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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.

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?
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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Which is the Best Way to Structure the Sale of my Business?

When selling your business, receiving offers is a big hurdle to overcome so, when this happens, it might seem like plain sailing from here. Unfortunately, there is still quite a way to go with the transaction, the first being to analyse the offers on the table, to make sure they suit your exit or growth strategy.

This might not seem difficult, but there are many ways to structure a transaction. Therefore, depending on what you want to get out of the sale of your business, this will influence the type of deal you take. For example, are you planning to retire and need to live off the proceeds of the sale? Or do you want to remain involved in the business?

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

Consider the below list of ways to structure a deal to find out which is right for you:

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Benchmark International Facilitates the Transaction of In-O-Vate Technologies Inc. to Continental Materials Corporation

Benchmark International has successfully facilitated the transaction of In-O-Vate Technologies Inc. ("InOvate") to Continental Materials Corporation ("CMC").

InOvate, based in Jupiter, Florida, is a leading manufacturer of premium, metal dryer venting accessories used in residential home construction. Founded by Rick Harpenau in 1996, and led by tenured employees James Ortiz and Cliff Budnick, InOvate has grown consistently through supplying quality engineered, superior products along with delivering excellent customer service.

In response to the transaction, CEO Cliff Budnick stated, "Benchmark helped create a strong first impression for InOvate when introduced to CMC. The InOvate team is excited to continue its growth as part of the CMC portfolio. Equally, we appreciate the ability to maintain our family-oriented culture while ensuring stability for our staff, customers, and vendors alike. "

Founded in 1954, Continental Materials Corporation is a public holding company with subsidiaries in heating and cooling manufacturing, building products, commercial door distribution, and manufacturing and aggregates mining and processing. Headquartered in Chicago, IL, CMC employs approximately 450 employees across the US.

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

Senior Deal Associate, Sunny Yang Garten, added, "It was a pleasure to represent InOvate in this transaction. Throughout the process, Rick and his team were exceptionally responsive, diligent, and professional. This acquisition represents a tremendous opportunity for both businesses and their teams to strategically accelerate the rate of profitable growth. On behalf of the numerous Benchmark International personnel that worked on this opportunity, we congratulate both teams on reaching this goal."

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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.   

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?
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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What is a Management Buyout (MBO)?

There is a vast range of different types of acquirers a seller can go to when selling their business. From trade to private equity, national to international buyers, there can be a large pool of potential acquirers to approach.

One of the many options available is selling to the current management team – otherwise known as a management buyout (MBO). This is a transaction where a company’s management team purchases a majority or all of the shares from the existing shareholder(s) to take control of the company. This requires the management team to pool resources to fund the acquisition, but there are various funding options available such as private equity financiers and seller financing.

Do you have an exit or growth strategy in place?

There are different reasons as to why a company might opt for an MBO rather than look to sell to an outside company – for example, it might particularly appeal to a shareholder who is looking to retire. If the company is run by its management team and the shareholder(s) are no longer involved in the day-to-day then an MBO can allow the shareholder(s) to fully retire.

While an MBO may appeal more to a shareholder looking to retire, it can be an attractive succession plan for any company. One of the reasons being is that there is no need to disclose confidential information to outside parties such as competitors. Another reason is it ensures a smooth transition as the management team has the skills and experience to take the company forward and continuity is ensured for customers, suppliers and employees.

Nevertheless, there can be pitfalls to an MBO which must be treated with caution. If both the management team and the shareholder(s) are spending a lot of time working on the MBO, then this could be detrimental to business performance and, as MBOs require a lot of specialist knowledge in structuring and financing the deal, a lot of attention is required.

However, these pitfalls can be avoided – a good corporate finance team can assist in executing a successful MBO, without compromising business performance.

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14 M&A Cartoons That Will Brighten Your Day

All images may be subject to copyright.

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How to Strike a Work-Life Balance to Improve Your Health

What were the reasons you started your own business? Most likely you wanted to pursue a passion but there are a multitude of other benefits that would tempt anyone to start their own business – from flexible working times to calling the shots. But, have these benefits actually become a reality?

If not, then it might be time to look at your work-life balance. Do you find yourself having no time to spend with your family and doing the things you love? Even worse, do you find that it’s having a detrimental effect on your health? For example, if you are stressed, being overworked can lead to a number of health problems such as stress induced insomnia and heart disease – something that needs to be remedied straight away.

Feel like it's time to slow down?

Here is what you should do to make sure you are balancing work and life without being detrimental to your health:

 

Visit the Doctor

If you are feeling stressed and this is making you feel unwell then it is time to visit the doctor. Nobody likes visiting the doctor and it might be difficult to fit an appointment in around your schedule, but it is best done sooner rather than later – a doctor can tell you if you need to slow down and what will happen if you don’t.

 

Factor in Time for a Healthy Lifestyle

Make sure you schedule time for eating well, exercising regularly and getting plenty of sleep. Admittedly, it’s easier said than done, but fitting these activities into your day can help you work better and, often, working longer hours doesn’t actually lead to increased productivity, in fact – studies have shown that work performance can improve with a shorter work week.

 

Schedule Some Non-Business Time

Aside from scheduling in time for a healthy lifestyle, you should have some time for leisure activities you enjoy. You can’t work 24 hours a day so try and find time in the evening or weekend to switch off and enjoy other passions in your life to help reduce stress.

