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Remembering the Ladies in 2018

Posted on November 12, 2018 By in Women + business owner + Business Tips + Economy + US Election

“If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation;” these words were spoken by Abigail Adams, First lady of the United States and wife to John Adams, one of the founding fathers and writers of the Declaration of Independence.  

There is no doubt that women have been aggressively challenging the status quo in their pursuits for independence, equality, and active leadership over the last couple decades. This past Tuesday November 06, 2018, women took their achievements to a whole new level and broadened the gamut of political representation to include the largest body of female members of Congress thus far.

The ladies deserve a round of applause after the turnout of this year’s US midterm elections. There were some notable historic voting records surpassed. So far, there will be at least 119 women serving in the 116th Congress. This number is up from the historic high of 107.

The central message being supported by both sides of the fence is that this turnout of elections was a huge success for this gender group as a whole. Women are playing a much larger role in law declarations than ever before, and their voice is being represented at a louder volume than ever before.

This group of elected women represents several firsts for this minority. The next Congress will have a record number of women of color, a record number of non-incumbent women, its first Native American women, its first Muslim women, and the youngest woman ever elected to Congress. Exit polls illustrated that 8 out of 10 Americans said it’s important to elect more women to public office.

Women are upending the idea that “men wear the pants,” and are taking the reins in corporate settings as well. According to the National Association of Women Business Owners, “more than 11.6 million firms are owned by women, employing nearly 9 million people, and generating $1.7 trillion in sales as of 2017.” Moreover, women-owned firms account for 39% of all privately held firms. These stats have been growing consistently for the last two decades as women start to play larger roles in business development and implementation, and they are only expected to continue growing.

Benchmark International supports women in their pursuits of their passions and their drivers for success, and this is highlighted by the success of one of our very own inspirational women. On November 06, 2018 Managing Director, Kendall Stafford, challenged the mainstream middle-market mergers and acquisitions sector when she was awarded the title of Investment Banker of the Year by The M&A Advisor.

The awards presented by The M&A Advisor are essentially the equivalent to the Oscars for the M&A world. Stafford is a key player in transactions completed by Benchmark International, and she is a valued team member. Stafford was among a list of eight finalists, and she was the only woman on that list, and she came out on top. Benchmark International believes in fostering success and supports our employees and our clients in all they wish to achieve.

When it’s time to sell your business, you want a team that is on your side. If you are a woman looking to get the most from a full or partial sale of your business, we are dedicated to facilitating an acquisition that gets you the best value for your business in every facet.

If you are ready to start your exit strategy, you can call the Benchmark International headquarters at (813) 898-2350 to speak with a professional who can get you on the path you seek.

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Midterm Elections: The Results Are In, What Do They Mean for M&A?

Posted on November 9, 2018 By in US Election + US M&A + US Business + Business Tips

The 2018 midterm elections have presented little in the way of surprises this go around. As predicted, the Democratic Party took hold of the House of Representatives for the first time since 2010. The growth of Democratic representatives taking hold in Congress and some changes in historically Republican districts could be indicative of what’s to come in the 2020 Presidential campaign. 

It might not be as easy as first anticipated for Trump to remain at the top of the pyramid. Amidst some talk of a coming “blue tsunami,” this election may not have brought an overwhelming surge of Democratic leadership taking the helm, but there is no denying that the political party is coming ashore. What does this new shift in power and presence of a check on the executive branch mean for business owners considering a sale? 

Not knowing what’s to come in 2020 presents a feeling of uncertainty. With the results of the midterm elections, this feeling is heightened. Uncertainty is one of the most hindering factors for M&A activity. Investors are hesitant to make significant investments if they are unsure about future changes to fiscal policy. Thankfully, low interest rates and the tax cuts have contributed to a healthy M&A market producing high valuations for exiting business owners the last few years. The now divided Congress reduced the chances of any changes in policies that would significantly impact the market conditions before 2020. Unless we see significant bipartisanship, the most likely outcome is gridlock, which is good for the markets in the short-term. 

However, as the 2020 elections get closer the uncertainty will increase significantly. Rising interest rates combined with uncertainty in 2020 will likely put a halt to the favorable conditions sellers have enjoyed. This makes waiting to see who wins the 2020 elections quite the gamble if business owners are considering a full or partial sale before 2024 or even later. Owners must think hard about their plans for the next several years to avoid entering the market at the wrong time, which would bring haunting memories for many business owners going through the process from 2008 to 2013. 

Benchmark International specializes in facilitating exit and growth strategies for business owners in the lower middle market. The most important factor in achieving a successful exit is going to market when the market is strong and the business is ready. If an exit is at all in sight, it is critical now more than ever for business owners to speak to an M&A advisor and begin implementing a strategy because the market conditions will be changing very soon. 

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If Business Valuation Was A Science…

Determining the value of your business is not as simple as looking at the numbers, applying tried and tested formulas, and concluding. Were it that straightforward all business valuations would be virtually identical. The fact that they are not is sure proof that valuation is not a science, it can only be an art.

If Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A) was as straightforward as calculating the theoretical value of a business, based on historical performance and using that to determine market value I would need something more constructive to do with my time.

Valuation is not as primitive as we have been led to believe. Whilst transaction values are commonly represented as a multiple of earnings this is merely the accepted vernacular used to report on a concluded transaction and almost never the methodology used to arrive at the value being reported.

The worth of a business is often determined by the category of buyer engaged. Financial buyers can add significant value to a business in the right stage of its life cycle but may not assume complete ownership, thereby delivering value for the seller simultaneously with their own. The right strategic acquirer for any business would be one that can unlock a better future for the business, and is willing to recognize, and compensate, a seller for the true value the entity represents to them.

Comparing the experience of so many clients, over so many years, and avidly following the outcomes of all the transactions published in South Africa there is little dispute that businesses are an asset class, like any other, and that the best value of all asset classes are only ever realized through competitive processes irrespective of whether the acquirer has financial or strategic motives.  

