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What Is Decentralized Finance?

Decentralized finance, also known as DeFi, makes financial products available to anyone on a decentralized blockchain network. Through this relatively new software system, all parties can interact directly through applications, eliminating a need for middlemen such as banks or institutions to facilitate transactions. It also eliminates a need for proof of identification or age requirements that banks typically require. There is no need for anyone to know anyone else’s identity. Everything occurs over a public blockchain, using smart contracts, which are bits of code that execute specified actions once certain criteria have been met. It’s based on mutual trust and strict privacy.

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15 of The Most Luxurious Hotels in The World

Now that the COVID-19 pandemic is settling into our rearview mirrors, so many of us have been itching to get out there to enjoy an indulgent vacation and a much-deserved change of scenery. So, here you will find a list of some of the most luxurious hotels in the world (in no particular order) to help you start planning your next beautiful adventure or a quiet escape from it all.

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Why Companies Need Mergers and Acquisitions

There are many reasons that mergers and acquisitions are critical tools for companies of all sizes, some of which may not even be fully realized by business owners. Ultimately, it’s all about achieving positive results for the business by making strategic moves that make sense, all depending upon what the fundamental goal (or goals) may be. For companies in the lower to middle market, M&A can be an extremely effective solution for a variety of purposes.

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The Critical Focus On Cybersecurity In M&A Deals

The recent cyberattack on the Colonial Pipeline in the U.S. is a glaring reminder of the vulnerabilities that all industries face, as well as the costly repercussions that can be a result of such a situation. Colonial Pipeline Co. paid the hacker group $5 million to have the company released from the ransomware to restore service to the critical pipeline. This actually turned out to be a wasted $5 million. For that high price, the hackers provided the company with a decrypting tool to restore its disabled computer network. But this tool was too slow, and Colonial ended up using its own backups to restore the system.

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The Current State Of Commercial Real Estate

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a negative impact on all classes of commercial real estate. Yet, it also created some new opportunities within the commercial real estate (CRE) market, such as affordable rental prices, improved digital communication and payment facilitation, as well as new opportunities for business owners and investors. And further recovery is well underway.  

CRE prices fell 11% between March and May of 2020. Since July, prices increased 7%, erasing over half of those pandemic declines. With investors sitting on wealth, more investment in stocks and bonds took place, which pushed prices up and interest rates down. With inflation being a growing concern, more investors may look to commercial properties with leases that have built-in rent increases to keep pace with inflation.

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Growing Business Trends For 2021-2022

Our world continues to change, and businesses must remain adaptive in order to keep pace with their competition and consumer demands. Thanks to new technologies, changing customer priorities, societal movements, and of course, repercussions from the COVID-19 pandemic, business owners can expect certain industry shifts that began leading up to 2021 to continue into 2022.

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2021 Energy & Sustainability Report: Progress, Trends, And M&A

The COVID-19 pandemic revealed to the world just how unprepared entire business sectors can be when it comes to unexpected events of mass proportion, and just how delicate our global supply chains actually are. COVID has been a health crisis that impacted lives, economies, and industries. Climate-driven events and disasters occur on a more concentrated scale but have proven to be extremely costly and disruptive to multiple sectors in various geographies—a problem that appears to be growing more prevalent.  

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10 Mistakes To Avoid When Selling Your Company

Selling a business comes with its share of challenges and concerns. Many business owners do not realize just how much time and energy is required to facilitate the sale of a company and are blindsided when they embark on the M&A process. The good news is that many of the pitfalls around selling can be avoided by learning from others' mistakes, like the 10 outlined below.

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U.S. Private Equity Sets Major Record For H1 2021

Data released in a recent report by Pitchbook shows the unprecedented performance of U.S. Private Equity (PE) during the first half of 2021, continuing its intense pace for the third quarter in a row. PE firms closed on 3,708 deals worth a combined $456.6 billion. That’s almost two-thirds of the $711.6 billion deal value recorded in the entire year of 2020, and the two years prior.

