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The Importance of Timing When Bringing a Company to Market

Any company sale process features numerous factors outside of the seller's control. These include the overall state of the economy, finance market behavior, and advancements within specific industries. Most sellers do not fully appreciate that taking the time to thoughtfully prepare a company for its own sale is one of the biggest opportunities to exert control in the process. This opportunity should not be missed.

In business, thinking long-term is crucial – if the overall goal revolves around an exit, business owners need to take advantage of their ability to shape and polish their companies in a way that will ultimately increase their chances of a successful exit. Preparation is key and when a sale is being contemplated, timing is essential. The earlier sellers start preparing, the higher their chances of finding the right buyer and successfully exiting. Ultimately, owners that plan and take enough time to address small issues/details make their businesses more attractive to both financial and strategic acquirers.

 

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Typically, it is not feasible to make radical changes to the nature of a business, product line, or management structure just before a sale, so conducting an internal review is generally the most time- and cost-effective approach – and one that gives sellers the best chance to maximize value. Below is a summary of key items for review prior to your sale process.

 

  • Financials – Getting your company's financials in good shape is essential and will ultimately facilitate getting a deal through each stage of the process smoothly. Choosing adequate accounting principles and standardizing monthly, quarterly, and annual statements (P&L, Cash Flow, and Balance Sheet) typically ensures businesses are valued fairly. Being able to show strong performance credibly – and present long-term sustainability – is essential. 
  • Litigation – If possible, sellers should settle all litigation before coming to market. Litigation is simply part of doing business, and buyers understand that. However, any more serious or particularly risky legal disputes will present an element of perceived risk and should be dispatched prior to the sale process.
  • Online Presence – Investing in sharpening the company's website and overall online presence is often a worthwhile use of time and resources when contemplating a sale. Consider developing and regularly updating the company's website. Be sure to announce company "wins," partnerships, contracts, and milestones on social media platforms. Prospective buyers will most likely access every available platform when engaging in purchasing activities; the more quality information they find, the better.
  • Management – In most cases, the Owner/CEO's leadership, relationships, and practices were key contributors to the business's overall success. When looking for the best deal, sellers must convince buyers that the stream of sales/earnings will remain unchanged (or, even better, grow) after they are no longer behind the wheel. This can be done by elaborating a succession plan (hiring/grooming a number two to take the Owner's position) and delegating critical tasks/functions of the business to members of the team that will remain with the company post-acquisition. 

Although the preparation period requires time and resources, by putting the effort in early, sellers can best leverage their companies’ overall position when entering the market. The chance of a successful transaction increases proportionately as time and effort are invested into preparation. When the business is fully prepared for a sale, all parties win, and the process usually runs most smoothly.

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Helping Employees Find Meaning at Work

Many business owners know that employees are a company’s greatest asset. Yet, they are also a potential liability. According to CNBC, more than 3.5 million Americans quit their jobs every month. The current unemployment rate sits at 6.7%. It rose to 14.8% in April, but prior to the pandemic, it was 3.5%, which was a strong job market. So, if employees are so critical to a company’s operations, how can organizations mitigate the risk of them leaving, especially immediately before or after an M&A transaction? During such a transaction, a business may find itself at a disadvantage when trying to keep valuable workers in a strong job market and during the uneasiness of a transaction. Workers may feel under appreciated, underpaid, or that they lack opportunities for advancement during this period. Looking from the outside in, a culture like this can cripple the attraction of buyers or a successful integration.

In most cases, this can be averted. But how? Paying employees more? Giving out monthly awards or irrelevant promotions? In short, giving employees true meaning day-in and day-out can be a complex task but it’s a key differentiator in a company being a place where employees want to grow their careers, versus being a resume builder. Having a personal sense of who your employees are and what motivates them can often mean more to them than any compensation, and set the company up for a successful integration. The tricky part is identifying those things in which your employees find happiness, purpose and true meaning. Tackling the following key questions will improve your M&A transaction experience, increase employee retention, and help employees find greater happiness within the workplace.

What are your employees good at completing?

Performance reviews were implemented back in the 1800s and haven’t changed much since. Albert Einstein once said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Employers have been evaluating workers on a yearly basis and adjusting the company’s workforce according to their findings for many years. When evaluating employees, it’s important to include a detailed skills assessment. Investing the time to understand each employee’s specific skills and value to the organization gives the company an advantage for future success by optimizing its workforce. In terms of M&A preparation, skills gaps can be proactively addressed so buyers don’t perceive risk and discount their offers; and, unique skill differentiators can be leveraged to improve competitive position and business valuations.

 

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In addition to finding an employee’s niche set of skills, it’s imperative to also challenge employees on an array of different topics. Challenging employees helps to develop their skillset further, leverage their untapped potential, and optimize their performance. Small adjustments like these can help a company not only retain valuable workers for years to come, but also convey the impression of a strong group of employees for prospective buyers within an M&A transaction.