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1.  The itch of business valuation

Simplistically, for the right acquirer - one seeking an outcome that extends past a short-term return on their initial investment - valuation is more a function of the buyer's next best alternative, than it is a businesses’ historic performance.

It would be naïve to think that the myriad of accepted valuation methodologies have no place in the process but identifying, engaging and recognising the benefits of the acquisition for a variety of strategically motivated buyers is essential in determining value in this context.

Considering a variety of appropriate valuation metrics, the parameters applied and then being able to balance these against the alternative investment required to achieve a similar outcome is where the key determinant of value lies. This is a complex process that unlocks the correct value for buyer and seller alike and it is a result that is rarely achieved without engaging with a wide variety of different acquirers and being prepared to "kiss a few frogs"

The most valuable assets on the planet are only ever sold through competitive processes where buyers have the benefit of understanding and determining value in the context of their own motives, having considered their available alternatives. It is for this reason that when marketing a business, it should never be done with a price attached. 

2.  An aggressive multiple

Whilst conventional wisdom is firm on industry average multiples, case studies abound, and the business community is regularly astounded by stated multiples achieved when companies change hands.

Beneath the glamour, the reality is that multiples are rarely used as a determinant of value, but almost without exclusion applied to understand it. Multiples represent little more than a simplistic metric that reflects an understanding of how many years a business would need to reliably deliver historic earnings in order for the acquirer to recoup their investment.

In the same way as a net asset value (NAV) valuation would unfairly discriminate against service businesses, multiples discriminate against asset rich companies. For strategic acquirers, with motives beyond an internal rate of return - measured against historic earnings - valuation is sophisticated.  It relies on an assessment of whether the business represents the correct vehicle to achieve the strategic objectives, modelling the future returns and assessing risk. Valuation in these circumstances will naturally consider it, but places little reliance on the past performance of a business constrained by capital or the conservatism of a private owner to formulate the future value of such investment. 

Whilst there are Instances where the product of such an exercise matches commonly accepted multiples, there are equally as many valuations that, on the face of it, represent unfathomable results. 

3.  A better tomorrow for the buyer

It would be irresponsible to advocate that that return on investment is not a consideration when determining value - corporate companies and private equity firms typically all have investment committees, boards and shareholders that assess the financial impact of any transaction. It is rare that such decisions are ever vested with a single individual, or that the valuation is derived from their personal desire to own a company or brand.

The art of valuation requires a reliable determination of the synergies between buyer and seller and an accurate assessment of the risks and benefits of the investment. Risk and reward are inherently related and skilled negotiation is required to find solutions that mitigate, or de-risk a transaction for buyer and seller alike, in order to underpin the value
of a transaction.

Financial buyers can be very good acquirers, especially in circumstances where they are co-investing alongside existing owners, staff or management to provide growth funding. When seeking a strategic partner for a business the acquirer should always be unable to unlock value beyond the equivalent of a few years of historical earnings. It is for this reason that the disparity between valuations by trade and financial buyers exists, and why determining the appropriate form of acquirer for any business is a function of the objectives of the seller.

4.  Passing-on the baton, or living the legacy

The motives for a sale can be varied and extend from retirement to funding and growth, from ill-health to a desire to focus on the technical (as opposed to management and administration) aspects, of the business.

Value for buyers and sellers comes in many different forms. For sellers it is their ultimate objective that determines whether they have achieved value in a transaction. For sellers it may be as simple as the price achieved or it could extend to value beyond the balance sheet as diverse as leveraging the acquirer’s BEE credentials, unconstrained access to growth capital or even to secure a future for loyal staff.

For both local and international buyers alike, the intangibles may be as straightforward as speed to market in a new geography who would otherwise not readily secure vendor numbers with the existing customers of the target business. An acquisition may be motivated by access to complimentary technology, skills or distribution agencies to diversify their own offering. Whatever the motives, an assessment of the future of the staff will always be an important aspect to both parties.

There are few, if any businesses, that are anything without the loyal, skilled and hardworking people that deliver for the clients of a business. The quality of resources, succession and staff retention are all factors that weigh on a decision to transact. Navigating the impact of a transaction on staff is a factor that cannot be ignored and the timing of such announcements can be meaningful.

Author:
Andre Bresler
Managing Director
Benchmark International

T: +44 (0) 1865 410 050
E: Bresler@benchmarkcorporate.com

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Five Ways to Value Your Business

The first question you will probably want to ask when thinking about selling your business is – what is it actually worth? This is understandable, as you do not want to make such a big decision as to sell your business without knowing how much it could command in the market.

Below are five different ways a business can be valued, along with which type of companies suit which type of valuation.

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Multiple of Profits

A common way for a business to be valued is multiple of profits, although this typically suits businesses that have an established track record of profits.

To determine the value, you will need to look at the business’ EBITDA, which is the company’s net income plus interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation. This then needs to be adjusted to ‘add-back’ any expenses that may have been incurred by the current owner which are unlikely to be incurred by a new owner. These could be either linked to a certain event (e.g. legal fees for a one-off legal dispute), a one-off company cost (e.g. bad debts, currency exchange losses), are at the discretion of the current owner (e.g. employee perks such as bonuses), or wages/costs to the owner or a family member that would be more than the typical going rate.

Once the adjusted EBITDA has been calculated this figure needs to be multiplied; this is typically between three and five times; however, this can vary – for example, a larger company with a strong reputation can attract towards an eight times multiple.

This provides an Enterprise Value, with the final ‘Transaction Value’ adjusted for any surplus items, such as free cash, properties and personal assets.

Asset Valuation

Asset valuation is suitable way to value a business that is stable and established with a lot of tangible assets – e.g. property, stock, machinery and equipment.

To work out the value of a business based on an asset valuation the net book value (NBV) of the company needs to be worked out. The NBV then needs to be refined to take into account economic factors, for example, property or fixed assets which fluctuate in value; debts that are unlikely to be paid off; or old stock that needs to be sold at a discount.