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What To Look For When Choosing An M&A Advisor

Selling your business is a paramount moment in your life. It’s something you absolutely want to get right so that you can extract the most value out of the deal—and so that you are protected from being swindled by a savvy buyer. It also takes a great deal of time and energy to sell a company, which can be rather difficult to spare when you are trying to focus on running a business. Most people simply do not have this time, energy, connections, or expertise that is required to put their company on the market. This is where the importance of an experienced M&A advisor comes in. By partnering with an M&A expert, they handle all the details of a deal, including due diligence, negotiations, marketing, vetting, and ensuring that you get the most value for your business. They also know how to navigate bumps in the process, and manage the expectations of all parties involved.

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The Global 100: Benchmark International's Steven Keane Named Best International Chairman of the Year

Benchmark International is pleased to announce that our chairman Steven Keane has been named Best International Chairman of the Year by the 2021 Global 100, which is comprised of the world’s leading firms and individuals with votes from global readers in more than 163 countries.

The purpose of the Global 100 is to provide its readers with a complete picture of the world’s true global leaders within their areas of specialty. The unique process follows a very strict format of self-submission and third-party nomination, with the winners then shortlisted based on a highly comprehensive set of criteria. The judging process assesses:

  • The strategic nature of work conducted
  • The complexity of work conducted
  • The scale of work conducted
  • Whether it was done in a timely manner and within budget
  • Any groundbreaking or innovative processes used

In their own words, the Global 100 provides “a benchmark of the very best of the best industry leaders, exemplary teams, and distinguished organizations.”

Our team proudly congratulates Steven Keane on earning such esteemed recognition, which is well deserved. Global CEO Gregory Jackson said, “With Steven’s outstanding leadership, Benchmark International is strongly positioned to continue to thrive and reach new milestones. This acknowledgment is further validation of how our dedication to being the very best in the business is a philosophy that permeates all levels of our team from the top down.”

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Why Leveraged Buyouts Are Making A Huge Comeback

The last time we saw leveraged buyouts (LBOs) occur with such frenzied speed and spending, it was during the years of 2006 and 2007, right before the financial crisis of 2008. As we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, interest rates remain low, and many business owners forced into survival mode are seeking exit opportunities. Plus, private equity firms are more than ready to spend the record levels of cash on which they have been sitting for quite some time.

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How Your Company Can Benefit From Cross-border M&A

Growing a company once it has reached a certain plateau of success can be challenging. Mergers and acquisitions are a powerful tool for boosting the growth of an existing company—especially cross-border M&A. As a business owner, you should consider the different ways your company can benefit from an international deal.

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Can It Be Too Early To Put My Business On The Market?

Timing the sale of a company can certainly be a tricky decision. You don’t want to sell too soon, and you don’t want to sell too late either. In both scenarios, you risk leaving money on the table if the timing isn’t right. So what is a business owner to do?

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Why 2021 Is A Seller’s Market

A Seller’s Market Versus a Buyer’s Market

In a seller's M&A market, excess demand for assets that are in limited supply gives sellers more power when it comes to pricing. Such demand can be generated and galvanized by circumstances that include a strong economy, lower interest rates, high cash balances, and solid earnings. Other factors that can instill confidence in buyers—leading to more bidders willing to pay a higher purchase price—include strong brand equity, significant market share, innovative technology, and streamlined distributions that are difficult to emulate or recreate from scratch.

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How Do I Get The Most Out Of My SaaS Company?

As the owner of a Software as a Service (SaaS) company, there are several strategic steps you can implement in order to drive growth and maximize the value of your business.

1. Expand Geographically

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Benchmark International's Steven Keane Named Chairman of the Year

The Benchmark International team is proud to announce that our chairman, Steven Keane, has been named International Chairman of the Year in the 2021 Global Business Awards given by Corp Today Magazine.

London-based Corp Today is a business enterprise magazine that focuses on emerging businesses and the world’s leading and fastest-growing companies, as well as their style of doing business and manner of delivering effective and collaborative solutions to strengthen market share. Their reader base consists of 138,000 C-level executives, VPs, Consultants, VCs, managers, and advisors.

