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Webinar: How To Navigate A Deal With Private Equity Funds And Be Successful

For many sellers, the notion of selling the business they built from the ground up to a private equity fund is unimaginable. Many have heard horror stories from their friends, perhaps read books about the pitfalls of private equity buyers, and may even have some personal experiences. While dealing with private equity funds can be problematic for sellers, they often also are the best, most logical buyer. They are well-funded, so there is little risk the deal will fall through because of the inability to fund. Also, today’s private equity funds generally will leave their portfolio companies to operate free of interference, only offering support, guidance, and growth capital. However, if unrepresented by a capable M&A advisor, sellers can run into many problems in the midst of a transaction with a private equity fund. 

What are these pitfalls? Here are a few:

  • There’s a pronounced gap between what is expected from the fund as it relates to data and what is readily accessible from the seller. How do you bridge that gap?
  • Be aware that Private Equity math is very complicated. Will they bring leverage to the transaction? Where will that debt sit? Will it appropriately dilute their equity? What is a Net Working Capital Peg? How is it calculated? How can buyers use it to erode deal value?
  • How do you know that the deal being offered is competitive with what is out there in the market? PE Funds buy companies for a living, so they are very shrewd negotiators.
  • Due diligence in PE deals is very rigorous. While diligence is a fact of life in all deals, how do you know that a buyer's request is reasonable? How do you know that the timing of each diligence item won’t interfere with your business?

Fear not. An experienced and capable advisor can help you navigate through each of these obstacles. In this webinar, we will discuss the pros and cons of partnering with a Private Equity fund and pay particular attention to how best to handle the complexity these deals inevitably introduce.

Click here to Sign Up For the Webinar

Hosts:

Dara Shareef
Managing Director
Benchmark International

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Break Beyond Limitations – Become a Generalist

Although prior knowledge of how to approach a particular problem helps us to some extent, it can largely hinder our decision making process. Instinctively, the human mind causes us to succumb to second guessing ourselves and making a decision out of fear, rather than from intuitive knowledge. Additionally, the human mind also has a predisposition towards cultivating an inside-view during decision making. An inside view considers a problem based upon the surface level information of the specific task at hand, and makes predictions based upon the narrow set data points relative to the problem. Comparatively, an outside-view draws upon similar or even distant analogies to the problem at hand, by purposely setting aside information relative to the problem, in a conscious effort to minimize biases. 

We allow fear to control our actions and decision making. Sometimes, we may not even know it because we have done such a good job at convincing ourselves otherwise. We think of the future and obsess over adverse outcomes that can happen as a direct result of our actions. We are cautious and methodical, intentionally as to not make the “wrong decision.” This is how we involuntarily hedge our own personal risk. Often, this fear serves a constructive purpose, enabling us to safeguard our assets. But sometimes, this developed habit can act as a mental barrier to sound decision making when fear inhibits our ability to approach problems differently. Research suggests that approaching a problem with the same mindset developed from previous problems that are similar, may actuallyinhibit our ability to make the best decision or the correct valuation. Sounds counterintuitive doesn’t it? That’s because our brains are hardwired to draw upon our learned experiences when problems and solutions repeat. To approach a problem differently poses a risk, so naturally we develop a habit to approach the same problem in the same way despite how greatly the variables of each situation change. By critically evaluating past events, and applying previously learned knowledge gained from similar experiences, we are limiting our problem-solving abilities.

 

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The trouble in using no more than one analogy, particularly if it is a similar situation to the problem at hand, is that it does not help battle the inside view since we make judgement on the narrowed details that are the most apparent to us. The outside view is deeply counterintuitive because it causes the decision maker to ignore unique surface features of the current project, of which they are the expert.

In 2012, University of Sydney business strategy professor Dan Lovallo conducted an inside-view research study, to test the idea that drawing upon a diverse range of analogies would naturally lead to an outside view perspective and improve decisions. They recruited investors from large private equity firms who regularly consider potential projects in a variety of domains. The researchers believed that the investors’ expansive experience might have naturally lent itself to the outside view. The private equity investors were instructed to assess a real project they were currently working on and write down a batch of other investment projects they knew of with broad conceptual similarity. The results showed that the investors estimated a 50% higher return on their own project than the outside projects they had identified as conceptually similar. The investors initially judged their own projects, where they knew all the details, completely differently from similar projects to which they were outsiders. This is a widespread phenomenon – the more internal details you learn about any particular scenario, the more likely you are to say that the scenario you are investigating will occur. Therefore, the more internal details an individual can be made to consider, the more extreme their judgment becomes. The results of the study suggest that broad conceptual similarities should be considered when making a decision. In Range, author David Epstein argues that referencing distant analogies relative to the problem at hand, enables the highest rate of successful decision making. The outside view probes for deep structural similarities to the current problem relative to different problems. One way to achieve sound decision making is to develop self-awareness of the natural inclination to make self-proclaiming assumptions, and the limitations of becoming buried in details that may inhibit optimum decision making.

Additionally, possessing a diverse range of experiences enables the decision maker to be better prepared to approach any given problem with a broader mindset. With the work world changing faster than it did in the past, it is essential to broaden your specialty in order to optimize your decision making ability and expand your knowledge across a variety of domains. The people who make the biggest impact have a diverse background of prior experiences within their intellectual toolbox to draw upon when determining the best solution for a problem at hand. In 2016, LinkedIn conducted a study to analyze the career paths of 459,000 members to determine who would become an executive. One of the best predictors is the number of different job functions an individual had worked within a given industry. The study concluded that each additional job function provides a boost that, on average, is equal to three years of work experience. Therefore, to optimize your decision-making ability and create competitive advantage in the ever-changing workforce, take on new challenges and roles to strengthen your weakest abilities and become as well-rounded as possible. For us to be the best for our clients, we must approach each problem with a broad and open mind, while being cognizant of the transferability of our past experiences. Each experience has added value to who we are and has shaped our unique insight. The reward of learning a new skill develops new habits, strengthens the mind to overcome the fear of doing something new, and enables us to become the best version of ourselves for our clients.

 

Author
Jordan Stenholm 
Transaction Support Associate
Benchmark International

T: +1 813 898 2350
E: stenholm@benchmarkcorporate.com

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How A Sovereign Credit Downgrade Might Impact M&A Activity

While still managing to avoid a downgrade in April, South Africa has found itself at a crossroads of uncertainty since Moody’s Investors Service’s bleak budget reaction that sparked junk status fears for the country.

The speculation about the credit downgrade has been amplified by the fact that South Africa is in the middle of an election year – a factor that has also been blamed for a decrease in foreign investors’ confidence in the South African market.

An analysis of mergers and acquisitions (M&A) activity pre-and-post downgrades in Brazil and Greece suggest that although foreign investment will not end, investors do adapt their investment portfolios to align to the parameters of their investment mandates. 

Government bonds and treasury securities become largely un-investable instruments post a sovereign downgrade. However, statistics suggest that while capital outflows are a reality, some funds do remain behind in these countries, and new funds do flow in. These investments will naturally seek viable and alternative high-return investment opportunities – options often presented by M&A. One theory that emerges from this analysis is that mature economies have more stable but lower growth rates. While developed economies also represent a seemingly lower risk, they do not offer sufficiently high returns.

In order to achieve the required overall return on investment in a risk-on environment following a credit downgrade, fund managers will inevitably still require some form of investment in emerging markets.

 

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In order to understand the impact a credit downgrade has on M&A activity in a country, we compared M&A activity as reported by Zephyr, a Bureau van Dyk company that offers a database of deal information.  

We compared M&A activity before and after a credit downgrade in Brazil, which has a similar economy to South Africa due to slow growth and political instability in both countries, as well as in Greece. The raw data suggests that a catastrophic capital flight is unlikely because the sums invested may be lower and the investment profiles between the countries are different. But opportunity abounds and returns remain strong as there exists a direct correlation between risk and reward.

According to Trading Economics, Moody’s was the first to downgrade Brazil in September of 2014 for political and economic reasons. Fitch Ratings followed suit with a downgrade in April 2015. In July 2015, S&P downgraded the country too.

The Bureau van Dyk / Zephyr data looked only at transactions where the targets were Brazilian companies and considered deals that were both completed and announced each year. The transactions analysed include mergers, acquisitions, institutional buy-outs as well as venture capital and private equity.

It is evident from the data that the volume of transactions was relatively flat after the first downgrade by Moody’s in 2014. The volume of transactions decreased by approximately one-third after the remaining agencies downgraded the country in 2015.

While the total value of transactions reported also decreased, it is evident that the average transaction value in 2017 was similar to 2015.  For example, the average value per transaction in 2015 was R973 million and R929 million in 2017. On a cursory view, transaction values held up well after the Moody’s downgrade.

Analysing the data for Greece, which was downgraded in 2010, the following graph illustrates the effect on both volume and values reported by Bureau van Dyk over a similar period to Brazil.

The data illustrates a clear downward trend in M&A deal values over the period of the financial crisis in 2008, 2009 and well into 2010. While there was an initial slump in volumes and a slight decrease in value immediately after the downgrade in 2010, it is only 2017 that has subsequently underperformed the deal values as they were similar to levels seen in 2010. Again, the average deal size in the period following a downgrade is shown to have increased.

In conclusion

The data analysed makes no currency or inflation-related adjustments. And the data, being Euro-denominated, indicates that the M&A sector remained resilient even after credit downgrade events.

Although Moody’s did not downgrade South Africa to junk, the data from Greece and Brazil does indicate that deal flow will not evaporate should this happen. Volumes may initially drop but average deal values can be expected to increase.

While we continue to work to avoid it and acknowledge the punitive impact thereof, the statistical reality is that a downgrade is not likely to be as detrimental for the M&A sector as otherwise perceived.

 

Author
Andre Bresler
Managing Partner
Benchmark International

T: +27 (0) 21 300 2055
E: bresler@benchmarkintl.com

 

 

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M&A In The Global Mining Sector

The Role of Mining in the World

The global mining sector employs millions of people worldwide and its role in the global economy continues to significantly evolve. Standard functions in the mining industry include production of metals, and metals investing and trading. Additionally, there is a strong correlation between the global mining industry and other industries. For example, elements such as copper, nickel, and aluminum are core components used in the construction, aviation, automobile and other industries. In areas where mining is more concentrated, the industry plays a more important role in local economies.

According to the International Council on Mining and Metals, at least 70 countries are extremely dependent on the mining industry, and most low-income countries rely on it to survive. The same study shows that in many low-middle income countries, mining accounts for as much as 60-90% of total foreign direct investment.

Increased populations and urbanization drive the demand for growth in mining activities, as there is more demand for cars, buildings, and consumer products.

 

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M&A Challenges and Considerations

Mergers and acquisitions can be intense in the global mining industry. They are heavily influenced by timing, fluctuating commodity prices, supply uncertainties, and come with many variables depending on transaction size, volatile markets, and the geo-location of the mine. There are certain considerations that are unique to the industry:

  • Mining projects can have limited lifecycles depending on the availability of deposits.
  • Mines cannot be relocated to areas that may be more beneficial economically or politically.
  • Because there are great technological and geological constraints, mining companies are not able to adjust production to increase revenue.
  • Funding is less readily available, access to bank financing is limited, and investors tend to be more cautious and selective.
  • Countries may have greater government regulations, and indigenous mining agreements designed to mitigate negative effects and to share the benefits from commercial mining activity.
  • In some parts of the world, there are human rights concerns, increased policing for corruption, and environmental impacts.
  • Once the ore is extracted, mine closure procedures can take several years, in turn, expending money and labor for activities that are not yielding any profits during that time frame.

Gold Mining Sector 

The gold mining industry is known for placing a high premium on growth. As of 2019, analysts reported that the leaders of gold mining companies say that they find mergers and acquisitions to be an easier path to growth than exploring for new untapped deposits underground. Modern M&A deals in the business of gold mining now focus more on capital efficiency and operational excellence, with heavy emphasis on evaluation of the management team.

Copper Mining Sector 

Copper is an essential metal needed by industrial economies. Globally, the copper mining industry is one of the leading metal mining markets. The continued innovations in battery technology continue to attract investment into metals such as copper, which plays a critical component in the function of batteries.

Coal Mining Sector

Coal has been widely used to provide power since the Industrial Revolution in the 1800s. In the 21stcentury, coal mining faces new challenges alongside the pursuit and popularity of renewable energy sources. At the same time, innovation in the coal mining industry remains alive. New, state-of-the-art technologies are being developed. Sophisticated robotic mining machinery and computerized systems are being used to streamline mining and boost production to unprecedented levels. And industry leaders are looking into new uses for coal beyond its long-standing role in the energy sector. An example is the development of carbon fiber, currently used in the aerospace field, and potentially used in prosthetics, electrodes, 3D printers, and more.

 

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Shared Buyer and Seller Risk

In the mining sector, both buyers and sellers alike face risks of deal failure, but are more likely to see success if a strategic plan is followed. Two of the most important factors are pricing efficiency and post-sale integration. Both buyers and sellers tend to be more cautious in this industry.

  • Sellers should expect buyers to be on the lookout for the risk overpaying for your company, not being able to integrate the company as efficiently as possible, and dealing with issues such as uninsured legacy liabilities. Buyers may become interested in underperforming assets because they have more experience and access to financing that the existing owner, as well as better government relationships, a different risk profile, and the option of consolidation with existing mines or facilities.
  • Sellers risk facing purchase price disputes and post-deal issues with warranty and indemnity claims. Plus, fluctuating markets, especially in mineral-rich regions such as Africa, can make valuation difficult.

If proper precautions are taken to understand and avoid these issues, overpayment or post-close surprises can be averted. Other benefits that come with proper preparation include improved sale and purchase agreements, smoother integration, and more efficient corporate governance. Enlisting experienced M&A advisors as early on in the process as possible can aid in significant mitigation of transactional risks.

Contact Us

Please feel free to call us at Benchmark International to set up a conversation with one of our M&A specialists if you are thinking about selling a business. We look forward to discussing how we can help you with growth strategies, exit planning, or any type of transaction advice you may need.  

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M&A In The Hotel, Lodging & Hospitality Industry

Hotel and hospitality brands have an insatiable appetite for rapid growth and there is an endless ongoing battle for global share. Because the industry is highly fragmented and brand driven (the top hotel brands only account for a third of rooms worldwide), mergers and acquisitions are always on the table as a key growth strategy. Since 1985, there have been more than 13,800 deals in the hotel and lodging industry, valued at $809 billion.

Studies have shown that, on average, lodging M&A is unique versus those in other industries because both the target and acquirer are better off following a merger.

