Sage Business Advisors helps tribes diversify their portfolios

By Monica St avish Skaggs

Achieving a good business strategy takes more than a roll of the dice. That’s especially true for tribal nations that heavily rely upon income from the gaming industry and need to find ways to diversify. Sage Business Advisors works with Native American tribes around the nation to help them acquire and create portfolios of privately held, nongaming companies.

“The reason behind our company is simple. We all share a passion and belief that tribes should adopt a strategic imperative that in “X” number of years, they should strive to achieve a point where their nongaming income exceeds their gaming income,” said J.D. Colbert, senior executive principal at Sage.

The company serves as a broker between small and medium-sized businesses that are for sale and the tribal acquirer. Sage guides every step of the sale, from execution of an engagement agreement to closing table negotiations. Offerings include legal, regulatory and tax assistance,

in addition to a suite of post-acquisition consulting services.

“As their advisers, we recognize that some tribes don’t have an internal infrastructure, so we can help them accomplish that,” Colbert said.

Sage also familiarizes clients with laws that carry competitive advantages, including federal and state tax exemptions and minority business enterprise status. The company has partnered with entities such as Muscogee (Creek) Nation and Chickasaw Community Bank of Oklahoma City.

Colbert (Muscogee Creek/Chickasaw) formed Sage in early 2020 with partners Kenny Tolbert (Choctaw) and John Killingsworth (Muscogee Creek/Cherokee).

“Through acquiring companies and diversifying income, we can improve the quality of life and provide good employment opportunities in these communities. Nontribal members in the communities also benefit.” — J.D. Colbert, senior executive principal, Sage Business Advisors

As enrolled members of federally recognized tribes, they have combined experience of 100 years working with tribal nations in Oklahoma and across the nation.

“We’ve known each other for over 20 years “We’ve known each other for over 20 years and were independently doing the same work assisting tribes in developing nongaming sources of revenue,” Colbert said.

Like other companies, the trio faces business challenges associated with COVID-19, such as travel restrictions and having to conduct meetings by conference call or Zoom. At the same time, as casinos have been shuttered nationwide, tribes have suffered financially. Other challenges are simply helping tribes define success and making sure tribal governments receive the proper revenues.

“Tribes tend to be in rural areas that are economically stressed. That’s why we do what we do,” Colbert said. “Hopefully, through acquiring companies and diversifying income, we can improve the quality of life and provide good employment opportunities in these communities. Nontribal members in the communities also benefit.”

Besides adding to the economic empowerment of a historically disadvantaged people, there are numerous financial incentives available to investors and businesses that partner with Indian tribes and tribally owned companies. Advantages include federal and state tax exemptions, federal government contracting preferences and subsidized financing.

Colbert remains positive about the outlook for Native American businesses in the supply chain in 2021 and beyond.

“The good news is: there is more recognition and incentive on the part of tribes,” he said. “They are saying, ‘Wait a minute. What these guys have been saying is right, and we need to get busy diversifying our sources of income.’ For tribes that got the message earlier — particularly those invested in industries like health care — I think the outlook is quite rosy. For those tribes that haven’t, they need to catch up. And we’re here to help.”

To learn more about Sage Business Advisors, visit

Read original article at: MBNUSA Minority Business News

Does Your Tribe’s Non-Gaming Income Exceed Gaming Revenues?

If it doesn’t, it should!

Most gaming tribes recognize that their business revenues are overly reliant upon gaming. Gaming tribes tend to have all of their eggs in one basket. As such, they are highly at-risk of possibly losing all of their discretionary revenues overnight due to some unforeseen event.

This would be catastrophic for the tribe. They would have to curtail vital health, education and social services for tribal members and lay off untold number of tribal employees. This situation is the worst nightmare for any tribe.

Recent events have underscored this threat to gaming revenues and thus to the ability of tribes to deliver these important services to their tribal members and others who live in their communities.

Gov. Stitt’s bloviating about the gaming compacts expiring at the end of 2019 caused great fear among the tribes. Then the COVID-19 pandemic forced the closure of all of the casinos for several weeks if not months. Finally, the safety net for tribes, in the form of business interruption insurance, was yanked away when the insurance companies refused to pay.

Because of the foregoing, prudent tribes are now doubling down on building their non-gaming revenues with the wise intent of diversifying their sources of income. Indeed, the more visionary tribes have embraced a strategic imperative of their non-gaming income exceeding their gaming income in seven years!

I believe that this strategic imperative is applicable to all gaming tribes and that all gaming tribes should adopt and embark on a plan to achieve a scenario of their non-gaming income exceeding gaming income within seven years. I believe that the realization of this strategic imperative is achievable for all tribes regardless of their current resources, location or size.

In order to greatly augment non-gaming revenues, tribes must first establish the necessary infrastructure and the organizational entity that will spearhead the effort. Many tribes choose to establish a Section 17 corporation under the Indian Reorganization Act (Section 3 in Oklahoma under the Oklahoma Indian Welfare Act). Other tribes may choose to establish a tribal corporation while still others simply create an economic development division within the tribe.