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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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I’ve Had an Offer for my Business – What do I do?

If you’ve received an offer for your business, you have three options – the first being take the offer and sell your business. This is possibly something you have been considering, or it seems too good an offer to refuse; however, you should be cautious in such an event and, if you do want to pursue the offer, make sure you do the following:

Keep the Business Sale Confidential

Confidentiality is very important when it comes to the sale of your business. If it gets out that you are selling your business then this could potentially lose you staff, customers, and suppliers as they could get nervous about an impending sale and the changes that could be in store for them. Therefore, do not discuss anything until a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) has been signed, including whether you are prepared to sell the business.

Make Sure you Stay Focused on Your Business

One of the dangers of the sales process is that it is very time-consuming at the point where you really need to focus on maintaining a good business performance – if business performance dips, then this can give a buyer an excuse to lower their offer.

Need help with a business offer?

In fact, this is not the only situation where a buyer might decide to lower their initial offer. The buyer is under no obligation to actually pay this price for your company until you both sign the Sales and Purchase Agreement (SPA) and there are several reasons a buyer might try and chip away at the offer to try and get your business for a bargain price.

For example, when you have accepted the offer and signed the subsequent Letter of Intent (LOI), the buyer can commence the due diligence process, providing them with access to confidential information such as financial documents and contracts for a specified period of time, typically 30-60 days. There are two related problems with this. Number one is the fact that the due diligence process is time-consuming and a resource drain, which could lead you to take your eye off the business. Number two is the buyer can now look at re-negotiating now they have had a thorough look at the ins and outs of your business.

Therefore, after this huge resource drain, you now have an offer on the table that does not meet your expectations as the buyer has chipped away at the price. Either you still take this less than favourable offer, or you turn away from the deal. While it is your prerogative to do so, you have lost time and valuable resources, you have given information about your company to another party, and you have not had your full focus on the business.

So – what are the alternatives to accepting an unsolicited offer?

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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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Benchmark International Facilitated the Transaction of Master Printing Group to JAL Equity

Benchmark International has successfully facilitated the sale of Master Printing Group to JAL Equity. Master Printing is one of the Mid-South's leading marketing solutions providers. The company provides complete services from design and concept through the production of complicated collateral pieces. Additionally, the company operates a full-service graphic design, marketing, and advertising division as well as comprehensive direct mail services.

JAL Equity is a boutique private equity firm based out of Sarasota Florida and focuses on acquiring small businesses and operating them profitably over the long term. The company targets printing services, data services, direct marketing, and lead generation entities.

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

Senior Deal Associate, JP Santos, added, "The Benchmark International team is incredibly excited about the future of Master Printing Group under the ownership of JAL Equity. The previous owners did an outstanding job of building a company with an impeccable reputation in the market, and a brand that was built over generations. Jon and Susan were a pleasure to work for, and we're excited about what the future holds for them both. JAL Equity has proven to be successful in this industry, and the corporate and cultural fit amongst the JAL Equity and Master Printing Group was apparent from the first conversation."

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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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Senior Deal Associate, JP Santos, Announced as Winner of the 10th Annual Emerging Leaders Awards

Benchmark International is delighted to announce that one of our very own has been awarded as an Emerging Leader by The M&A Advisor. The M&A Advisor created the awards to show recognition of leading M&A, financing and turnaround professionals, and to gather professionals together for professional development and mentorship opportunities.

Senior Deal Associate, JP Santos, has been chosen for his accomplishments and expertise from a pool of nominees by an independent judging panel of distinguished business leaders. Benchmark International is proud to be represented by one of our talented teammates at this prestigious event.

Santos expressed his gratitude for the award stating “I’m humbled at being nominated as an Emerging Leader by Benchmark International and subsequently being chosen as a winner. I’m fortunate that I have the opportunity to be a part of a team of driven individuals who are passionate about serving our clients in an effort to help them reach their goals,” he said. “This award is a tremendous honor for me personally as well as our firm, and I appreciate the recognition from The M&A Advisor and the panel of judges.”

On Tuesday, September 17, The M&A Advisor will host a black tie Awards Gala at the New York Athletic Club in Manhattan to introduce the 2019 Emerging Leaders Award Winners to the business community and to celebrate their achievements. The Awards Gala is a feature of the 2019 Emerging Leaders Summit—an exclusive event bringing current and past Emerging Leaders Awards winners together with their peers and industry stalwarts.

In 1998, The M&A Advisor was founded to offer insights and intelligence on M&A activities. Over the years, networks have grown, and their award ceremonies have been dubbed the Oscars of M&A. Benchmark International is proud to accept recognition from this organization and always strives to leave no stone unturned.

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9 Surprising Stats About Buying or Selling a Business

Are you considering buying or selling a privately held business? Below are a few stats that you might find surprising:

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Global CEO, Gregory Jackson, named a recipient of the 2019 Leadership Award from M&A Advisor

Benchmark International is pleased to announce that our very own Global CEO, Gregory Jackson, has been announced a recipient of the 2019 Leadership Award from M&A Advisor. Our organization works hard to make the best transactions for our clients, and Mr. Jackson notes that without all members of the Benchmark International team, this accomplishment would not be possible.

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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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Benchmark International Facilitated The Transaction Of Am Engineering, Inc. To Fremont-Wright, LLC

Benchmark International has successfully facilitated the acquisition of AM Engineering, Inc. (“AME”) by Fremont-Wright, LLC (“Fremont-Wright”).