Hotel M&A Value Drivers

There are several value drivers when it comes to hotel brand M&A.

  • Strategic value drivers include more customer offerings, the creation of new markets, and further reach into existing markets.
  • Operational value drivers include factors such as expanded loyalty programs, consolidated corporate teams, and improved technologies and reservation systems.
  • Additional key value drivers of a hotel brand include the integrity of its global trademark portfolio, and the value of both existing and potential management/franchise agreements and real estate portfolios.

 

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Clearing Hurdles in Hospitality M&A

It is not uncommon for various issues to arise during M&A transactions between hospitality companies. However, taking the proper steps can alleviate these concerns.

Clarify intellectual property.

Portfolio expansion through the acquisition of additional brands is a major reason for many M&A transactions within the hotel sector. In these cases, the target company's ownership of its intellectual property is very important to buyers, so it is just important to sellers. This is where third-party ownership claims can arise as an issue in a transaction. If a hotel brand shares valuable restaurants or other brands with a third party, and there is any chance that the third party could claim ownership of any interest in the brand, it can significantly devalue the brand and the target company. Ownership agreements must be adequately and clearly documented before entering into an M&A transaction. It is going to be crucial to the accurate valuation of the company.

Protect your data. 

Technology is integral to every step of the hotel booking process, which is why, as a seller, you can expect buyers in M&A transactions to heed the risks and liabilities surrounding the target company's data protection and cybersecurity practices, and its compliance with governmental regulations. There are web and mobile bookings, check-ins, complicated reservation systems, and even customer review websites to consider. Due diligence in regard to detailed data protection and cybersecurity at length is imperative. In order for a target company to maximize its value, management should thoroughly review its current compliance with existing regulations and take all precautions to ensure best practices are in place to minimize exposure to potential data breaches.

 

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Minimize withdrawal liability. 

Large hoteliers and hospitality companies typically have unionized employees covered by collective bargaining agreements that require contributions to one or more multi-employer plans. Withdrawal liability can occur when an employer has a significant reduction in union workforce, a complete union workforce reduction, or a withdrawal of all employees from a pension plan as a result ofthe event of a change in management or a sale of a hotel. Labor laws vary by country, but it should still be noted that there could be issues with determining whether the hotel owner or manager is the employer by legal definitions in that reason (for example, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 [ERISA], in the United States). Multiemployer plans have the ability to disagree with who is considered the employer, and assess withdrawal liability on the party it determines is the employer. To mitigate the risk of withdrawal liability, all parties should consider who is the employer for labor law purposes, and who bears the liability under the management agreement.

Contact Us

Working with an experienced M&A advisor is a game-changer in minimizing risk and closing a successful deal. We look forward to hearing from you about your interest in M&A as a seller of a company in any industry. Our global M&A experts are waiting for your call.

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10 Facebook Pages About M&A To Follow

Benchmark International

@BenchmarkCorporate

Benchmark International is a leading worldwide M&A advisory firm that specializes in the lower to middle markets. On the company's Facebook page, you will find regularly updated news and information regarding the organization and its involvement in the world, as well as relevant topics and insightful articles regarding different industries, topics in M&A, and additional useful information for entrepreneurs, business owners, business buyers, and anyone eager to learn more about M&A.

 

M&A Leadership Council

@MALeadershipcouncil

The M&A Leadership Council is a global alliance of companies and experts in everything related to mergers & acquisitions, including best practices, training and certification, resources, and information about M&A companies. Their Facebook page offers a nice compilation of content that is relevant to people working in M&A, as well as CEOs and business owners, and it keeps followers updated on interesting events.  

 

The Middle Market

@themiddlemarket

This M&A-focused page offers breaking news, in-depth commentary, and helpful analysis about deal making in the burgeoning middle market. It is frequently updated with information regarding current deals that are being made or have been made, and articles that focus on other happenings in certain industries, as well as M&A events.

 

Entrepreneur

@EntMagazine

This popular publication caters specifically to entrepreneurs and topics relevant to them, offering tips, tools, and insider news to help businesses grow. Here you will find occasional articles regarding M&A news and insights mixed in with a wealth of other quality information that is relevant to business leaders.

 

Institute for Mergers, Acquisitions & Alliances

@imaa.institute

IMAA is a global, non-profit M&A think tank and educational provider. They offer M&A trainings and workshops for executives worldwide, and offer the only globally oriented M&A Certificate Program. Their Facebook page is frequently updated with information and coverage regarding their events, as well as news and opinions on M&A from around the world.

 

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Harvard Business Review

@HBR

Founded in 1922, Harvard Business Review promotes smart management thinking for business professionals worldwide through reliable insights and best practices, with the ultimate goal of making leadership more effective. Their Facebook content spans a myriad of business-related topics and news, including happenings in the world of M&A.

 

Morningstar, Inc. 

@MorningstarInc

With a mission to power investor success, Morningstar is a top provider of independent investment research in North America, Europe, Australia, and Asia. It provides data and research insights on a range of investment offerings, including managed investment products, publicly listed companies, private capital markets, and real-time global market data, and their Facebook page reflects these related topics.

 

Investopedia

@Investopedia

For 20 years, Investopedia has provided educational information on complex financial concepts, investing, and money management. While not exclusive to M&A, on their Facebook page you will find a variety of topics covered that are relevant to businesses of all types, stocks and the economy, including articles that delve into mergers, acquisitions, trends, and historical transactions.

 

CNBC International

@cnbcinternational

The self-proclaimed "home of all things money" network is a leading business and financial news organization that reports stories from around the world. Here you can access real-time market coverage and news related to careers, entrepreneurship, leadership, personal finance, and mergers and acquisitions.

 

Seeking Alpha

@Seekingalpha

Seeking Alpha is a substantial worldwide investing online community, and their Facebook page is a great extension of their online presence. The platform connects millions of investors and money managers every day regarding news and investment ideas. They handpick articles and podcasts from the world's top market blogs, money managers, financial experts, and investment newsletters, publishing approximately 250 articles daily. 

 

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Contact one of our analysts if you are ready to start a conversation about M&A for your business.

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A Trip Back in Time: M&A 20 Years Ago

The year was 1999. The world was transforming thanks to new technologies, and society was bracing for what Y2K and the millennium bug might bring. The popularity of the Internet was skyrocketing, and home computers were becoming a necessity rather than a luxury. Napster, Blackberry, Tivo, and Bluetooth were introduced. The "Melissa" E-mail Virus infected millions of computers and caused more than $80 million in damage globally. The Euro currency was established in 11 countries. The cost of a gallon of gas was $1.22. Bill Gates became the wealthiest man on earth, and Jeff Bezos was named Time Person of the Year. But what about the world of mergers and acquisitions twenty years ago?

1999 M&A in Review

The year 1999 was known as the year of the hostile deal. Strategic refocusing of companies was at an all-time high. Companies were motivated to act quickly to fend off larger rivals. The philosophy was that the bigger a company became, the more dominant it would be in the market.

  • Total worldwide mergers and acquisitions grew from $286.9 billion in 1991 to $3.2 trillion in 1999, with a total of 24,436 transactions that year.
  • Also in 1999, worldwide hostile deals reached more than $473 billion in dollar volume representing more than 14% of all announced worldwide deal value.
  • There were 9,192 M&A transactions valued at $1.4 trillion in the U.S alone, including 15 hostile deals valued at $112.7 billion.
  • Deals valued at over a billion dollars increased from 13 in 1991 to 194 in 1999.
  • There were 47 transactions valued at more than $10 billion worldwide in 1999.

 

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Making M&A History

Several of the biggest M&A deals in history took place in the years 1999 and 2000.

  • Vodafone AirTouch of Britain negotiated the hostile $183 billion merger of Mannesmann of Germany. This all-stock transaction set a record for a corporate takeover.
  • Also in 1999, Exxon and Mobil merged to become an energy industry superpower.
  • In January of 2000, America Online's announced the $165 billion purchase of Time Warner.
  • The same year, Pfizer acquired Warner-Lambert for $90 million, creating the second-largest drug company in the world.

These four deals are among the world's largest mergers of all time. 

Tech & Communications Revolution

The years of the mid to late 1990s were an economic game-changer. The tech and communications revolution certainly had a major impact on M&A activity. It stimulated the globalization of markets by improving cross-border communications and transactions, and it enhanced capabilities in modeling cash flows and structuring transaction scenarios. It also resulted in a boom in new business launches and the reimagining of established businesses.

1999 was the height of the Information Age, and the dot-com tech bubble was fatter than ever. Markets were booming. Dot-com startups were going public. Online shopping was becoming an actual thing. People were quitting their jobs to engage in full-time day trading and personal investing. We saw the rising popularity of online companies such as eBay, Amazon, Yahoo!, AOL, Match.com, and WebMD.

Of course, the bubble burst, leading to the early 2000s recession. Many online companies went under, and other major corporations lost a large portion of their market cap. Pets.com lost a whopping $1.75 trillion in value only nine months after its IPO.

Unfortunately, the dot-com crash also led to the telecoms market crash of 2001. Telecom providers over-invested in their networks, and mobile phone companies overspent on 3G licenses. The high levels of infrastructure investments were out of proportion to cash flow, and increased competition led many telecoms providers to slash prices for services, especially in the European market. Within one year, 100,000 jobs were lost in telecoms support and development across Europe.

Now vs. Then

The recession in the early 2000s cooled M&A activity for obvious reasons. The good news is that 2019 has actually been the most dynamic year for M&A activity since the year 2000, driven by a surge in North American deals. CEO confidence is on the rise, and investors are showing a willingness to take risks.

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How & When To Explain To Your Employees That You Are Selling Your Business

You’ve decided to sell your company, but when is the right time to tell your employees? And what is the right way to tell them? The conversation may not be easy, but if you follow a few simple guidelines, you can ensure that you handle it to the best of your ability.

Have a Plan

You should already have an exit strategy in place when you are selling your business, but that is your own personal exit plan. You should also think about how the process will affect employees. Develop a clear timeline of how you expect the deal to progress and when you will meet with your staff about it. You do not want to come across as confused and unsure about the process. The more confident you are in explaining it, the more confident they will be about it being a good plan for them as well. You may also want to consider when to introduce the new owner. By having the staff meet the new boss, you can dispel a great deal of anxiety. The best time to do this is AFTER the deal is done, in the event that the deal falls through. Otherwise, you are introducing them to someone irrelevant, adding confusion and instability. 

Wait Until the Deal is Done

It can be tempting to share your plans with employees early in the process. But if you disclose your plans too soon, you are opening yourself up to risks that can tank a deal. Employees can get scared into finding another job. Vendors and clients can get nervous and jump ship. These are all scenarios that are not in your best interest, as the health of your business is an essential aspect of a sale. By waiting until a deal is in place, you can avoid telling your employees false information when things are still subject to change.

 

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Tell Management First

Depending on the size of your business, you will likely want to inform key management before telling anyone else in the organization. They are going to need to fully understand the transition because you are going to need their support. They can help you maintain clarity when employees go to them with questions. If management is clear on what is going to happen, they can keep employees calm and properly informed.

Be Accessible

Once you’ve made the announcement, you must remain proactive in answering employees’ questions. It can also be important that they hear any news directly from you versus rumors around the water cooler.

Provide Written Communication

By creating a document that outlines pertinent points about the deal and the transition, employees can reference it following the announcement if they do not recall something. It also provides them with something concrete so that you are not leaving details up to their imagination.

Do Not Overpromise

Once you sell the company, you will no longer have control over what happens in the day-to-day business operations. It is important to express to your employees that you care about their futures and that you took the proper steps of protecting them when brokering the deal with the new owner. However, you want to avoid making promises that you will not be around to honor.

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5 Things Sellers Wish They Had Known Before Selling Their Business

You’ve decided to sell your business. Congratulations! Whether you are retiring, looking to embark on a new business adventure, or wanting to hand off the reins and take a different role in the company, the process of selling a business can be a trying one without the correct preparation and support. Fortunately for you, you can learn from other entrepreneurs who have been in your shoes and have shared the five things that they wish they had known before selling their business.

1) Neglecting to perform pre-transaction wealth planning can result in you potentially leaving a lot of money on the table. Before you sell, consider your family members’ wishes and concerns. Communicating with family members before the sale can help ensure smooth sailing through the deal negotiations. Effective tax-planning to support family members’ needs, philanthropic plans, or creating family trusts can help increase the value gained from the transaction.

2) Don’t underestimate the importance of a good cultural fit with a buyer. While the price is always at the forefront of a sellers’ mind, cultural fit can mistakenly be pushed to the back burner. One of the many things that you have worked hard to create in your business is the employee culture. Most likely, you want to see the close-knit “family” that you have built continue when you are no longer working there. Benchmark International understands that and will help you find that partner. We remain committed along with you to your goal of finding a buyer who will carry on your legacy.

 

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3) Skimping on your marketing materials does not pay off in the long run. With confidentiality being of the utmost importance, how can you engage buyers without them knowing who you are? Preparing a high-quality, 1-2 page teaser that provides an anonymous profile of your business is the tool used to locate a buyer confidentially. This is followed by the Information Memorandum, with an NDA that is put in place for your protection. Benchmark International will prepare these high-quality documents and put your mind at ease.

4) Sellers wish they had known how detail-oriented the process would be, how many documents would be needed, and how labor-intensive each phase would be. One of the most crucial pieces of advice that the majority of sellers wish they had known is that you need to have a team. Sellers need to continue running their business as they were before, or operations can really start to slow. The last thing you want is for the value of your company to take a nosedive because you are investing all of your time into a transaction. With the team at Benchmark International as your partner dedicated to the M&A process, you will be free to continue to focus on the growth and operations of your business. We will handle the details for you.

5) Finding a like-minded partner can give a seller a false sense of security that the transition from two companies to one will be easy. You need a trusted advisor that will help you navigate the complexities of integration, giving you insight on some of the other intangibles that need to be negotiated. Those intangibles include the details of your role after the sale, employment contracts, earnouts, etc. With Benchmark International’s vast knowledge and experience in M&A deals, we know what is usual and customary to request throughout the negotiation process and will bring more value to your transaction.

Congratulations again, this is an exciting time for you! With the right partner, it can be a smooth and profitable process as well. Benchmark International has a team of specialists that arrange these types of deals every day. We can answer your questions and help you determine what is best for you, your business, and your exit plan. A simple phone call or email to us can start the process today and move you one step closer to accomplishing your goals.

 

Author
Amy Alonso 
Associate
Benchmark International

T: +1 615 924 8522
E: alonso@benchmarkcorporate.com

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Where Will Lower-middle Market M&A Be In A Year From Now?

