By Robert Bravender
Imagine the following scenario: sometime around 1991, two partners open Tri-City Collision Center in Johnson City, Tenn. When Wade Hartman joined the company in 2000 as an estimator, one partner had bought the other out. After working there only six months, Hartman himself offers to buy out the remaining partner.
“One time a fellow came in and talked with [the owner] about buying the place. I wasn’t eaves-dropping, but I couldn’t help but hear what he was asking for the shop,” he recalled. “I’ve got a background in computer science, with a degree out of Georgia, and it’s one of those things where business was just something I was decent with.”
However as Hartman angled for a lower price, the owner offered a tempting financial challenge—with a catch.
“He said if I could get him $500,000, it was mine. However if I couldn’t get that amount before the end of the year, I was fired.”
But by that December, Hartman had the finances arranged—and was able to fire his old boss. …