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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

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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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7 Answers to Frequently Asked Questions about the M&A Process

When it comes to the M&A Process, sellers often times have many questions. Here is a list of 7 frequently asked questions about the M&A process.

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The Value In Hiring An M&A Advisor

When the time has come for you to sell your business, there are plenty of reasons why you do not want to embark on this journey alone. Enlisting the help of a trusted M&A advisor can make a world of difference in the process and, most importantly, the results.

A Better Process.

Selling a business takes time. It can take up to one year to complete a sale. Think about what you need to be doing during that time. You still have a company to run, and this is the most critical time for your company to be running smoothly and performing well. Selling a company requires a great deal of time and attention. For an owner, this time and attention needs to be focused on the day-to-day running of your business. You do not want be so preoccupied with the sale of your company that you end up neglecting the business that ultimately should be generating maximum results during this time. If your company falls short of expectations, it could result in a botched deal. Basically, you need to be operating your business as though you are not going to sell.

When you form a partnership with an experienced M&A advisor such as Benchmark International, you will have an expert dedicating their time to the sale of your business, so you can remain a strong leader for your company. You will still be heavily involved in the process, never missing an update on opportunities and negotiations. The difference is that you will not be bogged down by certain details, time critical deadlines on the deal won’t pull you away from key business situations, and your advisor will be there to resolve any issues that arise along the way.

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Essentially, an M&A advisor is going to do all the heavy lifting for you. They will prepare the necessary marketing materials, find quality prospective buyers, market your business, negotiate terms, manage the due diligence process, arrange the closing, and even help you plan the transition and your exit strategy. Your time is precious and so is your business. Give them both the attentiveness they deserve.  

Better Results.  

Experienced buyers know what to look for in a company. They know how to get the most value from a merger or acquisition. Meanwhile, it is likely that you have never sold a business before, giving the buyer a major advantage in negotiating a sale. You need someone in your corner whose wholehearted motivation is to exceed your goals and get you the most value for your company. This includes the exploration of the full spectrum of your options, and even knowing when to walk away from a deal.  

In a recent study titled The Value of Middle Market Investment Bankers:

  • 100 percent of owners who sold their businesses with the help of an M&A advisor or investment bank said that the advisor added value to the transaction.
  • For 84% of business owners, their final sale price was equal to or higher than the initial sale price estimate provided by their advisor.
  • Business owners viewed “managing the M&A process” as the most valuable service provided by their advisor.

Selling your company is a very complex process. Some business owners think they can simply broker a sale through their accountant or their attorney, but these professionals do not have access to the databases, connections, and methodologies that you will gain with an M&A advisor. Another important quality that an M&A advisor brings to the table is a solid understanding of the market and precisely WHEN to sell to get the most value.

These are some characteristics that you should look for in an advisor:

  • They understand your industry, your business, and its value.
  • They have both global connections and local expertise that allow them to identify prospective buyers that are serious and high quality.
  • They know the fair market value and will work to get you maximum value.
  • They have a disciplined process and a proven track record.
  • They have opportunities that are confidential and exclusive.
  • They structure their compensation to align their interests to yours.
  • They listen to your aspirations and concerns as a true partner.

Are You Ready to Sell?

If you feel that you are ready to sell your company, you will want to partner with an M&A firm such as Benchmark International sooner rather than later. Getting ahead of the game means that your business will be properly prepared for maximized value. However, no matter what stage you are at in the process, it is never too late to ask for our expertise.

 

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New Tax Break Clarification Spurs Additional Immediate Interest from M&A Acquirers

If your business is in or serves one or more of the 8,762 neighborhoods identified by your state’s governor as a “Qualified Opportunity Zone” under the 2017 federal tax legislation, new buyers will be entering the market for your company in the coming months and they will be looking to make some quick deals.

When the tax cut law passed, investors in these zones were granted numerous attractive tax benefits including:

  • Deferment until 2026 of tax on capital gains from the sale of projects outside the zones if those profits were now invested in any zone
  • A 15% reduction certain capital gains taxes
  • No capital gains taxes on any investment held for at least 10 years

But acquirers of businesses never took advantage of the new opportunity. Reports came back to the Administration that the statute called for the Treasury Department to implement regulations laying out the details as to which investments would qualify and absent those regulations there was too much concern that the “investments” would only cover real estate acquisitions and improvements.

Seeing that the real estate industry had wholeheartedly undertaken the desired action - investing in the zones – and wanting other investors such as acquirers of businesses to do the same, the President publicly released draft regulations last Wednesday.

The M&A investment community is quite pleased with the breadth and clarity of the regulations and appear to be jumping into action to exploit the new guidelines.  And their action will likely be immediate. The incentives are set to cover only those investments made by the end of 2019.

To view all Qualified Opportunity Zones to see if your business may qualify, visit the IRS’s map here. https://www.cims.cdfifund.gov/preparation/?config=config_nmtc.xmland follow these instructions. https://www.cdfifund.gov/Pages/Opportunity-Zones.aspxAs this map of Tennessee demonstrates, you might be surprised which areas are covered. The official method of designation is by “census track” and you can also search this website by your track – if you know it.

The regulations remain complex as there are a number of independent ways for an operating business to qualify based on where income is generated, where labor is provided, where services are provided, where working capital is invested, and where tangible property is maintained – among others. But business acquirers are getting ahold of the new details, have the firepower to get command of them, and will very quickly be refocusing their searches in light of these significant benefits. 

There is still time to get your business on the market to take advantage of this increased interest and the potential boost to your sale price that it should also carry with it. Eight months from engagement to closing is not difficult with a properly motivated seller and buyer – and nothing motivates people like tax breaks!

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

Author
Clinton Johnston 
Managing Director
Benchmark International

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

 

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Is a Minority Rollover Your Selling Solution?

If you are considering selling your business, but you are not completely sure you want to sell a 100% stake, “rolling over” (essentially, “retaining”) a minority interest in the business may be a favorable solution for you. Rolling over a minority interest allows you to retain less than 50% stake, along with certain rights that you can negotiate prior to sale. It is common for minority interest ownership to range from 20% to 30%. It is also sometimes referred to as non-controlling interest because you have very little influence over business decisions. This arrangement can be an ideal solution if you are not quite ready to relinquish your company altogether, but you do not want to deal with the burdens of ownership. In the case that you do want to remain involved in business decisions, there is the option to negotiate a seat on the board or certain contractual protections. These protections could apply to items such as the termination of certain employees, deviation from the operating budget, or relocation of the company’s offices, as a few examples.

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Minority rollovers are becoming increasingly popular because of the many advantages these types of arrangements provide for both owners and investors. In fact, 2018 was a record-high year for venture capital spending, with $21 billion in minority rollovers. There is optimism that this activity will remain steady through 2019, depending on various macroeconomic issues across the globe.

Advantages of Selling a Majority Stake

A noteworthy benefit of being a minority owner is that you are able to share ownership in a growing business. A private equity investor is absolutely going to be driven to grow the business to boost the value for a future sale. They are going to invest the time and money (that you may not have) to make it thrive as much as possible. You get to sit back and relax while they do all the heavy lifting to grow the company that you started. The amount of money that private equity investors usually put into a business can be quite substantial and make a significant difference in the company’s value. 

Since the majority investor intends to grow the business for a future sale, that second sale is another advantage for you as a minority owner. A larger, well-run business is going to sell with a larger price tag. This can often be the result of reduced competition, improved technologies, new products, and more efficiency. Consequently, even though you have a minority stake, you end up cashing out with a larger return.

Something else to consider when selling a majority stake in your business is the lower tax bill for the time being. Depending on how the deal is structured, you may not have to pay taxes on the equity you put back into the company. Taxes will not be owned until a future sale.

It is also worth keeping in mind that there is the possibility that you could re-purchase the majority stake in your business and re-establish control. However, the value of your company is likely going to be much higher, so there is the potential that it will be expensive. On the other hand, you may also elect to sell your equity back to the majority investor if the business does not perform as expected or should you decide that it is time for you to exit the business completely.