AME is a Florida-based business headquartered in Sarasota. AME specializes in civil engineering and land surveying projects for large and small-scale land development, water distribution systems, wastewater collection facilities, roadways, parking facilities, and site grading. AME offers both engineering and surveying services for residential and commercial clients. The sale to Fremont-Wright creates new growth opportunities for the business.

Fremont-Wright is a holding company based in Memphis, TN, and specializes in aerial and land survey, as well as civil and structural engineering. Its companies – Triton Engineering, I.F. Rooks, Colbert Matz Rosenfelt, and Harmsen – also offer services such as photogrammetry, environment management, volumetric services and utility design. Fremont-Wright serves the institutional, mixed use, commercial and residential industries. This acquisition fits well with Fremont-Wright’s continued nationwide growth strategy.

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

Shawn Leins, president and one of the owners of AME stated, “We are excited to join the Fremont- Wright team and look forward to continued growth and success.”

Regarding the deal, Transaction Director Leo VanderSchuur at Benchmark International stated, “It was a pleasure to represent AME in this strategic transaction. On behalf of Benchmark International, we wish both companies continued success.”

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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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What Is A Strategic Partner?

A strategic partner is another business entity with which you form an agreement to share resources with the mission of growth and mutual success. There are different types of strategic partnerships.

  • Horizontal Partnership: Businesses within the same field join alliances to improve their market position. Example: Facebook and Instagram.
  • VerticalPartnership: Businesses team up with companies within the same supply chain (suppliers, distributors and retailers), often to stabilize supply chains and increase sales. Example: LiveNation and Ticketmaster.
  • Equity Partnership: An investor acquires a percentage interest in a business, providing needed capital and sharing in profits and losses.
  • Joint Venture: Two or more businesses form an entirely new legal entity in which the profits and risks are shared, and the original companies continue to exist on their own. Example: Microsoft and NBC’s creation of MSNBC.
  • Merger: Two companies agree to go forward as a single new company and the original companies no longer exist. Example: Exxon and Mobil, now Exxon Mobil Corp.
  • Acquisition: One company takes over another company and establishes itself as the new owner. Example: AOL and Time Warner, now Time Warner.

Why Do I Need One?

A strategic partnership can be an extremely powerful tactic that gives your business a competitive edge. According to a study by the CMO Council, 85 percent of business owners believe partnerships are essential for business success.There are several reasons why it is a commonly relied-upon growth plan.

  • Expansion into new markets
  • Increased brand awareness
  • Product line extension
  • Access to new customers
  • Improved supply chain performance
  • Added value for existing customers
  • Acceleration of innovation
  • Strengthening of weaknesses
  • Sourcing of capital

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

A successful partnership must be built on a solid growth strategy and make sense from a capabilities perspective. The goals, values and culture of all partners should be aligned. You also need to have the right infrastructure in place. And the timing of the venture can be critical depending on the market. A partnership is a major endeavor and you absolutely want to get it right. Unfortunately, most organizations are not armed with the proper connections, resources and management capabilities to maximize the potential of a partnership. According to a report by the Business Performance Innovation Network (BPI):

  • 43 percent of business partnerships have high failure rates.
  • 45 percent are unable to maintain long-term, successful relationships.
  • 42 percent of partnerships are not well leveraged.
  • 67 percent of companies that agree to work together lack formal partnering strategies. 

How to Get It Right

The smartest way to ensure that you are entering into a successful partnership is to seek the guidance of an advisor such as Benchmark International. We have the connections, experience, data-driven analytics, and knowledge to help you devise a carefully crafted growth strategy that is built on confidence and captures the most value. If you are a founder, an owner, an entrepreneur, or part of the leadership of an established company, we encourage you to reach out to us and start the conversation about how a strategic partnership can benefit your business.

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Real Estate Industry Outlook

The global real estate environment is off to a strong start for 2019. While uncertainties regarding trade, Brexit, and other geopolitical tensions linger, we have yet to see any major weaknesses in real estate markets. The sector continues to attract capital and pricing levels are holding steady thanks to strong capital flows. 

Real Capital Analytics (RCA) reports that acquisitions of income-producing commercial real estate last year rose by 3 percent to $963.7 billion. That is the third highest annual total on record behind 2007 and 2015.

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

The Multifamily Sector

Multifamily housing is expected to continue to attract sustained investment and debt capital. Multifamily demand remains steady and is driving up rent prices as younger generations are being priced out of home ownership and older generations are downsizing. The top three emerging markets to watch in the United States for multifamily housing this year are Phoenix, Portland, and Tampa Bay.

Workforce Housing

The growing need for workforce housing is also driving the market for multifamily housing. In fact, workforce housing has actually outperformed the overall multifamily market in each of the last four years.According to a report by CBRE, workforce housing has brought in nearly $375 billion in investment over the last five years. That is more than 51 percent of the total for all multifamily asset classes.

Tech, Retail & E-commerce

Real estate fundamentals remain strong amid trends surrounding urbanization, retail, and ecommerce. Suburban markets are adapting to technology and becoming more urbanized with added focus on community-oriented retail concepts. Retail stores and shopping malls are undergoing an identity transformation, as retailers are adjusting their real estate needs to accommodate omnichannel experiences, especially in the U.S. and Europe. Additionally, e-commerce companies are adding smaller, satellite facilities to their networks of regional distribution centers as a reaction to the demand for fast, low-cost shipping.

