Choosing the Right Adviser
Choosing the right adviser is down to whether you, as the business owner, feel you can trust me to sell your business for you.
There is more about me on this page of the web site. There is a description of what, why and how I build that trust with you.
Over the years I have been asked many questions about how I go approach my work.
I do say I am a specialist – others say they are specialists in this, that and the other. They will claim they add value to a business. It is insufficient to say this since it does not go far enough, does not identify where the value is to be found.
As the right adviser to small, family business people, I look to understand them as individuals. Here is where the journey with you starts. By understanding what you want to achieve, I can be your adviser to help you along the right path to take you “up the mountain to reach your goal.”
Like me, the market place in which you operate maybe fragmented. Moreover, there is a confused supply chain since the choice of who to use is confused by the internet providing you with several choices.
In this regard, I attempt to set myself apart by being the right adviser in these areas:
- avoid using jargon;
- promising or giving guarantees;
- trying to provide all the services; and
- using other experts to help me achieve your goal.
All things to all people
I do not wish to be providing all the services you may need to achieve the sale of your business. I work on a project basis whereby I work with other specialists to achieve your goal. It is impossible for me to be “all things to all people” yet it is possible to be the “band-master”. This means I refer to other experts with whom I have worked such as HR, marketing and sales who are trusted by and independent from me.
Indeed at the start of the journey, as I explain here, it is highly likely I will bring in a wealth adviser if you do not already have one.
It’s a word I do not like.
Put simply, if you have an objective (Sell my business for £1 million in three years’ time), I will help you to achieve it. To me, strategy means “How do I reach my goal?”
Now, the business could be worth less than this, that is we have received offers below this figure, then we need to decide what to do.
You may decide you need to increase its value and so go back to the drawing board. We would look at the areas where there is little value assess whether or not value can be built into them. If we can do this and then in two to three years we then re-market it that’s the way we will go.
Likewise, if you say “No, it’s too risky to go on”, and you accept the offer and move on. Your retirement may not involve the yacht but you and your spouse can still enjoy your retirement. You will be able to do the things you love doing so much sooner, knowing you have the funds in the bank. In any event clients do realise that the money in the bank is preferable to none at all since they realise they would not do more with the extra funds?
Consequently, I have to be flexible in my approach. There are certain milestones we will reach and so our arrangements need to reflect these and so will my fees.
Retainers do not always work and generally speaking I do not like them. Since they do not necessarily work in the interests of both parties. What I like to propose is to take the arrangements step-by-step. If we are testing the market to see if an offer for your business can be obtained. In this case I will charge on a project basis.
Before negotiating Heads of Agreement (an agreement to agree), the basis of the charge will be capped.
While before dealing with completion matters (the final stages) the basis of the charge will be discussed with you since by now we know there is a good chance the business will be (a) sold and (b) for how much. I believe it is unfair to both parties to agree the details before this stage although they can be discussed before we see the “summit of the mountain”.
So, I believe I am the right adviser for you to choose. I will not claim to be “all things to all people”. I’ll provide my technical knowledge and lessons learnt from previous transactions to solve your problems. It is about how to realise a sum of money in your back pocket to do the things you love doing.
All things to all people
At the outset of our relationship, we both need to understand each other and not take each other at face value.
It is important to me that you realise I am not looking for additional work if it will not add value to the business in a sale. That is either to increase its value or make the sale easier.
Moreover, as your right adviser, I will seek to find barriers that I foresee will be problems in the smooth journey to the top of the mountain.
In the case of a “family” business
A family business can be where more than one generation is working in it. Likewise, as is more likely, where there is a small, close team of individuals running it who are connected by working together rather than blood relations. So, this could be an owner and a few key employees who again, maybe, of different generations.
The dynamics within such businesses is so important for me to understand when a succession plan is being devised. Do have a read of my note on Options. Here you will see there is more than one way to achieve your aim. As your right adviser, the choice of route made by understanding your desires is vital to achieving the best outcome for all. Understanding the values of the generations below you, their legacy and values is usually more important than the technicalities of the sale.