Asset valuations are usually supplemented by an amount for goodwill, which is a negotiable amount to reflect any benefits the acquirer is gaining that are not on the balance sheet (for example, customer relationships).

Entry Valuation

This way of evaluating the value of a company simply involves taking into account how much it would take to establish a similar business.

All costs have to be taken into account from what it has taken to start-up the company, to recruitment and training, developing products and services, and establishing a client base. The cost of tangible assets will also have to be taken into account.

This method for valuing a business is more useful for an acquirer, rather than a seller, as through an entry valuation they can choose whether it is worth purchasing the business, or whether it is more lucrative to invest in establishing their own operations.

Discounted Cash Flow

Types of companies that benefit from the discounted cash flow method of valuing a business include larger companies with accountant prepared forecasts. This is because the method uses estimates of future cash flow for the business.

A valuation is reached by looking at the company’s cash flow in the future, and then discounts this back into today’s money (to take into account inflation) to give you the NPV (net present value) of the business.

Valuing a business based on discounted cash flow is a complex method, and is not always the most accurate, as it is only as good as its input, i.e. a small change in input can vastly change the estimated value of a company.

Rule of Thumb

Some industries have different rules of thumb for valuing a business. Depending on the type of business, a rule of thumb can, for example, be based on multiples of revenue, multiples of assets or of earnings and cash flow.

While this method may have its merits in that it is quick, inexpensive and easy to use, it can generally not be used in place of a professional valuation and is instead useful for developing a preliminary indication of value.

To summarise, the methods of valuation can very much vary in terms of complexity and thoroughness, and different industries will find different methods more useful than others. A good M&A adviser can best suggest which way to value your business, as well as help to counter offers in the latter stages of the process with an accurate valuation in mind.

 

Author:
Tony Yerbury
Director
Benchmark International
T: +44 (0) 1865 410 050
E: Yerbury@benchmarkcorporate.com


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Why Do Buyers Take the Mergers and Acquisitions Route?

A merger is very similar to a marriage and, like every long-term relationship, it is imperative that mergers happen for the right reasons. Like many things in life, there is no secret recipe for a successful transaction. While the strategy behind most mergers is very important to obtain the maximum value for a business, finding the right reason to execute a merger could determine the success post-acquisition.

When two companies hold a strong position in their respective areas, a merger targeted to enhance their position in the market, or capture a larger market share, makes perfect sense. One of the most common goals for transactions is to achieve or enhance value; however, buyers have different reasons for considering an acquisition and each entity looks at a new opportunity differently. The following points summarize some of the primary reasons that entities choose the mergers and acquisition route.

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  1. Increased capacity

When entertaining an acquisition opportunity, buyers tend to focus on the increased capacity the target business will provide when combined with the acquiring company. For example, a company in the manufacturing space could be interested in acquiring a business to leverage the expensive manufacturing operations.  Another great example are companies wanting to procure a unique technology platform instead of building it on their own.

  1. Competitive Edge

Business owners are constantly looking to remain competitive. Many have realized that, without adequate strategies in place, their companies cannot survive the ever-changing innovations in the market. Therefore, business owners are taking the merger route to expand their footprints and capabilities. For example, a buyer can focus on opportunities that will allow their business to expand into a new market where the partnering company already has a strong presence, and leverage their experience to quickly gain additional market share.

  1. Diversification

Diversification is key to remain successful and competitive in the business world. Buyers understand that by combining their products and services with other companies, they may gain a competitive edge over others. Buyers tend to look for companies that offer other products or services that complement the buyer’s current operations. An example is the recent acquisition of Aetna by CVS Health. With this acquisition, CVS pharmacy locations are able to include additional services previously not available to its customers. 

  1. Cost Savings

Most business owners are constantly looking for ways to increase profitability. For most businesses, economies of scale is a great way to increase profits. When two companies are in the same line of business or produce similar goods or services, it makes sense for them to merge together and combine locations, or reduce operating costs by integrating and streamlining support functions. Buyers understand this concept and seek to acquire businesses where the total cost of production is lowered with increasing volume, and total profits are maximized.

The above points are merely four of the most common reasons buyers seek to acquire a new business. Even if the acquirer is a financial buyer, they still have a strategic reason for considering the opportunity.

Author:
Fernanda Ospina
Senior Associate
Benchmark International

T: +1 (813) 313 6150
E: opsina@benchmarkcorporate.com

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Best Practices When Preparing Your Business for Sale

The decision to sell your business can be incredibly difficult. In addition to the financial capital you have invested in your company, you have incurred an intangible amount of “sweat equity, through the hard work spent building your business and the natural emotional investment made in the company. That’s why, once the decision to sell has been made, it is imperative that proper preparation is put in place  to ensure your goals are met once your company is brought to market. Owners who approach exit planning systematically and methodically are more likely to maximize the value of their business and sell on their own terms.

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Financial Preparations

The primary factor influencing a company’s value is its earnings. It is essential  that the company’s financials present potential buyers with a clear story, allowing them to fully evaluate the company’s production. Presenting your business as efficient, with solid cash flows, a clean balance sheet, and low expense requirements, will position it as an attractive acquisition. There are several steps a business owner can take when reassessing their financials.

First, small private companies’ income statements are typically geared towards minimizing the company’s taxable net income. Although beneficial to the business owner, this approach is counterproductive in the context of a sale. As such, discretionary expenses that are not critical to operations and have not, or will not, impact revenues should be identified and eliminated. This could include owner/shareholder expenses, family-member salaries, fringe benefits or exorbitant perks, and extraordinary one-time expenses. Not only will this exercise maximize net income, but it will also present a normalized picture of the business to acquirers.

Second, organizing your balance sheet is key in preparing for a transaction. Sellers should remove all assets unrelated to their business from the balance sheet, as well as identify excess assets that could be converted to cash without adversely impacting the business. A buyer will not be interested in paying for excess inventory and, as such, this presents an opportunity for the seller to increase the total yield from the sale.