Tech firms and flexible space providers continue to have a major impact on the global real estate market this year. Flexible space providers are targeting their focus on larger enterprises. More and more firms are leasing shared spaces. And as employees become more mobile, companies are adapting and coworking is becoming more popular. Coworking is primarily focused in high-wage markets and cities with a large number of professional services companies. Coworking spaces in tech markets are nearly double that of other markets.

Mixed-use real estate is also going to remain a significant opportunity, with the convergence of retail, office, residential, hospitality, and community-focused spaces. This adaptation is causing a shift in the types of tenants that properties are accommodating, resulting in shorter lease agreements.

REITs and Mergers & Acquisitions

Investors are expected to continue to diversify into secondary markets in search of yield. This includes real estate investment trusts (REITs), which have recently increased valuations and pay healthy dividends. Global REITs are projected to outperform other sectors and deliver strong returns in 2019. The property sectors among REITs expected to see the most M&A activity this year are industrial, self-storage, data center, multifamily, and student housing. Experts also predict the possibilities of some deals in the hotel REIT sector.

The year 2018 outperformed 2015’s prosperity for global commercial real estate investment in the current cycle, with a five percent increase in global investment volume. The U.S. accounted for 52 percent of global transactions. A total of six investors from Canada, France and China invested a record $41 billion in U.S. entities.

The value of U.S. entity-level transactions increased threefold last year, driven in majority by cross-border investment. Toronto-based Brookfield acquired Forest City Realty for $11 billion, making Brookfield the second-largest property owner in New York City, led only by the city government, and boasting a NYC portfolio worth around $32 billion. In 2018, Brookfield also acquired the second-largest U.S. mall owner, General Growth Properties, for $15 billion. Both Forest City and GGP were publicly traded REITs. 

Global Hotspots

International property is sustaining its 2018 performances as a remarkably popular market. Some of the top cities for real estate investment in 2019 include Lisbon, Toronto, Dallas-Forth Worth, Melbourne, Singapore, Berlin, New York City, Vancouver, Raleigh, Montreal, Tokyo, Madrid, Osaka, and Sydney. Specifically, the city of Lisbon has been noted to be the 2019 investment capital of Europe. This is due to increased tourism, a growing economy, and competitively lower pricing.

Contact us

If you are interested pursuing a growth strategy or an exit plan. No matter what sector you work or invest in, Benchmark International can help you take your aspirations to the next level.

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M&A Outlook for Tennessee Business Owners

The state of Tennessee is expected to see sustained economic growth in 2019. The state has a record-low unemployment rate, with nearly 43,000 new jobs projected for Tennesseans this year. The state’s inflation-adjusted gross domestic product is also expected to rise. The transportation and utilities sectors are predicted to see positive gains and the healthcare and real estate markets are expected to remain strong.

 Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

A Healthcare Hub

Since 2017, the U.S. state of Tennessee has experienced a surge in M&A activity. The healthcare and technology industries are major drivers behind the increased action, especially in the city of Nashville. In 2018, the private equity firm KKR purchased Envision Healthcare Corp. for $9.9 billion. Apollo Global Management acquired LifePoint Health for $5.6 billion. LifePoint Health then merged with RCCH HealthCare Partners. This momentum is expected to continue through 2019, with much optimism surrounding the healthcare market in particular.

According to Mergermarket, Nashville ranks fifth in the U.S. in terms of the overall value of healthcare M&A deals closed since 2015, with $30 billion in transactions. The upswing in activity is largely due to new technological and data opportunities in the healthcare sector.

In the early part of 2019, we have already seen major M&A ventures surrounding Nashville healthcare businesses. Maryland’s Omega Healthcare acquired Nashville’s MedEquities Realty Trust, Inc. for $600 million. HealthStream, Inc. purchased healthcare-training company Providigm for $18 million. HCA Healthcare, Inc. purchased North Carolina-based Mission Health for $1.5 billion. HCA now owns and operates more than 170 hospitals in 20 states across the country.  

It is important to note that Nashville is home to the headquarters of almost 20 publicly traded healthcare companies and an overall industry that creates more than $92 billion in annual revenue. These healthcare companies employ more than 570,000 people worldwide. The area is anticipated to continue to shape the industry landscape in what is an increasingly inviting market. Strategic buyers and private equity investors will be keeping a close watch on the growing opportunities in this region as the year progresses.

The Real Estate Market

Another industry that is forecast to have a strong year in Tennessee is real estate, specifically in Nashville, which is home to more than 600,000 people. The city’s real estate market has continued to grow over the past decade. Home values increased 8.2% last year and are expected to go up 8% this year. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Nashville ranks as the nation's fifth-surest investment bet for 2019. This real estate market is positively impacted by several factors, such as ample redevelopment opportunities, low mortgage rates, high demand for housing, a large student population, and plenty of young families. Because Nashville is also known as the Music City and boasts a major tourism industry, there is also a large market for tourism-related rentals.

The attractive quality of life is also a big draw. Last year, Nashville was ranked 11th out of the 100 best cities to live by U.S. News & World Report, up from 13th the year before. We will have to wait and see if it climbs even higher on the list in 2019. 

In addition to the city of Nashville, the Memphis and Knoxville areas also offer attractive real estate markets for investors. This is due to affordable housing and high quality-of-life benefits.