The publication’s dedicated team of in-house researchers handpicked all of the 2021 winners based on merit and not popularity. Their stated goal is to recognize the best in the business.

We salute Steven for earning this prestigious recognition, as he certainly deserves it. CEO Gregory Jackson stated, “Steven’s exceptional leadership is a testament to the greatness that our company continually aspires to achieve, never settling for anything less than the very best. It’s just how we are wired at Benchmark International. Congratulations, Steven.”

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Selling Your Company? Beware Of Strangers Bearing Gifts

If you are considering selling your company, you should be aware of a certain menace that could have you in its crosshairs. There are direct buyers out there who intentionally prey on business owners, attempting to acquire a company by blindsiding its owner with big promises and, more importantly, taking advantage of their lack of guidance from a seasoned M&A professional. These buyers purposely look to avoid competition for a company because competition drives valuations higher, and they want to make an acquisition on the cheap—in addition to other shady maneuvers.

Bait & Switch
Some buyers will attempt to pull “bait & switch” tactics. To initially intrigue a seller, the buyer will present a high dollar amount. As they conduct due diligence and get the target more and more committed to the deal, they begin chipping away at the value until they reach a price and terms that are far more favorable for the buyer. This is typically an exhausting process for the seller and can lead to plenty of regret. If the deal falls apart, the seller may be reluctant to restart the process with another buyer, thinking the process will just be the same. In reality, it could have been completely different for the seller if they had a reputable M&A specialist on their side from the beginning.

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Top Questions Buyers Should Ask during Management Meetings When Acquiring a Company

As anyone who has ever done it before will tell you, buying a company is a process. It can take anywhere from a few months to a couple of years to complete. To reduce uncertainties and understand the business as much as possible, buyers must conduct thorough due diligence and ask the right questions. Finances, potential synergy, liabilities, customer relationships, and key employees are just a few areas that the buyer should consider.

Here are five essential questions buyers should ask during management meetings when acquiring a company.

1. Why is now the best time for you to sell your business?

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Benchmark International's Gregory Jackson Named CEO Of The Year

In the GAMECHANGERS (ACQ5) 2021 GLOBAL AWARDS, Gregory P. Jackson, CEO of Benchmark International, has been named CEO of The Year in the area of Corporate Finance.

The ACQ is a leading corporate news publication serving the sector since 2003, with a global audience of more than 261,000 subscribers. The GAMECHANGERS (ACQ5) GLOBAL AWARDS celebrate achievement, innovation, and brilliance, recognizing the world's most outstanding organizations and professionals.

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Benchmark International Named International Mid-Market Corporate Finance Advisory Of The Year

In the GAMECHANGERS (ACQ5) 2021 GLOBAL AWARDS, Benchmark International has been named the International Mid-Market Corporate Finance Advisory of The Year.

The ACQ is a leading corporate news publication serving the sector since 2003, with a global audience of more than 261,000 subscribers. The GAMECHANGERS (ACQ5) GLOBAL AWARDS celebrate achievement, innovation and brilliance, recognizing the most outstanding organizations and professionals in the world. 

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M&A Expectations After The Covid-19 Pandemic

It’s no surprise that the COVID-19 pandemic slowed M&A deal activity overall in 2020. According to data from PitchBook, more than 2,000 transactions closed for a value of $336.8 billion in Q2 of last year. That represents a 41 percent decline in the number of deals from Q1. Yet, deals did pick up in the second half of the year, which is likely to continue, as businesses are poised for improved economic conditions that leave COVID-19 in the rearview mirror.

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The Importance Of Being “Sale Ready”

As a business owner, maybe you haven’t given much thought to selling your company. Or maybe you’ve bounced the idea around but not too seriously. It’s pretty common for business owners to think, “I have years before I plan on selling my business. Why would I worry about that now?” Well, here’s the thing. Life is unpredictable. Just look at how prepared the world was for the COVID-19 pandemic. We think it’s safe to say that no business owner was prepared for that.