The Current Market

The lower-middle market has remained positive for sellers in 2019, thanks to an abundance of buyers that are giving sellers the leverage to demand favorable terms. Most business sectors are seeing strong profits, and the bullish optimism of large-cap investors has spilled over into lower and middle markets. This has resulted in heightened interest and aggressive valuation and buying from private equity firms.

There are several patterns have carried over into 2019 from a very active year in 2018.

• M&A activity has been especially strong in the healthcare and technology industries.

• Acquisitions remain a popular strategy for companies needing talent to keep up with growth.

Buy-and-build strategies are proven to be working.

• Emerging markets are being attractively valued, especially in the Asia Pacific region.

• Competition for high-quality targets is intense, particularly for businesses that are owned by the rapidly growing retiring population.

• Small business confidence is strong, resulting in increased investment by owners.

What Lies Ahead

The world faces potential changes in the political landscape as the United States 2020 presidential election nears, Britain is under new leadership through the Brexit transition, and the global economy navigates significant political unknowns in the wake of trade deals and tariffs. However, the United States election takes place near the end of 2020, which could possibly stave off any significant effects on the economy until the year 2021.

 

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

While no one can ever be certain what the future holds, we still see the benefits of a strong year midway through 2019, yet the lower-middle market has the potential to become more complicated in 2020. The current bullish market is strong but is expected to lose momentum based on the average amount of time that historical highs have been proven that they can be sustained. Many experts warn of a downturn in the economy next year, predicting that a recession is looming. In contrast, some experts expect M&A activity to remain robust regardless of the economy.

Obviously, uncertainty in the marketplace can impede M&A activity. But a recession does not necessarily mean that selling will be impossible. The variables that drive lower-middle market M&A include:

• Lending capacity: The less money a buyer can borrow, the less money they may want to spend.

• Cost of capital: The cheaper a buyer can borrow, the more money they may want to spend.

• Buyer access to equity capital: Strong profits and surplus cash motivate activity.

• Supply and demand for deals: Aging populations entering retirement and business succession plans, strategic buyers focusing on growth, etc.

In the lower-middle market, buyers and lenders both tend to stay much more disciplined regarding their willingness to lend, cost at which they lend, and returns they target. Buyers will be seeking targets with stability, limited cyclical exposure, a business model with recurring revenue, and a history of performing well through a recession.

Should You Sell Now?

The good news is that there is still time before a possible slump in activity and optimism. If you are looking to sell your business, you may have another 12 to 18 months to benefit from the premiums today’s sellers are getting. Keep in mind; it does not mean that after this time is over, you will not be able to sell. Companies are always looking to grow through acquisitions, and the market is always changing. You do not need to feel completely discouraged by any economic slowdown.

Consider how long you are willing to wait to sell your business if the market were to drop. If you do not plan to sell within around five years or more, you can wait patiently for the next market rebound. But if you are determined to sell in the next couple of years, it may be wise to get serious about your exit strategy while conditions are still favorable. Think about what is right for you, your business, and your family when deciding when to make a move.

Contact Us

Our business acquisition experts at Benchmark International can offer exit planning advice and help you plan a solid transition for your company. We will use all the tools at our disposal to get you the maximum selling price while preserving your vision for the future. We can also help if you are looking to buy a business. Contact us today.

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15 Smart Tips On Exit Planning

15. Decide the Company's Future

Before planning your exit strategy, you must decide the future course for your business. Do you plan to sell outright? Would you prefer that the company stay within family ownership? Do you want to retain a percentage stake in the company? Is there an employee that you would want to take over? Could a merger or an acquisition be the best move? This is a key decision to consider before embarking on your exit plan.

14. Set a Date

It's never too early to think about when you plan to retire. This need not be an exact date on the calendar, but you should establish a ballpark timeframe that you would like to put the wheels in motion for your exit. Having an idea of the timing will help you get the process started at the right time, whether it's two years from now or 20 years down the road, especially because most transactions take time.

13. Plan for Continuity

If your business will be changing hands when you retire, you should have a solid plan in place for maintaining the continuity of the company's operation. Both employees and customers alike will need to feel that the future is secure, and you should be able to reassure them through a clear strategy for the transition.

12. Use Diversity to Minimize Risk

The more diversity you have in your client and supplier bases, the more attractive and less precarious your business will be to potential buyers. They are going to need to have confidence that the business can grow, rather than falling apart if the sale results in the loss of one or two key clients.

11. Think Big Picture

It is not uncommon for a business owner to get wrapped up in the day-to-day details of running the company to the point where they lose sight of the bigger picture. It is a good idea to take a step back and consider where you want your business to be in the future, how you plan to get it there, and when your exit fits into that plan.

 

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

 

10. Create Your Dream Team

Having a strong management team in place is crucial to any successful exit strategy. Whoever is taking the reins is going to be a significant factor whether you are selling the business to an outside party or bequeathing it to family or an employee. It will also help you rest easier about leaving the company in someone else's hands.

9. Get Your Financials in Order

Before you can broker a sale or transfer ownership or control, you will need to organize financial statements, valuation data, and other important documents about the business. If you are planning to sell, buyers will expect to see thorough documentation about the business operations, profits, losses, projections, liabilities, contracts, real estate agreements (pretty much anything and everything regarding the company).

8. Know Your Target

If you plan to sell your company, you are obviously going to want a buyer who has the financial capacity to take on your business. But money is not the only thing that you should be seeking. You want a buyer who shares your values and your vision for the company. They also should possess the right skill set to maintain the company's success and even grow that success. You should not waste your time with a prospective buyer that doesn't have the chops to take the business in the right direction.

7. Always Listen

Even if you feel it is too soon to sell and someone is reaching out to you, it is always wise to hear him or her out. It could result in a meaningful relationship that can be beneficial in the future. They could also reveal some things about your company that you have not yet considered, sparking new ideas and opportunities in the realm of business acquisitions.

6. Devise Practical Earn-outs

If you plan on getting additional payment as part of the sale of your business based on the achievement of certain performance metrics, be realistic about setting these goals. Falling short of these targets can result in less money for you and enhanced leverage for the buyer.

5. Get Your Tech in Order

Today nearly everything is powered by technology. You use it to help you get organized, but you also run the risk of letting things fall through the cracks. Think about all the logins and passwords that give you access to things that run the business. Establish a plan to streamline your tech while keeping it secure for a transition in management. There are enterprise cyber-security management solutions that can assist with these matters.

4. Know Your Number

Have you asked yourself, "What is my business worth?" When you understand the precise valuation of your business, you will be able to ascertain the difference between a fair sale and a bad deal, and get the money you deserve. This includes a company analysis married with a market analysis. You should enlist the help of an M&A expert to determine the valuation of your business accurately. It is worth it to ensure that you get your maximum value.

Feeling unfulfilled? Explore your options...

 

3. Put it on Paper

Having the proper paperwork drawn up for legal purposes is important in the event that something were to happen to you so that you can convey your plans and wishes for the business. The task of creating this safety net will also help you plan more clearly for the future. Sometimes there are details you may overlook until you go to put it all on paper. You should outline your plan and make sure any necessary signatures are on file.

2. Assess the Market

Markets fluctuate and can change at any given time. But if you carefully evaluate your industry's outlook and growth projections, you can time your exit strategy for when you can get the most value for your company. If the outlook is not trending toward optimism, you can take the time to consider how you can bolster the value of your business and make it more desirable in the future.

1. Partner With an Advisor

Valuating and selling a company is not easy. Neither is planning an exit strategy. Seeking the help of experts such as an M&A advisory firm can take an enormous weight off of your shoulders. It can also ensure that the exit process goes smoothly, stays on track, and achieves your specific objectives for both you and the company.

Benchmark International can help you establish your exit strategy and broker the sale of your company so that you get every last penny that you are worth. Call us to get the process started. Even if you are not 100% sure that you are ready to plan your exit, we can help you devise strategies to grow your business in the meantime.

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Selling Your Business: Expectations vs. Reality

When business owners begin the process of selling their business, they may have expectations about the sale process. These expectations can be based on what they have read, what their friends have told them, and what their own needs are. However, the reality of selling a business can be very different from the expectations.

Timing

Sellers tend to think that a buyer will appear at their doorstep ready to transact a deal when, in reality, that is not the case. The sale of a business is a very time-consuming process. M&A transactions can take anywhere from 6 months to a few years to complete, pulling a seller away from the company, which can affect the financial performance and valuation of the business. Hiring an M&A advisor can help take some of the time burdens off of the seller.

Buyers

In our experience, it never surprises us who the buyer is at the end of the day. However, many sellers believe that their perfect buyer is international or a larger company. Again, this is not the reality of it. The ideal buyer may be right down the street or even a member of the seller's management team. When considering selling a business, a business owner needs to seek an advisor or sale process which will provide them with options when it comes to buyers. Not only does this drive up valuations, but it also allows the seller to choose the buyer that is the best fit for their company.

 

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

Business Condition

Sellers often assume that their business needs to be in the perfect shape to sell it. Sellers will typically share that they want their business to show year over year growth or a more diversified customer base. While these changes might make the business more attractive to the market, buyers buy companies for different reasons. For example, if a buyer is seeking to acquire a company to gain a relationship with a particular company, then that buyer will see a concentrated customer base as a good thing. Also, sellers will work hard to groom their business and miss out on opportunities within the open market. They work for years to grow their business, only to have the market shift and have their business not gain any additional value. The best tie to sell a business is now. We understand what's going on in the market, both from a micro and macro level, and we are not trying to predict the future.


Answer to Questions

The sale process can be very nerve-racking for sellers because of the unknowns. Sellers often expect their advisors and or buyer will be able to answer all of their questions. However, this is not the case. The sale process is just that, a process. Business owners need to go through the process to discover all the answers to their questions. Buyers are eager to get sellers comfortable with deals, integrations, and any other areas of concern for sellers. An M&A Advisor will be able to guide sellers on when they should have answers to their questions. If the answers are unknown, the M&A advisor can help guide the seller to provide comfort based on the advisor's experience.


Deal Structure

A lot of sellers assume that the majority of deals are structured as all cash transactions. All cash transactions mean when the sale closes, the seller will receive his or her money, and the buyer gets the key to the operations, allowing the seller to leave immediately. However, this scenario is a rare occurrence. Typically, a seller is required to remain with the company for 3-5 years to help with transitioning the business. Sellers in lower middle market deals tend to be critical to their company because processes are rarely formalized, and the relationships that sellers hold are key. Given the time frame for a transaction, the buyer will want to incentivize the seller to remain motivated post-closing. To achieve this goal, the buyer will want to structure the deal so that the seller has an interest in the smooth transfer and future success of the business.

 

Author
Kendall Stafford  
Managing Partner
Benchmark International

T: +1 512 347 2000
E: Stafford@benchmarkcorporate.com

 

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Should You Hire An M&A Advisor To Sell Your Business?

That’s an easy answer. YES! You absolutely should hire an M&A advisor to sell your business. Here’s why.

It’s Not Easy

The process of selling a company is guaranteed to be complicated. While an accomplished attorney or accountant can help, you are going to need a true expert intermediary to handle the entire venture if you are serious about selling and getting the best possible deal.

Consider the seemingly endless amount of work that needs to be done.

• Data and documentation must be produced and organized, stretching back several years to a decade. This is going to include financials, vendors, contracts, and so much more. Do not underestimate how overwhelming the paperwork will be.

• Potential buyers will need to be identified and vetted. A good M&A advisor has access to connections and a knowledge base that you would otherwise never have, opening up an entirely new realm of potential buyers. This process will include a fair share of phone calls, emails, and face-to-face meetings, all of which add up to be very time-consuming.

• You are going to need an experienced negotiator that knows how to maximize your business value and lay the groundwork for getting you what you want. This means knowing how to push a deal forward while providing you with peace of mind that things are on the right track. This also means creating a competitive bidding landscape.

Get Peace of Mind

Selling your business is not a process that should be taken lightly. Countless decisions will need to be made. Consider the reality of what is going to be required and embrace the fact that you cannot shoulder the burden and run your company. Make sure you can sleep at night. Find an M&A advisor that will find you the right buyer, deal with the minutiae, and get the job done—all while sharing your vision for the company, as well as your exit strategy.

They Can Get You More Money

It is also important to note that an M&A advisor is more likely to get you more money. Research shows that private sellers receive significantly higher acquisition premiums when they retain advisors, in the range of six to 25%. Additional research shows that 84% of mid-market business owners who hired an M&A advisor reported that the final sale price for their business was equal to or higher than the initial sale price estimate provided. After all, they know how to value a company properly.

Another benefit of having an M&A advisor is that it shows buyers that you are a serious seller. As a result, hiring an M&A advisor can help drive up your company valuation and get you more favorable terms.

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

What to Look for in an M&A Advisor

Enlisting the guidance of the wrong advisor can be disastrous. The last thing you want is to end up in negotiations with someone who does not have your wants and needs in mind at all times. Even worse, they can slow down the process and cost you a fortune. When making this decision, know what to look for:

• You want an advisor that understands you, your company, and what you expect to achieve from the sale.

• Consider their experience in your sector, as well as their geographic connections, and how that can work for your business. Global connections are especially helpful. And do they usually work with businesses that are around the same size as yours?

• They will adequately prepare you and manage your expectations.

• They will work diligently to find the RIGHT buyer, not just the easiest or the richest.

• They should be honest, and you should trust them because they have demonstrated that they are worthy of it.

• Their track record will speak for itself. A quality business acquisition advisor is going to have a proven reputation, client testimonials, credentials, and accolades.

• Also, ask if they use any proprietary technologies or databases and how it helps them gain insight into specific industries.

Take your time in evaluating potential advisors. A good firm will patiently accommodate your process. You are going to be working closely with them through a grueling journey, so you will want to feel comfortable with their team and confident that they will work around the clock to get you the most favorable results possible.

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6 Books About Growing A Business That You Should Read

Growing a Business

By Paul Hawken

In this book, Paul Hawken explains how a successful business is an expression of the individual behind it, along with practical advice, common sense, and down-to-earth ideas. Even though it was written 30 years ago, it remains an excellent and very relevant read, backed by the fact that the author’s own companies are still successful after all these years.

 

Organizational Physics - The Science of Growing a Business 

By Lex Sisney

The author of this book spent more than a decade leading and coaching high-growth technology companies. In his work, he discovered that companies that thrive do so in accordance with six universal principles. The book covers a blend of important business and entrepreneurial topics in a manner that stands out from other business books.