Make a Move

If you are a business owner looking to create value, whether it’s in the state of Tennessee or on the other side of the world, contact Benchmark International to craft a strategy that best suits your company and your aspirations. 

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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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Questions You Should Ask a Potential Buyer

Once you have decided it is the right time to sell your company, it’s time to find the right buyer. You are going to want to sell to someone that shares your vision for the business that you worked so hard to build. At the same time, you do not want to waste your time on prospects that are not serious or financially fit. An important step in the vetting process is knowing what information you should request from potential buyers. Start by reviewing this list of questions to generate additional ideas and help you manage expectations. 

“Do you have prior experience with acquiring a business?”

A buyer’s track record is paramount when considering whether or not they have the necessary resources and competencies to handle an acquisition. What is their experience? Do they have any success stories? What about failures? Nobody wants to sell to someone who has acquired businesses only to see them fail.  

 Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

“Why are you interested in buying my business?”

Understanding a buyer’s motives is crucial when seeking someone who is going to operate in the best interests of your company. If they share a passion for what you created and have a solid plan to build upon that success, they are far more likely to take your business in the right direction. Asking this question can also help you ascertain how serious they are about working towards a deal.

“How do you plan to finance the sale?”

Securing capital is often complicated and you can learn a great deal about a buyer from their answer to this question. It will demonstrate how experienced and how serious they truly are, helping you to weed out the dreamers. How do they plan to structure the deal? Can they prove that they have the funds available? How much cash is on the table? A serious buyer is going to be adequately prepared to answer this question and may even provide documentation.  

“How long have you been looking to acquire a business?”

This is a serious question when it comes to avoiding giant wastes of your time. There are people who will claim to be eager and ready to invest in a business, but they really are more interested in talking about the idea of it, as opposed to actually sealing any deal. How many deals have they passed on, and why? Ask for explanations. Sometimes deals simply do not work out. But if someone has a routine of waiting around for the perfect deal for years, you probably want to move on.

“How do you plan to carry on the legacy of my family business?”

If you have a family-owned business, it is likely that it matters to you that the company’s legacy remains in tact. This means you need to find a buyer that cares about maintaining its heritage and has a plan to do so. If you have family that will continue to be employed with the company, you will want assurance that the new owner is including them in their plans.

Don’t go it alone.

There are many considerations when seeking the right buyer for your business. To help you navigate the entire process, it is vastly beneficial to partner with a mergers and acquisitions firm that has the connections and resources to match you with the right investor. A firm that cares about the future of your business. The experts at Benchmark International will do all the homework for you and protect your interests to ensure that you get the very best deal possible.  

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2019 Outlook For The Healthcare Industry

Value-based Care

Quality, affordable healthcare remains an important issue for people all over the world, from Europe and the United States to Asia and Africa. As global healthcare spending continues to skyrocket, people are demanding more bipartisan policies from their political leaders to address the problem. This is why value-based care solutions are starting to play a major role. The industry is undergoing a shift in focus from treating illness to achieving and maintaining wellness. These solutions are more productive and less wasteful, as they aim to avoid unnecessary testing and interventions. Up until now, this role has been typically driven by health plans, but physicians and health systems are getting more involved in the full spectrum of care. All of these elements of value-based care represent huge growth opportunities in the digital healthcare coming-of-age, with various forms of technology as the major impetus.  

Technology, Artificial Intelligence, and Data

Technologies that automate nonclinical duties such as paperwork are being developed to save physicians time and allow them to focus on patients. The implementation of electronic health records (EHRs) and artificial intelligence tools is expected to better connect patients, physicians, health systems, and health plans. Physicians will be able to utilize EHR data to manage illnesses with fewer scheduled in-person appointments.

Virtual care is also an emerging market factor in the changing healthcare landscape. Many people put off doctor visits until their condition worsens, which increases costs such as emergency room expenses. New virtual care technologies are enabling patients to see a physician from the comfort of home. It also means that physicians are able to see more patients. TeleHealth Services is an ideal example of this trend. It uses digital information, computers and mobile devices to access and manage health care services remotely. In the last few years, nearly three quarters of major employer health plans had incorporated TeleHealth software services into their benefit packages.

Tech-enabled medical devices and services are another growing trend. This includes wearable devices, digital therapeutics, and applications that collect and communicate data. Last year, FitBit acquired Twine Health, a health-coaching platform that helps people improve health outcomes while helping health systems, plans, and providers reduce healthcare costs. Last summer, Amazon acquired the online pharmacy PillPack for almost $1 billion, and drug giant GlaxoSmithKline entered into a four-year agreement with the online platform 23andme, the world’s leading DNA-testing-kit resource for consumers. Also in 2018, Roche acquired Flatiron, which uses oncology EHRs to connect oncologists, academics, hospitals, researchers and regulators on a shared technology platform. 

Cloud technology also brings new benefits to the table, such as easy integration of immense datasets, and AI capabilities that analyze data and provide insights remotely. Cloud technology is expected to continue to gain momentum, as data—both big and small—are finally being used in ways that may make a meaningful difference for the healthcare industry.

Healthcare Mergers & Acquisitions (M&A) in 2019

The industry saw ample M&A activity last year, and this activity has already carried over into 2019, with several major deals already closing in January. There are also some big moves in the works that everyone is watching. A proposed merger between retail pharmacy CVS and insurance giant Aetna has drawn much speculation and scrutiny as it still awaits regulatory approval as of this month. Walmart has been in talks to merge with insurance provider Humana, another sign of major retailers attempting to take a stake in the healthcare industry. 