But being prepared for the unexpected isn’t the only reason that it is important to have your business in “sale ready” shape at all times, even if you’re not ready to sell. If the company is not in ready condition, it could cost you financially. And it goes beyond that. Always operating your company as if you are ready to sell accomplishes several very beneficial objectives. It ensures that you are operating at peak performance with a focus on profitability at all times, and it helps you avoid being too late to the game to make the necessary changes to be ready to sell. A person’s priorities in life can change quickly or even gradually over a span of years, and you might not have the time to correct any issues that would impact the valuation of your company and, ultimately, its sale price. It’s important to remember that properly preparing a company to go to market can take years. When push comes to shove, if you end up in a situation where you need to sell, not being ready can be a costly mistake.   

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Understanding Working Capital

Working capital, also referred to as net working capital, is the measure of a company's liquidity, operational efficiency, and short-term financial status. It is the difference between a business’s current assets, its inventory of materials and goods, and its existing liabilities. Net operating working capital is the difference between current assets and non-interest-bearing current liabilities. Typically, they are both calculated similarly, by deducting current liabilities from the current assets. So, essentially, if a business’s current assets total $500,000 and its current liabilities are $100,000, then its working capital is $400,000. But there are a few variations on the calculation formula based on what a financial analyst wants to include or exclude:

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Can I Put My Business On The Market Even Though I'm Not Actively Looking To Sell?

Maybe you’re not sure if you are ready to sell your business, but you’re curious about what you could learn if you put it on the market. You can always put your company on the market at any time, but you should understand the right way to do it, and everything that you need to consider.

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Benchmark International is Cleaning for a Cause in 2021

Benchmark International HQ is currently participating in the Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful initiative, specifically the Adopt-A-Road program for the next two years to promote environmental stewardship, team building, and to keep our city and streets beautiful. 

The Adopt-A-Road program is a great opportunity for corporations to give back to the community through stewardship of public right-of-ways, parks, and shorelines. Adoptions greatly enhance the appearance of our communities and go a long way in reducing litter and debris from entering our waterways and polluting the natural habitats of our native wildlife. 

The Tampa office has officially adopted the stretch of road from W Boy Scout Blvd/W Columbus Drive, and as part of the program, is responsible for at least four cleanups a year.

Recently, the Tampa office participated in its first official cleanup of 2021. There were 15 volunteers that split up into two teams that covered the two-mile stretch of road to pick up debris, enjoy the Florida sunshine and fresh air, and got to wear very fashionable safety vests and use trash grabbers.

The staff was able to enjoy an afternoon of team bonding, cleaning up for a good cause, and remembering in the process to keep Tampa beautiful.

The goal is to have the entire office volunteer over the year to get to know their team members more and again give back to an amazing cause.

Benchmark International is honored to be a part of this initiative and looks forward to the upcoming Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful cleanups in the months to come. Learn more about how you can support or get involved with Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful - https://www.keeptampabaybeautiful.org/

About Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful 

Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful is an environmental nonprofit organization. Our mission is to promote a culture of environmental stewardship through volunteer and educational opportunities. Our focus areas are conservation, waste reduction, and beautification. Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful provides a unique experience for individuals to make an impact in our community. We offer a variety of service projects to work with groups of all ages. 

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How To Announce An Acquisition

When a company is sold, it can have major effects on employees, customers, clients, and suppliers. Uncertainty stokes fear in most people, as they wonder about their security and their futures. Even top management can feel as though they failed at their jobs when the company is being bought out. For these reasons, it is important that the messaging and transition planning is handled very carefully and thoughtfully leading up to an acquisition—especially considering that the majority of acquisitions fall through. Announcing the news too early can cause widespread unrest over a deal that never happens

Communication is everything in this situation, but it needs to be planned. Before announcing a single word about the sale of the company, you should have a solid plan in place. A consistent message is critical and the distribution of the information should be carefully coordinated both internally and externally to avoid misinformation and confusion. Your plan should clearly outline intentions, steps, timelines and how the process will affect all parties. Predetermine what will be conveyed by whom and when. Figure out how to address questions that you are unable to answer and consider all potential scenarios for all parties involved. And always remember how critical confidentiality is during this time. You do not want details leaking to the press before you are ready to go public.  

