Once in a while, I’ll meet a prospect who’s looking for the perfect business. They’re absolutely ready to buy a company as long as it has everything on the checklist: healthy and growing revenues, hundreds of solid maintenance contracts in place, a well-defined management structure with several brilliant managers who could run the business every day, and a great brand with no serious local competitors.

Oh, and they want to buy it at a discount.

This is especially true for first-time buyers; they’ve never owned a business before and want their first foray into ownership to be perfect. This is the biggest decision of their lives, and they don’t have much appetite for risk.

I respectfully remind them that business ownership consists entirely of risk. They take the risk of starting or buying a business, and they take a risk on every worker they hire. They invest their own resources to grow. They take on new business lines that may or may not pay off. Their job is to install and maintain HVAC systems, but their everyday business is risk.

It’s not for everyone. But I often tell people: if you’ve been looking for the right business to buy for three years, you’re not really serious about buying. Serious buyers look for potential rather than perfection. They look for opportunities to invest capital, technology, systems, and management expertise to grow a business that might be lacking one or more of those resources.

They look for the right deal at the right time – one that offers a few quick wins and room for growth over the long run. They look for a company, no matter how small, that has a culture that’s a good fit for them. They look for a firm that will expand their market or let them enter a new one. They look for a solid workforce that, with the right training and leadership, could become a great workforce.

Even If you could find the perfect company, the unicorn, you’d probably not be able to afford it. The private equity firms with deep pockets will scoop it up while the (virtual) ink on the listing is still drying.

I’ve never sold a unicorn, but I sell dozens of solid HVAC businesses every year. I know that the perfect company doesn’t exist, but there’s probably a very good company out there that’s the right fit for you.

I’m not saying unicorns don’t exist, but you don’t need one to be successful.