There is also the option of what is known as tag-along rights, which allow you to remain an owner even in the event that majority equity changes hands. Furthermore, it is not uncommon for a majority investor to require a drag-along provision. This means the minority owner would be required to participate in any sale of the company because the majority owner does not want them to be able to prevent a sale. These provisions would need to be established during the negotiation of any deal.

All owners of minority interests should assess different exit strategies and transfer restrictions. You will want sufficient protections in place while retaining the right to divest under beneficial terms and conditions. An experienced broker can help with exit planning and ensure that you orchestrate the best arrangement for you.

 

Are You Ready to Sell?

If you think it is time to sell a majority stake in your business, you are going to want to negotiate the most advantageous deal possible. You are putting a lot on the line and the process is sure to be complicated. In order to ensure that you get the right buyer, the right terms, and the right price, you need the right partner. Benchmark International has a team of specialists that arrange these types of deals every day. Even if you are not sure about selling, we can answer your questions and help you determine what is best for you, your business, and your exit plan. One simple phone call or email to us can start the process and provide you with the level of peace of mind that you deserve.  

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Assumptions Matter! What Assumptions Form the Foundation of An M&A Transaction?

Assumptions form the foundation of every facet of an M&A transaction. They permeate every fiber of a deal. Sellers make assumptions. Buyers make assumptions. Lawyers, accountants, wealth managers, and other advisors make assumptions. Deals are built upon assumptions.  When assumptions are thoughtful, reasonable and defensible, there is a much higher likelihood of success.Buyers may assume they can get three turns of EBITDA in senior debt and another turn of second lien debt when determining both valuation and deal structure. However, what happens to the deal if those assumptions prove faulty?  Assumptions should be tested.  Before proceeding, apply a reasonable test.Determine if the assumptions will survive further scrutiny. Are they defensible? If they are not, challenge them and make the appropriate course correction.  

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Buyers often use Discounted Cash Flow (DCF) as at least a data point to derive a valuation. However, as any finance student or professional will tell you, DCF is limited by the inputs; the assumptions you make. One has to make assumptions as to the cash flows derived by the business, a terminal value, a growth rate and their cost of capital. Each of those is a lever that a seasoned professional can pull to move the results.  So, the results are subject to confirmation bias. I can make the model spit out a number that aligns with my preconceived notion as to value. Further, I can make the results provide evidence to a narrative that portrays the business in the most positive (or negative) light. Again, assumptions matter. They need to be reasonable and defensible. 

Sometimes we will see buyers assume that all businesses in a specific industry are perfect substitutes. I’ve seen buyers point to other sellers on the market with more “reasonable” price expectations. But that assumption, on its face, is flawed at best and perhaps intellectually dishonest. No two business are alike. They are living, breathing beings with unique people, processes, supply chains, distribution channels, relationships etc.Two businesses that compete with similar services or products will yield different valuations from buyers. Those differences in valuation may be vast.  Why is that, you ask? The answer is businesses are not fungible. They are not interchangeable. They aren’t gold, silver, frozen orange juice or any other commodity.  They don’t trade purely on price as they have unique aspects to them.  As such, we at Benchmark, as a sell side mergers and acquisitions firm, really thrive when we encounter a buyer with this argument.  We love it when a buyer brings that level of analysis to defend their assumptions.  Our clients do too. 

Assumptions matter on the sell side when contemplating net proceeds. Every seller concerns themselves with the amount they will take home once all fees and taxes are accounted for.  More importantly, they want to know if they can “live on” those proceeds.  When considering this question, make sure all of the inputs into the waterfall are reasonable and defensible.  The waterfall demonstrates the net proceeds to the seller accounting for all expenses and taxes. Are your tax assumptions correct?  Make sure you engage advisors that understand transaction tax. Your CPA may not be qualified to dig in here as the questions and answers aren’t black and white.  Often times, the sell side law firm has an M&A tax specialist on the team and that person may be best suited to assist. 

Let’s address the aforementioned question; how much do you need at closing to maintain my lifestyle? Again, as before, the assumptions here matter.  You may not know the market opportunities available to you post-close as perhaps you’ve never had the power and influence that may come from a sizeable pool of investable capital. We suggest sellers speak to wealth advisors to determine if their risk tolerances and investment goals align with the cash flow they require.  We have worked with wealth managers that specialize in working with small business owners transitioning out of ownership for the first time.  They will work with you to determine the proper asset allocation for your proceeds and provide the basis for sound assumptions as to rates of return. They will also review your entire financial profile and exposure to assist you.

Assumptions matter for your advisors. Attorneys may mistakenly assume a seller is adamant about an issue that may in fact be unimportant to the seller. Other advisors may apply their own biases to a deal and assume both buyer and seller think as they do. I’ve found that making this sort of assumption, that buyers and seller think as I do on all matters, leads to poor guidance and poor decision making. 

So, what is the cure for all of these issues that result form poor assumptions you ask?  Simply ask the other party, whether on other side of the transaction or on the same side, to present and defend their assumptions. Once the assumptions are on the table it is easy to test them to determine if they are credible, reasonable and defensible. 

Author
Dara Shareef
Managing Director
Benchmark International
Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

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

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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.

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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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A Seller’s Guide to a Successful Mergers and Acquisitions Process

The Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A) process is exhausting. For most sellers, it’s a one-time experience like no other and a marathon business event. When done well, the process begins far in advance of the daunting “due diligence” phase and ends well beyond deal completion. This Seller’s guide summarizes key, and often overlooked, steps in a successful M&A process.

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Phase I: Preparation – Tidy Up and Create Your Dream Team.

Of course, our own kids are the best and brightest, and bring us great pride and joy. Business owners tend to be just as proud of the company they’ve built, the success of their creation, and the uniqueness of their offering. Sometimes this can cloud an objective view of opportunities for improvement that will drive incremental value in a M&A transaction.

For starters, sellers must ensure that company financial statements are in order. Few things scare off buyers or devalue a business more than sloppy financials. A buyer’s Quality of Earnings review during due diligence is the wrong time to identify common issues such as inconsistent application of the matching principle, classifying costs as capital vs. expense, improper accrual accounting, or unsubstantiated entries. In addition, the ability to quickly produce detailed reports – income statement; balance sheet; supplier, customer, product, and service line details; aging reports; certificates and licenses; and cost details – will not only drive up buyer confidence and valuations, but also streamline the overall process.

Key in accomplishing the items above as well as a successful transaction is having the right team in place. Customarily, this doesn’t involve a seller’s internal team as much as his or her outside trusted advisors and subject matter experts. These include a great CFO or accountant, a sell-side M&A broker, a M&A attorney, and a tax and wealth manager. There are countless stories of disappointed sellers who regretted consummating a less-than-favorable transaction after “doing it on their own.” The fees paid to these outside subject matter experts is generally a small part of the overall transaction value and pays for itself in transaction efficiency and improved deal economics.

Phase II: On Market – Sell It!

At this stage, sellers that have enlisted the help of a good M&A broker have few concerns. The best M&A advisors are very hands on and will manage a robust process that includes the creation of world class marketing materials, outreach breadth and depth, access to effective buyers, client preparation, and ongoing education and updates. The seller’s focus is, well, selling! With their advisor’s guidance, a ready seller has prepared in advance for calls and site visits. This includes thinking through the tough questions from buyers, rehearsing their pitch, articulating simple and clear messages regarding the company’s unique value propositions, tailoring growth ideas to suit different types of buyers, and readying the property to be “shown.”

