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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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When Do I Tell My Employees I'm Selling?

The thought of selling your business has been on your mind for quite some time, and now you have made the decision to sell. The business is ready to go and you have been working with your advisor to bring in a suitable buyer. The offer comes in and you have signed a letter of intent. The process is in motion, and this is what you have been waiting for, but what about your employees? Your exit plan has been on your mind, but your employees probably haven’t given much thought to what will happen if and when you exit the business. You have a couple options when it comes to sharing the news of your business sale to your employees.

Share Nothing:

Some business owners opt to not share the decision to sell with their employees at all. This option can be viewed as inconsiderate, but it does alleviate the risk of a mass exodus from the company. There are pros and cons to any decision, but not telling your employees right away and keeping information for yourself allows you to keep them from undue stress.

It’s important to protect the integrity of the deal and the company. This means you need to keep details under wraps. If you spill the beans to your employees, there is no guarantee that the information will stay within your company, and it could be concerning for your client base if they catch a whiff of the pending sale.

This doesn’t mean you can’t put things in place to protect your employees through a transition, of course. You just need to pay attention to their needs and ask your advisor what your options are in a sale. If you choose this route, you need to be prepared to extinguish any rumors and answer employee questions the best you can if they notice any changes taking place.

Keep Them in the Loop:

Some owners think the best policy is to be transparent with employees from the outset. The decision to sell has been made, and you are exploring options. So, you want to inform your employees what’s going on. You can be up front with employees and let them know of your plans to sell and your desire to find the right buyer for the company who will instill the same values you hold as a business leader.

This will need to be handled delicately, so your employees will remain comfortable throughout the process. You will need to drive home the initiative that you are doing what is best for the company as a whole and selling the business doesn’t mean the end of the business but rather the growth of the business. It is important to keep the conversation positive, so your employees will get on board with your plans.

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Dry Powder in Private Equity: A Struggle to Spend or a Welcome Resource?

Dry powder is currently a hot topic within the private equity industry because the levels of dry powder are at a record high since the financial crisis, with over $1T of committed capital available.

It is the term used for the amount of cash reserves or liquid assets used by an investor for investment purposes, but has not yet been deployed and there are a number of reasons why there is an excess. In part, there are surplus cash reserves as a result of the strength of fundraising – more cash risen, more cash reserves. However, this is a tale of two halves as private equity has not been spending as much in previous years – asset prices have been inflating and private equity firms are reluctant to pay a premium for these assets. In fact, there has been a year-on-year decrease in private equity funding from 2015 to 2017.

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The Benefits of Choice in Formal M&A Process: Partnership Essentials

After an M&A deal has been concluded, it is unusual for the seller to depart a business immediately. Whether it is a short-term work out or a longer-term growth plan, invariably there will be is a period in which the buyer and seller will operate in partnership.

In all partnerships, be they personal or professional, the ability to achieve the outcomes and aspirations sought relies to some degree upon the compatibility of the individuals. Almost all studies on the essential components and attributes of successful partnerships, unsurprisingly, conclude that the dynamics of a partnership are determined by the same criteria as any relationship, namely, the personalities involved.

The reason for failed M&A transactions has been studied extensively by academics and professionals alike, but these studies contain little to no data comparing the success and failure rates of transactions concluded with the aid of a formal competitive M&A process and those without. However, common to almost all studies of failed M&A transactions, and often deep into the reports, are cursory references to cultural integrations, yet these are rarely addressed or understood during negotiations.

To truly understand whether the fundamentals for an effective and successful partnership exist in a new relationship is not simple, but it is an exercise that can be explored in the context of a process that exposes the business owner—the seller—to choice. It is a common misconception that the M&A processes only generate choices through the creation of price competition.

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Inspiring the Millennial Generation

Benchmark International is a worldwide company, with offices in the UK, South Africa, Europe and the USA. A global company requires a large number of employees – a figure that is currently growing for Benchmark International.

Sourcing the right candidate for the role is probably one of the most difficult things to do, particularly now as a third of the global workforce are millennials – a generation that receives a lot of negative press and by all accounts is not a group of employees you would want in the workplace.

Words that are synonymous with the group are entitled, unfocused, narcissistic, lazy, selfish – among a whole host of other words with negative connotations.

But what has cultivated such an entitled (enter other negative words here) generation? Or what has caused such a backlash against them?

In a popular viral video, motivational speaker and marketing consultant Simon Sinek gives four reasons as to why this has happened and ties it in to why it is now causing problems in the workplace. He attributes it to PARENTING.

Sinek claims that millennials have been subject to failed parenting strategies, derived from being mollycoddled in such scenarios where children have received participation medals when they’ve placed last, or received top grades in school for work because of the persistence of a parent. This then causes a problem in the workplace as parents are not there to secure a promotion for their child.

 

TECHNOLOGY

Technology is a problem for millennials according to Sinek because of engagement in social media. He states that millennials are constantly engaged with social media because it is an addiction – when a person receives a ‘like’ for a status, picture etc., or receives a message, dopamine is released from the hypothalamus in the brain, the same chemical that is released when someone smokes, drinks, or gambles. Sinek says that technology is being used to deal with stress, much like an alcoholic would depend on alcohol, and has prevented millennials from developing meaningful relationships, as they will turn to technology as opposed to a friend.

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I’ve Been Approached by a Buyer, What Do I Do?

You’re sitting at your desk eating your lunch and reviewing the emails in your inbox when your phone rings. You pick up, on the other end of the phone is an inquirer looking to purchase your company. You haven’t given much thought to whether or not you’re open to selling your business, and here is someone who is ready to purchase it right now. What do you do?