 

Profit First: Transform Your Business from a Cash-Eating Monster to a Money-Making Machine

By Mike Michalowicz

In this book, the author offers principles to simplify accounting and easily manage a business through analysis of bank account balances. The theory is that a small, profitable business can be more valuable than a large business surviving on its top line, and those that achieve early and sustained profitability have a better chance of maintaining long-term growth.

 

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

 

Explosive Growth: A Few Things I Learned While Growing To 100 Million Users - And Losing $78 Million

By Cliff Lerner

This best seller provides step-by-step instructions, case studies and proven tactics on how to explode business growth. It reveals the detailed growth frameworks that propelled the author’s small online dating startup to grow to 100 million users while coupling humorous storytelling with concrete examples.

 

Traction: How Any Startup Can Achieve Explosive Customer Growth

By Gabriel Weinberg

Traction is based on interviews with more than 40 successful business founders about their real-life successes. It covers 19 channels that can be used to gain traction for a business, and how to select the best ones for your company. The book discusses topics such as targeted media coverage, effective email marketing strategy, and online search optimization.  

 

Growing Influence: A Story of How to Lead with Character, Expertise, and Impact

By Ron Price and Stacy Ennis

Growing Influence is packed with relatable human experiences and practical advice on developing the right leadership skills. It chronicles two main characters’ growth as they applied the principles in the book, mixing solid business advice with a novel that is fresh, timely and inspiring.

 

Ready to Grow Your Business?

Contact us for help with unique growth strategies for your company and how we can partner for your successful future.

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Global Oil & Gas Industry Outlook

The global oil and gas industry is expected to remain relatively stable in 2019, even amid oversupply risks and volatile pricing, as oil demand continues to increase. Oil usage is expected to grow by more than 3.5 million barrels per day.

 Key Industry Trends for 2019

  • Natural gas remains a major player as a generator of lower-carbon power, especially in North America. Over the next decade, it is expected to surpass coal to become the second-largest source of fuel worldwide.
  • China and India are leading the way in overall energy demand growth. India is projected to have the largest additional oil demand and fastest growth through 2040.
  • U.S. sanctions on top exporters such as Iran and Venezuela continue to affect the global oil industry, as a retraction in the oil supply leads to inflated global oil prices.
  • Improvements in infrastructure are becoming more critical because production and the physical ability to move products directly impacts pricing.
  • The oil and gas pipeline market is predicted to grow at more than 6% by 2024.
  • Sustainability is becoming a more central issue as renewable energy draws more investment from oil companies, and both consumers and companies wish to mitigate methane emissions.
  • The industry is focusing on how digital technologies can improve capital productivity. Robotics, artificial intelligence, blockchain, and data analytics are being implemented to enhance efficiency and production.
  • The oilfield services sector will see a 10 to 15 percent increase in earnings, with a positive outlook for offshore oilfield services. There are more than 100 new projects planned for 2019 approvals and $210 billion earmarked for offshore oilfield services worldwide.
  • After years of limitations, deepwater exploration and production activity is likely to resurge this year with a spike in investments in deepwater projects.

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

Increased Drilling Activity

2019 is experiencing increased activity in global oil and gas drilling, led by the United States due to shale production. Outside the United States, global drilling activity is expected to rise by 2.5 percent. Across the world’s eight major oil and gas producing regions, each is predicted to see a higher number of wells drilled.

2019 Forecasted Percentage Increase in Drilling Activity by Region

Africa: 8.7 percent

Saudi Arabia: 5.4 percent

North America: 5.1 percent

Western Europe: 3.9 percent

South Pacific: 3 percent

United Arab Emirates: 2.5 percent

Far East/South Asia: 2.6 percent

South America: 1.7 percent

Eastern Europe/Former Soviet Union: 1.4 percent

Iraq: 1 percent

The most growth in the overall global drilling market will be in offshore oil and gas drilling, with expected growth at around 6 percent. The most active offshore drilling regions are Brazil, Canada, Norway, Angola, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi, China, and India.

Rystad Energy has reported that global deepwater liquid production is set to reach a record high of 10.3 million barrels per day in 2019. This is a result of new fields in Brazil and the Gulf of Mexico. Other leading deepwater producers include Angola, Norway, and Nigeria.

Ready to Move Forward?

Contact us at Benchmark International if you are interested in exploring your options and embarking on the next chapter of your business.  

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The Importance of Environmental Due Diligence

We often say here at Benchmark that signing an LOI is the 10% mark of a transaction.  While it’s difficult to support that quantitatively, it’s certainly anecdotally true. Due diligence is an arduous part of the closing process that will either substantiate the terms outlined in the LOI, call for different terms, or reveal such material differences that the deal craters altogether.  Financial, operational, and sales diligence are all givens, but one component that isn’t always conducted is environmental due diligence. While the former three, as examples, are customary and a part of every transaction, environmental is not always a necessity.  If the business is purely a service business, it is increasingly unlikely that a purchaser will seek to conduct environmental due diligence.

However, there are many reasons a purchaser may decide to conduct environmental due diligence. Perhaps, real estate is included in the deal, or maybe the target entity is a manufacturing business that uses various chemicals in the production of a product. Ultimately, the purchaser is seeking to become aware of any pre-close conditions and limit any post close liability. This is a necessary step in the process as finding and assessing potential issues affecting the facilities is imperative to the facility’s overall health and safety for its future employees and customers.  The environmental due diligence audit ensures future regulatory compliance and reduces potential issues as well as future energy and waste costs associated with the property. 

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

Traditionally, purchasers have sought to go straight to a Phase 1 ESA (Environmental Site Assessment) which we will discuss further below in this article. However, environmental due diligence can be very costly and time intensive. Many environmental consulting firms now offer an Environmental Desktop Report.  This is the most cost-effective tool for evaluating the risk of future property, as it is done without a visit from the environmental consultant on-site to the property.  This assessment is limited and is used as an initial screen of the property to understand the potential environmental liabilities better.  Different types of environmental desktop reports consist of Historical Records and Database Review, Records Search with Risk Assessment, Environmental Historical Reports, and Environmental Database Reviews.  If any documented contamination has been identified from the past and the purchaser feels more comfortable with further inspection of the property’s existing state, the process expands to the previously referenced on-site Phase I ESA. Many times, the Desktop Report is packaged with the Phase I process to streamline.  The Phase I ESA includes a site visit by the Environmental Professional to document the potentially hazardous materials that could exist. Phase I ESA uses historical resources such as local, state, and federal records to identify any past uses and occupants of the property.  Additionally, the purchasing party will conduct interviews with tenants, government officials, as well as nearby businesses. Once all research is complete, the group will prepare a records review to determine if the next steps may be applicable.

If contamination is detected, the viable next step is a Phase II ESA. Phase II ESA is essentially a field investigation that evaluates the impact the hazardous waste had on the property.  Phase II ESA includes Soil Sampling, Groundwater/Surface Water Sampling, Geophysical Testing for Tanks, Drums & Waste Materials, among other tests.  The most frequent substances tested are petroleum hydrocarbons, heavy metals, pesticides, solvents, mold, and asbestos.  After proper testing and concise reporting, a Phase III ESA may be completed to remediate any contamination based on recommendations made during Phase II.  Phase III ESA includes identifying the extent of contamination, determining the amount of material that was impacted by said contaminants, and assessing options available for all parties involved.    

Regardless of the findings, it is very rare that a buyer walks away after conducting and concluding environmental due diligence.  If it makes it past the Phase II ESA, evidently there will be some remediation.  In the very off chance that the contamination is beyond safe and capable remediation, Phase IV ESA will be conducted. Phase IV ESA is quarantine and closure of the site. Think of Chernobyl. It’s not an often occurrence, and one we haven’t seen here at Benchmark.  All in all, it’s helpful to understand this part of diligence, its importance, and level of detail associated with it. Buyers and sellers alike should be as informed as possible, heading into the due diligence.

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9 Ted Talks Every Business Owner Should Watch

1. Globalization Isn't Declining—It's Transforming
Arindam Bhattacharya

https://www.ted.com/talks/arindam_bhattacharya_globalization_isn_t_declining_it_s_transforming

Mr. Bhattacharya is a Boston Consulting Group Fellow, Senior Partner in their New Delhi office, and worldwide co-leader of the BCG Henderson Institute in Asia. Hear his interesting argument as to why globalization is not going extinct but instead is evolving due to cross-border data flow.

2. How to Build a Company Where the Best Ideas Win
Ray Dalio

https://www.ted.com/talks/ray_dalio_how_to_build_a_company_where_the_best_ideas_win

Mr. Dalio is the founder, chair, and chief investment officer of Bridgewater Associates, the largest hedge fund in the world. Learn how his strategies helped him create such a successful hedge fund and how you can use data-driven group decision making to your advantage.

3. Why the Secret to Success is Setting the Right Goals
John Doerr

https://www.ted.com/talks/john_doerr_why_the_secret_to_success_is_setting_the_right_goals

In this talk, engineer and venture capitalist Mr. John Doerr discusses the established goal-setting system "Objectives and Key Results," or "OKR," which is currently being used by companies such as Google and Intel.

4. The Global Business Next Door
Scott Szwast

https://www.ted.com/talks/scott_szwast_the_global_business_next_door

Mr. Szwast is the marketing director for UPS, and he has spent 25 years supporting the international transportation industry. In this talk, he explains how the image of global business is misunderstood and why businesses should stop hesitating to consider crossing borders.

Do you have an exit or growth strategy in place?


5. How to Break Bad Management Habits Before They Reach the Next Generation of Leaders
Elizabeth Lyle

https://www.ted.com/talks/elizabeth_lyle_how_to_break_bad_management_habits_before_they_reach_the_next_generation_of_leaders

Tune in as esteemed leadership development expert Elizabeth Lyle offers a new approach to cultivating middle management in fresh, creative ways.

6. Business Model Innovation: Beating Yourself at Your Own Game
Stefan Gross-Selbeck

https://www.ted.com/talks/stefan_gross_selbeck_business_model_innovation_beating_yourself_at_your_own_game

Mr. Gross-Selbeck is Partner at BCG Digital Ventures, and he has 20 years of experience as an operator and a consultant in the digital industry. In this talk, he discusses the unique aspects of today's most successful start-ups. Also, he shares strategies for duplicating their philosophies of disruption and innovation that can be applied for any business.

7. How the Blockchain is Changing Money and Business
Don Tapscott

https://www.ted.com/talks/don_tapscott_how_the_blockchain_is_changing_money_and_business

Mr. Tapscott is the executive chairman of the Blockchain Research Institute. In this talk, he explains Blockchain technology and why it is crucial that we understand its potential to redefine business and society completely.

8. What it Takes to Be a Great Leader
Rosalinde Torres

https://www.ted.com/talks/roselinde_torres_what_it_takes_to_be_a_great_leader?referrer=playlist-talks_for_when_you_want_to_sta

In this talk, leadership expert Rosalinde Torres describes simple strategies to becoming a great leader, based on her 25 years of experience closely studying the behavior and habits of proven leaders.

9. How Conscious Investors Can Turn Up the Heat and Make Companies Change
Vinay Shandal

https://www.ted.com/talks/vinay_shandal_how_conscious_investors_can_turn_up_the_heat_and_make_companies_change

Mr. Shandal is a partner in the Boston Consulting Group's Toronto office, leading their principal investors and private equity practice. Hear his chronicles of top activist investors and how you can persuade companies to drive positive change.

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How Seller Due Diligence Maximizes Business Value

Selling a company is a momentous life event for any business owner. You have worked hard to build it and want to achieve the highest acquisition value possible when you are ready to sell. To do this, you should be fully prepared for any prospective buyer to conduct rigorous due diligence, which means you should be prepared to do your own.

What is due diligence? A comprehensive appraisal of your business to establish its assets and liabilities and evaluate its commercial potential. 

If you carry out thorough due diligence before putting your company on the market, it will be primed and ready for the buyer to conduct their due diligence process. By being sufficiently prepared, your business is going to appear more attractive to buyers.

Planning Ahead is Crucial

First things first: plan ahead and plan early. Give yourself enough time to optimize the company’s value before putting it on the market. A carefully planned sales strategy is sure to garner better value than what appears to be a hasty fire sale. It is best to wait to sell until you have done everything that you can to maximize your company valuation. When you take the time to position your business attractively for the marketplace, it reduces the odds of a negative outcome.

Start by identifying the key value drivers for your business and how they can be improved. This will help you find obstacles to a sale before a buyer does, and give you time to address any issues. These drivers include:
• Skilled, motivated workforce
• Talented management team
• Strong financials and profitability
• Access to capital
• Loyal and growing customer base
• Economy of scale
• Favorable market share
• Strong products/services and mix of offerings
• Solid vendor relationships and supplier options
• Sound marketing strategy
• Product differentiation and innovation
• Up-to-date technology and workflow systems
• Strong company culture
• Research and development
• Protected intellectual property
• Long-term vision

It is common for buyers to be especially concerned with company culture and existing customer relationships. Make sure your employees and your customers know what to expect and share your vision. If there is misalignment in these areas, it can unfavorably impact the post-sale performance of the company.

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Why Documentation Matters

Having all your documentation in order, ensuring its accuracy, and putting it all on the table is going to make you a more trusted seller and increase the value of the business. It will also help you avoid constant back-and-forth requests from a buyer, which can be a distraction for you while you’re trying to run a business.

Creating a secure and efficient virtual data room (VDR) for storage and review of documents offers major advantages. A VDR is a secure online document repository that enables efficient collaboration between parties in any location so they may share information at any time during the pre-deal phase. A VDR also makes it easier to compile and verify every document internally and avoid duplicating efforts. Plus, it offers exceptional security to safeguard against confidential information ending up in the wrong hands. Once you have your VDR completed and vetted internally, you can open the files up to outside partners. Overall, the VDR is your secret weapon in making sure all of your documentation is centralized and that you are presenting your company in the very best light.

You can learn more about the documentation you will need to compile here.

Timing is Everything

You want to sell at the right time based on the market, which is always changing. Being adequately prepared to sell means being ready to act when the time is right. And selling at the right time means getting more value for your business.

Something else you must consider is if you are truly ready to sell. This is not the time to be emotional. Once you’ve initiated the sales process, the last thing you want to do is change your mind when buyers are already involved in the conversation. This will give you a reputation of being disingenuous and not being a serious seller, scaring off potential buyers in the future and devaluing your company.

Professional Help is Key

If it sounds like preparing for the sale of your company is an exhaustive undertaking, that’s because it is. But you do not have to do it alone. If you enlist the expertise of a reputable mergers and acquisitions firm, they can lead the way and help you get the most value for your company. A good M&A Advisor will know better than anyone how to steer you through the due diligence process.