The purpose of the “family” business will provide the objective of where to go. It has to come from the family and not from me. By asking questions and probing away as the right adviser, I seek to find and clarify that purpose. If you have not read my note on the why, what, how then please do so now.
After all the probing and I have helped you define the purpose, then you can decide whether you want to instruct me further to achieve it. In so doing, I will have added value to your business. Likewise, if you feel there needs to be a backward step, then I will say so. It may be necessary to up skill the management team before going forward.
So, one of the options chosen might be to pass the business onto the “family” by way of an Employee Ownership Trust or Management Buy-out. Consequently, continuity for the next and future generations will be important to you. Both these options are a good way of achieving this.
Therefore, I need to match my services to you and to the WHY the family business really exists. Family businesses tend to be run on a family system rather than a business system. There is nothing wrong with the family system. If continuity of the business cannot be assured as it is “family based” you need someone like me as an external independent adviser to move it to a business system.
Family businesses can be more complicated since there are more emotional issues and to give you the right service, I need to be there for you all while maintaining a neutral position.
A father passing onto his son is a good example of a succession. I structured a transaction that satisfied both parties in a win-win situation.
In the case of Management Buy-outs I have always resisted the temptation of acting for both sides. The whole transaction has to be commercial otherwise there is a danger of the blame game and even legal action if it all does not go well.
In devising a succession plan for a family business it is vital as the right adviser for you. Being aware of the manner and the way your plan will be perceived by different family members. It is rather like light passing through a prism.
Let me explain what I mean: Light passes through the air into the prism. It causes light of different colours to be refracted differently and to leave the prism at different angles, creating an effect similar to a rainbow. So, one shaft of light becomes many.
When I am explaining my services to you this action happens in reverse. I need to make sure the desires of the different members of the business are clearly shown as in the rainbow. It passes back through the prism, me, after which and at a later date and come back together in harmony as in one shaft of light.
How to obtain the best value from an adviser such as myself
It ought to be clear from reading this note there is likely to be a need for someone independent to channel the various dynamics of a family business into a plan that will be workable to all parties.
So, I would say the first step is to know what you want to achieve and when you want to achieve it. It’s a big commitment on both sides so needs to be right.
Be satisfied someone like me can deliver that aim.
Do you and I understand each other?
I have a duty to know your business and industry and not talk in general terms.
We both prepare for meetings and arranged telephone calls and follow up on the agreed actions.
I will avoid as much as possible putting more work onto your shoulders as you must continue running the business while the plan is being put into place.
Make sure you receive from me what you need.
You must not feel worried about asking the stupid question – there are none. If you really do not understand something then you must tell me.
You should be able to see the value of working with me at a very early stage of our relationship.
I will not lock you in top my fees since they are based upon individual pieces of work and if it is not happening, then we need to go our separate ways.
If this paper is of interest to you then I would be very happy to chat it through with you and see if it is something that works for you and your company.
I look forward to hearing from you.
If you would like to read more of the Overview of Selling a Business, please go to this page on the website.
Assynt Corporate Finance Limited, Chartered Accountants, is a member of The Corporate Finance Network which means we can access additional Corporate Finance resources, particularly in the areas of advertising businesses for sale discreetly and accessing those lists for our clients who want to acquire business.
The information contained in this briefing is based on information available as at the date posted and may be subject to amendment. It is written as a general guide and is not a substitute for professional advice. You are strongly recommended to obtain specific professional advice from us before you take any action. No responsibility for loss occasioned to any person acting or refraining from action as a result of any material in this briefing can be accepted by Assynt Corporate Finance Limited or its employees.
Need Help? Contact Andrew at Assynt:
If you are serious about selling your business, contact Andrew to arrange an informal chat, in person or over the telephone to assess the options open to you.
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