Third, it is important that a seller fully understands the company’s working capital before engaging a buyer. Working capital is often a point of negotiation between the buyer and seller. Buyers expect to receive a “normal” level, and often use low amounts of working capital to drive down the total cash paid at close. Managing working capital requires both time and effort, but it can result in greater efficiency and can lower the total level of working capital buyers expect to have delivered.

Lastly, the reliability of a company’s financial statements is critical in influencing a buyer’s decision. It is recommended that, before going to market, a seller contracts an independent accounting firm to review or audit their company’s financial statements. This will ensure the company is presented in an accurate manner, and will instill a sense of confidence in potential buyers, resulting in a greater level of trust and better valuations.

Operational Preparations

A company’s operations are just as important as financials. Potential buyers will seek to comprehensively understand the business practices behind a company’s earnings. A well-run business, with efficient operations, and good growth prospects will appear more attractive to any buyer. Unfortunately, businesses often have operational issues that could jeopardize a transaction. It is necessary for sellers to identify these issues before going to market and, in any case where the issue cannot be resolved, prepare to address it in a forthright manner.

For example, although a company’s clientele is not directly reflected in its financial statements, a company’s book of clients is a critical point of examination for a buyer. An ideal business has a broad customer base with little customer concentration. Dependency on a limited number of large customers could significantly reduce the marketability of a company. In these cases, it is important that the seller address this issue head on by either diversifying the company’s clientele before going to market, or developing a narrative to mitigate this issue and reassure buyers.

Additionally, a business owner’s level of involvement in the company is an important factor to buyers. They are acquiring the business, not the seller. As such, buyers will want to see a strong supporting management team, indicating the business will continue to be successful long after the owner has left. As a business owner prepares to go to market, it is key that they evaluate their role in business operations and implement a succession plan. 

Lastly, it is imperative that a business owner continues to grow revenues, as well as develop a realistic growth strategy. Buyers are purchasing the current and future cash flows of the business; historical growth, as well as a growth strategy with expansion opportunities, provides a blueprint for what’s to come. Presenting buyers with growth plans that are reasonable and achievable validates the credibility of management, and demonstrating that credibility through continued revenue growth illustrates the quality of the business.

For many business owners, selling a business happens once in a lifetime. When dealing with such a monumental event, a little more preparation today is certainly worth the added value tomorrow. Proper planning and advanced preparation is critical in order to maximize the value of your business and the probability of closing a transaction. Additionally, advice from seasoned professionals can provide you with savings and add significant value. At Benchmark International, we are proud to provide world-class mergers and acquisitions services, and we work hard to ensure your company’s value is maximized and your business is sold on your terms.  

Author:
Theodore Pince
Associate
Benchmark International

T: +1 (813) 898 23557
E: pince@benchmarkcorporate.com

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What is included in the M&A due diligence?

The due diligence process is one of the final steps in an M&A transaction where the potential buyer does its obligation to best confirm and verify the seller's company data and relevant information. This information typically includes but not limited to: financials, IT, operations, legal & compliance, insurance, corporate bylaws, contracts, customers, among other important information. Typically, the due diligence process follows the execution of a letter of intent (LOI), a non-binding document outlining the intent of both parties to commit to the transaction.

Once the LOI has been executed, the buyer will request a list of items to be shared by the seller with the intention of disclosing the selling company’s key details that could uncover risk buyer. As mentioned before, items can range all the way from financials to operations to insurance to contracts, among others. In cases where the seller owns the real estate, additional documents pertaining to the real estate, such as: deeds, mortgages, tax documents, owners’ insurance, etc. will need to be provided. Given today’s advancements in technology, once the due diligence request list has been sent to the seller, the team leading the deal will proceed to open what we call in the M&A world a “virtual data room” or a “data room.” These two terms are referred to as online portals that hold and store the information requested by the buyer with high levels of security only available for certain parties, including: buyer, seller, M&A attorneys, CPAs, advisors, among others. The data room allows activity within the room to be tracked and archived so there is a file of the information exchange after closing should any issues arise.

Once the due diligence starts, it is highly recommended for the buyer to hold, at the very least, weekly meetings or calls with the seller to discuss outstanding items or any questions that may have arisen from the process. As the due diligence process progresses, the buyer will become more familiar with the seller’s company. For an instance, should the buyer find any items that may play against the seller in the due diligence process, the buyer may use this to lower the valuation of the business which may ultimately result in a lower offer price.

In addition, this process can result as a discovery of potential opportunity to better structure the deal, find real synergies among parties, review any benefits and challenges for potential system integrations, and any associated risks that may arise from the result of this potential acquisition. 

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Is Your Business Killing You? Signs it Might Be Time to Exit …

Posted on September 17, 2018 By in Business Tips + financial + exit strategy

The dream of running your own business was once a thrill that filled you with excitement. Perhaps, it was the idea of being your own boss fueled the passion behind your drive, or the prospect of providing a new product to a targeted market. Whatever the case may be, you’ve made it to this point in time right now because something is different (hence, why you are reading this article).

Maybe business is great, you’ve reached a plateau or your company is in decline.  Irrelevant of the situation you aren’t fired up about your company like you used to be and you no longer have the same passion for your company that used to be there or, in the worst case, you feel like it is killing you!  Your dedication to your business seems to be affecting your personal life and your health, whether it be mental or physical, in a negative way. Going to work each day is getting tougher and tougher, a dreaded obligation, and you feel like your tank is running on empty.