They will also know when the market is in the right place for a sale, and give you access to quality buyers that you can trust. It is also important to note that buyers are going to take you much more seriously when you have partnered with a highly regarded M&A firm.

At Benchmark International, we’re here for you. Our experts are ready to partner with you to exceed your expectations and make great things happen.

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The 12 Best M&A Twitter Accounts To Follow

PitchBook Data| @PitchBook

PitchBook is a financial data, research, and technology provider that covers global venture capital, private equity, and M&A transactions. Here you will find comprehensive news and analysis, as well as deep-dive info on individual business sectors.

Mergers&Acquisitions| @TheMiddleMarket 

See what is happening in private equity and get a healthy dose of all things related to M&A, including in-depth analysis, articles, and commentary in the middle market from an array of sources.

Benchmark International | @benchmarkgroup

As one of the most powerful M&A firms in the world, this list would not be complete without including our very own Benchmark International Twitter account. Get the latest news and industry insights, and see how our Benchmark team stays dynamic on the world stage.

The M&A Advisor| @themaadvisor

The M&A Advisor is the premier network of M&A, turnaround, and finance professionals. Read great industry articles, and get access to information regarding conferences, awards, and meetings.

The Deal@TheDealNewsroom

The Deal has served investors, advisors, and dealmakers with high-level analysis of “the deal economy.” Their Twitter account is an excellent extension of a news source that started as a print newspaper in the 1990s and has grown into a sophisticated M&A information tool.

WSJ Private Equity| @WSJPE

The official Twitter account for the Wall Street Journal PRO's is where you will hear from their global team of editors and reporters covering all topics related to private equity worldwide.

 

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

 

Flipidea| @Flipidea_AI

Flipidea uses machine learning to discover insights from failed businesses and predict failure from startups. While the account does not have many followers, the account’s timeline of tweets reveals an interesting compilation of information that can be of value to entrepreneurs, including an array of interesting retweets. 

Buyouts| @Buyouts

Buyouts Insider offers industry intelligence and is a handy source of news, data, and analysis of trends in the leveraged buyout and private equity industries.

Mergermarket| @Mergermarket

Mergermarket provides M&A intelligence, data, and research designed to give subscribers an edge. It is a robust Twitter account for anyone interested in M&A, and can sometimes be a source for finding out about unannounced deals.

M&A Critique| @mnacritique

The social media arm of this India-based magazine gives insight regarding deals related to M&A, restructuring, insolvency, takeovers, and joint ventures.

Smart Business | @Smart_Business

The Twitter account of Smart Business Magazine offers a U.S.-based perspective on business insights, advice, and strategies for growth. Here you will also find individual profiles on dealmakers and interesting viewpoints from American business leaders.

M&A Navigator| @manavigator

M&A Navigator is a great tool, especially if you prefer simplified access to your headlines. There are no flashy graphics or photos, just the headlines on what is happening in the world of M&A.

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The Ultimate Cheat Sheet On How To Sell Your Business

Once you have decided that the time has come to sell your company, you will want to be as prepared as possible for the endeavor. Being adequately prepared will pave the way for a smoother process, avoid unnecessary delays in the sale, and increase the value of your business. Use this cheat sheet as a guide to get your business ready for what lies ahead.

Know Why You’re Selling

An important part of selling your company is having a clear understanding of why you are doing it.

  • Do you want to exit the business completely and retire?
  • Do you wish for it to be under control by family or an existing employee?
  • Do you hope to retain a stake in the business as part of the sale terms?
  • Do you plan to sell the business to facilitate its growth?
  • Do you aspire to sell the business to fund other ventures?

These questions should all be considered so that you have a clear answer before initiating the sale process. By knowing why you are selling, you can look for the right kind of buyer to suit those needs and establish a clear plan of action.

Compile the Proper Documentation

Any buyer is going to expect to see the facts and figures on your business. The more prepared you are to provide detailed documentation, the more likely they will be to trust you. Items you should compile and have ready for review include:

  • Current and recent profit & loss statements
  • Balance sheets, income statements, and tax returns for at least 5 years
  • Leases and real estate paperwork
  • A business plan
  • A marketing plan
  • Accounts payable and client lists
  • Inventory and pricing lists
  • Insurance policies
  • Non-disclosure/confidentiality agreements
  • An executive summary and detailed profile of the business
  • Employee, customer, vendor, and distributor contracts
  • Outstanding loan agreements and liens
  • Organization chart
  • Letter of intent and purchase agreement

Feel like it's a good time to sell?

Inventory Your Assets

Your assets are a key factor in determining the value of your company, so it is important to have a clear picture of what they are and what they are worth. Create a record of these assets, including:

Physical assets:

  • Business furnishings, fixtures, and equipment, inventory, real estate, automobiles

Intellectual property assets:

  • Trademarks, patents, licensing agreements, trade secrets, and proprietary technology

Intangible assets:

  • Brand equity, business name, and brand identity
  • Processes and strategies
  • Trained employees
  • Loyal clientele
  • Supplier and distribution networks

Enlist the Help of an Expert

Selling a business is a complicated process, and it is not as simple as just gathering the items listed above. This is why most business owners opt to partner with a mergers and acquisitions firm to organize a deal. They do all the work and tend to all the details so that you can focus on running your business and keeping it thriving in the wake of a sale. This includes finding the right buyers, creating a competitive bidding environment, and making sure you get the most value for your company.

Advisors such as our experts at Benchmark International have specialized tools at our disposal that are proven to maximize value for our clients and get desired results. Give us a call and let us put our connections to work for you.

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Buyer Comfort

Buyers tend to assuage their discomfort with deal structure.  When negotiating with buyers, it is prudent for the seller, guided by a seasoned M&A Advisor, to consider what the underlying issue is, discomfort, instead of addressing the result of that discomfort, a specific deal structure. Huh, you say? Let me dive a bit deeper.

Buyers of businesses use deal structural devices to cure many issues or concerns. Let's take a second to illustrate the most typical elements of a structured deal. While the following encompasses the most common deal structures, it is, by no means comprehensive.

Cash at the closing table is obvious and needs no further illustration. A seller note or seller financing is also fairly simple. The seller essentially serves as a lender to the buyer. The attorneys draft a promissory note, perhaps a stock pledge agreement and incorporate them and potentially other documents in the definitive agreements. The buyer pays off the principal of the note and interest over the course of a few years.  Seller notes don't tend to be contingent upon anything other than the solvency of the entity backing the note. They are deferred. Rollover equity, often known as Seller Rollover, Rollover or simply Roll, occurs when the seller maintains a position in either the existing business or Newco. In some circumstances, a seller may sell 80% of the shares in his or her company while in another, that seller may sell 100% of the shares in her business and simultaneously reinvest what amounts to 20% of the proceeds in Newco. This is generally a cashless exercise. It is critical for the seller to engage seasoned advisors to assist in structuring the rollover in the most tax-efficient manner. The final typical structural element of a deal is an Earnout. Where the seller note isn't contingent upon performance, an earnout is. Earnouts pay out a prescribed dollar amount over time as certain agreed upon and defined metrics are achieved. While these tend to be quantitative metrics like EBITDA and Revenue, they can also be tied to qualitative measures like maintaining key customers or employees or integrating technology. In addition, earnouts can be tied to maintenance or growth.   

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As I hinted at earlier, buyers use these structures to cure their apprehension. What is behind that discomfort or apprehension? Many things but at the heart of most of those is the oft-cited, yet misunderstood concept, risk. Risk, in a business context, is the chance for an unanticipated outcome. Risk can be specific to a business, to an industry, to geography or more global. Risk isn't inherently bad, thus the risk/reward model, but it needs to be accounted for in decision making. Buyers, in their initial diligence, aim to understand the underlying risks and determine their tolerance for said risks. When structuring an offer, they seek to allocate and incorporate those risks.   

Some buyers seek out businesses that are very easy for them to understand, have very predictable financial performance and robust operational teams.  Those types of businesses, if proper controls are also present, will garner simple offers with a high percentage of the deal in the form of cash. This is a low-risk deal. A business with more volatile performance introduces incremental risk. A buyer may still be interested in the business but may shift cash at close to an earnout. If the business is growing rapidly, but that growth hasn't been consolidated in the buyer's eyes, that earnout may be linked to the growth of earnings or revenue. Perhaps the buyer will apply a three-year average to EBITDA to incorporate the volatility into the valuation.  If the seller wants to be paid on the recent growth, a buyer may use an earnout to bridge the valuation gap. A buyer willing to pay 5x EBITDA in an all-cash deal may pay 8x or more if allowed to incorporate structure, thereby mitigating their risk.

If the seller is adamant that he or she won't accept an earnout, it behooves an M&A advisor to dig deeper into where the actual buyer's discomfort lies.  Rather than fighting the earnout, might it be a better strategy to uncover the underlying issue and solving that? The earnout is the solution, not the problem. Why might a buyer incorporate an earnout? There are several possible reasons; 1. Earns reduce the cash required to close the deal.  2. They create alignment between buyer and seller post-close, thereby ensuring the seller continues to act like an owner even when he longer is an owner. 3. They confirm their diligence. Can these concerns be addressed in other ways? Of course, they can. If the earnout is moved to a seller note, no additional cash at close is required of the buyer to fund the deal. Both two and three can be addressed through a seller roll. If the buyer wants to ensure the seller acts like an owner, make him an owner. Rollover allocates some of the risks to the seller in both an earnout and rollover equity. Perhaps an employment contract signed by key employees would provide the buyer some comfort? Many deals incorporate an options pool, Management Incentive Program (MIP) or Profits Interest as additional ways to create alignment post-close. 

The central idea is this. Rather than focusing all of your attention on the proposed structure of a deal, attempt to think through the concerns the buyer is trying to sooth with that deal structure. Solving for the actual underlying problem rather than the buyer's proposed solution may lead to better outcomes for both parties.

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14 M&A Cartoons That Will Brighten Your Day

All images may be subject to copyright.

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Five Things I Wish Business Owners Knew Before Engaging Us

1. No one can control the market.

You can know it. You can be smart about what it will do, how it will react. But you cannot control it. The nearer into the future you look, the more of a feeling of control you can have. But the longer a business owner wants us to look into the future, the less valuable the insights. Things change. Interest rates move. Sectors fall in and out of favor. If you want me to try to control the market, please act quickly so that we are dealing with the current market, not some future version of the market.

2. There is no perfect buyer (or seller).

Everything in life involves tradeoffs. Your business, like the ones we will bring to you, has imperfections. I’m here to convince buyers to take a favorable view on your business – to trade off its defects against its outstanding features in a way favorable to you – AND to help you uncover and evaluate the buyer’s defects and favorable features. So … please don’t expect your business to be perfect and don’t expect us to bring you perfect buyers. One of the main reasons our business exists is because buyers – and sellers – are imperfect. If that were the case, you’d not need us.

3. Your priorities will change over the course of the company sale process.

This is not a bad thing. It’s a marvelous occurrence that is very satisfying to observe. It is an unintended consequence that will be of great benefit to you. What makes it problematic is when you don’t realize its happening AND when you don’t tell us its happening. As your broker, we are out there trying to achieve your objectives – as you’ve explained them to us. If we don’t know what you’re after, we’ll be after the wrong thing.

 

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

 

4. We’ll give you plenty of feedback but we need feedback also.

We will start by proving you some feedback from our internal knowledge base and experience. We will then give you feedback from specific buyers and the market in general. In order to get the best result for you, we need that feedback loop to be a two-way street. We want to know what you think of each buyer, of our service, of your own business, of the market in general, and of the process. Both our process and the market are highly flexible and changes can be made to meet your needs and expectations, but only if we know they need to be made.

5. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

Too many clients come out of the blocks at full speed. Many also tend to think the signing of a letter of intent is the beginning of the end but it is just the end of the beginning. Running out of gas is a big problem when it comes to getting deals closed. Some parts of the process require significant time and energy from you and others do not. In order to hit your goals, we’ll need you well-prepared for those stages where your input is crucial. The deficiency we most often see emerging during the process is not one related to energy or time but rather emotions. This is understandably a stressful process. It should be and we build our service model around that fact. And that emotional aspect of the process is the hardest one to deal with over the course of the lengthy process.  

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How Do I Know If I’m Ready To Retire?

Retirement is a significant decision that you have waited your entire life to make. Most people retire between the ages of 60 and 70, but everybody faces a different set of circumstances that dictate when they can retire. So how do you know if you are ready?

The most important factor in retirement is whether your financial situation will allow you to do so with security and peace of mind.

Do you have enough money saved? You want to live comfortably and maintain the standard of living to which you are accustomed. The last thing you want to do is retire and then realize you don’t have the means to live the way you are used to and end up having to downsize your dreams.

Are the markets in the right place so that you maximize your investment returns? Maybe your portfolio took a little bit of hit recently. Giving it a little time to recover can be a wise strategy. Consider where the markets are and where they are forecasted to be in the upcoming months. If you time it right, you can make the most of your decision.

Are you debt free? It may not be the smartest move to retire if you still carry debt you must pay, especially if it is significant. Retiring when you are debt free means retiring when you are worry free.

Do you need a plan to cut down on potential expenses? If you have a strong desire to retire but feel that you are not as financially confident as you would like to be, you can devise a plan to reduce your monthly expenses and ease some of the burdens.

Of course, there is more to the decision than just financial factors. You must consider whether you are mentally and emotionally prepared for retirement.

Are you no longer interested in pursuing career opportunities? If you are still hungry to attain work-related goals or you feel that you haven’t achieved everything you set out to achieve, then maybe retirement is not for you just yet. You do not want to retire and then feel that you are missing out or that you didn’t reach your full potential.

Do you find yourself thinking about recreational and social activities more than you are thinking about work? If you find yourself standing on the golf course, wishing you could spend more time there, then it may be a good time to consider retirement. Sometimes getting out before you are completely checked out is in the best interest of you and your business.

Do you have a plan for how you want to spend your time? It is not unheard of for people to retire only to become overwhelmed with boredom and a lack of purpose. Having a plan in place can help you stay busy and feel that you are achieving a new set of goals in life.

If you are retiring with your spouse, are you equally ready and on the same page when it comes to how you will spend your time? If you are in this together, make sure your plan is truly in sync. If one of you wants to travel the globe and the other one just wants to spend time with the grandchildren, there could be a conflict that you didn’t even realize you would have to address. Plan your vision for retirement together.

These are all critical questions to ask yourself when deciding if you are ready for retirement. But there is one more crucial question that you must address.