Most importantly, sellers need to ensure their business delivers excellent financial performance during this time, another certain make-or-break criterion for a strong valuation and deal completion. In fact, many purchase price values are tied directly to the company’s trailing 12-month (TTM) performance at or near the time of close. For a seller, it can feel like having two full time jobs, simultaneously managing record company results and the M&A process, which is precisely why sellers should have a quality M&A broker by their side. During the sale process, which usually takes at least several months, valuations are directly impacted, up or down, based on the company’s TTM performance. And, given that valuations are typically based on a multiple of earnings, each dollar change in company earnings can have a 5 or 10 dollar change in valuation. At a minimum, sellers should run their business in the “normal course”, as if they weren’t contemplating a sale. The best outcomes are achieved when company performance is strong and sellers sprint through the finish line.

Phase III: Due Diligence – Time Kills Deals!

Once an offer is received, successfully negotiated with the help of an advisor, and accepted, due diligence begins. While the bulk of the cost for this phase is borne by the buyer, the effort is equally shared by both sides. It’s best to think of this phase as a series of sprints and remember the all-important M&A adage, “time kills deals!” Time kills deals because it introduces risk: business performance risk, buyer financing, budget, or portfolio risk, market risk, customer demand and supplier performance risks, litigation risk, employee retention risk, and so on. Once an offer is received and both sides wish to consummate a transaction, it especially behooves the seller to speed through this process as quickly as possible and avoid becoming a statistic in failed M&A deals.

The first sprint involves populating a virtual data room with the requested data, reports, and files that a buyer needs in order to conduct due diligence. The data request can seem daunting and may include over 100 items. Preparation in the first phase will come in handy here, as will assistance from the seller’s support team. The M&A broker is especially key in supporting, managing, and prioritizing items for the data room – based on the buyer’s due diligence sequence – and keeping all parties aligned and on track.

The second sprint requires excellent responsiveness by the seller. As the buyer reviews data and conducts analysis, questions will arise. Immediately addressing these questions keeps the process on track and avoids raising concerns. This phase likely also includes site visits by the buyer and third parties for on-site financial and environmental reviews, and property appraisals. They should be scheduled and completed without delay.

The third and final due diligence sprint involves negotiating the final purchase contract and supporting schedules, exhibits, and agreements; also known as “turning documents.” The seller’s M&A attorney is key in this phase. This is not the time for a generalist attorney or one that specializes in litigation, patent law, family law, or corporate law, or happens to be a friend of the family. Skilled M&A attorneys, like medical specialists, specialize in successfully completing M&A transactions on behalf of their clients. Their familiarity with M&A contracts and supporting documents, market norms, and skill in selecting and negotiating the right deal points, is the best insurance for a seller seeking a clean transaction with lasting success.

Phase IV: Post Sale – You’ve Got One Shot.

Whether a seller’s passion post-sale is continuing to grow the business, retire, travel, support charity, or a combination of these, once again, preparation is key. Unfortunately, many sellers don’t think about wealth management soon enough. A wealth advisor can and should provide input throughout the M&A process. Up front, they can assist in determining valuations needed to achieve the seller’s long-term goals. When negotiating offers and during due diligence, they encourage deal structures that optimize the seller’s cash flow and tax position. And post-close, sellers will greatly benefit from wealth management strategies, cash flow optimization, wealth transfer, investment strategies, and strategic philanthropy. Proper planning for post-sale success must start early and it takes time; and, it’s critical to have the right team of experienced professionals in place.

The M&A process is complex, it usually has huge implications for a seller and his or her company and family, and most sellers will only experience it once in a lifetime. Preparing in advance, building and leveraging the expertise of a dream team, and acting with a sense of urgency throughout the process will minimize risk, maximize the probability of a successful M&A transaction, and contribute to the seller’s success and satisfaction long after the
deal closes.

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

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

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

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They can Minimise Distractions During the Process

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

 

They can Source a Larger Pool of Buyers

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

 

They can Negotiate a Favourable Deal

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

 

They can Protect your Interests

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

 

They Add Valuable Resource

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

 

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Preparing for Due Diligence: Sell-Side

Due diligence is a buyer’s detailed investigation into the matters of your company in preparation for a possible sale transaction. For many business owners, this is one of the most dreaded parts of selling their business. After a letter of intent (LOI) is signed and a price range is agreed to, buyers have the right to dig into the business to ensure that they know what they are buying, and to identify any potential risks of owning the business. While buyers and sellers have different objectives and motives, both parties benefit from a thorough and efficient processes. Whether your company is pursuing a capital infusion or positioning itself for an acquisition by a strategic or financial buyer, due diligence is a critical component of every investment.  It’s an intrusive process and, like everything else about the sale of your business, you need to be prepared.

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When a potential buyer assesses your company, they will want to fully understand the essentials of the business such as organizational information, financial records, regulatory matters and litigation, employment and labor matters, and many others. When your company is well-prepared for the exit process, long before it is anticipated, not only will it make the company look more attractive to potential buyers but it will also maximize the value and expedite the transaction timeline. If not properly prepared, this can result in an incredible demand on a company and its resources, give a buyer the perception that the company is disorganized, and create operational difficulties within the company.

Below are four ways to prepare for due diligence and secure the deal you want:

Start with a Due Diligence Checklist

Most buyers will provide the target company with a due diligence checklist but, before receiving that list, sellers should ensure that common checklist items are available, up-to-date, accurate, and organized. The data needed for the due diligence process should be in order and ready to be uploaded to a virtual data room within a couple of days of initiating due diligence. This is not only necessary in the event of an acquisition, but it is also a valuable discipline to maintain as the company grows.

Invest in Professional Accounting Practices

The due diligence process is dependent upon the strength of the seller’s accounting system. It is essential that the company’s financial reports present potential buyers with a clear story, allowing them to fully evaluate the company’s earning potential. Buyers will be concerned with all of the target company’s historical financial statements and related financial metrics, as well as the reasonableness of the projections of its future performance. A business’ financial records should be clearly stated and easy to follow. If not, this could create confusion, misunderstanding, and devaluation.

Planned transactions have failed, even though the business itself was healthy and growing, when the financial reporting was outdated, inaccurate, or incomplete, and the buyer could not trust the data. Accurate financial statements are also necessary for the seller to support the business valuation. What assets does the business have? How profitable is the business? What is the working capital? What are the growth trends? All of these are major factors in the valuation of the business, so the data representing them needs to be accurate and precise.

To avoid issues, it is recommended that, before going to market, a seller contacts an independent accounting firm to review or audit the company’s financial statements. This will help to ensure that the company financial data is accurate and complete, will instill a sense of confidence from the buyer, and will more likely result in an efficient and successful due diligence process.

Engage Qualified Representation

A team of good professional advisors is crucial to a successful sale of a company. These advisors will steer sellers in terms of what they need to do to get their company ready for sale. Tap into these resources because they will have dealt with enough transactions to know what you should be focusing on to ensure a successful sale. Some recommended professional advisors include, but are not limited to, a M&A broker, an accountant, a tax advisor, a M&A lawyer, a wealth advisor, an investment banker, and a trusts and estate lawyer, if needed. With advance planning and the help of good advisors, a seller can ensure that his or her best interests are fully represented, common pitfalls are avoided, and the transaction will run smoothly and efficiently.

Responsiveness to Requests

During the due diligence process, potential buyers will seek to comprehensively understand the business practices behind a company’s earnings. It is the sellers job to guide the buyer through the learning curve. Respond to the buyer’s due diligence requests in an organized, detailed, and complete manner. If there are requests for missing data, respond punctually. This responsiveness allows the seller to gain credibility with a buyer, and provides buyers additional comfort with the quality of the business they are buying.

Conclusion

Due diligence is a vital and complex part of M&A transactions. Preparing beforehand can help a company position itself for higher valuations, stronger negotiations, and better outcomes. Understanding the importance of due diligence to both parties in a transaction, planning in advance, enlisting the support of specialists, and investing the time to run a thorough due diligence review early in a transaction will help prevent unwelcome surprises and potential liabilities for both parties.

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

Author
Kayla Sullivan 
Associate
Benchmark International

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

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Should I Start a Business or Buy One?