When your personal life and your health are in decline, it’s probably time to explore your exit strategy options. The first step you need to take when you reach this point is to open up conversations with a sell-side mergers and acquisitions team who can help you determine what those options are.  Starting the discussion now will allow you to have a better “diagnosis”, but here are some flags to look for if you aren’t sure if now is the time to contemplate an exit:

1)    You’re spending too much time on back-office and administrative tasks– Most business owners who find themselves in this situation have driven their company to success and have a very nice company, having it from nothing at all.  The reality is that owners do this as the primary visionary who pushes business development and sales.  Truthfully, there is seldom an employee who can deliver the passion and expertise for your company than you can.  Over time as a company grows, many owners fall prey to becoming employees themselves who are constantly focused on obligations such as managing people, processing payroll, dealing with HR issues, keeping up with regulations, etc. which confines them to an internal office desk job.  If you are finding yourself in a this situation or similar, you aren’t the only one and there are many ways to revive your daily routine that a mergers and acquisitions team can share with you.

2)     You feel like you’re “married” to your business and are contemplating a divorce – Starting a business that you expect to last for the long run is a commitment. You have to be prepared for ups and downs all along the way. As the saying goes, the only constant in life is change.  As your business will change, so will your personal life, your priorities and your focus.It can be hard to take a step back from the business because it  requires so much of your time and attention. You don’t want your business to fail, but you also don’t want your personal life to suffer at its expense. Having a family, or missing out on life’s small moments repeatedly, can make you reevaluate your priorities. If you find yourself being at the business more than at your home, it’s probably time to start the exit conversation and learn more about your options. 

3)    Your Business has Grown Substantially and You Can’t Keep Up with the Demand – This appears to be a good problem to have, but in reality, if you can’t keep up with your business, then the business is walking a thin line between failure and success. Likewise, you are probably coming to your maximum height of stress too. So, what do you do? Being able to understand that you don’t know what you don’t know is key to catapulting your business further into success. Any one person can only do so much. At some point, you need to assess how you can be of more value to your business. If your value lies in innovation and new ideas related to the service you provide or expanding your footprint, but you can’t produce your products or deliver your services fast enough, or if you aren’t spending enough time on innovation because you’re busy on making sure your current client pool is satisfied … you are losing money, and your business will decline. The business you have grown from the ground up deserves to reach its full potential and there are many paths there.

4)    You Daydream About the Day When You Won’t Have to Work Anymore – Running your business has become a chore. You are constantly one foot in the door, even when you’re home. You’ve reached that point where it just feels like your life is your business, and retirement on white sandy beaches sounds more and more intriguing. Being a business owner isn’t a walk in the park, and you need a plan in place, so when those retirement dreams start flooding your mind, you can put your plan into motion.

If you have come to a point in your business where you feel like it is constant stress and you have no relief, then it’s probably time to sit down with a sell-side mergers and acquisitions specialist like Benchmark International and discuss your exit strategy options. There are a vastly more avenues you can explore that will relieve you from the status quo that will allow you to continue pursuing your personal and financial goals while ensuring the legacy of your company remains intact and that your employees will continue to be taken care of.

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Webinar Video: Now that the Valuation is Set, Here’s Where You will Win or Lose the Deal Part II

 

 

If you joined us for part one of this webinar last month, you already understand why coming up with the valuation is only one of many key deal points you will need to secure in order make your exit a success. In part two we examined another six key issues, this time focusing in on those that come even later in the process; after deal fatigue has set in and you feel like you can’t possibly have anything left to fight about or give away. 

1. Winning the net working capital fight 
2. Your indemnification of the acquirer 
3. How the disclosure schedules protect you 
4. Can reps and warranties insurance assist you? 
5. The inevitable non-competes 
6. Meet the Grim Reaper of your sale process - Delays 

If you missed part I, it can be found here (http://bit.ly/2nTsPk7) and we encourage you to take an hour to get caught up to ensure you get the most out of part II. 

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Strategic Vs. Financial Buyers

Posted on September 11, 2018 By in Business Tips + buyers + financial + strategic

If you are considering selling your business, it is important to dedicate some thought to the type of sale that best allows you achieve your goals. Do you believe a full sale where you walk away from the company after closing is best for you?  Are you the type of person who would work well with a strategic partner that, together, will allow for accelerated company growth?  Is there an amount of time you would like to continue working after the transaction with a plan to slowly exit over time?  Determining the type of sale that appears the most attractive (I only say ‘appears’ because many owners change their mind after learning what the market has to offer and will find a more attractive sale type than what was initially assumed to be the ‘best’) will also allow you to gain an understanding for the most likely type of buyer.

When selling your business, buyers typically fall into two main categories: strategic buyers and financial buyers. The best type of buyer for your business depends on personal goals you hope to achieve from the sale.

Strategic Buyer:

This type of buyer is more likely to pay a premium for a business because their reason for the acquisition is to add to their already existing business. A strategic buyer can be a competitor, supplier or vendor in the same industry.  A strategic buyer can also be a focused on businesses of similar model that service the same sector.  These attributes are commonly referred to as vertical and horizontal markets, respectively.  Using what your company has to offer can help them either expand their footprint or break into a new market.

They are looking for synergies in a prospective merger or acquisition. Synergies are characteristics of the two companies that compliment each other, so that when they are put together, the sum equals more than the two parts individually. In other words, a strategic buyer wants to have a relationship that makes the resulting business more valuable than the two businesses when they stand on their own.

Finding a strategic buyer to work with your business will give you more options in a sale. You can decide to stay on with your business for a transition period, while the new company takes over and for an integration period, eventually allowing you to exit completely, or you can negotiate your continued role in the business as a key player in its continued development.

A strategic buyer can often outbid a financial buyer because of the synergistic relationship they are looking to create in your business. Your businesses together yield increased value, sometimes exponentially, in one way or another.

Financial Buyer:

A financial buyer is looking to invest capital to get a return on their investment. Basically, they want to buy your business outright, make profits from it, and then sell it again to create liquidity. For this reason, a financial buyer is not typically willing to invest the same amount of capital they can invest into your business because they are not adding your business to an already existing company of theirs. Instead, they are buying your company as a whole and working with what you have in place already.

A financial buyer doesn’t have the ability to cut on backend costs that a strategic buyer does. They will need to buy a company with a good working structure and management team in place, since they may not be bringing a team of their own to take over all areas of the business. This allows owners to stay involved with their business to help it grow until the financial buyer decides it’s time to sell again.