Whatever organizational form a tribe may choose, the most important thing is to establish and promote a salient measure of success for the effort to create additional non-gaming income. This is paramount!

Thus, all individuals involved in the effort, including tribal leadership, the economic development board members and any and all staff of the economic development entity need to fully embrace a singular measure of success. That singular measure of success is simple: Does the Economic Development Entity Write a Check to the Tribe Each Year?

After all, that is the sole purpose of the entire effort! The success of the economic development entity should solely be measured and assessed predicated upon how much money it returns to the tribe each year. That should be the expectation. Our tribal members deserve nothing less.

Accordingly, any and all board members and staff should not accept a role in the economic development entity if they do not agree to and accept this simple measure of success. They should be told, “Time to put on your Big Boy pants. Sally forth and conquer. We expect you to write checks to the tribe. Anything less is unacceptable” The next step is to begin acquiring companies. Acquisitions should be guided by a well thought out Investment Policy Statement (IPS). The IPS should address such matters as favored industries, targeted company size and geography.

Then it is time to implement the IPS via making the targeted company acquisitions. Here is a big secret in acquiring companies; you don’t need much cash to do so! The economic development entity can negotiate 100% financing to buy the company. And such debt financing can be structured in a way where the tribe itself isn’t on the hook!

Management of the company (viz., the prior owners) can be left in place if they have been successful. Then the company will begin to reap the fruits of the unique competitive benefits of tribal ownership. This includes the tribal super 8(a) status under the SBA. Then it is just a matter of making more acquisitions. In a short time, the tribe will own a conglomerate of companies and their non-gaming income will exceed gaming income.

Fortunately tribes can access experienced help and expertise to build a portfolio of companies. I refer you to Sage Business Advisors. The specialty at Sage is to assist tribes in building non-gaming revenues to a point where they exceed gaming income. Sage does this by creating a portfolio of companies owned by the tribe. For more information, check them out at


Have you considered selling your business to a Tribal Nation? There are many compelling reasons, and benefits to you, in pursuing this business strategy. We urge you to contact Sage Business Advisors (“Sage”) today to learn more about the promising opportunities of tribal ownership. Please reach out to

Sage is the nexus between small and medium-sized businesses and Tribal Nations. The primary focus of Sage is to provide merger and acquisition consulting services to Main Street and Middle Market enterprises that wish to be acquired by Tribal Nations. Sage is laser focused on helping tribes create non-gaming income.

During the acquisition process, Sage is often called on by both the seller and the buyer to facilitate the creation of a post-acquisition business plan that leverages the unique competitive advantages of tribal ownership. We thus provide robust post-acquisition consulting services to the newly acquired entity with respect to implementing the new business plan.

When most people think of tribes, they envision gaming. It is true that many tribes across the nation operate successful gaming enterprises. However, even the most successful gaming tribes are striving to diversify their income streams away from casinos. They do not wish to have all of their eggs in one basket and thus be overly reliant upon one source of income.

Sage has been instrumental in assisting tribes in establishing a strategic imperative of non-gaming business income exceeding gaming revenues. Tribes are aggressively moving forward to create a portfolio of companies across a wide range of industries. Tribes are actively looking to acquire businesses to build out their portfolio of non-gaming companies.

Now is the time for business owners to consider selling their company to a Tribal Nation.

As a business owner there are numerous reasons why you should consider selling your company to a Tribal Nation. With our specialized knowledge of tribes and our extensive network of contacts, Sage is uniquely positioned to help you sell your business to a tribe.

Let’s say you are a business owner and you are frustrated that you are having great difficulty in expanding into new markets and lack of capital. Further, let’s say that you are at a point in life where you’d like to cash out your ownership but you wish to remain onboard as management. You desire to continue to manage the company and take the enterprise to new heights predicated upon the expanded markets and unique competitive advantages accruing to tribal ownership.

Many tribes will find this scenario very appealing. Tribes not only wish to acquire a wide variety of businesses but they generally look to retain experienced and successful management.

We at Sage can assist both management and the tribe to establish realistic and achieve enterprise performance goals, key performance indicators and compensation with equity-like compensation for management.

As noted above, tribal ownership of your business brings with it a host of benefits and unique opportunities. One of the most prominent benefits is the Small Business Administration’s 8(a) program and in particular the “Super 8(a)” status of tribes. The tribal status is especially appealing for those business owners who are currently in the 8(a) program but are about to graduate. Selling your business to a tribe opens up the opportunity to continue in the 8(a) program only under the benefits of the tribal flag.

Another major benefit of tribal ownership is exemption from federal and state income taxes. This benefit comes part and parcel with tribal ownership. As such, many businesses have been able to increase their net income by fifty percent (50%) simply by virtue of the tribal ownership. It is important to note that this benefit accrues to the business regardless of where it is located and regardless of who it does business with.

To successfully sell a business and meet the goals of the owners involves a myriad of considerations. Selling to a tribe entails specialized expertise and experience. Sage is uniquely qualified to guide you through the complex legal, regulatory, cultural and business maze related to a tribal purchase.

Contact Sage today to discuss the unique opportunities and benefits of selling your business to a Tribal Nation. You may reach Sage via e-mail or by visiting their website at

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