Maybe you are a lot like Sam. Sam has been working at a job that he doesn’t love, going to work each day and feeling unfulfilled.  Sam would really like to quit and go into business for himself but he has a wife and a child to support.  This leaves him with a big decision to make; should he start a business or buy an existing one?  As Sam does his research, he discovers the many factors that will influence his decision.

Sam, like many of us, has a family to support so most important to him is to have sufficient income to continue supporting his family.  Taking on the risk of possibly not generating any income for several years with a startup is not a realistic option for Sam.  Since starting up is not an option for Sam, buying an existing business will allow him to have the necessary cash flow from day one as he will be taking a salary directly from his business.  In addition, depending on the way he chooses to acquire his new business he will be able to keep investing back into the business so it can continue to grow.  While Sam understands that there will be many headaches and long days because of his new business owners he will be free to be his own boss.  Furthermore, this new business will likely relieve a lot of the financial stress that he currently has as his family’s expenses continues to grow. 

Like most people going into business for themselves, Sam will need to secure financing and/or attract investors to help him get started.  He quickly learns that banks and investors strongly prefer dealing or lending to a business that has a proven track record and strong historic financial performance rather than a higher risk start up business with so many uncertain factors such as high debt, or customer concentrations.  With the right guidance from a reputable M&A firm such as Benchmark International, Sam will be able to find financing to be on his way to fulfilling his dream of business ownership.

Like many young entrepreneurs, Sam is excited and motivated by the idea of growing a business.  He understands that there is a marketplace for businesses he is currently looking for and is much less interested in the grueling legwork and struggle of getting one up and running.  He knows that buying a business will give him an established brand that has been tried and tested along with any patents, copyrights and valuable legal rights that may come with that.  Having acquired a business, rather than starting one, will have be doing the work he is most passionate about from day one.

Sam’s wife Helen is a very active member in their community and their home is usually filled with family and friends. Like many of us, friends and family are very important to Sam and he wants to make sure he will still have time for those things and does not miss out.  Sam is especially enthusiastic about four children’s school activities.  He realizes that by buying an existing business, he will have an established vendor, customer base, goodwill, equipment and suppliers.  Things he would otherwise need to spend countless hours acquiring.  Sam will also have an experienced and trained staff in place ready to go that will know and understand the business so he can take a couple of hours and see his children flourish.  The seller has spent time teaching and training those people and Sam will reap the benefits of that.  From day one, he will have people in place who are able to help run the business and teach him things while he gets settled in.  Sam understands the target business and he knows that with a few tweaks and changes here and there it will be running the way he wants to in no time.  While at the same time being able to spend the evenings at home with his wife and kids. 

Business ownership may seem like a daunting thought but it really should not be that hard.  Sam’s experience shows us some of the things to think about when making such an important life decision.

So, what about you?  Are those advantages important to you as well?  Do you have a unique idea that may be easier to get off the ground by incorporating it into an existing business?  As we move into a time where more and more baby boomers are looking to retire and sell their businesses, the opportunities are endless for budding entrepreneurs.  Your time may be now!

And what happened to Sam you wonder?  Sam did make the decision to purchase an existing store rather than start his own and was very successful in growing it.  In fact, Sam Walton grew his Wal-Mart stores to be the largest retail chain in the United States.  What business will you grow? 

Author
Amy Alonso 
Administrator
Benchmark International

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

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Dustin Graham was interviewed by Business Day TV on “How to Value Your Business”

Benchmark International's Dustin Graham, Managing Director of the Cape Town and Johannesburg offices in South Africa, was interviewed by Business Day TV. The "How to Value Your Business" discussion can be viewed here: 

 

 

Is transformation important to your business?

Business Day TV is broadcast on Channel 412 on DStv and is available to over 10-million viewers in 9 countries across Southern Africa. It is one of three TV stations owned by The African Business Channel.

ABC is owned by SA’s leading financial publisher BDFM, publisher of Business Day and Financial Mail. BDFM in turn is owned by the Times Media Group, one of SA’s largest media houses. One of Business Day TV’s strengths is its access to content from this extensive network.

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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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Is an ESOP right for your company?

As a business owner you may be asking yourself how to keep your employees motivated and focused on the long-term objectives you have put in place for your business or you may be asking yourself how to raise additional capital to grow your business. There is a way to keep employees focused and aligned with the company’s growth objectives.  Growing up in a family of entrepreneurs, I was always told that you better care of the things you actually own.  Ever been to a nice hotel room and left the beds undone? The point here is that if employees take ownership of the business, they will have the business’ best interests at heart.  One of the mechanisms used by many business owners as an exit strategy is an ESOP.  An ESOP allows the continuity of an existing business and can be a great way for growth and expansion.

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

Employee Stock Ownership Plan, or better known as an ESOP, is an employee benefit plan much like a 401(k) that allows your employees to take a real interest in the success of the company ownership. In other words, employees are allocated a number of ownership shares in a business this making them ‘owners.’ Traditionally, when the process of an ESOP begins, ownership shares are usually held in a trust until the employee decides to retire or leave the business, and at that point the company buys back the shares, keeping the ownership under one roof. The best part is the shareholders of your company wouldn’t be some outside investors that are only focused on their return, but they would be the people coming to the office everyday and putting in the work to make a difference. The success of your business will directly affect your employees/shareholders retirement plan, giving them an additional reason to increase productivity and profitability.

Now, let’s say your employees are doing great but you want to take your business to its next growth stage. You may go to a bank to obtain a loan, which will result in high interest rates for a number of years. Your second option may be to seek out a financial investor, that could potentially result in losing a majority or controlling stake in your company. When companies bring in investors, they will want to see a return on their investment as quickly as possible and this can cause unwanted changes in company culture or operations. Luckily, there is a third option, creating an ESOP. This would allow you and your employees to stay in control and maintain the corporate culture you have created for your business over the many years it’s been in operation.

You’re probably thinking how does an ESOP create capital for my company. At a simplified level, the business will have to be able to borrow money from a financial institution to fund the transaction of buying company shares or shares of a current owner. Since this would be considered a loan, the business will have to pay back both principal and interest; however, the way an ESOP is set up is as a pension plan, if you speak to your CPA or tax advisor they might be able to guide you on how these contributions could alleviate your tax burden. In addition, to the contributions to repay the ESOP loan, your tax advisor might be able to illustrate that there are other tax benefits the company can benefit from. Some of these include, cash contributions to the ESOP for the purpose of buying shares from employees or even to build up cash reserves could be tax deductible. In S Corporations, the ownership held by the ESOP could be subjected to tax benefits, as the proportion held by the ESOP does not have to pay federal income tax. For example, if the ESOP owns 30% of the company, 30% of the profits from the business will not be included when paying taxes. There are restrictions on all contributions but these seldom cause an issue for the company.

You may be asking yourself, ‘why would my employees would want a stake in the business?’ ‘it’s just a job for them.’  Well the answer to this is that there are many benefits for the employees to participate in an ESOP. Just like most pension plans, the employee will not pay taxes on these contributions as long as they are working for the company. Instead of giving additional bonuses for hitting goals, which are taxed, you would be able to offer shares in the company and in the end will benefit them when they reach retirement. In a study in 2017, millennials that are in an employee stock ownership plan reported 33% higher wages, 92% higher net household worth, and 53% longer median job tenure.1

Do you have an exit or growth strategy in place?

As a business owner who values the safety and well-being of your employees, before you decide on management buyout to increase capital or step away from your business, consider all the options on the table. Benchmark International a leading lower middle market M&A firm is able to assistance you in this process when making tough decisions on the future of your company. We are here to support our client’s objectives and make an easy and graceful transition as you prepare for the step stage of your life, no matter where that might be.

Author:
Nick Woodyard
Analyst
Benchmark International

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

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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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Will 2019 Be the Year of the Family Office?