The benefit to using a financial buyer is knowing that there is a high growth model in place for your business, and you will most likely play a role in its realized potential before it is sold again. This is a great option for a business owner who is looking for an eventual complete exit from his business.

Choosing the Best Fit

Now, there are some exceptions and looking at different buyers from a less seasoned perspective can make it difficult to understand exactly what type of buyer you are actually facing.  For example, a financial buyer may have a portfolio of business that compliments yours which can allow for a synergistic fit, thereby allowing you to enjoy some of the benefits a strategic buyer brings to the table.  It could also be that a financial buyer recognizes inefficiencies or ‘areas of improvement’ that will allow them to immediately increase the company’s profitability following an acquisition.  On the other hand, a strategic buyer may only want to buyer your business to eliminate a competitor and has no real intention of growing your business after the transaction takes place.  Simply put, they may just want to prevent your business from continuing to eat up market share whether that be by forcing the company to remain static or by closing the doors.When it comes to selling your business, it is important to consider all your options in a sale. You need to find a buyer that will bring what you are looking for to a sale. Selling your business for a high value is important, but is it worth compromising the culture of your business or your employees? You need to decide what is most important to you and let those values be driving factors in your decisions in a sale.

It is tough to find the best fit for your business on your own. That’s why using a sell side mergers and acquisitions firm like Benchmark International is essential. You will have someone on your side who can help you find the right buyer for your needs. You can also learn more about what you can negotiate in a sale and you can discuss what’s most important to you to make sure those needs are met in a sale.

If you are thinking of selling your business, Benchmark International is dedicated to helping business owners like you achieve what they are looking for in a sale.

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Top Tips to be Due Diligence Ready

It is imperative that during an M&A transaction thorough due diligence is conducted, not least because it helps to establish the true value of a transaction.

Due diligence is a term applied to the work acquirers undertake after signing HoTs (Heads of Terms) and falls into three main categories: commercial due diligence, financial due diligence and legal due diligence. It is a review of the seller’s company and includes looking into areas such as potential risks and liabilities, the seller’s competition, middle management and employees, financial status, intellectual property, and assets.

It is not an easy task to conduct, so here are five tips on how to ease the process:

TIP ONE: IT’S NEVER TOO EARLY TO PREPARE

An acquirer will want to see an extensive list of documentation which can include copies of contracts with suppliers, intellectual property registration, computer systems and data protection, employment contracts and pensions, and much more.

It is wise to draw up a due diligence checklist anticipating what an acquirer will want to know – most will provide this when the time comes but a checklist early on ensures that these documents are prepared and up-to-date.

Being prepared with this information, before an exit is even on the cards, is important as it can help expedite the transaction and make the company look more attractive to potential acquirers – if information can be provided quickly, an acquirer will know the transaction is being taken seriously.


TIP TWO: USE A DATA ROOM

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Mergers and Acquisitions in the Architecture and Engineering Industry

Over the last few years the architecture and engineering industry has seen a marked increase in mergers and acquisitions activity. Since reemerging from the depths of the recession, the industry has been ripe with activity; with everything from the expansion of the ever growing reach of firms like DLR, Perkins & Will, and HOK, to the merging of small businesses to facilitate the retirement goals of local industry experts. Considering there is typically a few year lag between economic fluctuations and corresponding changes in M&A activity, as the bull market run is approaching nine years, this type of inorganic growth activity shows no signs of slowing down.

As an industry agnostic mergers and acquisition leader, Benchmark International is in touch with leaders from a variety of industries on a daily basis. We’ve seen significant movement from corporate development teams in a number of industries which are beginning to expand their services to grow not only their customer base, but also to gain additional wallet share of their existing clients. This type of cross pollination has occurred in interior design, surveying, construction, architecture, engineering, and technology. We currently are in the midst of closing a transaction which would allow a specialized electrical engineer which focuses on the commercial and healthcare markets to broaden their end market to include the hospitality sector, and their service offerings to include the upstream design, planning, and engineering components of a building’s IT infrastructure needs.

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11 Reasons to Have the Exit Conversation

When the mention of selling your business comes up, you might feel a little uneasy about starting the discussion. Your business is your baby, and the thought of letting go can be overwhelming. The truth is; however, failing to plan is a plan to fail when it comes to your business exit strategy. You need to have an exit strategy in place for your business. Everyone thinks of their future, but they don’t always take active steps in the present to prepare for what they want tomorrow. There are many reasons why you should discuss when and how to exit your business. Here are eleven reasons to have the exit conversation now:

1) Anything can happen at any time – This is so true. We cannot anticipate what will happen unexpectedly. For this reason, you need to have an emergency exit plan in place. What will you do if you have something happen that requires you to step down from your business quickly?

2) Family obligations are taking more time from the business – Business owners run businesses and have families all the time, but depending on the size of your business and the size of your family, you may need to spend more time away from the business. If you don’t have a team in place that can run the business without you for a few days, exiting might be your best bet.

If obligations, such as an ill family member, or a lot of educational or extracurricular commitments for your children are taking from your time, you could experience a negative shift in the dynamic of your business. A strategic partner can help you free up some time for your family while still allowing you to take an active part in your business’s growth. This type of partnership doesn’t require an immediate exit from your business and allows you to discuss an end-goal for this exit strategy with the partner you join.

3) Personal health issues are pulling you away from the business – When your personal health is in decline, it can be difficult to continue running the business. A business owner doesn’t need the undue stress caused by juggling an illness and the company.

Furthermore, if you find your health declining, or the health of a close loved-one, your priorities might change. Your view on where your time needs to be spent might be more focused on your personal relationships versus constantly working on growing your business.

Again, spending your time away from the business will have a direct negative effect on your revenue and daily operations. This makes the goal of achieving maximum value more challenging. Therefore, having an exit plan is essential.