Do you have an exit strategy for retiring from your business? An exit plan is essential because it ensures that your business will make a successful transition into its next phase of ownership. Also, an exit plan will help you boost the value of your business so that you are prepared to sell at the ideal time.

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?
A proven strategy for success regarding exit planning is to partner with a trusted advisor, such as Benchmark International. We can help you find the right buyer, maximize value, and craft a dream exit that leads to a happy and satisfying retirement.

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External Market Impact On M&A

When deciding to sell their business, sellers generally focus mostly, if not entirely, on internal factors. Revenue is growing and predictable. Earnings are improving as a result of increasing revenue and internal controls. Backlog is up. Customer concentration is low. This fictitious company paints a very compelling picture and is no doubt an attractive candidate for acquisition. However, while those are all important aspects and contributors to value, there are other factors that are beyond the seller’s control that not only impact the value of the business but also impact how sellable it is. In this piece, we will discuss some of the external market factors that impact M&A transactions. These factors are in no way comprehensive. The research wasn’t exhaustive. The intent here isn’t to create a definitive list of external influences. Instead, it is to demonstrate how important factors that are well beyond our control impact M&A deals. As a result, sellers should consider moving quickly if the factors within their control are positive.

Interest Rates

Interest rates, while still hovering around historical lows, will rise over the coming 18 months. Why is this important? Buyers, both financial buyers like Private Equity Funds, Independent Sponsors and Family Offices, and strategic acquires alike, use leverage to fund their deals. Many buyers will fund 40-60% of the cash at closing by way of debt in some combination of senior and junior debt instruments. When the cost of debt increases, buyers are faced with two options: 1. Use more equity, either out of their fund or from the corporate balance sheet to fund the transaction; or, 2. Lower the multiple they use to value the company. Given that the cost of debt is far cheaper for most buyers than their cost of equity, they generally favor using as much debt as is practicable. Most Private Equity funds are averse to using more equity and will instead, lower the valuation multiple. Compression of transaction multiples is coming, after a historic run. It is simply a matter of when.

Regulatory Environment

While we are in a much-publicized period of regulatory retrenchment, some industries are facing increased regulation. Many more are facing a changing regulatory environment. Whether there is more regulation or simply shifting regulation, the changes create both risk and uncertainty for buyers. Risk and uncertainty can impact the desirability of a company/industry and certainly can affect valuation.

Global Economic Concerns and Geopolitical Issues

Global economic issues can impact the M&A environment both generally and for specific industries. At the moment, we face a great deal of uncertainty related to trade with our largest trade partner, China. Tariffs are impacting companies across sectors by increasing manufacturing input costs, reducing the speed to market, and decreasing the demand for their products. Unrest in the Middle East, uncertainty in North Korea, Brexit, Russia, and all the alike contribute the geopolitical risks that impact M&A.

Industry Consolidation or Convergence of Industries

Industry consolidation can have a considerable impact on valuations. If you are in a fragmented industry that is in the early days of consolidation, this can have a very positive impact on the value of your business. However, if that consolidation began years ago, you may have missed the window. That doesn’t mean you can’t sell your business, but it will be more difficult to identify the buyer and may have an impact on valuation. The same can be said when industries converge. For example, the manufacturing and technology sectors have converged. Convergence of industries, depending upon where we are in that cycle, can create either risk or opportunity.

Changes in the Workforce Dynamics/Millennials/Gig Economy

The ready availability of a talented workforce can significantly impact industries and businesses. Due to workers having very little switching costs to move from one company or industry to another, construction and landscaping businesses have found it increasingly difficult to attract and retain talent. Specific industries that require talent to be aggregated in the same room for the entire workday face different challenges. The Great Recession, coupled with a generation of workers that place a premium on their time, has led to an enormous gig economy. It is not out of the question that the gig workforce overtakes the traditional workforce in the next decade. This shift will impact every business in ways we couldn’t possibly understand yet.

Political Trends and Risk/Elections

The constantly changing domestic political landscape impacts the M&A environment in numerous ways. We have uncertainty around healthcare. Any provider of healthcare or any business dependent upon reimbursement faces at least a measure of uncertainty. Immigration has become a hot button issue in the US. Wherever you fall on the issue, there is little doubt that American businesses rely on non-citizens to supplement the citizen workforce. Buying decisions are often postponed with looming elections. Tax planning is difficult when an administration change could entirely change the tax code…again. Political unrest creates uncertainty. Uncertainty is interpreted by buyers as being the equivalent of risk and manifests itself in the form of lower multiples.

Dry Powder in PE Funds/Excess Cash on Corporate Balance Sheets

An economy on an unprecedented run of success has created enormous cash reserves in the corporate coffers. Strong performance by private equity funds has made raising subsequent funds easier. Also, outsized multiples have reduced the number of investments many PE funds have made, so they too have tremendous stores of dry powder to deploy. Abundance of capital to deploy into transactions certainly should help with valuations. PE funds, in particular, have only one mandate: buy businesses, grow them, and sell them 3-5 years later for a meaningful return. As such, there is no risk of them using their capital for other projects. The same can’t be said, however, for strategic acquirers. Corporations have many competing uses of their cash. If the environment for M&A turns unfavorably, businesses may pursue growth through organic initiatives. For example, they may opt to forego M&A deals in favor of greenfielding new territories, launching new products, building out new technologies, or exploring alternative revenue models. Alternatively, some may view the best use of their cash is to distribute it out to owners in the form of a dividend.

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

In summary, there are many outside influencers on the M&A market that simply cannot be controlled. While companies can put mitigation strategies in place, they cannot exert control over external market forces. When the key factors within a potential seller’s control are favorable, it behooves them to seek out a talented M&A advisor, like one from Benchmark International, to assist them. We can help them to ride the tailwinds, overcome the headwinds, and navigate the obstacles.

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10 Things Most People Don’t Know About The M&A Process

1. Most M&As Fail
According to collated research and a recent Harvard Business Review report, the failure rate for M&A is between 70 and 90 percent. To effectively complete a deal, there must be a clear strategy and open communication among all parties.

2. Expect Due Diligence
Experienced buyers conduct meticulous due diligence. They want to know exactly what they are taking on, and that includes factors such as obligations, liabilities, contracts, litigation risk, and intellectual property. As a result, sellers should be prepared to provide very thorough documentation.

3. Priorities Change
Your company may be a good strategic fit today, and in a year from now. But people are fickle, and priorities can change, so a good offer today could be a non-existent offer later.

4. Employees Will Have Questions
In any sale of a business, employees are going to have questions about how the transaction will affect them. Also, the buyer will want to know how specific issues are handled. Will there be layoffs? Have confidentiality agreements been signed? What about any stock options? How will management be changed? These are just a few questions that should be anticipated.

5. Don’t Overlook Technology
These days, virtually every industry is impacted by technology. In the M&A process, it is important to think about how IT platforms will be consolidated or integrated, how technological changes can affect inventory, and how cloud management will be used, among many other factors.

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

6. M&As Are Often Funded by Debt
Low interest rates on loans encourage M&A. In 2015, acquisition-related loans worldwide totaled more than $770 billion, the most since 2008.

7. Competition Will Result in the Best Deal
The more bidders there are on a sale, the more favorable the conditions are for the seller to negotiate a higher price and better terms. Even if there is only one serious bidder among several, the perceived level of interest can lead to brokering a better deal.

8. Synergy is a Must-Have
For an M&A deal to succeed, vision and strategy need to be synergized at the executive level and communicated to all management. M&As can fail due to a misalignment of vision for the culture, the industry, each company’s role, and more. The cultural fit of two companies can be crucial to how successfully they meld.

9. It Can Take Awhile
From beginning to end, most mergers and acquisitions can take a long time to be completed, usually in a period of around 4 to 12 months. The length of time depends on how much interest the seller has generated and how quickly a buyer conducts due diligence.

10. You Need an M&A Advisor
An experienced M&A advisory team can help ensure that the complex process of selling or buying a company goes smoothly, addressing all of the issues mentioned above on this list.

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The Importance Of Succession Planning

As a business owner, have you given any consideration to your succession plan?

It is important to note that a succession plan is not the same as an exit plan, but rather an element within an exit plan. Succession planning is focused on the interests of the business when an owner departs and another takes over. Exit planning is focused on the interests of the business owner, with succession just being one aspect in the overall plan.

It is actually quite common for small business owners to not have a succession plan, or even an exit plan, in place. Regardless of whether you have no plans of retiring anytime soon, the future is unpredictable, and having a solid, documented strategy in place can be crucial to the health and fate of your business. You will want to be ready for any scenario or opportunity that comes along.

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10 Undeniable Reasons To Sell Your Company In 2019

Timing is everything, and 2019 is the prime time to sell a business for maximum value. The conditions are extremely favorable right now for several reasons, and waiting could mean that you miss out an ideal opportunity. 

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Global Food & Beverage Industry Outlook

This is an intriguing time to be involved in the global food and beverage industry. 2019 remains promising for M&A opportunities for several reasons. Giant food companies are on a spree to expand their portfolios with food innovation. Food start-ups and smaller private food companies are looking to cash in on growth and exit strategies. And private equity and venture capital firms are motivated to get their piece of the pie.  

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2019 Outlook for the Construction Industry

The outlook for the global construction market for the year of 2019 remains positive, with an expected five-percent sector-wide growth in revenue. Robust economies, low interest rates, and increased infrastructure spending are key factors behind the increased confidence. The world’s fastest growing market is the Asia Pacific region, due to growing investments in China and India’s construction sectors. In North America and Europe, growth is being driven by new technologies in already strong construction markets. Also, a number of South American and Middle Eastern countries may see their markets recover in the coming year and have the potential for growth in the future.

M&A Momentum

Mergers and acquisitions for the construction industry are poised to follow the vigorous deal activity of 2018. Construction tech startups raised $1.27 billion in venture funding in the first three quarters of 2018 alone. Public companies were seeking growth. There was increased interest in individual sectors such as energy. Private equity firms were actively buying and selling. Another significant factor was a need for ownership changes due to a growing retirement-age population. These trends are predicted to continue throughout 2019.

Tech Startups

Construction technology startups are expected to continue to have a considerable impact this year. This industry segment has seen more than $10 billion in funding over the past 10 years, with most of the money coming from early-stage venture capital deals. As these tech companies evolve, bigger firms are making full acquisitions. One strategic reason behind these large acquisitions is for companies to procure more talent in a more efficient manner, which in turn is anticipated to drive business growth.

Smart Cities

Society is seeing a heightened focus on infrastructure upgrades and the creation of smart cities. In 2016, smart-city tech spending reached $80 billion globally. By 2021, spending is expected to grow to $135 billion. Smart cities use Internet sensors and other technologies to connect elements across a city to gather data and enhance the lives of its residents. Partnerships between private and public companies are helping governments incorporate new technologies in an increasingly urbanized world. The advent of smart cities was initially seen in Europe, and now the U.S. has begun to integrate technology into urban infrastructure.

Offsite Construction

The quickly growing modular construction market is projected to reach $157 billion by 2023. The capability to build taller modular buildings is reaching new heights, with some buildings stacking up to almost 20 stories. This offsite type of construction is addressing certain industry needs, such as the need for skilled labor, the need for affordable housing, and the need to complete projects more quickly.

Connected Construction

A rapidly emerging trend that many investors are watching closely is connected construction. Companies are incorporating technology into construction sites to save time and money. Bluetooth connectivity is driving the emergence of new worksite tools that can be tracked, monitored, and even deactivated. Mesh networks are enabling sites to be fully connected to wireless networks in order to streamline processes around obstacles in the way of man-hours, status updates, supply deliveries, blueprint consultations, and more.

These emerging technologies have prompted several recent acquisitions, just to name a few.

  • Autodesk Inc. purchased construction productivity software company PlanGrid for $875 million.
  • Autodesk also spent $275 million to buy BuildingConnected, a networking platform of more than 700,000 construction professionals.
  • Trimble bought construction software company Viewpoint from Bain Capital for $1.2 billion.   

Enlist Our Expertise

If you are interested in buying, selling, creating a growth strategy, or even devising an exit plan for your business, contact Benchmark International to get the expertise that is proven to make successful deals happen around the world every day.

 

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How To Reduce Owner Dependence Before A Sale

Build your dream team.

An important step in reducing your company’s dependence on you is to create your management dream team. Assembling the right people to take over the reigns can shift the burden off of you far before the time comes to sell. Make sure your team members know that they have your confidence by giving them more responsibility. This also means that there can be less reliance on you moving forward. Another significant benefit of having a stable and experienced management team in place is that it makes your company more appealing to buyers and ensures a smoother transition period.

Ready to explore your exit and growth options? 

Create documentation.

Before selling a business, it is imperative that your processes and procedures are fully documented. When you outline howthings work and whythey work, it can be key to your organization’s appearance of professionalism. Not having a proper roadmap to your operations could be a deal-breaker for prospective buyers, as they will want to follow guidelines that they see are proven effective or adapt those guidelines accordingly.

Having proper documentation in place also means that your management team can make informed decisions in your absence should you just want to vacation for a couple of weeks. It will also be needed to keep everything running smoothly when it is time to transition the company in the event of a sale.

Creating this documentation may seem like a tedious task that you may feel too busy to do, but remember that it is critical to reducing your company’s dependence on you and will ultimately pay off in the long run.         

 

Plan your exit strategy.

As a business owner, it is critical that you have a plan for your exit from the company. A sound exit strategy will allow your business to transition smoothly into the right hands. This forward planning will ensure that your business stays on track and is achieving your goals. After all, if you have not set any goals, how can you expect to achieve them? These goals will be crucial in increasing the value of your company prior to a sale. Your management team should clearly understand these objectives so they can work with you on the path to shared success, and eventually, without you.

Establishing an exit strategy can be complicated and somewhat intimidating, which is why most savvy business owners partner with an experienced broker such as Benchmark International. Our specialists will work closely with you to establish an exit plan that is tailored to your specific needs and helps take the guesswork out of the process. We can even help you find the right buyer because we have powerful connections around the world.

Exit planning can reduce your company’s dependence on you and arm you with confidence for when it is time to sell. Instead of worrying about where to start, just start by
giving us a call.
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6 Indicators that it Might be Time to Sell Your Business

You may not have considered selling your business and moving onto the next project, as perhaps it is growing at an acceptable pace and you have no pressing reasons to sell. Nevertheless, it may be worth considering an exit if you can identify with any of the following:

 

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Your Business is Making you Exhausted

There are a number of reasons why your business could be making you exhausted. Perhaps you only started it for the money and you don’t love what you do, or the lifestyle of an entrepreneur hasn’t met your expectations. Whichever way, you feel apathetic towards the business and dealing with it is tiring.