For the last decade, private equity players have held the driver’s seat in looking at, winning auctions for, and acquiring lower middle market businesses in the United States. But early results for 2019 indicate this trend may be at an end. The family office has come to the fore and appears poised to become the dominant bidder and buyer in this market.

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

Family offices are similar to private equity funds in that they take a pool of money and invest it across a range of companies seeking diversification to mitigate risk. But what’s more important are the differences between the two buyer types. These include:

  • Private equity funds have mandatory exit time frames imposed by their organizational documents and their agreements with their investors. A typical private equity fund has a life of about ten years so it must buy, grow, and then resell all of its investments in that time frame. Family offices, on the other hand, typically have no time horizon for re-selling. They are more often “buy and hold” acquirers.

  • Private equity funds primarily invest “other people’s money”. Family offices invest their own money. While a family office will typically have a management team working for the capital provider and that has the appearance of a private equity-style management company, the management team’s relationships, compensation, career path, and rigidity of investment criteria are each vastly divergent from those of private equity funds.

  • Private equity funds operate under some limitations as to the breathe of their investments - a tech fund can’t buy farmland – but they do seek diversification in very broad terms within these limitations. Family offices tend to have a narrower focus. They hew close to the Warren Buffet mantra that investors should only buy stocks within their "circle of competence." A family office that has made money in landscaping is likely only to look at landscaping businesses and if the family made its money in commercial landscaping, to only look at commercial landscaping businesses. As a result, they tend to come across to Benchmark Internationals’ clients as more knowledgeable about their business.

  • Also owing to their tighter range of interest and the fact that they do not have outside investor to whom they owe fiduciary duties, they tend to move faster, perform less diligence, and produce shorter contracts. Over the last ten years, as multiple have increased, private equity funds and trade buyers have ratcheted up their due diligence to levels our clients find very painful. This is understandable as higher multiple mean more risks for these buyers. But family offices seem more comfortable with this heightened risk and rely on their expertise in the narrower industry to alleviate the risk other buyers reduce via diligence.

  • Family offices also tend to use less debt in their deals than do private equity funds. Perhaps as a result of this fact, or maybe not, they tend to use their existing debt facilities to provide the extra leverage needed to put in competitive bids. As a result, the lenders due diligence is either greatly reduced or eliminated from the acquisition process. This also increases the speed to close and reduced the stress for sellers. When a private equity fund, or even a typical trade buyer, sets up a new transaction, they also set up a new lending arrangement and the bank providing the debt sends in its own diligence team to investigate the deal and the company being acquired. Double the diligence, double the fun!

  • Because a family office’s money is coming from one source as opposed to many, they tend to seek out smaller opportunities than do private equity funds. There are some very small private equity funds these days and there are also some rather large family offices now. But in general, the managers at a family office are more accustomed to dealing with smaller business, more owner-operated businesses, and businesses with less data to share during the due diligence process. As a result, our clients often find them easier to work with and have more interest in working with them on an ongoing basis following the closing.

  • Private equity funds often have a mechanism in place to have their “deal costs” covered by third parties. Deal costs primarily consist of due diligence costs, legal fees, and travel. It is not uncommon to see a private equity funds deal costs amount to over 5% of the transaction value. Family offices, on the other hand, have no one to turn to for their deal costs. This has two favorable results for sellers. First, they spend less on the process, making it shorter and easier. Second, their certainty of close is higher. While private equity funds can somewhat mitigate the costs of a “blown deal,” family offices only have one pocket to pull from – their own (or, in other words, their boss’s personal pocket).

  • The characteristic that is probably self-evident by this point is the higher certainty of close. Family offices know the market batter, they have less bandwidth to use time inefficiently, they have more discretion, they are less reliant on banks, and they don’t want to waste their own money on blown deals. They are thus more cautious, put in fewer bids, and call things off much sooner than other buyer types. In short, if they are proceeding, they are more serious than they average buyer.

  • They are harder to find. They do not have to register with the SEC. There is no secret club they belong to.  They are too short-handed to attend many conferences. Many even enjoy anonymity and don’t even have websites.

Do you have an exit or growth strategy in place?

This last characteristic is what makes selling to family offices tricky. Any broker can produce a Rolodex of private equity funds. In fact, an impressive one could be produced from scratch in a matter of hours. Furthermore, because their focuses tend to be so narrow, the first 100 family offices in the Rolodex would probably not be a good fit for any given business but a similar list of private equity funds would probably produce a few interested buyers in most any growing business. A broker is either into the family office world or they are not. There is no break through moment in this regard. It requires years of dedicated effort to identify and establish relationships with these hidden gems. It requires dozens of researchers and outreach efforts.  It also requires having an inventory of businesses for sale that keeps these buyers interested. Brokers focused on larger deals and boutique brokers lacking global reach simply can’t devote the time and energy necessary to gain access to this strengthening pool of buyers. Only brokerages such as Benchmark International have the capability to do so and many of those with the capability have simply not made the effort.

Our family office relationships are continually growing and in 2019 these efforts have rewarded our clients handsomely.  Keep your eyes open. I bet you’ll soon start to see the Wall Street Journal talking about family offices and the rise of the family office.  When you do, remember that you heard it here first and Benchmark International is your gateway to those buyers.  

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How to Avoid Leaving Money on the Table When Selling a Business

The sale of a privately-owned business is often the most significant financial event in the life of the owner. It marks the culmination of years of hard work and converts paper wealth into real wealth. It is a one-time opportunity with no do-overs. Every business owner surely desires the best economic outcome, yet, time and time again, business owners leave money on the table by not adequately preparing for the sale of their company. This article suggests five actions that private business owners can take to avoid leaving money on the table when selling their business. 

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

Find the right partner.  

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

 Do you have an exit or growth strategy in place?

Stay involved in the process.

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

Know your magic number.

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

Be honest.

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

Be prepared.

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

Think ahead.

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

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

 Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

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Strong M&A Activity Continues In Nashville For The Healthcare Industry

Since the early 70’s, Nashville has been considered a hub when it comes to the health care industry.  Nashville has developed and changed the landscape of the industry in the past 50 years.  The development of the community began with Hospital Corporation of America (HCA). Largely through hundreds of mergers, acquisitions and well as new companies, we’ve seen industry trends set in Nashville, as well as startups and spinoffs bringing different sectors of the industry to Nashville. 

Do you have an exit or growth strategy in place?

Before the Hospital Corporation of America, most hospitals were non-profit or affiliated to a religion.  In 1969, one year after inception, HCA became a publicly traded company.  This changed the landscape of the industry for good.  Through an abundance of M&A transactions, HCA now owns and operates more than 170 hospitals in 20 states across the country. In 1995, the Nashville Health Care Council was established, understanding the Nashville health care industry was responsible for $3.7bn in revenue at the time, while providing 53,000 jobs.  Today, the council reports $92bn in annual revenue generated, all while providing more than 570,000 people employed around the globe by healthcare companies based in Nashville.  There are over 900 companies that directly provide health care services, or are in some way involved in the industry.  These numbers are massive, and spurred a ripple effect around the country causing more private equity spending to focus into the industry.  This effect has led to eighteen publicly traded healthcare companies calling Nashville their home, while enticing more than $1bn in venture capital investments over the past decade.  The leaps and bounds made during the past 50 years are obvious, as the entire landscape of the industry has complete changed.  During 2006, Bain Capital, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. and Merrill Lynch completed a $33bn leveraged buy-out of HCA.  This was the largest leveraged buy-out to date and spurred an unprecedented amount of investment in the industry.  In 2011, HCA returned to the public market in the largest US private equity-backed IPO to date ($3.79bn raised).  HCA’s chain system business model was emulated by hundreds of not-for-profit hospitals throughout the country, and they are considered to be the trailblazer of the industry. 