4) You don’t have anyone in place to take over the business – You’re a great leader, and you run your business like a well-oiled machine. However, what happens when you’re gone? You need to have a plan in place. If you find your children aren’t interested in taking over, or if you don’t have any children, or if you don’t have a manager in place to take over, you need to know what you will do when it’s time to leave your business behind.

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Life After Sale

There are a myriad of reasons why you might look to sell your company: retirement, further resources are required to grow, or it is an opportunistic time. Whatever the reason, this is likely to be the pinnacle of your career as the amount of time and money invested into your business will come to fruition when it sells, securing the future for you and your family.

But what happens after a sale? The business which you have invested years into, and the place where you spent the majority of your time, has passed on to somebody else. You may have made a tidy sum of money from the sale, which many people would be satisfied with as they may never have to work again and be able to live in the lap of luxury, but once the holiday of a lifetime has been taken, what then?

And what about how the company will thrive going forward? This is maybe something that you have grown from the beginning, and you want to see its continued success, as well as ensure the future of your employees who have been loyal to you.

At Benchmark International, we understand that there is life after the sale of a business and so structure a shareholder’s exit to suit both them, and the welfare of the company going forward.

The following are companies which Benchmark International has sold and structured the deal to allow for a successful life after a sale for both the shareholder(s) and the business.
ROC NORTHWEST

ROC Northwest had been established for nine years before the shareholders, Hilary and Glyn Waterhouse, decided to sell. They had built up a company which provided education, residential, and domiciliary care services to young people with emotional and behavioural difficulties, autism spectrum disorders, learning and physical disabilities, and those with challenging behaviour issues, from seven properties throughout the north west of the UK.

They had a vested interest in ensuring that the company was sold to the right acquirer, not just to ensure that the welfare of the young people in their care was maintained, but also to ensure that the staff that had been loyal to them remained in employment. As such, a large number of interested parties were presented to ROC Northwest and the shareholders were able to choose the acquirer which best fit their ideals. Commenting on the acquirer’s plans going forward, Glyn said:

“We actually sold the company to a firm called CareTech Holdings PLC. They wanted to keep our managers, they wanted to keep the staff, they wanted to keep the homes. In fact, they didn’t want to change anything about the business. It was very important because once you start a business from scratch, you want that business to succeed; you’ve got loyalty from your staff, and you want the staff to be in place and have their jobs, so it was very important that we found a buyer that followed that ethos and allowed us to continue the hard work that we were doing.”

The shareholders at ROC Northwest wished to sell the company as they were looking at other business opportunities and wanted to spend more time together as a family. As this was the case, Benchmark International negotiated a seven figure deal with the majority forming a cash payment on completion. Now, Hilary has been able to purchase an equine business and has a total of eleven horses, growing from two.

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Top Ten Places to Retire

Retirement is a time of life where all the work people have completed comes to fruition. Most people live on pension plans that require careful attention to detail and proper budgeting to ensure they last throughout retirement. However, a small number of retirees have the means to retire and live in luxury. For these people, the world is their oyster, and they can go wherever their hearts desire. Here is a breakdown of ten of the world’s most lavish retirement destinations.

1) MONACO – France borders the Principality of Monaco on three sides, and the Mediterranean borders the small country on one side. The Principality of Monaco has an area of approximately 2.02km (0.78 mi) and more than 19,000 inhabitants per square kilometer, which makes it the second-smallest independent, and most densely populated, sovereign state.

Getting around Monaco is easy as there is plenty of public transportation and the country is small on foot as well. Monaco offers world-class entertainment with the Formula 1 Grand Prix, the Monaco Yacht Show, and the Casino de Monte Cristo. Real estate in this small locale is coveted by many because of its proximity and easy access to the rest of Europe.

Moreover, Monaco is known for its relaxed tax laws and its secure banks. Folks looking to retire here are sure to enjoy the finer things life has to offer.

2) DUBAI – Dubbed as one of the world’s cleanest cities, Dubai is a hot destination for travelers from all corners of the globe. In 2016, Dubai was the fourth most visited city in the world. The skyline boasts impressive buildings, including the Burj Khalifa, which is the tallest manmade structure in the world. Additionally, the city offers more than 70 shopping centers, several water parks, camel rides, the world’s largest choreographed fountain system set to music, and other tourist attractions for visitors.

Dubai does not offer permanent residency, citizenship, or retirement visas to non-native persons. However, this doesn’t mean one cannot retire there as long as permits are consistently renewed every 2-3 years. There are two types of investment visas that retirees can obtain if they wish to stay in Dubai: the business investment visa and the real estate investment visa. Additionally, if a retired adult has a child working in the UAE with a Labor Card and valid residency permit, then he or she can qualify for the dependency visa and move to Dubai with that visa. For the dependency visa, sponsors (adult children) typically need to make at least $65,000 USD per year.

3) SINGAPORE – Like Dubai, retiring in Singapore requires a residency visa through an investment, in most cases. A permanent residency visa can be obtained through a work permit after a year of working and living in Singapore and must be renewed every five years.

However, this country is valued for its rich climate, first- world amenities, favorable exchange rate, and the fact that English is an official language of the nation. Retiring in Singapore will require a higher cost of living and given that it’s one of the world’s largest financial and cultural centers; this is no surprise. However, living here is about enjoying the cosmopolitan lifestyle rather than trying to make savings stretch.

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Giving in Order to Receive

A recent article in the Harvard Business Review made a perhaps surprising conjecture: that as far as mergers and acquisitions are concerned, those companies that focus on what they’re going to get from an acquisition are less likely to succeed, in terms of the deal outcomes, than those companies that focus on what they can give to the process.

Acquiring companies being in ‘take’ mode was a dangerous place to be, it claimed. Indeed, corporate giants are not immune from this conundrum either, if we think about, for example, Microsoft and Google wanting to get into smartphone hardware in ‘taking’ from Nokia and Motorola respectively.

