Making your will

Have you made your personal will? Probably; after all, it’s the right thing to do, isn’t it?

So why do so few business owners do the same thing for their Company?

You want your children to inherit your wealth without undue hassle. But how much thought have you given to who inherits your business; and who will secure its future success?

When I mention Succession Plans to people, it’s not hard to see folks switching off. There are more important short-term issues to deal with. ‘It can wait – I am fit and healthy right now’.

A scary true story…

So let’s approach this from a different angle – a real-life present-time story.

The owner of a very successful business consultancy sat down in her armchair last August Bank Holiday Sunday, and had a dose. Tragically, she suffered a brain haemorrhage and never woke up. Totally unexpected. She owned all the shares and was the principal contact for the firm’s blue-chip Companies.

Her personal will was clear enough. Her husband inherited all the shares. But he had no interest in the business. The present employees were unprepared for this tragedy, and there was no natural successor with the same level of experience to take it on. So what will happen?

What will the new owner do with a business in which he has little interest or knowledge?

Will current staff remain with all this uncertainty?

How will presently loyal customers react as time moves on?

How will the business set about winning new work in new markets without their principal business-winner?

Right now, no one has the answers, and time is ticking on.

How to avoid this predicament?

Start by having a clear business plan for the next three years.

Include in it the management structure that will deliver the results.

Assess your current team; can/do they fulfill the roles designated in that structure?

Identify any skill gaps and decide whether or not they can be filled from within.

If not, carry out a thorough and disciplined recruitment plan.

And that is the basis for a long-term Succession Plan. Simple, but…

This all takes time

It can take anything from three to five years to put in place the right ‘future-proof’ structure and get the key players performing at the right levels.

And here’s the trick: this same process is essential for selling your business when you retire for best value. So it’s not just a question of securing the business against the unexpected arrival of the Grim Reaper. It’s about ensuring that your legacy will continue once you have retired, allowing you to have a long and happy retirement, leaving behind a happy and motivated team to take things forward.

And that has to be good news for everyone, doesn’t it?

Case Study – 1973 Ltd – Progressing from ‘Doing’ to ‘Managing’ a Business

Growing a creative Digital Marketing Agency

CMC helped the directors of this digital marketing agency increase revenue by 387% in just five years.  Through business planning and process reviews they continue to grow the company to maximise business value.

 The Challenge:

  • Grow the business and increase asset value
  • Create time and space for the directors’ to manage the business
  • Build confidence in directors’ abilities to win bigger contracts
  • Increase existing customers’ spend in line with top client
  • Expand the company’s target market and product offerings
  • To be recognised as a quality email marketing solutions provider

The Benefits:

  • 387% revenue increase within 5 years
  • Won a three-year contract with their main customer, covering the US and EMEA, providing stability whilst focusing on new customers.
  • Expanded into the B2B customer base and leveraged into the B2C market
  • Changed the directors’ reactive approach from being a 100% ‘doing’ to 50% of their time focusing on managing the business and sales and account development
  • The team has grown four fold with a recruitment plan in place for the future

‘CMC’s advice, support and wealth of experience has helped us understand how to successfully build and grow our business. Together we have developed a clearly defined plan with realistic goals to help maximise our business value.’ Chris Barnett, Director, 1973 Limited

Discover how 1973 Ltd achieved business growth which significantly increased their turnover….

business sale - Brian Baker

Case Study – Successful Business Sale and Secure Retirement

Successful Business Sale to Provide Secure Retirement for the Directors – Graefe Ltd

CMC provided expertise, experience and guidance to the capable directors in successfully selling their business for a price beyond expectations. Find out how CMC Partners helped with this business sale by downloading the full story below.