The M&A landscape continues to change the healthcare industry to this day.  Through the first half of 2018, the healthcare sector saw deal value increase to $315bn, up from $154bn in the same period the previous year. The healthcare sector ranks third in terms of total deal value.  From a valuation perspective, healthcare M&A transactions were at an all time high in 2017.  A large driver within the space was within the senior housing and care marketplace. The number of announced transactions is on pace to set a new record, but the dollar amount of these deals will not exceed the record.  While this shows the hyperactive nature of the marketplace, these deals are occurring as smaller transactions rather than the mega-deals we’ve seen in the past.  This is a very attractive marketplace for sellers all things considered.  Private equity groups accounted for a large uptick in spending during Q4 of 2018. Financial buyers are notably optimistic about the healthcare market, with 120 total deals announced in the final quarter of 2018.  This bodes well for 2019 with 2018 in the rearview, healthcare continues to expand due to high valuations, a very large number of transactions, and an increasingly attractive marketplace. 

For the third year in a row, the number of small business transactions reached record numbers, as reported by BizBuySell.  Financial performances of the small businesses are increased year over year, as well. 49% of sellers said their businesses performed better in 2018 compared to 2017, and another 36% had similar figures comparably.  With financial performance increasing, the value of the transactions inevitably grew.  The medium asking price for small businesses in the US grew 10% from 2017, a clear indication that buyers are willing to pay more for businesses with a proven financial track record and promising futures. 

Author
Sean Ryan 
Analyst
Benchmark International
Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

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

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Top Mistakes to Avoid When Selling

So you’ve made the big decision – you’re going to sell your business. This is likely a stressful time for you as have probably spent a lot of time and resource building up the company and may be nervous about seeing it pass over to new hands. So, from here on in, you would like to minimise the amount of stress involved by avoiding any mistakes which can easily be averted. The following are common mistakes to avoid and how Benchmark International can help:

Only Pursuing the Largest Acquirer

Surely pursuing the largest acquirer is in your best interests as they will be able to afford a premium for the company?

While they may be able to pay a premium for the company, they may not necessarily do so. An acquirer is likely to pay a premium for your company because there are synergies in place such as similar markets, products or customers that could be combined, but a large acquirer typically does not need to make the acquisition to enter these markets. An acquisitive party could also benefit from economies of scale and, therefore, will pay more for the target, but a large acquirer is unlikely to benefit from this. Even if a large acquirer is willing to pay a premium, they may absorb operations into their own company, which can cause complications for the handover, particularly if you are loyal to existing staff.

How Benchmark International Can Help: Look at all aspects of the deal and how it can benefit your company. Benchmark International can assist with sourcing the best fit for your company.

 

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Not Looking at the Bigger Picture

You’ve just received an offer from a potential acquirer – on the surface of it, it looks good, surpassing your expectations. However, the structure of the deal as a whole needs to be considered, not just the total value. For example, the consideration could be deferred, or contingent on future earnings, meaning you are not receiving all cash upon completion. It is also important that if you do decide on a structured deal, that these elements are protected, ensuring you receive the consideration.  

How Benchmark International Can Help: Benchmark International will thoroughly analyse all offers received, negotiate earn-out protections and can assess any contingent targets to ensure that the seller is able to maximise the consideration received. 

Not Creating Competitive Tension

It can certainly be a benefit to enter into the M&A process with potential acquirers in mind, perhaps one of these has even approached you at some point. However, even though it may be tempting to dive straight into a deal with an acquirer that wants you and complements your company perfectly, it is still vital to create competitive tension by generating interest from other potential acquirers. If the acquirer in mind can sense that they are the only one with an offer on the table and that you are anxious to sell to them, they could take advantage of this with a low offer.

How Benchmark International Can Help: Benchmark International will employ an approach where all potential acquirers are approached and exhausted before accepting any offers.

Using an M&A Sector Specialist

This may seem like an odd ‘mistake’ to make – why wouldn’t you want to use an M&A specialist operating specifically in your sector, surely you don’t want a generalist?

The reasoning behind this is that a general M&A firm will be able to think outside the box and target a large pool of acquirers, not limiting itself to those just in your sector.

How Benchmark International Can Help: Benchmark International has a vast and growing number of contacts giving you the best chances of receiving multiple offers, as well as significant experience across a broad number of sectors, leveraging this to identify the areas where the greatest synergies can be exploited.

Leaving it Too Long

To obtain the best price and right fit for your company, it is crucial to enter the market at the right time. It is important to strike a balance between seeking to sell when the company is on a growth curve, but also not missing the window of opportunity in the market cycle. Equally, it is important not to sell when you become desperate (e.g. you are looking at retiring soon) as acquirers could become aware of this and lower their offer accordingly.

How Benchmark International Can Help: Look at selling earlier than anticipated, not when you want an imminent exit. Benchmark International can best advise on when the right time is
to sell.

Neglecting the Day-to-Day Running of the Business

M&A transactions can be time consuming, but it is important not to let it get in the way of running the business. If an acquirer is interested in the business because profits are increasing, or a new product is due to be released to the market, for example, and this does not come into fruition because  you have taken your eye off the ball, then this could lead a buyer to renegotiate, or call the whole deal off.

How Benchmark International Can Help: The pressure of selling your business can be alleviated by Benchmark International as it will handle negotiations, leaving you to focus on running your company.

Not Negotiating Effectively at Critical Stages

Offers may go back and forth between yourself and the potential acquirer and at this point you are in a good position to negotiate. It is not until the Letter of Intent (LoI) is signed that the advantage swings to the buyer. Although the LoI is not typically legally binding it does usually stipulate a period where the seller cannot pursue further leads in the market (an exclusivity period), so competitive tension is lost. It is important, therefore, that you are completely happy with the terms (which can include such things as price, length of the exclusivity period etc.) before the LoI is signed to avoid either having to back out of a deal that could have been lucrative or being tied to a lengthy exclusivity period.

How Benchmark International Can Help: In all stages of negotiating, Benchmark International will do this on your behalf with your best interests in mind.

Author:
Lee Ritchie
Senior Director
Benchmark International

T: +44 (0) 1865 410 050
E: Ritchie@benchmarkcorporate.com

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If Business Valuation Was A Science…

Determining the value of your business is not as simple as looking at the numbers, applying tried and tested formulas, and concluding. Were it that straightforward all business valuations would be virtually identical. The fact that they are not is sure proof that valuation is not a science, it can only be an art.

If Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A) was as straightforward as calculating the theoretical value of a business, based on historical performance and using that to determine market value I would need something more constructive to do with my time.

Valuation is not as primitive as we have been led to believe. Whilst transaction values are commonly represented as a multiple of earnings this is merely the accepted vernacular used to report on a concluded transaction and almost never the methodology used to arrive at the value being reported.

The worth of a business is often determined by the category of buyer engaged. Financial buyers can add significant value to a business in the right stage of its life cycle but may not assume complete ownership, thereby delivering value for the seller simultaneously with their own. The right strategic acquirer for any business would be one that can unlock a better future for the business, and is willing to recognize, and compensate, a seller for the true value the entity represents to them.

Comparing the experience of so many clients, over so many years, and avidly following the outcomes of all the transactions published in South Africa there is little dispute that businesses are an asset class, like any other, and that the best value of all asset classes are only ever realized through competitive processes irrespective of whether the acquirer has financial or strategic motives.  

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1.  The itch of business valuation

Simplistically, for the right acquirer - one seeking an outcome that extends past a short-term return on their initial investment - valuation is more a function of the buyer's next best alternative, than it is a businesses’ historic performance.

It would be naïve to think that the myriad of accepted valuation methodologies have no place in the process but identifying, engaging and recognising the benefits of the acquisition for a variety of strategically motivated buyers is essential in determining value in this context.

Considering a variety of appropriate valuation metrics, the parameters applied and then being able to balance these against the alternative investment required to achieve a similar outcome is where the key determinant of value lies. This is a complex process that unlocks the correct value for buyer and seller alike and it is a result that is rarely achieved without engaging with a wide variety of different acquirers and being prepared to "kiss a few frogs"

The most valuable assets on the planet are only ever sold through competitive processes where buyers have the benefit of understanding and determining value in the context of their own motives, having considered their available alternatives. It is for this reason that when marketing a business, it should never be done with a price attached. 