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Why You Should Consider Private Equity

How Private Equity Works

Private equity firms raise financing from institutions and individuals and then invest those funds into the buying and selling of businesses. Once a pre-specified amount is raised, the fund closes to new investors and is liquidated. All of the fund’s businesses are sold within a set timeframe that is typically less than ten years. The more successfully a PE firm’s funds perform, the better its ability to raise money in the future.

PE firms do accept some limitations on their use of investments under fund management contracts, such as the size of any single business investment. Once the money has been committed, investors have nearly zero control over its management, unlike a public company’s board of directors. 

The leaders of the companies within a private equity portfolio are not members of the PE firm’s management. Private equity firms control its portfolio companies through representation on the boards of those companies. It is common for a PE firm to ask the CEO and other business leaders in their portfolios to invest personally. This offers a way to ensure their level of commitment and motivation. In return, the operating managers can get significant rewards that are linked to profits when the company is sold.

With large buyouts, PE funds usually charge investors a fee of around 1.5 to 2 percent of assets under management, plus 20 percent of all profits (subject to achieving a minimum rate of return). Fund mostly profit through capital gains on the sale of portfolio companies.

How Private Equity Improves Value

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Gamestop, Robinhood, And Drama On Wall Street

The free online trading app known as Robinhood has proclaimed to be “on a mission to democratize finance for all.” It was intended to open up the Wall Street stock market to the average American for investment “on their own terms,” with more easily digestible financial information readily available to novice investors. The app was designed to “let the people trade” and make the financial system more accessible for everyone, until things took quite a turn, all due to a fledgling brick and mortar video game retailer known as GameStop.

The amateur traders using Robinhood became pitted against the hedge fund honchos when they started buying up options and shares of GameStop (GME), enlarging those bets and also making large trades of other stocks, such as AMC Entertainment, Tootsie Roll, and BlackBerry.

How It All Happened

Professional hedge fund investors had been short selling shares of GameStop, essentially borrowing shares of stock to sell, and then buying them back later so they can return them. This lets them profit if the stock price drops (betting that the company will fail). If the stock does not continue to fall, investors are forced to cover their position or buy more stock to minimize their losses.

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2021 Is Here. Why You Should Sell Now

As a business owner considering the sale of your company, you may be asking yourself, “When is the right time to sell?” The answer is simple. The time is now.

The global recovery is underway, and 2021 has given us several reasons to be highly optimistic, and these reasons are why you should take action.

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2021 M&A Outlook

The Beginning of the End

The turbulent year of 2020 is finally in our rearview mirror. While so many lives have been lost and everyday life is still far from normal, effective vaccines for COVID-19 are being distributed, offering hope for a near-term end to the disruption we’ve endured for the past year.

Markets have begun to respond with optimism for the highly anticipated return to normal, but we’re not at the finish line quite yet. Mass distribution of the vaccine will take time, and people and businesses are still suffering as the virus is spreading at record-high levels and restrictions are being reinforced. This means that, yes, our world remains suspended in a state of uncertainty, but we have good reason to believe that the global economy will continue to recover, and mergers and acquisitions will lead the recovery. Research indicates that 53 percent of US executives plan to increase M&A investment in 2021. Some sectors have fared rather well during the pandemic. But how well—and how quickly—the overall economy recovers will depend on factors such as virus containment, fiscal and monetary policy, and inflation.

Virus containment remains the main priority for economic recovery to succeed. However, there are other possible risks to market performance. A lack of adequate policy support could occur due to concerns about mounting government debt. The technology conflict between the US and China is likely to continue even under a more traditional Biden administration, and the impacts are expected to take years to manifest. The decisions made by the two countries will affect regional economies and the businesses that operate within them. Other geopolitical factors could also shift investor attention away from recovery, but they are considered rather unlikely at this time.

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