment, and high revenue retention. With a client roster consisting of some of the most prominent names in health and healthcare like the University of Maryland Medical System and the Chicago Department of Public Health, they were excited to partner with GLC to build upon their momentum and differentiated marketing services model. They understood GLC’s value in the healthcare and association niche as well as the strength of their seasoned management team.

With SPM’s strong position in brand consulting, creative development, and traditional and digital media buying for hospitals and healthcare systems, they wanted to partner with GLC to build a leading full-service healthcare-centric marketing services company. Together, they would be well-positioned to capture an increased share of the rapidly evolving and growing healthcare segment.

“John is one of the best sellers I’ve worked with. He was looking for a strategic buyer who had a need for GLC’s industry niche and level of service. We were thrilled to connect SPM with GLC. Their leadership teams shared the same mindset and desires for their respective agency’s future. They’re a perfect match for each other!”

Esther Townell, Acquisition Manager at Barney

Closing A Win-Win 8-Figure Deal

In 5 months start-to-finish, paperwork was signed, transition documents were in place, and John had cash in his bank account. SPM got talented labor, low turnover, low overhead, serious cash flow, and an agency full of profitable, long-term clients while GLC got the expertise they needed on continued growth strategies and scaling as part of a full-service healthcare-centric marketing services company. John made the top-dollar he deserved and stayed on in management to support the company’s growth potential as part of an exciting new agency.

All around, it was another win-win 8-figure deal on the books. Cue the happy dancing!

Quite a bit of happy dancing happens at Barney – because selling agencies for top-dollar to highly qualified, strategic buyers is our favorite thing to do and, well, we do it well (and we do it fast). There’s so much about buying and selling agencies that’s different from other businesses, and most M&A firms don’t have a clue about how to value and sell digital agencies for what they’re worth. That’s why we started Barney, and why we love finding win-win deals for clients like John – all day long.