2.  An aggressive multiple

Whilst conventional wisdom is firm on industry average multiples, case studies abound, and the business community is regularly astounded by stated multiples achieved when companies change hands.

Beneath the glamour, the reality is that multiples are rarely used as a determinant of value, but almost without exclusion applied to understand it. Multiples represent little more than a simplistic metric that reflects an understanding of how many years a business would need to reliably deliver historic earnings in order for the acquirer to recoup their investment.

In the same way as a net asset value (NAV) valuation would unfairly discriminate against service businesses, multiples discriminate against asset rich companies. For strategic acquirers, with motives beyond an internal rate of return - measured against historic earnings - valuation is sophisticated.  It relies on an assessment of whether the business represents the correct vehicle to achieve the strategic objectives, modelling the future returns and assessing risk. Valuation in these circumstances will naturally consider it, but places little reliance on the past performance of a business constrained by capital or the conservatism of a private owner to formulate the future value of such investment. 

Whilst there are Instances where the product of such an exercise matches commonly accepted multiples, there are equally as many valuations that, on the face of it, represent unfathomable results. 

3.  A better tomorrow for the buyer

It would be irresponsible to advocate that that return on investment is not a consideration when determining value - corporate companies and private equity firms typically all have investment committees, boards and shareholders that assess the financial impact of any transaction. It is rare that such decisions are ever vested with a single individual, or that the valuation is derived from their personal desire to own a company or brand.

The art of valuation requires a reliable determination of the synergies between buyer and seller and an accurate assessment of the risks and benefits of the investment. Risk and reward are inherently related and skilled negotiation is required to find solutions that mitigate, or de-risk a transaction for buyer and seller alike, in order to underpin the value
of a transaction.

Financial buyers can be very good acquirers, especially in circumstances where they are co-investing alongside existing owners, staff or management to provide growth funding. When seeking a strategic partner for a business the acquirer should always be unable to unlock value beyond the equivalent of a few years of historical earnings. It is for this reason that the disparity between valuations by trade and financial buyers exists, and why determining the appropriate form of acquirer for any business is a function of the objectives of the seller.

4.  Passing-on the baton, or living the legacy

The motives for a sale can be varied and extend from retirement to funding and growth, from ill-health to a desire to focus on the technical (as opposed to management and administration) aspects, of the business.

Value for buyers and sellers comes in many different forms. For sellers it is their ultimate objective that determines whether they have achieved value in a transaction. For sellers it may be as simple as the price achieved or it could extend to value beyond the balance sheet as diverse as leveraging the acquirer’s BEE credentials, unconstrained access to growth capital or even to secure a future for loyal staff.

For both local and international buyers alike, the intangibles may be as straightforward as speed to market in a new geography who would otherwise not readily secure vendor numbers with the existing customers of the target business. An acquisition may be motivated by access to complimentary technology, skills or distribution agencies to diversify their own offering. Whatever the motives, an assessment of the future of the staff will always be an important aspect to both parties.

There are few, if any businesses, that are anything without the loyal, skilled and hardworking people that deliver for the clients of a business. The quality of resources, succession and staff retention are all factors that weigh on a decision to transact. Navigating the impact of a transaction on staff is a factor that cannot be ignored and the timing of such announcements can be meaningful.

Author:
Andre Bresler
Managing Director
Benchmark International

T: +44 (0) 1865 410 050
E: Bresler@benchmarkcorporate.com

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Five Ways to Value Your Business

The first question you will probably want to ask when thinking about selling your business is – what is it actually worth? This is understandable, as you do not want to make such a big decision as to sell your business without knowing how much it could command in the market.

Below are five different ways a business can be valued, along with which type of companies suit which type of valuation.

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Multiple of Profits

A common way for a business to be valued is multiple of profits, although this typically suits businesses that have an established track record of profits.

To determine the value, you will need to look at the business’ EBITDA, which is the company’s net income plus interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation. This then needs to be adjusted to ‘add-back’ any expenses that may have been incurred by the current owner which are unlikely to be incurred by a new owner. These could be either linked to a certain event (e.g. legal fees for a one-off legal dispute), a one-off company cost (e.g. bad debts, currency exchange losses), are at the discretion of the current owner (e.g. employee perks such as bonuses), or wages/costs to the owner or a family member that would be more than the typical going rate.

Once the adjusted EBITDA has been calculated this figure needs to be multiplied; this is typically between three and five times; however, this can vary – for example, a larger company with a strong reputation can attract towards an eight times multiple.

This provides an Enterprise Value, with the final ‘Transaction Value’ adjusted for any surplus items, such as free cash, properties and personal assets.

Asset Valuation

Asset valuation is suitable way to value a business that is stable and established with a lot of tangible assets – e.g. property, stock, machinery and equipment.

To work out the value of a business based on an asset valuation the net book value (NBV) of the company needs to be worked out. The NBV then needs to be refined to take into account economic factors, for example, property or fixed assets which fluctuate in value; debts that are unlikely to be paid off; or old stock that needs to be sold at a discount.

Asset valuations are usually supplemented by an amount for goodwill, which is a negotiable amount to reflect any benefits the acquirer is gaining that are not on the balance sheet (for example, customer relationships).

Entry Valuation

This way of evaluating the value of a company simply involves taking into account how much it would take to establish a similar business.

All costs have to be taken into account from what it has taken to start-up the company, to recruitment and training, developing products and services, and establishing a client base. The cost of tangible assets will also have to be taken into account.

This method for valuing a business is more useful for an acquirer, rather than a seller, as through an entry valuation they can choose whether it is worth purchasing the business, or whether it is more lucrative to invest in establishing their own operations.

Discounted Cash Flow

Types of companies that benefit from the discounted cash flow method of valuing a business include larger companies with accountant prepared forecasts. This is because the method uses estimates of future cash flow for the business.

A valuation is reached by looking at the company’s cash flow in the future, and then discounts this back into today’s money (to take into account inflation) to give you the NPV (net present value) of the business.

Valuing a business based on discounted cash flow is a complex method, and is not always the most accurate, as it is only as good as its input, i.e. a small change in input can vastly change the estimated value of a company.

Rule of Thumb

Some industries have different rules of thumb for valuing a business. Depending on the type of business, a rule of thumb can, for example, be based on multiples of revenue, multiples of assets or of earnings and cash flow.

While this method may have its merits in that it is quick, inexpensive and easy to use, it can generally not be used in place of a professional valuation and is instead useful for developing a preliminary indication of value.

To summarise, the methods of valuation can very much vary in terms of complexity and thoroughness, and different industries will find different methods more useful than others. A good M&A adviser can best suggest which way to value your business, as well as help to counter offers in the latter stages of the process with an accurate valuation in mind.

 

Author:
Tony Yerbury
Director
Benchmark International
T: +44 (0) 1865 410 050
E: Yerbury@benchmarkcorporate.com


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Why Do Buyers Take the Mergers and Acquisitions Route?

A merger is very similar to a marriage and, like every long-term relationship, it is imperative that mergers happen for the right reasons. Like many things in life, there is no secret recipe for a successful transaction. While the strategy behind most mergers is very important to obtain the maximum value for a business, finding the right reason to execute a merger could determine the success post-acquisition.

When two companies hold a strong position in their respective areas, a merger targeted to enhance their position in the market, or capture a larger market share, makes perfect sense. One of the most common goals for transactions is to achieve or enhance value; however, buyers have different reasons for considering an acquisition and each entity looks at a new opportunity differently. The following points summarize some of the primary reasons that entities choose the mergers and acquisition route.