A buyer in ‘take’ mode means that the fortunate seller can increase price, especially if there is more than one potential buyer in the picture, and effectively remove the future value of the transaction. Buyers on the take, really knowing what they want, are also more prepared to pay top dollar – which, in and of itself, poses a problem in eventually getting a good return. But companies with a ‘getting’ focus also tend to lack adequate understanding of their new markets, making failure even more likely.

Having something to give to the deal, however, really benefits outcomes. This could mean anything that makes the acquired company more competitive in its market, and especially if the buyer is the only partner who can offer this new competitive edge.

The much-talked-about Harvard Business Review article listed four main ways that the ‘giving mode’ buyer can increase the competitiveness of the bought company and ultimately secure better outcomes on the deal:

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Something's Brewing in M&A: Craft Beer Gives New Perspective to the Industry

Who doesn’t love microbrews? The explosion of the craft-beer revolution has spread across the country.

Western cities, such as Portland, Denver, San Diego, Seattle, and Los Angeles are seeing a large increase in new jobs and establishments in small-scale breweries. This trend is spreading nationwide, and how do we explain this craft-beer boom? It’s relatively simple, the American breweries lack of distinct, indigenous brewing traditions in the past has been conducive to the rise of craft brewing. The small, independent, and traditional brewery adds to the eclectic style and diversity consumers are demanding. The niche styles of beer, particularly hoppy IPA’s, pale ales, infused blends, and specialty brews are leading the way. This changing landscape has created multiple opportunities for the M&A industry.

So, what does this craft beer boom mean to Benchmark International and the M&A industry? The sustained success of craft beer and the changing demographics of brewery ownership has led to more mergers and acquisitions and transactions than ever before. Since 2014, there has been more than one transaction per month. Global players, such as SAMMiller and InBev, are leading the way in the direct M/As of craft beers. What is more interesting in this recent trend of mergers, is the allowance of once previous competitors to combine styles and taste with new hosts to release new and creative craft beers. The rising popularity of craft beers has fueled industry growth and increased valuation multiples towards all-time highs over the last few years.

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What to do With Your Business to Make it More Appealing in Light of the Baby Boomers' Crisis

What options are there for you when looking to retire? The three main ones are to sell, pass the company down to family or to shut it down completely.

The latter may seem dramatic and not sound so appealing, especially after years of establishing a business and investing copious amounts of time and money into the venture. Unfortunately, for the baby boomer generation, it is increasingly likely that this could happen if a well thought-out succession plan is not implemented.

There is much speculation as to why there is a succession crisis – here are a few possible scenarios as to why this has happened:

THERE IS NO ONE IN PLACE TO TAKE OVER THE BUSINESS

The generation after baby boomers, Gen X (typically those born between the early 1960s and early 1980s) are not as numerous as their predecessors. The generation after, millennials (typically born between the early 1980s and the millennium) are generally not yet of an age to take over a business.

RAPID CHANGES IN AUTOMATION & TECHNOLOGY

Those Gen Xers and millennials who do want to start a business will not want to take over one they feel is antiquated. A lot of businesses now have an online offering, or machines to automate the process, and this is changing how business is done. As such, the younger generations may not want to go into a business in an industry that will not be around for
much longer.

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Buyside Perspective

As stated on Benchmark International’s website, our perspective makes us different. We strive to help clients reach their maximum value for the sale of their business. To accomplish that goal, it’s important to also have good buyside perspective.

Buyers look at companies differently than sellers and some advisors. Certainly, a company’s financials are a common barometer for both sides to gage a company’s performance and success. And cultural fit is a must. Beyond those metrics; however, buyers prioritize characteristics to mitigate investment risk. These characteristics include, scalability, stability, resiliency, and the ability to grow.

Scalability is about a company’s ability to accommodate growth – to behave as a larger entity. Some acquisitions result in smaller companies becoming part of much larger organizations. The new structure sometimes brings new processes, systems, and reporting requirements. These changes in scale can introduce risk if personnel lack the bandwidth, appetite, skills, or resources to ramp up. Buyers seek assurance that the team is adaptable and capable of scaling.

Many investors also seek stability. The project-based business with wild swings in revenues or heavy seasonality, for example, presents significant challenges in performance, planning, and execution. For most investors, consistency is vital and this is often tied to a company’s revenue model. This is a key reason why buyers prefer recurring revenue models. For industrial services businesses, long-term or preventive maintenance contracts provide recurring revenue. Many equipment manufacturers have transitioned to providing a service rather than hardware. For example, some compressor manufacturers retain the physical asset and provide an “air as a service” guarantee for a monthly fee. And software companies achieve this by transitioning to a subscription, or software as a service (SaaS) model. Together with a “sticky” customer base – high switching costs or risk – these all provide a level of revenue stability that might otherwise be absent.

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What Are My Options If I Can No Longer Run My Business?

You’ve just walked your client outside and thanked them for stopping by, another successful day of work accomplished. You lock the front door of your establishment and your phone rings. It’s your wife. She’s calling to let you know the test results you had been anticipating from the doctor came in. The doctor regrets to inform the family that the results showed your wife does, in fact, have cancer. Your heart stops as her following words become a blur.

Your immediate reaction is “I need to get home now.” You don’t know how to bring her comfort. You feel helpless; there isn’t a cure for cancer. There are treatments, but you don’t even know what her prognosis is yet. A flood of emotions fill you as all your responsibilities come to the surface of your mind. “My wife is sick, and she needs me. My business can’t run itself. My bills won’t pay themselves. The work won’t do itself. What am I going to do?”

We like to think scenarios like this will never befall us; unfortunately, they can, and they do. There are things that can come up in life at any time without warning, and we need to know our options. As a business owner, encountering a turn of life events such as this might give you a new perspective on what’s important to you. You might want to spend more time focusing on your family and less time on the business. You need to know that you have various options to achieve this goal, and each option has its advantages and disadvantages.

Here are some options if you want to take a step back from your business quickly:

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