The Challenge:

  • To sell the business
  • Achieve sufficient capital gain, allowing comfortable retirement for the directors
  • Complete the sale within 2-3 years time frame
  • Little disruption to the operation of the business

The Benefits:

  • Increased business value, allowing directors to retire comfortably
  • Exit/sales process completed within 2 and half years
  • Quick and efficient transfer of business ownership

When selling a business, finding someone with the knowledge is important but finding someone you can trust is paramount. We trusted CMC and we knew they were on our side. It was not a process they applied to us, but a journey that we took together. Brian Baker – Former Managing Director of Graefe Ltd


Why You Should Consider Your Exit Strategy – NOW

Over the next 10 years, the landscape of business ownership in this country (and across the globe) will begin to change dramatically. The unstoppable change has already begun as millions of baby boomer business owners begin to contend with retirement and the importance of exit planning.

By definition ‘baby boomers’ are people born during the demographic post–World War 2 baby boom approximately between the years 1946 and 1964. This includes people who are between 52 and 74 years old in 2018.

As recently as 2016, roughly 2/3 of all businesses were owned by baby boomers. Unfortunately, many baby boomer business owners don’t begin to think through their exit strategy until they are on the brink of retirement age, which puts them at a significant disadvantage.

One factor that complicates the exit strategies of baby boomer business owners is the question of who will take on leadership of their company once they retire. In past generations, business owners would usually pass their business on to their children, but because baby boomers had fewer children than their parents, many baby boomer business owners are forced to face challenges regarding succession and liquidity.

If you’re a baby boomer business owner who has not yet begun the exit planning process and wonders when is the right time to get started, the answer is now. Depending on how close you are to retirement, here are some questions you need to answer and some ideas to help you begin your exit planning.

Remember one way or another you will exit your business!

You need to plan now. Exit planning requires careful consideration of important questions. These are the types of questions you should begin to think through:

  •     What happens if you are not able to run the business?
  •     Who will run the company?
  •     How will you be able to provide for your family’s financial needs?
  •     How will you prepare your successor to run the company once you are gone?

If you plan on leaving your business to your children, then you must determine what you will need in retirement. Think about how to structure the transaction to balance the needs of your children with your needs. Begin to plan the transition of management.

The process of determining your exit strategy is not just limited to the baby boomer generation as the fact that some day you will no longer be able to work within your business will come to us all. If you need to discuss your options, or even just your starting point,

For help in getting advice on accessing finance, business planning, or simply day to day support in making serious business decisions – fill in the contact form below or call 01844 319286.

Brexit Planning

It’s good to talk – A simple guide to communication for small businesses

Talking about communication, or lack of it, I was once the Non Executive Director of a small company and observed a silent row developing between MD and Technical Director – by email…

Because the two men were only a few feet and one partition away from each other, and I was fifteen miles away, I called the MD – suggesting that they go out for a snack and a pint. Of course this defused the situation.

So let’s reflect on areas where it might be good to set aside smart communication methods in favour of face-to-face meetings or phone calls:

1. Staff communication

How often do you tell your staff what is going on and listen to their concerns and ideas? Or walk the office or shop floor?

‘I haven’t got time for that; I can just email them’. This devalues any sense of respect you may have for your team.

The former Chairman of one of the largest supermarket groups allocated one day every week to visit stores, talk to staff and customers, finding out what was going on. During his tenure, the business was hugely successful. No coincidence – he was a strong team player.

2. Communication with customers

How often do you talk to them directly and find out how satisfied they are with your service and product? Customers really value this sort of contact. It is what differentiates successful, proactive business managers from the crowd, who often simply claim that they haven’t got the time to call people.

I once called the main competitors of a particular client. It was amazing what I found out in a few short conversations – about the market, how the competition viewed my client, and about customer opinions also. How many businesses do this sort of check?

3. Talking to your service providers

How often do you talk to your bank for example? And do you encourage them to contact you? All too often, business owners/managers feel that it’s best not to say anything if the going gets tough. The reverse is true: bankers are usually delighted to learn that you are responding to the situation. They do not like surprises. Who does?

Recently, a client of mine was called to a meeting with his bank and was in a state of panic because he was suffering in tough trading. We planned the meeting, and the net result was that the bank extended his overdraft and provided emergency loan facilities. My client’s previous excellent track record made the bank more confident that he would pull through OK.