With the growing digital health market and continued pharmaceutical innovations, M&A strategies remain a preferred growth plan for executives and it is expected that there will be lively M&A activity throughout 2019. Southeast Asia has drawn abundant attention, with a 92 percent increase in healthcare IPO volume last year. Plus, the stock exchange in Hong Kong introduced new rules allowing biotech companies to issue shares even before recording revenue or profits. Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia all have ripe environments for new opportunities. And even despite trade tensions, rising interest rates, and volatile markets, deal-making activity in the region remains forecasted to grow. 

What it Means for You

Whether you are seeking a new investment, looking to grow your company, or considering selling your business, a great deal of financial opportunity lies in the global healthcare industry. 2019 may very well be the right year for you to make a move. If you contact our specialists at Benchmark International, we will use our global connections and mergers and acquisitions expertise to help you carefully craft the ideal opportunity for you and your next venture. 

 Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

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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.
Do you have an exit or growth strategy in place?

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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:

 

 Do you have an exit or growth strategy in place?

 

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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Webinar: How to Appeal to the Broadest Range of Buyers when Selling Your Company

When selling your business, dealing with the various types of buyers present in today’s market is both a curse and a blessing. It’s a blessing in that, aspects of your business that may not appeal to a certain buyer type may appeal to, or at least not be an issue with, other types of buyers. But a hundred different curses almost offset this large benefit. What do different buyers prioritize? How do you appeal to two or more different types of buyers at the same time? How do different buyer types run their decision-making processes? Which buyer types should you pursue? How do you even know what type of buyer you are dealing with?

Register for Webinar

In a world with only one type of buyer, the company sale process is greatly simplified. They might all like to hear the company’s story the same way. They might look at the financial statements the same way. They might all operate on the same timeline with the same seasonal variations. And, they might even be susceptible to being found in the same place from time to time. But, what is currently driving the robustness of today’s M&A markets are in fact the imbalance between the number of buyers and the number of sellers in the arena. And this, in turn, is largely driven by the increasing diversity of buyer types now competing with one another for that limited supply of opportunities.

In today’s market, one of the worst moves a seller can make is to market to only one type of buyer or, even worse, run a process expressly excluding one or more types of buyers. The success of any current sale process relies on a much more sophisticated approach to marketing, than was the case a decade ago - one that catches the interest of all buyer groups simultaneously and excites them for the opportunity to investigate further. The first step in exploiting this development is to identify the strengths, weaknesses, and priorities of the various buyer types. This webinar will start with this analysis and then move quickly onto strategies for playing to various buyer characteristics.

Host:
Clinton Johnston
Managing Director
Benchmark International

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3 Benefits of International Mergers and Acquisitions

If you are thinking of growing your business on an international level, it might be worth considering partnering with another company through a merger or acquisition, due to these three benefits:

 Do you have an exit or growth strategy in place?

New Markets

International expansion allows access to new markets and a greater reach to more of these consumers, thus increasing sales. While this can be achieved by establishing a branch or subsidiary, a merger or acquisition could save time and money spent on starting a business from scratch.

Partnering with a company in a smaller country can be particularly fruitful, as the smaller the country, the larger the access to its market.

 

Diversification

An advantage of an international merger or acquisition is a wider range of services or products can be explored. This helps a business in diversifying their assets, protecting the bottom line against unforeseen circumstances. For instance, companies with international operations can offset negative growth in one market by operating successfully in another. Companies can also utilise international markets to introduce unique products and services, which can help maintain a positive revenue stream.

For example, Coca-Cola diversifies through global operations and recently reported increased sales in China, India and South Korea, which benefited Coca-Cola worldwide.

 

Obtaining Access to a Talented Workforce

One of the conditions for merging with, or acquiring, another company is to retain the staff and integrate them in the new company, which are legal requirements imposed by national and international regulations. The benefit is that international labour can offer companies unique advantages in terms of increased productivity, advanced language skills, diverse educational backgrounds and more.

 

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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:

 Ready to explore your exit and growth options?


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.

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

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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Benchmark International has Successfully Facilitated the Sale Between Device Access UK Ltd and IGES Institut GmbH

Benchmark International is pleased to announce the transaction between Southampton based consultancy, Device Access, and Berlin based research and consulting institution, IGES Institut.

Founded in 2010 by Michael Branagan-Harris, Device Access supports medical device organisations across the world secure market access into the NHS.

The IGES Institut, founded in 1980, is the core of the IGES group. It is a research and consulting institution for health and infrastructure, conducting over 2,000 research and consulting projects since its establishment.

The acquisition allows IGES Group to continue its European expansion, servicing the growing global medical devices market in which Germany and the UK constitute core markets.

Following the acquisition, Mr Branagan-Harris will continue to be the CEO of Device Access and will additionally lead IGES’ UK business activities as Country Manager, in order to bring the countries’ two markets closer together.

Do you have an exit or growth strategy in place?

IGES Director, Professor Bertram Häussler, said: “UK is an important country for the development and application of medical devices. Furthermore, it has traditionally been seen as a European beachhead for global companies to launch into Europe. The aim of this acquisition is to strengthen these connections and make them usable for all our international clients.”