While you have no need to sell, if you feel burnt out by your business it is worth considering doing so – you are doing the business no favours by sticking it out as the business could suffer as a result of not having someone at the helm who wants to drive the business forward.

 

Business Growth

If your business is steadily growing, then it may be a good time to consider an exit. A buyer is likely to pay over the odds for your company if it is on a growth curve as they can reap the rewards later down the line.

Equally as attractive to a buyer is a business operating within a growth industry. Even if your business is not seeing the growth, if the industry you operate in is thriving, a buyer could be interested due to the opportunities available.

 

You’ve Received an Offer You Can’t Refuse

A buyer has approached you and offered to buy your business for a handsome sum of money. You weren’t thinking of selling but, as you might not receive an offer like this again, this is perhaps a good indicator that you should sell.

Nevertheless, it’s always beneficial to take your business to market even in the event of such an offer, because if one party is willing to offer this for your company, then there’s no reason why others wouldn’t value your business the same, or maybe even higher.

 

You Want to Take Advantage of Low Capital Gain Tax

Capital gains tax is at historically low levels; therefore, it is a good time to sell. While this is not the only reason you should sell, if you feel yourself identifying with other reasons on this list, then now may be a good time to take advantage of this.

 

You’ve Been Offered a Better Job Opportunity

This might seem strange – you are your own boss and now you are going to be an employee. However, there are many merits to being an employee – for example, a regular, and probably better, income and being free from the demands and liabilities involved in running your own business.

 

You Don’t Have the Correct Skills to Grow the Business

As a business grows, more and different skills are required to keep the business growing than when you initially started. For example, you might be a great salesperson, which was extremely beneficial when setting up the company but, now, leadership is required in different areas. You could possibly learn these skills, or employ more people to take on these new leadership roles, but if you feel like you don’t have the energy to carry on with the business, this may be another indicator that it’s time to move on.

 

 Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

 

While the above points may be a good indication that it’s time to move on, it’s unlikely that one of these alone will compel you to sell. Instead, you might decide to sell because of a mix of these reasons, coupled with other factors such as economic conditions. When this time does come, Benchmark International can help by discussing your exit strategy and assisting you in finding the best buyer for your needs.

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Five Reasons Why It’s Worth Investing in an M&A Adviser When Selling Your Business

You have come to a point in your business life where you have decided that it is time to sell and move onto the next project. Of course, you want to command the best price for your business and explore all the opportunities available. As such, you have considered an M&A adviser to help in the process – but is it really worth it? They could help you generate more value for your business but if you factor in the fee for engaging their services, will you make any more money?

Then again, there are many advantages to hiring an M&A adviser, which are not just limited to value. If you have thought about hiring an M&A adviser, but are unsure of the benefits, consider the below:

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They can Minimise Distractions During the Process

You know your business the best and if you are knowledgeable about the M&A process you could facilitate the transaction yourself – although this doesn’t mean you should. After all, an M&A transaction takes a significant amount of time and the time you have to spend on the transaction could end up being detrimental to business performance. As the value of a business is more often than not linked to financial performance, you need to focus your efforts into making sure the company is performing the best it can be, rather than focusing on the transaction itself.

 

They can Source a Larger Pool of Buyers

If you’re thinking of selling your business you may have an idea of the acquirers you want to approach. This is good, but an M&A adviser constantly networks with various strategic and financial buyers on a national and international basis in various industries; therefore, they have a very large pool of acquirers at their fingertips to contact about the opportunity. Not only is an M&A adviser’s pool of acquirers large, it is also varied, which means they can think outside the box and a lucrative deal could be sourced cross-sector. Another benefit of generating interest from a large pool of acquirers is you are more likely to have multiple competing bids, strengthening your negotiating stance.

 

They can Negotiate a Favourable Deal

As mentioned, an M&A adviser can help to create a competitive bidding environment which can lead to a better deal being negotiated; however, this is not the only way an M&A adviser negotiates on your behalf. Often, deals are not for 100% cash so an M&A adviser will negotiate a deal structure so both parties can reach a compromise and agreement. This can be very beneficial for you if, for example, you have just secured a large contract where earnings will increase over the next year, as, if the deal has been based on a multiple of current earnings, then you will not be correctly compensated for the contract you have secured. Therefore, an M&A adviser will negotiate a deal which will maximise value beyond the purchase price.

 

They can Protect your Interests

It is in your best interest to keep the sale of your company confidential – if it gets out that you are selling this could potentially alienate employees and customers and give your competition the upper hand. By yourself, when approaching potential acquirers, it is difficult to protect the identity of the company as it’s not easy to solicit interest without disclosing who you are. An M&A adviser, on the other hand, will have interested parties sign a non-disclosure agreement before they are given any information about the business, including the name of the business and the owner. At this stage, it is also important to gauge whether the company you are approaching has the finances to purchase your company – again, this is something which is difficult to do without compromising confidentiality.

 

They Add Valuable Resource

They say ‘first impressions are the most lasting’ so when it comes to selling your business, it is important that a potential acquirer’s first impression is first rate. An M&A adviser can assist with this through their proven processes that help businesses to market themselves as the complete package. As well, engaging an M&A adviser can add credibility to potential buyers as they can see that you are serious about conducting a transaction, which can save time and improve offers.

 

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Rising Interest Rates – How Does This Affect the Sale of My Business?

Most business owners have become acutely aware of how a change in interest rates can impact their financing decisions.  Whether it means taking advantage of a competitive rate and refinancing previous notes or whether it means holding off on acquiring a needed piece of equipment until the monthly payment becomes more manageable; the interest rate associated with obtaining debt can play a major role in the decisions a business owner makes in the day-to-day operations of their company.  But, how do interest rates impact the sale of a business?  Is there a correlating relationship between interest rates and activity in the M&A market?  If there is, what is the importance of timing the sale of a business based on the indications provided by the Federal Reserve?  All of these questions are important to consider as a business owner begins to contemplate the potential sale of their company.

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The Federal Reserve has indicated that it is planning on increasing interest rates as it is continuing to pull back from its decade-long effort to stimulate economic growth.  As of November, 2018, the Wall Street Journal Prime Rate was 5.25% whereas one year prior it was 4.25%.  This metric is important as it consists of a survey of the 30 largest banks and is the rate at which banks will lend money to their most credit worthy customers; additionally, this rate will move up or down in lock step with changes made by the Federal Reserve Board.  So, what does this mean for those who are in the market to sell their business?  An increase in the federal funds rate increases the cost of borrowing and hence affects the value of merger deals, especially if a portion of the transaction is being financed through loans.  If the company to be acquired is highly leveraged and the cost of debt goes up, the internal rate of return is impacted, lowering the valuation of the company. 

The timing of when a business enters the open market for sale as well as the speed at which interest rates rise also plays a role in the impact that interest rates have on activity in the M&A market.  A methodical rise combined with a strengthening economy, which the United States has experienced over the past 18 months, should not have a detrimental impact on the aggressiveness with which buyers enter the acquisition market.  The reason that a controlled and steady increase in interest rates mitigates the risk associated with increased cost of debt has to do with the corresponding increase in corporate confidence.  With interest rates having been at historical lows over the past several years, many companies in the market to buy are armed with strong balance sheets earned via normal operations of the business as well as having taken advantage of low market interest rates to issue debt.  This cash held on the balance sheets of acquirers in the market may deflect some of the increase in borrowing cost due to the availability of deployable capital.  Specifically addressing those sellers looking to sell a business in the middle to lower middle market space – a slow rise in rates will give them an opportunity to cash out and use this new-found liquidity to put their money back to work in a recovering and dynamic market. 

In conclusion, the general consensus is that rising interest rates aren’t going to put a damper on mergers and acquisitions activity, at least not in the near-term.  However, as interest rates continue to increase, there will come a time when the increased cost of borrowing shifts the economics of valuation and activity.  The buyers most affected by the increase in rate will be those that rely heavily on financing through loans to complete an acquisition.  Fortunately for sellers, interest rates being at historical lows has helped buyers compile large amounts of cash on their balance sheet which, when combined with acquirer confidence in the business and consumer marketplace, a taxation environment that can be viewed as business friendly, the ideal conditions for selling begin to take shape.  It is important to take note that an increase in interest rates does not have as large of an immediate impact as the speed at which those interest rates increase.  As the Federal Reserve continues to be relatively transparent with their intentions regarding gradually increasing interest rates, and with firms having taken advantage of historically low interest rates and compiling large amounts of cash on the balance sheet, the ideal time to sell a business, particularly one in the lower middle market space, will be sooner rather than later.  As time goes on and increased rates continue to take a bite out of returns on investment, there will come a time when the balance will shift from a sellers’ market to one that is in favor of the buyer.

 

Author
JP Santos 
Senior Deal Associate
Benchmark International
Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

T: +1 615 924 8522
E: Santos@benchmarkcorporate.com 

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What to Do When You’ve Lost the Entrepreneurial Spirit

When you first started your own business, you were probably brimming with entrepreneurial spirit, otherwise the company would never have got off the ground in the first place. Now, however, you are feeling lacklustre towards your business, as the mundane tasks to keep the business going are taking over and hampering your entrepreneurial spirit. Here are four steps to take action and get your business moving forward again:

Feeling unfulfilled? Explore your options...

Delegate Tasks

As your business grows you might find yourself doing increasingly more menial tasks to keep the business going. To ensure you have time to focus on the business, these tasks need to be delegated. Granted, this is easier said than done as you might want to stay in control rather than train somebody else to do them; however, if you continue to do this you are working in the business rather than on it. To ensure that you are the visionary and troubleshooter that you need to be, delegate work – you’ll be able to work on the bigger picture and your employees will appreciate the trust and responsibility you give to them.

 

Work on Goals for the Year Ahead

If you have got to a point where you have grown from a start-up then it might seem like the largest hurdle has been overcome. Nevertheless, you need to keep this momentum going to watch the company flourish. To do this, it’s a good idea to have plans and goals for the upcoming year, setting aside time to break down your goals into smaller steps with these to be actioned monthly, or even weekly. If these tasks are scheduled, and you ensure they are actioned, then this helps to make sure these goals are accomplished.

 

Encourage Innovation

If the day-to-day has become monotonous and the business is plateauing then you might want to encourage innovation to take the business in a new direction. To innovate it is useful to listen to both your customers and employees, as well as encourage your employees to take risks and think outside the box. This way, new ideas can be created and prevent the business from stagnating.

 

Take Some Time Out of the Business

Taking some time out of the business can help you to recharge. Whether this be scheduling time for yourself each evening, making sure you take time off at the weekend, or going on holiday, taking time out can help you to take a step away from the business and refresh, helping to stimulate fresh ideas.

 

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How Do I Make Sure my Business is Left in Good Hands When I Sell?

Find the right partner.  

Partnering with the best team of experts to help you sell your business is the most important thing you can do when seeking a buyer you can trust. Not making the right choice can cost you time and money. Because you want to sell at the best time, you don’t want to waste time talking to the wrong people. By working with an experienced and globally renowned mergers and acquisitions team such as Benchmark International, you can mitigate the risk of letting an under-qualified broker deal with the sale of your company. You’ll want to make sure the firm you choose has highly specialized experts in your area of industry and the kind of global connections that can find the best buyer for your business.

 Do you have an exit or growth strategy in place?

Stay involved in the process.

Even if you work with an experienced firm to facilitate the sale, you want your relationship to be a partnership. They are going to work hard for you, but you know your business better than anybody. Finding a team that wants you to remain engaged in the process will result in a sale you can feel good about. By staying involved, you are also giving prospective buyers added confidence in their purchase.

Know your magic number.

It is crucial that you have an idea of your company value before putting your business on the market. Any reliable buyer will expect to be given accurate financials about your business. It is recommended that you seek the help of an organization that has the expertise in achieving maximum values for businesses. They will help you assess the value, fix weaknesses, boost strengths, and form your ideal business exit strategy for maximum success.

Be honest.

Represent your company accurately when dealing with prospective buyers. Inflating numbers or trying to cover up issues can result in a failed deal when the actual financials come under review. If you want to trust the buyer with your business, you should expect that they would want to trust you, as well. 

Be prepared.

Being adequately prepared is also an important step in selling to the right buyer. Make sure you have all the documentation in order regarding finances, profitability, real estate, and staffing. Make sure inventory is fulfilled, records are current, and taxes are paid. Being prepared can affect the price your business will command in the marketplace, as well as the level of interest from quality buyers. 

Think ahead.

Do not get so focused on the sale of your business that you are not thinking about the transition period. An experienced partner can help you keep your focus in the right place and ensure that you and the buyer are on the same page, and both are properly prepared for the transition. 

There is plenty to consider when taking on the daunting task of selling a business. Keep in mind that while you are an expert in your particular business, arranging its sale may be beyond your range of expertise. Relying on a knowledgeable team such as your partners at Benchmark International can ensure that you get the value you deserve and sell to a buyer you can trust.

 Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

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Top 10 Places to Retire in 2019

Are you considering selling your company and retiring? Once you have an exit strategy planned, it is time to think about where you will spend the best years of your life. We have compiled a list of inviting destinations to inspire you to make the most of your retirement.

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

New Zealand
Relocating to New Zealand has the power to change your entire outlook on life. It is home to a pristine environment, quaint communities, and amazing weather. There is plenty of sunshine and little variance between summer and winter temperatures. The unique landscape offers black sand beaches, expansive mountains, glowing caves, and delightful wildlife such as seals, penguins, and dolphins. The island nation is also home to world-class wineries, mind-blowing golf courses, luxury sailing, and exclusive spas

Monaco
The gorgeous French Riveria is home to this ultra-glamourous city-state that is often noted as one of the best and safest places in the world to live. Settle in among the worlds VIPs and high rollers in this tax haven of luxurious real estate and natural Mediterranean beauty. The climate is quite temperate, the location is in close proximity to all of Europe, and the healthcare is first-rate. Monaco has quite the gambling and cultural scene, and you can expect to be surrounded by luxury homes, vehicles and yachts.

The Dalmation Coast, Croatia
The scenery in Croatia is breathtaking along the crystal clear waters of the Adriatic Sea, with lush mountainside forests and spectacular castles. The country offers a rich culture, with Gothic and Renaissance architecture showcasing a unique background of centuries of heritage. The local cuisine is delectable and the country is also boasts a renowned wine region. From skiing to sailing to diving, there is a wealth of things to do while you enjoy all four seasons.