4. Talking to your suppliers

Some business leaders feel that they know their suppliers well enough and will happily seek to dictate terms to them, heedless of any warning signals.

Most importantly we should consider price negotiations: we know how heavy retailer pressure causes subtle reductions in quality as suppliers cut costs to preserve margin. The irony is that those same retailers introduce ‘premium’ products to fill the quality gap. The introduction of organic dairy products is a classic example. Besides that, consider the well-recognised inferior quality of meat and green-grocery products (compared to what you might find in, say, farmers’ markets at comparable prices).

It all comes down to good communication with business negotiators listening to what their suppliers say. We would all be more satisfied with supermarket product ranges if this happened more frequently.

Fundamentally, the responsibility for changing the communication culture rests at ‘The Top’. Why not start by encouraging phone calls as the first line of communication? The Company which communicates confidently and effectively will always be one step ahead of the competition.

Scaling your business

How Do I Scale My Business and Realize its Full Potential?

I have been lucky to have been a director for businesses that grew and scaled to its full potential, moving from a 9 to 5 operation to one that was effectively 24 by 7.  Also I have worked with business owners who have stumbled into this growth scenario, and paid a very expensive price because they did not plan for this new way of doing business.  The next set of blogs discusses scaling your business with not depressing underlying profits and maintaining a productive team.

Questions to ask when thinking of scaling your business

For companies that develop an international business or that provide a business service via the telephone, email or other electronic channels, there usually comes a time when they ask themselves 3 questions, namely:

  1. Do we really need or want to go 24 by 7 or even extending our business day?
  2. Do we need to do this by using existing staff and facilities?
  3. Can we afford to do this – or more likely can we afford not to?

Moving operations from the normal working week is a big jump in terms of logistics and costs, luckily for cash strapped small businesses, there are a now many companies that can help you give the impression that you are “open all hours”.

Call centres and virtual assistants are a cost-effective method of filtering calls and taking messages outside working hours.  They answer the phone using your business name, and most call centres can even follow a pre-defined script to identify the nature and urgency of the call.  If you have fewer than 20 support calls during evenings and weekends, this can be an excellent interim solution.

For companies that need to be physically open, 3rd party security guards can also act as receptionists.  However the main business concern is one of liability (both yours and the security company’s) as the type of work that guards can engage in is usually quite limited.  For example, you would not want an untrained security guard rebooting some technical equipment if they do not know the difference between a server and a PC.

There is a tipping point at which the cost of switching from outsourced staff to an employee based team is relatively negligible, but the operational benefits are significant.  It is at this point that you need to look at the timing and costs associated with a transition; not least budgeting the time to train new staff while still paying for outsourced services.

Factors to consider when thinking about scaling to a 24/7 business

To help reduce the time and paying twice, consider the following:

Staff location:  Often not all your employees need to be physically onsite – use of technology can mean some levels of support for customers and onsite staff can be done remotely.  Staff who may normally work day shifts can be incentivised to provide a level of support from their home, e.g. if provided with technology, financial compensation, time off in lieu.

Shift schedules:  Decide what hours you want your new team to work – there are lots of different options available, depending on the shift pattern that suits your business and employees.  Research the advantages and disadvantages of each type and, if you can, try to find out what kind of schedules your competitors use to give you an insight into an approach that works well in your industry.

Health and safety: Before settling on a final shift schedule, consider the health and safety aspects of night and weekend working, especially if you’re going to have people in the office by themselves.

Hiring staff:  Working nights and weekends puts a strain on employees’ personal lives and can be physically and psychologically draining.  You do not want to move individuals between day shifts and night shifts too often as productivity is dramatically reduced. Psychologically, night working can take its toll, so ideally give the individuals additional interesting work to carry out and offer to rotate them on to a day shift occasionally.

Once you have picked your new shift workers, it is important to provide them with concise, well considered and fully documented training.  Good training not only instils confidence in employees (making them happier), but it also means you’re likely to avoid big mistakes and midnight phone calls asking for advice.