Mr Branagan-Harris said: “Device Access and the IGES Group unite extensive knowledge of approval, market launch and reimbursement of medical devices, and their cultures fit outstandingly. The deal strengthens our respective market positions and build the potential for our growth in the European markets.”

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What if you’re a business owner in the process of transitioning your business or considering a transition? How do you handle it?

Picture this for a moment: you’re up to bat with two outs, two runners on base and the Florida Championship on the line.  Base hit up the middle scores one, possibly two, but if you pop up, ground out or strike out, it’s game over.

Is transformation important to your business?

If you could visualize yourself in that situation, chances are you’re feeling a little nervous.  Especially if you’ve never been there before.  What if you’re a business owner in the process of transitioning your business or considering a transition?  You’re up to bat with two outs and two runners on base – how do you handle it?  Ideally, we’d all like to confidently drill the first pitch deep into the outfield to win the game, but what happens when the thoughts and concerns about the transition and life after the transition get in the way?  Things might not work out as planned. 

In the decades of serving high net worth and ultra-high net worth individuals and families, our team has worked with many who have made their wealth through the sale of the family business. Many of them were faced with a number of overwhelming thoughts and feelings: stress, anxiety, frustration, confusion and worry.  Here are some of the questions we’ve often heard:

  • Will this wealth be enough to sustain me and my family? How do I know?
  • What about taxes? What’s the impact to me?
  • How in the world am I going to invest this money to serve me and my family?
  • What about my legacy and charity – how does all this fit in?

Finding the answers to these questions requires preparation.  Unfortunately, many business owners are unprepared to address the complex financial decisions that need to be made for both themselves and their families both before and after the sale.  Many would rather wait and leave the planning to another day.  But a lack of planning and preparation has killed deals that should have closed, broken up families, and, in rare occasions, landed business owners in the hospital due to stress.

At BNY Mellon Wealth Management, we follow a collaborative, holistic, team-based approach to each business owner and family that we serve.  Leveraging the strength and expertise of our global firm, we help provide clarity by working with business owners to implement:
Wealth transfer and tax mitigation strategies

  • Pre- and post-sale cash flow optimization
  • Pro forma net worth statements and estate flow projections
  • Custom post-transaction investment strategies
  • Family governance and next generation education plans
  • Strategic philanthropy

Proper planning takes time, and having the right team of experienced professionals is critical to success.  Armed with an experienced team who can assist with planning and preparation, you too can confidentially step up to the plate and win the game. 

Author:
Christopher Swink
Senior Wealth Director
BNY Mellon Wealth Management
T: +1 (813) 405 1223
E: christopher.swink@bnymellon.com
Visit the BNY Mellon Website

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What Funding is Available to Grow my Business?

When you are ready to take the steps to grow your business, you need to determine the funding you can receive to help make it happen. Many different funding options are available, but how do you know which is right for you?

The first method that comes to mind for many people is borrowed funds. There are multiple options for gaining funding through lenders, including Small Business Administration (SBA) loans, traditional bank loans, micro-loans, and online business loans. SBA loans and traditional bank loans typically take months to secure and the repayment terms can run up to twenty-five years with interest rates varying. Micro-loans and online business loans can take less time to secure but they carry higher interest rates than bank loans and may have pre-payment penalties. Additionally, even if you get a loan, business growth is not guaranteed. If the borrowed funds are not used wisely, you can end up paying back money with interest that never helped you make any additional money in the first place, just digging you further into debt.  

Do you have an exit or growth strategy in place?

Another method of funding is retained earnings. This approach uses a combination of operating cash flow and profits left in the business to fund your growth plan. Using retained earnings avoids adding debt and interest payments. You also stay in full control of your company by not involving outsiders in your business. However, use of retained earnings can be a very slow process if you must wait and build up the funds you need. You also run a major risk of not having the finances necessary to keep your company operating from a healthy perspective. 

Private equity is a way to acquire funding by selling shares in your company to outside investors. Through this long-term growth strategy, you avoid getting involved with a bank and you minimize your risk. With venture capitalists or angel investors, you also gain the benefit of added expertise and personal interest in the success of the business. One aspect of using equity capital is that shareholders will be expecting a return on their investment. This could result in the consideration of a merger with another company or having the company acquired by a larger company. 

Many companies choose to use mergers and acquisitions strategies because the growth is more imminent. Instead of waiting years for the business to grow itself, merging with another company can double the company’s size, reduce competition, and increase profitability. Merging with another business also gives you the advantage of acquiring intellectual property and expanding innovation. 

Working with an experienced growth partner such as Benchmark International will help you figure out the best direction for you, whether it is a merger, an elevator deal in which you retain a stake in the business, a cash-on-completion arrangement, or a complete exit strategy. There is a range of options available depending on how you want to see your company transformed. The best strategy will also depend on the state of your company and the current market. It is important that there is careful consideration of the cultural fit between the two companies and a firm understanding of how to manage expectations. Having the right connections around the world in various sectors is also a key attribute you want in your representation because it opens up a wealth of opportunities. 

The right partner can maximize value and make your vision a reality for the business that you have worked so hard to build. Benchmark International can be relied upon as a leader in the global landscape to get you the results you deserve. Ready to explore your exit and growth options? 

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The Best-Kept Secrets for Business Growth

Expand your reach.