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  1. Increased capacity

When entertaining an acquisition opportunity, buyers tend to focus on the increased capacity the target business will provide when combined with the acquiring company. For example, a company in the manufacturing space could be interested in acquiring a business to leverage the expensive manufacturing operations.  Another great example are companies wanting to procure a unique technology platform instead of building it on their own.

  1. Competitive Edge

Business owners are constantly looking to remain competitive. Many have realized that, without adequate strategies in place, their companies cannot survive the ever-changing innovations in the market. Therefore, business owners are taking the merger route to expand their footprints and capabilities. For example, a buyer can focus on opportunities that will allow their business to expand into a new market where the partnering company already has a strong presence, and leverage their experience to quickly gain additional market share.

  1. Diversification

Diversification is key to remain successful and competitive in the business world. Buyers understand that by combining their products and services with other companies, they may gain a competitive edge over others. Buyers tend to look for companies that offer other products or services that complement the buyer’s current operations. An example is the recent acquisition of Aetna by CVS Health. With this acquisition, CVS pharmacy locations are able to include additional services previously not available to its customers. 

  1. Cost Savings

Most business owners are constantly looking for ways to increase profitability. For most businesses, economies of scale is a great way to increase profits. When two companies are in the same line of business or produce similar goods or services, it makes sense for them to merge together and combine locations, or reduce operating costs by integrating and streamlining support functions. Buyers understand this concept and seek to acquire businesses where the total cost of production is lowered with increasing volume, and total profits are maximized.

The above points are merely four of the most common reasons buyers seek to acquire a new business. Even if the acquirer is a financial buyer, they still have a strategic reason for considering the opportunity.

Author:
Fernanda Ospina
Senior Associate
Benchmark International

T: +1 (813) 313 6150
E: opsina@benchmarkcorporate.com

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Mergers and Acquisitions in the Architecture and Engineering Industry

Over the last few years the architecture and engineering industry has seen a marked increase in mergers and acquisitions activity. Since reemerging from the depths of the recession, the industry has been ripe with activity; with everything from the expansion of the ever growing reach of firms like DLR, Perkins & Will, and HOK, to the merging of small businesses to facilitate the retirement goals of local industry experts. Considering there is typically a few year lag between economic fluctuations and corresponding changes in M&A activity, as the bull market run is approaching nine years, this type of inorganic growth activity shows no signs of slowing down.

As an industry agnostic mergers and acquisition leader, Benchmark International is in touch with leaders from a variety of industries on a daily basis. We’ve seen significant movement from corporate development teams in a number of industries which are beginning to expand their services to grow not only their customer base, but also to gain additional wallet share of their existing clients. This type of cross pollination has occurred in interior design, surveying, construction, architecture, engineering, and technology. We currently are in the midst of closing a transaction which would allow a specialized electrical engineer which focuses on the commercial and healthcare markets to broaden their end market to include the hospitality sector, and their service offerings to include the upstream design, planning, and engineering components of a building’s IT infrastructure needs.

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11 Reasons to Have the Exit Conversation

When the mention of selling your business comes up, you might feel a little uneasy about starting the discussion. Your business is your baby, and the thought of letting go can be overwhelming. The truth is; however, failing to plan is a plan to fail when it comes to your business exit strategy. You need to have an exit strategy in place for your business. Everyone thinks of their future, but they don’t always take active steps in the present to prepare for what they want tomorrow. There are many reasons why you should discuss when and how to exit your business. Here are eleven reasons to have the exit conversation now:

1) Anything can happen at any time – This is so true. We cannot anticipate what will happen unexpectedly. For this reason, you need to have an emergency exit plan in place. What will you do if you have something happen that requires you to step down from your business quickly?

2) Family obligations are taking more time from the business – Business owners run businesses and have families all the time, but depending on the size of your business and the size of your family, you may need to spend more time away from the business. If you don’t have a team in place that can run the business without you for a few days, exiting might be your best bet.

If obligations, such as an ill family member, or a lot of educational or extracurricular commitments for your children are taking from your time, you could experience a negative shift in the dynamic of your business. A strategic partner can help you free up some time for your family while still allowing you to take an active part in your business’s growth. This type of partnership doesn’t require an immediate exit from your business and allows you to discuss an end-goal for this exit strategy with the partner you join.

3) Personal health issues are pulling you away from the business – When your personal health is in decline, it can be difficult to continue running the business. A business owner doesn’t need the undue stress caused by juggling an illness and the company.

Furthermore, if you find your health declining, or the health of a close loved-one, your priorities might change. Your view on where your time needs to be spent might be more focused on your personal relationships versus constantly working on growing your business.

Again, spending your time away from the business will have a direct negative effect on your revenue and daily operations. This makes the goal of achieving maximum value more challenging. Therefore, having an exit plan is essential.

4) You don’t have anyone in place to take over the business – You’re a great leader, and you run your business like a well-oiled machine. However, what happens when you’re gone? You need to have a plan in place. If you find your children aren’t interested in taking over, or if you don’t have any children, or if you don’t have a manager in place to take over, you need to know what you will do when it’s time to leave your business behind.

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Life After Sale

There are a myriad of reasons why you might look to sell your company: retirement, further resources are required to grow, or it is an opportunistic time. Whatever the reason, this is likely to be the pinnacle of your career as the amount of time and money invested into your business will come to fruition when it sells, securing the future for you and your family.

But what happens after a sale? The business which you have invested years into, and the place where you spent the majority of your time, has passed on to somebody else. You may have made a tidy sum of money from the sale, which many people would be satisfied with as they may never have to work again and be able to live in the lap of luxury, but once the holiday of a lifetime has been taken, what then?

And what about how the company will thrive going forward? This is maybe something that you have grown from the beginning, and you want to see its continued success, as well as ensure the future of your employees who have been loyal to you.

At Benchmark International, we understand that there is life after the sale of a business and so structure a shareholder’s exit to suit both them, and the welfare of the company going forward.

The following are companies which Benchmark International has sold and structured the deal to allow for a successful life after a sale for both the shareholder(s) and the business.
ROC NORTHWEST

ROC Northwest had been established for nine years before the shareholders, Hilary and Glyn Waterhouse, decided to sell. They had built up a company which provided education, residential, and domiciliary care services to young people with emotional and behavioural difficulties, autism spectrum disorders, learning and physical disabilities, and those with challenging behaviour issues, from seven properties throughout the north west of the UK.

They had a vested interest in ensuring that the company was sold to the right acquirer, not just to ensure that the welfare of the young people in their care was maintained, but also to ensure that the staff that had been loyal to them remained in employment. As such, a large number of interested parties were presented to ROC Northwest and the shareholders were able to choose the acquirer which best fit their ideals. Commenting on the acquirer’s plans going forward, Glyn said:

“We actually sold the company to a firm called CareTech Holdings PLC. They wanted to keep our managers, they wanted to keep the staff, they wanted to keep the homes. In fact, they didn’t want to change anything about the business. It was very important because once you start a business from scratch, you want that business to succeed; you’ve got loyalty from your staff, and you want the staff to be in place and have their jobs, so it was very important that we found a buyer that followed that ethos and allowed us to continue the hard work that we were doing.”

The shareholders at ROC Northwest wished to sell the company as they were looking at other business opportunities and wanted to spend more time together as a family. As this was the case, Benchmark International negotiated a seven figure deal with the majority forming a cash payment on completion. Now, Hilary has been able to purchase an equine business and has a total of eleven horses, growing from two.

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When Do I Tell My Employees I'm Selling?

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

Share Nothing:

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

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

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

Keep Them in the Loop:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Inspiring the Millennial Generation

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

TECHNOLOGY

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

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

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

Engage the Right Support Team

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

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

What Do You Want?

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

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Things You Need to Know Before You Sell Your Business

Know Why You Want to Sell

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

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

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

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

Download Guide

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

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

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

What Are My Options?

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

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A Closer Look at Mergers and Acquisitions in 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Why Engaging in 2018 is Advantageous for your Business

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

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Don't Kick the Can Down the Road

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

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

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