Four entrepreneurs who have undertaken different transactions, including our own co-founder and managing director John Stevenson, shared their succession planning stories at a Pareto event aimed at helping businesspeople considering a potential deal or exit of their own. The others in the spotlight were Neil Smith, Steven Nanda and Matt Smith.
The breakfast event was held at the offices of HSBC in Spinningfields, Manchester, and was organised in partnership with accounting and business advisory firm HURST. Those attending included business owners and company directors from a range of sectors.
Nigel Barratt, head of HURST Corporate Finance, who chaired the event, said the mergers and acquisitions market in the north west remains buoyant.
He said this was being fuelled by a private equity sector with significant available capital to support management buyouts and other transactions, and an active banking and specialist lending market.
Nigel said non-EU buyers seem undeterred by Brexit when it comes to investing in UK businesses, which is also helping to drive the deals market.
The seminar, entitled ‘Growing Pains to Financial Gains’, provided guests with an overview of some of the options available when it comes to planning the future of a business.
John Stevenson told the audience how he began his financial services career in 1992 and two years later established Carrwood Barker, a provider of independent financial advice to accountants.
In 2005, Lighthouse Group, a listed company, acquired Carrwood Barker and John became a main board director of the PLC.
John left the business on good terms in 2008 to start afresh by launching Pareto, which has grown strongly in its first decade, supported by a strong management team, he said.
Neil Smith MBE ACA C.Dir is the managing director of recruitment business Kinetic, which has its headquarters in Stretford, Manchester and operates a total of eight offices nationwide.
He joined the company 25 years ago and led a buyout in 2008.
When Neil began looking at succession planning he was determined that the type of transaction would protect Kinetic’s independence, ethos and culture. He said transferring the shares to an employee ownership trust fitted the bill perfectly, and the deal completed last year.
Neil said: “I never wanted to sell the business – it has a great culture, with a good management team and staff working together really well, and is very entrepreneurial. I wanted to preserve all that while thinking about succession.”
Kinetic had previously sold two niche subsidiaries to their management teams, which combined with a zero dividend policy meant there was cash in the business when it came to undertaking a transaction.The transfer to an EOT was completed in six months from start to finish. Neil said Kinetic’s management strategy remains unchanged and that the deal has gone down well with employees, who now own the business and will receive a share of the profits.
Steven Nanda is an experienced managing director and chief executive who joined Littleborough-based Alpine Fire Engineers in 2018 as part of a BIMBO deal which saw private equity fund Core Capital Partners invest in the business.
He joined Alpine from SPIE UK, where he was managing director between 2010 and 2017 and from 2015 had added responsibility for M&A activity, which saw him implement a buy-and-build strategy that grew the business from £35m turnover to over £200m.
Alpine is a market-leading designer, project manager, service and maintenance provider of active fire suppression systems, such as sprinkler systems.
Steven said Core Capital had provided funding for Alpine to pursue acquisitions and described how the business was focused on growth. One acquisition has been completed and successfully integrated.
Since the transaction, Alpine has enjoyed growth of 30 per cent and staff numbers have risen from 32 to 54. The company will soon relocate to new premises in Bury.
Matt Smith is chief executive of BDB, an international B2B marketing consultancy based in Altrincham.
He joined BDB in 2014 as finance and operations director with a primary role to groom the business for sale and drive succession planning for its owners, Susanne Bell and Henry Dixon, who founded the consultancy in 1987.
Matt, a chartered accountant who had previously worked in professional services, became BDB’s managing director in 2016 and spearheaded a management buyout the following year.
The founders had received several trade offers before going down the route of an MBO, said Matt.
The transaction has given the management team the autonomy to drive BDB forward, he added, saying that that staff numbers and underlying profits have grown rapidly.
Kinetic, Alpine Fire Engineers and BDB are all long-standing clients of HURST, whose corporate finance team acted as lead advisers on the respective transactions discussed by Neil, Steven and Matt.
The seminar aimed to help business owners find answers to the question that they all ask at some stage, namely: “What next?”.
Nigel said: “The event provided an overview of the options available by drawing on the experiences of entrepreneurs involved in four varied transactions.
“To make an informed decision, it’s good practice to seek advice, not only from professional advisers but also from those who have trodden the same path.”