By finding ways to increase your exposure to the world, you can give your business the momentum it needs to grow. Examine your marketing plan. Broaden your social media footprint. Immerse yourself in the trade by publishing articles and having a strong presence at trade shows. Think of creative ways to interact with customers and target markets to generate buzz and get people talking. The extent of the opportunities available to you will vary depending on your company’s industry, but you will want to be sure you are doing everything you can to reach as many people that you can.   

Embrace change.

Doing business a certain way may have gotten your business where it is today, but you should not be afraid to make some changes. Is there a new process or department you can implement? Is there a sales opportunity you are missing? Are there adjustments you can make to save time or money? Always be open to hearing new opinions, ideas, and ways of doing things. Markets can change quickly and you will want to adapt seamlessly. By closing the door on change, you could be closing the door on growth. 
 

Value relationships.

It is just as critical to maintain existing relationships as it is to cultivate new ones. You will want to network in new circles and expand your horizons. At the same time, you will want to show your long-term customers that they are important to you. After all, they have been with you through it all and are partially responsible for your success. Stay engaged with them and focus on their needs. Your track record of lasting relationships is a reflection of your company and its values, making doing business with you more appealing to new customers. Those relationships can also be a source of referral of new business opportunities.
 

Get a boost through mergers and acquisitions.

Consider using mergers and acquisitions strategies as a smart option and faster route to generate growth. While greatly beneficial, pursuing a merger or acquisition can also be quite complex. This is especially the case if you are planning to expand into a global market, which presents its own host of challenges. Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

You will need to determine if you need a cost synergy or a revenue synergy solution. For example, buying direct competitors to increase your company’s size and decrease competition is a revenue synergy. So is adding value by purchasing companies that are market adjacent to your own. This method can help you add new talent or gain ownership of intellectual property. In contrast, a cost synergy solution reduces costs through consolidation of overlapping entities. Getting this right can result in a valuable deal for all parties involved.

Major deals include a large amount of small details, such as timing, tax planning, and logistics. Additionally, if you plan on leaving the business as part of the transition, you need assistance crafting your exit strategy. Consult a resource that has vast knowledge and experience in all of these areas. By partnering with a reputable mergers and acquisitions firm, it will be easier for you to navigate these complicated waters and ensure that you find the best strategy for your company’s growth.

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Supreme Court Makes M&A More Difficult

Federalism has always posed challenges for middle market M&A. While compliance with federal laws and regulation does not typically lead to issues in acquirers’ due diligence on middle market companies, the companies do often have problems with those pesky out-of-state state-level issues. Experience indicates that this is true for a variety of reasons. First, many of these companies have only recently expanded into other states and, as is common in a growing business, operations often get ahead of back office tasks (such as compliance). Second, owners of middle market businesses are often selling precisely because they realize that their businesses have grown to the point that they require additional overhead expenses that the owners are not interested in dealing with. Third, ever states’ rules are different and ever-changing and it is very hard to get a handle on six, or a dozen, or 49 different sets of rules and shape a business compliant with each set. Fourth, and nobody likes to admit this, states can be a bit lax on enforcing their rules, especially on out-of-state companies.  Acquirers are well aware of these facts and, as a result, dig deep on state-level issues in their due diligence.

While very few business owners are attorneys, most have at least a vague sense that when they establish a “physical presence” in a state, they need to start worrying about that state’s laws. Most probably also realize that physical presence is a bit fuzzy and that each state interprets the term differently but the US Constitution places a limit on the breadth of that definition due to the Interstate Commerce Clause. So, this has always been a nebulous issue but at least there was a bit of a bright line test around when a company might have to start thinking about looking at the rules in a new state for things such as income tax, collection of sales tax, workers compensation and the like. 

Ah, things were so much easier before 2018.

Do you have an exit or growth strategy in place?

*  *  *

Then, on October 1, 2018, the Supreme Court issued its ruling in the case of South Dakota v. Wayfair Inc., et al. South Dakota was attempting to require the online retailer Wayfair to collect sales tax for online sales for which goods were shipped into the state’s boundaries. Wayfair had a very strong case that it had no physical presence in the state and therefore the state could not force it to do anything, especially not collect taxes for Pierre. The state argued that it had a very powerful statute that said even without physical presence it could force companies to collect sales tax on sales made into the state if the seller had an “economic presence” in the state. Wayfair responded that decades of Supreme Court rulings indicated that this statute violated the US Constitution as an unfair restraint on interstate commerce. The Supreme Court stepped in and changed its mind. 

*  *  *

Since that day, the bright line with regard to when to start worrying about a state has been erased – at least with regard to sales tax. And, in the four months following the opinion, states have begun to rub that big eraser across other areas of law as well. The next to disappear is likely state income tax, then perhaps use tax, workers compensation, and unemployment insurance. As of the writing of this article, of the 45 states that have a sales tax, all but eight have already passed the economic contacts test for sales tax.  (That sure didn’t take long.) How many middle market companies (selling items subject to sales tax) have adapted their practices to this tsunami of a tax change? From what we’ve seen, just about zero. How many acquirers have adjusted their due diligence process? Let’s say the adoption rate there is at least as fast as those of the 45 states - and that is being generous to the states.

The results on M&A already include (i) longer due diligence, (ii) acquirers demanding larger escrows and holdbacks, and (iii) purchase price adjustments. The longer middle market companies go without getting up to speed on the new reality, the larger the potential penalties on the business once the acquirer gets hold of it and therefore the larger the issues will become in the deal process.

Author:
Clinton Johnston
Managing Director
Benchmark International
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