When do your employees feel most accomplished?

A sense of accomplishment is a cornerstone of any successful job. As a manager or business owner, it’s critical to recognize the drivers of employees’ satisfaction in their jobs, or “delighters,” and promote them. Is it when they’ve closed a new deal, completed service for a difficult client, or finished a task that they’ve been working on for weeks? Understanding the accomplishments that truly make employees happy isn’t that hard. Promoting and acknowledging these things makes employees feel that their work is valued.

One way to identify these “delighters” is for managers to adjust their interactions with employees. For example, having purposeful daily conversations, building relationships, and showing genuine interest in each employee’s current projects. This can also help the workforce better understand their role in the organization’s operations and success.

A Harvard Grant Study found that happiness and even financial success are tied to the warmth of one’s relationships, especially in the workplace. The study’s chief architect famously concluded, “Happiness is love. Full stop.” Working on partnerships with employees can improve purpose within their careers and the organization. Enhancing relationships with employees can help the organization get through tough times and cruise through outstanding times. In addition, having a great working relationship with employees can help ward off negative energy during the demanding process of an M&A transaction. It is important to make time for employees, engage with them, listen to them, and build relationships needed to enhance workplace happiness, improve employee longevity, and sail through the grind of an M&A transaction.

What have your employees learned lately?

Intellectual curiosity is something we all have within ourselves that can help an employee excel in any job. Being able to ask questions, learn from others, and make tasks more efficient can help employees find constant meaning at work. As a business owner, one of the challenges is getting the right curiosity out of employees. Implementing “end of the week discussions” as a group is one way to tap into intellectual curiosity. In addition, putting in place nontraditional learning environments can give employees the opportunity to learn hands-on versus behind a desk. Experiences like these can help improve the longevity of an employee’s career, along with advancing their understanding and ability to retain information. Having a workforce that is intellectually curious can be a considerable selling point during a transaction that buyers are delighted to buy into.

To summarize, multi-billion-dollar corporations and smaller boutique firms alike must mitigate the risk of losing valuable workers. Figuring out ways to make employees excited when they walk through the company’s doors is key to an organization’s success. Implementing small changes as described here can help an organization retain its top tier talent and ensure a smooth transaction. Modest adjustments such as regularly interacting with employees, investing time to understand each employee’s individual skillset, and creating an open environment that engages curiosity, will help make them happier, optimize performance, and ensure that they will continue to support the success of the organization. Acquirers treasure the ability of having a stable team on board during a transition and, as a seller, this can make all the difference in having a successful sale.  

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Benchmark International is Returning to Sponsor Real Deals

Benchmark International is pleased to announce that it will be returning to sponsor the Real Deals Mid-Market event taking place on 24th January 2020 at the London Marriott Hotel, Regents Park.

In its eleventh year, Real Deals is a key event for private equity in the UK with hundreds of the most recognisable names in private equity attending, providing Benchmark International with a unique opportunity to showcase the opportunities it currently represents.

As well as networking opportunities, the event also includes panel discussions, on-stage interviews and exclusive case studies, with the event examining the futureproofing of the whole of the investment cycle to ensure the continuous success of a dynamic industry.

Do you want to be featured and showcased in front of leading dealmakers? Naturally, we present only a select number of companies for each event, so we would encourage you to contact us now to ensure your business is included.

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Benchmark International is Set to Sponsor UK Mid-Market 2019 Private Equity Event

Posted on November 30, 2018 By in Mid-Market + Private Equity + networking + Real Deals

Benchmark International is pleased to announce that it will be returning as pre-eminent sponsors to the Real Deals Mid-Market event in February 2019 for the sixth year running.

The event is to take place at the America Square Conference Centre in London and is attended by the UK and Europe’s most influential private equity professionals, providing an opportunity to network with hundreds of dealmakers, drawing attention to the opportunities currently represented by Benchmark International.

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Benchmark International wins ‘International Mid-Market Corporate Finance Advisory of the Year’ for a third time

Benchmark International is proud to announce that it has, once again, been named ‘International Mid-Market Corporate Finance Adviser of the Year’ at the annual ACQ Global Awards.

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M&A and U.K. start-ups: where next for the beginners?

The U.K has a vibrant start-up culture, with an estimated 600,000 new companies set up in 2015. A whole host of factors have powered this part of the economy. Many U.K. industries are world leaders, for example the recruitment sector, while the E.U. freedom of movement drew on human capital from across the continent. The development of new challengers in different industries and sectors plays a key role in stimulating M&A activity, with buyers attracted for reasons from exciting IP to up-and-coming talent. Established companies may find it difficult to truly innovate in-house, so M&A may also give the opportunity to roll-out acquired new products or services in support of their existing operations.

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