Engage the Right Support Team

First things first, congrats! You might not be thinking to sell right now, and that’s okay, but now you know there is interest in your enterprise. If this inquiry has sparked curiosity in you to explore the possibilities of a sale, you need to be prepared. How do you approach an offer for your business out of the blue? Well, you don’t go into it alone, that’s for sure. You need to have the appropriate team in place to assist you should you decide to explore your options. You will need a sell-side mergers and acquisitions specialist to help you navigate the waters of a sale and break down your options for you.

When it comes to selling your business, it’s okay to acknowledge that you don’t know what you don’t know. Having a mergers and acquisitions firm on your side can help you determine what the approximate value of your business is against others in the same market. Furthermore, you can discuss what your aspirations are for your business and what you hope to achieve from a sale.

What Do You Want?

A call that catches you off guard might have you thinking what the buyer’s intentions are, but you need to think about your intentions. If you consider selling your business seriously, what do you want from a sale?

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Things You Need to Know Before You Sell Your Business

Know Why You Want to Sell

What do you plan to do after you sell your business? It’s important to know your purpose for selling, so you can appropriately plan what you want to do after the sale. Are you planning on a total exit, or do you want to stick with the business for a while? There are a few options at your disposal when deciding your reasons for exiting your company. If you are wanting to take a step back, but still want to have some involvement, you can keep a small percentage of the company and transition into a new role with lighter responsibilities after the sale.

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Are you thinking of selling your business? How will you protect your employees?

Your business is your baby, and the people who work for you are your family. A concern of many business owners thinking to sell is how they will care for their employees throughout the sales process.

Download our guide “If I Sell My Business, How Can I Protect my Employees?,” today!

Download Guide

In this guide, you will learn how to best communicate with your employees effectively, how to negotiate on their behalf, how to put their concerns at the forefront of your decisions, and how working alongside them can help alleviate their concerns. 

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How Much Do I Need to Sell My Business For, So I Can Retire?

So, you are a business owner who is thinking of moving toward retirement. How do you do that? What are your options? How much money do you need to sell your business for, so you can retire? These are all questions you need to fully explore when you’re ready to make this transition.

What Are My Options?

You have a couple options if you are looking to retire. First, you need to decide what your ultimate goal is. Do you want to completely exit the business? Or do you just want to take a step back and pin the majority of the responsibility on someone else? It’s up to you how you want your money to work for you and how much free time you want to have.

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A Closer Look at Mergers and Acquisitions in 2018

Posted on March 6, 2018 By in Mergers and Acquisitions + Tips

New tax law means more capital in buyers’ pockets, so sellers should get it while it’s good!

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Why the time is now to sell your business, more than ever

Posted on March 5, 2018 By in Tax + Business Tips + Time To Sell + Tips + Tax Cut

Earlier this week, projections for increases in the Federal Funds Rate increased from three 25 basis point increases in 2018 and one in 2019 to four and two respectively. As a “basis” point is 1/100th of a percent and a “25 basis point increase” is an increase of 1/4 of one percent, this means that rater than increasing by 0.75% in 2018, experts now expect a 1.00% increase for the year and a 0.50% increase as opposed to 0.25% increase next year.

This happened because (a) the recent tax cut is expected to boost GDP by an extra 0.3%, (b) the even more recent government spending bill, which is modestly termed “generous”, is also expected to add 0.3% to GDP, and (c) the regulatory roll-back that has occurred over the last 12 months is expected to add another 0.3% to 0.6% to GDP.

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You Need an M&A Specialist, Not an Industry Expert

It’s time to dispel the myth that it’s better to use an industry expert versus a mergers and acquisitions expert for the sale of a business. At times, sellers are apprehensive about engaging with a mergers and acquisitions firm that doesn’t specialize in one specific industry, and they say they would rather use an industry expert instead. This isn’t the best strategy for a seller who hopes to gain the most value for his or her business.

The mergers and acquisitions cycle is constantly changing. That’s why it’s important for mergers and acquisitions firms to stay on top of industry trends and stay abreast of any new developments. At Benchmark International, we are M&A professionals who work in all industries. Our business is selling businesses, and we understand the industry specifics.

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Why Engaging in 2018 is Advantageous for your Business

As we embark on the year 2018, it is important to acknowledge the advantages of engaging your business for sale. Mergers and acquisitions was strong in 2017 and is expected to continue full steam ahead moving into 2018. You can count on Benchmark International to stay on top of current trends to bring you the highest level of professionalism in the sale of your business.

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Don't Kick the Can Down the Road

Posted on December 4, 2017 By in growth + mergers + Acquisitions + Blog + Exit + M&A + market + options + possibilities + strategy + Tips

There are many things to consider when you are thinking of a potential exit, whether it be your own personal/business circumstances, the overall M&A market or potential tax implications.

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Engaging with Benchmark International is Not a Commitment to Sell

Posted on November 29, 2017 By in commitment + decision + engagement + engaging + goals + perspective + Blog + Business + sell + Tips + your

Engaging with a mergers and acquisitions firm is a huge emotional decision. It may feel like making a commitment to sell, and you aren’t sure if this is what you want. At Benchmark International, our purpose is to help our clients achieve their personal goals whatever they may be.

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Greening Due Diligence: Environmental Factors to Consider in M&A Preparation

‘Green-washing’ is pretty much endemic in the business world, with every company worth its salt aiming to showcase its environmental credentials, whether rightfully or as a PR exercise.

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Considering the sale of your business? If so, then the time might be now!

There is still the chance for you to capitalise on the extremely low 10% capital gains tax rates which are on offer via Entrepreneurs’ Relief, whenever you fully or partially sell your company.

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The Time For Health IT M&A is Approaching

Health IT mergers and acquisitions are now gaining traction, and at a rapid rate. While there are a number of reasons for this, the ultimate driving force is the shift from fee-for-service to value-based care.

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