Algarve, Portugal
One can live quite well in this culinary paradise on very little money. Rent is inexpensive, the area is safe, English is widely spoken, and the scenery is rich with churches, pagodas, temples, mosques, and British-colonial buildings. The cost of healthcare is also low. Malaysia is one of the top five countries in the world for medical tourism with several private hospitals that are internationally accredited.   


The Cayman Islands
The Cayman Islands may be one of the most relaxing countries in the world in which to retire. Spend your days basking on pristine white beaches, indulging in the hundreds of restaurants, and taking in the vibrant cultural scene. The tropical climate, clean air, and high quality medical care make the country ideal for a healthy, stress-free lifestyle. It is also quite possibly the safest of the Caribbean Islands, with one of the lowest violent crime rates in the world.

Costa Rica
The tropical climate is a big attraction for anyone looking to move to Costa Rica. But the region offers much more to consider. Gorgeous beaches, rainforests, and mountains compliment the bustling cities and quaint towns. There is excellent medical care, modern infrastructure, a rich culture, and a laid-back way of life. It is truly one of the most peaceful places in the world. You’ll also find a very welcoming expat community and irresistible real estate opportunities.


Santo Domingo, The Dominican Republic
Enjoy a relaxed Caribbean life balanced with the benefits of a growing economy. The country’s infrastructure has improved greatly over the past 10 years. It has two international airports to accommodate convenient travel needs. Plus, the area offers a uniquely sophisticated European lifestyle with incredible dining, shopping, culture, and history. Whether you’re strolling the cobblestone streets alongside glass skyscrapers, or sailing around the thousands of miles of aquamarine coastline, Santo Domingo is a place of worldliness, charm and excitement.

Did you see the Top 10 Places to Retire in 2018?

Abruzzo, Italy
Located in central Italy, Abruzzo is comprised of beautiful small cities that are abundant with culture and warm, friendly faces. Considered the most romantic corner of Italy, the sprawling countryside is sprinkled with vineyards, orchards and groves. You’ll have access to amazing cuisine, majestic castles, and picturesque parks. Beaches and mountains are both nearby, and it is only a one-hour drive to the metropolis of Rome.

Malta
Enjoy a warm and sunny climate along with a luxurious lifestyle on the Mediterranean island nation of Malta. It is Europe’s smallest country but it is big on culture and things to do. Imagine yourself dining al fresco along the coast while basking in beautiful sunsets, or sailing around the islands while taking in the enchanting architecture. Malta is also home to many organized groups for expats, offering horseback-riding clubs, running clubs, dinner nights, and more.

Dubai, United Arab Emirates
BelIf you’re seeking an extravagant lifestyle, Dubai is definitely one destination to consider. Every inch of this city is built with luxury in mind. Make your home at the top of one of the world’s most majestic skyscrapers and overlook this spectacular oasis in the desert. Or settle into a luxury villa in a gated community on iconic Palm Jumeirah island. Here you’ll find plenty of glitz and glamour, a popular boardwalk, beach clubs, spas and a nightlife scene. Dubai is also a great location for making new business connections.

If you’re ready to start planning your retirement, contact Benchmark International for help with your exit strategy.
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Retirement Tips for Business Owners

Planning for retirement can be a daunting task, but if you follow some basic principles and seek the proper help, the process can be reassuring and even empowering. 

Start with the numbers.

The first step you will want to take in planning your retirement is to figure out how big of a nest egg you will need in order to live comfortably. Once you set your goal, you can assess your current position and determine how much time you will need in order to meet that goal, and any additional steps you’ll need to take to make it happen. Consider the amount of income you expect to earn over your remaining working years and how much you want to contribute to retirement plans. A quick Google search for online retirement calculators can give you an easy starting point. 

Determine your company’s valuation.

Before you can thing about selling, you need to know what your business is worth. Your company’s cash flow, market value comparable to other companies, and precedent transactions are all factors in business valuation. You’ve worked hard to build your business and you shouldn’t have to make compromises when you want to retire. Consulting a company broker such as Benchmark International will help you get an accurate picture of your company’s worth and take the next steps in selling your business in the smartest way possible and with the smoothest transition. After all, you want your freedom to retire, but you also want your employees to be taken care of and your core business values to remain in tact.

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Invest early.

It’s crucial to start investing in your retirement as early as possible. Whether it’s a 401k or an individual retirement account (IRA) or both, investing sooner means earning more interest. 401k plans have higher maximum contribution levels and a preselected list of limited investment choices. IRAs allow you to invest in a wide variety of mutual funds, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), and individual stocks and bonds. 

Another option to consider is a Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) plan. It gives the business owner a vehicle to contribute to their employees’ retirement savings as well as their own, with easy setup and flexible options for funding. Annual earnings are not taxed and it grows tax-deferred, and there are no maximum contributions. 

Most importantly, all of these options allow your money to grow tax-free. If you have already begun to invest, take a step back to look at your investment plan and see if you need to make it more aggressive to achieve your goal within the expected timeframe. Consulting a financial expert can help you choose what type of retirement plan is right for you and create a blueprint to make the most of it. 

Strike a balance.

Saving and investing are not one and the same—and you’ll need to do both. Place money into a savings account that has slow but guaranteed growth. As a counterbalance, invest money in an investment account that carries some risk. While there’s always a risk you can lose your principal, the return may be quite high if invested wisely.

Diversification of your financial portfolio is also an important component of your retirement plan. Factor in goals, risks, and think about how to reduce vulnerabilities. The younger you are, the more aggressively you can invest. Consulting a financial planner can help you easily determine what is right for you.

Get exit planning advice.

You’ve put everything into building your business. When the exciting time comes to move on from that business, you’ll want to start planning your exit strategy sooner rather than later. Think about how you would like to see the business make a successful transition. Think about increasing the value of your business and selling at the right time. The smartest way to do this is to partner with a trusted M&A firm such as Benchmark International to help you make your dreams a reality. They will help with your company valuation and offer a winning strategy tailored to your specific needs, and even help you find the perfect buyer. Even if you only wish to partially retire, creating an exit plan opens up your options and gives you peace of mind for when the time comes for a transition.  

Take the next step.

If you are ready to plan for your retirement and create a successful company exit strategy, call Benchmark International today.

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Is It Time To Sell My Business ?

Determining whether it is a good time to sell your business is one of the most challenging decisions a business owner has to make. There are innumerable factors that affect this decision and it’s important to not get overwhelmed. A few things to take into account are financial situation, the company’s future/outlook, the opportunity cost of time, and the type of deal structure being pursued.

Financial Situation

Usually, the first factor that business owners consider when making the decision to sell is the financial impact this will have on their lives. It’s important to analyze one’s current lifestyle and how a potential sale would change that – what the payoff would be. Unless a business owner is in a troubled situation, they’ll want to make sure that the decision to sell will not hinder their long-term lifestyle. A hasty decision here can have a catastrophic economic ripple effect. But, selling at a time that maximizes economic profit can potentially result in lifelong financial freedom.

 

Company’s Outlook

If an owner is at a point to even consider selling a business, there’s a high probability that they’ve put in a significant amount of time, effort, and capital into it. Pondering this decision generally stems from a plateau in company growth or changes in the industry landscape. When this stage is reached, one must determine if they are in a position to take the company to the next level or if it is better to move on after building it to this point. It’s important to understand that being aware of “when to get out” is not a slight on the owner. Rather, it is the recognition of an opportunity to pursue other goals. The business has been a large part of life, the employees are important, and the hopes of a successful future is why companies are built. So, the key is to make sure that the “hands” the company is going to be in moving forward satisfy the needs of all the key people that are going to be impacted by a
potential transaction.

 

Time

Letting go of something that has been such a large part of one’s life can be very daunting. The fear that this is “the end of the line” for a business owner is often what doesn’t allow an individual to make a decision with sound judgement. The opportunity cost of time needs to be taken into consideration – that is, what you can allocate time to in life that you were unable to do before. Perhaps an exit can allow more time with family or another business venture; all such options open up more once the full scope of a business sale is analyzed beyond the initial fear.

 

Deal Structure

The type of deal for a business sale is arguably the most important factor when making the decision to sell. The beauty about this is that deals can be structured in almost any way imaginable. Many owners think that selling a business is an “all or nothing” type of transaction. But the reality is that majority of business acquisitions are centered around partial sales and/or long-term seller incentives. It is perfectly reasonable for a founder/owner to retain ownership to “keep some skin in the game” or to have a management agreement that allows them to continue being involved in the company. Owners need to educate themselves on the kind of deal structures most suited for them and understand that the scope of deal types is far more customizable than people realize. 

 

As has been pretty clear, there is no cookie-cutter process behind making the decision to sell a business. Individuals need to take countless variables into consideration when doing something of this magnitude. A great way to begin this process is to narrow down what aspects of the decision are most important to the owner and then analyzing each variable individually. Most importantly, don’t forget that if a deal is thinkable, it is achievable.

 

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Is The End Near?

For the last several years, the saying has been “There’s never been a better time to sell.” Multiples have been high. Buyers have been plentiful. Debt has been cheap.  Optimism has run strong. The truth is, it is undeniably still a great time to sell; it’s never been better.  But …

It takes time to sell and for the first time since emerging from the Great Recession, certainty about whether or not the later part of the new year will be a good time to sell- the best ever – is down. Anyone who says they can predict these markets is a fool.  But the probability of a turn is certainly high and increasing as we begin this year.

The good news is that the signs indicate not an immediate downturn but rather one that can still be beaten to the finish line. Selling a business should take six months to a year. Thus anyone moving out now on a process should be able to take advantage of these good times – if they get started fast and, more than ever, move diligently and place a higher emphasis on certainty of close when selecting their winning bidder.

The change in the tea leaves really began in November and accelerated throughout December. Some of the key indicators include:

  • In a December Duke University poll, almost half of responding U.S. CFO’s stated that they believed a recession was likely to occur in 2019. Even more compelling, more than 80% of those CFO’s felt recession would strike by the end of 2020.[1]Right or wrong; the respondents to this poll are the key influencers of the amount of M&A activity generated by strategic buyers – and those most responsible for bad deals. If the economy does sour, or they simply believeit is going to sour, they will not be sticking their necks out for adventuresome acquisitions at record multiples.
  1. The public markets provide several signs.  The first is the relative comparison of the large caps, to the midcaps, and then to the small caps. The M&A market for privately-held companies can essentially be seen as a microcap extension of the public markets. While we all know the public markets did not do well last year, what most have not commented upon is that in the last four months of the year, according to the Wall Street Journal, (2) large caps were down 5.5%, midcaps were down 8.6% and small caps are down 16.4% going into the last trading week of the year.We’ve not yet seen the extension of this extrapolated line into the private markets but one must wonder how long the trickle-down effect will take.  Smaller companies tend to do well at the beginning of an upturn and larger cap companies do better at the end.
  • Debt is becoming a more attractive alternative for investors. This will be problematic to the sellers of businesses for various reasons. Most obviously, M&A buyers are large consumers of debt. They use it to buy companies. If they must pay more for their debt, they have less money left in their accounts to offer sellers. Less obviously but probably more significantly, the historically abysmal returns debt has offered for much of the last decade have led many typical debt investors, including insurance companies and pension funds, to provide equity to private equity funds. Flush with this extra cash, PE funds have been on a buying spree which is commonly stated to be the driving force behind today’s frothy valuations. As those investors shift back to the more normalized bond markets, private equity will have less energy and vigor for aggressive bidding.
  • The financial press seems to be of the mind that the artificial boost to strategic buyers provided by the recent tax cuts has run its course. Is this a fair assessment or simply “Trump-bashing”? We have no idea but we all know that in the markets, sentiment is often more important than reality. Perhaps the fact that 2018 saw increasingly attractive results for sellers was a result of those tax cuts carrying the bull market on around for one last lap. Again, we are not talking certainties here, just indications and probabilities.
  • The strong dollar has dampened the ability of foreign buyers to compete in the US markets.With yet another class of buyers lowering their activity levels, it may not be long before the laws of supply and demand kick in and the equilibrium point on the old supply and demand curves shifts down and to the left.
  • China has largely gone home. As 2018 proceeded, the Chinese government tightened its grip on the export of capital. In the last half of 2018, the US government began to make Chinese investors feel unwelcome as well. Numerous high-profile deals were killed in a very visible fashion as a result of regulatory interference on both sides of the Pacific. These included, most notably, the purchase of Recurrent Energy Developments operations by Shenzhen Energy in August and then Broadcom’s acquisition of Qualcomm.  According to CNN Money, Chinese investment in the US fell by 92% between the first half of 2018 and the first half of 2017 – 92% - and has been declining steadily since the second half of 2016.[1]Add to this the late 2018 US-China financial cold war and China’s slowly increasing realization that it has been splurging on debt that is now coming due and proving hard to pay down, and the spigot is now approaching the closed position.
  • Forecasted growth of companies in the US public markets has taken a definite downturn. The S&P 500 saw collective growth of 7.3% in sales and 8.2% in profit year-over-year in the third quarter. The Wall Street Journal has been consistently predicting over the last three months that those same figures in a year will have fallen to 5.4% and 4.1% respectively.[1]While the private markets are not the public markets, both are selling that intangible asset known as future cash flows and if buyers feel the big companies can’t continue to deliver outsized returns, they are likely to share at least some of that sentiment when it comes to the private markets.
  • Divided government might bring an end to the pro-business approach demonstrated over the last two years. The people that matter state that decreased regulation, lower taxes, and a more tolerant enforcement environment have benefited their businesses and increased the prices they are willing to pay for companies. But a period of more compromise is now inevitable and the uncertainty of the 2020 elections will likely only grow and bring with it a sense of increased risk that will affect valuations.
  • All good things must come to an end. We have enjoyed a ten-year bull market in M&A, both private and public.  That qualifies as “long in the tooth” to be as polite as possible.  It seems that 4% GDP growth is not sustainable. Unemployment can’t go any lower. Further tax decreases seem unlikely. The federal deficit and debt are growing. Interest rates are not likely to drop. Confidence and sentiment could not be higher than they were three months ago and are in fact a bit lower now than they were then.

The good news is that we’ve seen absolutely no indication that the market for private companies has yet been affected by these indications. Furthermore, changes in valuation, whether favorable or unfavorable, have not historically occurred rapidly. If there is to be a drop in multiples, it will be perhaps not gradual but at least measured. That said, the probability we now face is that we are more likely than before to look back from a spot twelve months in the future and say “I remember when it, was the best time to sell.”

Author:
Clinton Johnston
Managing Director
Benchmark International

T: 1-813-898-2363
E: Johnston@benchmarkcorporate.com

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