Continuous management and incident reporting is essential.  Give employees forward notice of new shift schedules to help them balance their personal lives outside work. Spend a few nights with a new recruit, or get them to shadow someone who is experienced before asking them to work alone.

Think about what can go wrong, from operational issues to major failures.  Make sure employees are aware of potential scenarios and role-play with them how to deal, including who to call and when.  Create an incident report database to track and manage any issues, regardless of size – minor issues have a habit of growing quickly, so over-reporting is to be encouraged.

When problems occur, tell the rest of the team what lessons were learnt, ideally through regular group training sessions, but otherwise through an incident report memo and short hand over documents.

Making the decisions required to grow your business is never a simple set of choices – it takes hard work and can cost your business is done badly.   If anything in this blog resonates with your own experience, feel free to make a comment below or call Phil on 07720 397040 or email him.

selling your business

How to Make Selling Your Business Easy

When you begin to think about selling your business, it can seem like a daunting undertaking.

This is not only because it means parting with something you’ve built from the ground up, but also because of the complicated process involved. However, if you follow this advice, it may take time, but it doesn’t have to be complicated.

Prepare effectively

Good preparation is the key to selling your business effectively.

To make this possible, you have to emotionally, and literally, detach yourself from the business; the former will allow you to make assessments logically, while the latter will demonstrate your company’s good health and free up more time for you to focus on the sale.

Stepping back may be a gradual process, but before you reach the point of listing your business for sale, you must be confident that you aren’t its lynchpin.

This will quickly become evident to anybody observing its day-to-day running and act as a red flag against making an offer.

A buyer must be able to imagine the business without you in it.

With a clear head and the knowledge that you have delegated, you should then sit down and compile a list of all the documentation you need, such as:

  • Financial records, including profit and loss accounts, bank statements and tax returns.
  • Contracts with employees, customers and suppliers.
  • Papers relating to premises, such as leases, deeds, insurance policies.
  • A confidentiality agreement: the legal document to protect you from unwanted disclosures by prospective buyers.

As you work through your check list, you can make sure all of the details in these papers are correct and that they are also up to date and fit for purpose.

Carrying out this due diligence will mean you are ready to lay your cards on the table and answer any questions a buyer may have.

If you are running your business well, much of this preparation will come easily to you because you will have established a maintenance schedule for paperwork. Even if you aren’t as on top of these things as you should be, this process will actually make your business a lot more attractive.

Accurate valuation

Getting the valuation right makes the difference between deterring potential buyers with an unreasonably high price and allowing a satisfactory conclusion with a fair and measured one.

Of course, you don’t want to go too low either, or you will regret parting with a valuable asset too hastily.

Although a rough guide can be obtained by learning of similar businesses in comparable areas for sale, your company is truly unique and can only be treated as such.

Your profit and loss statements will give you a more focused figure, as will an audit of assets and an understanding of the market. A financial advisor can interpret all of these aspects, making their fee a very worthwhile outlay.

Finding the right buyer

Listing your business for sale in the right place is crucial because you want to know that those who see it aren’t time wasters. Similarly, the amount of information you include can help to avoid attracting the wrong people.

By giving plenty of detail about the nature, size, location and asking price of your business, you can narrow down enquiries to those who are genuinely in the market for what you’re offering.

But, this doesn’t mean you should include sensitive financial, legal or practical information as these finer details can be shared after serious enquirers have signed the confidentiality agreement.

Selling a business is a big step. It has to be done at the right time, in the right way, to the right buyer and no part of the process can be hurried. By following these steps, it will be straightforward, far less stressful and a satisfying transaction for all concerned.

Finding the right professional for selling your business

Selling your business is often a once in a lifetime opportunity for owners. A strong team of three professional advisers will smooth the way to a successful sales at best value. They usually add value and more than pay for themselves – providing you get the right team. Read more here in this blog.  CMC Partners over the last 27 years have been involved in many business sales, reaching a total of over £156 Million to date. If you need help with listing your business and would like help with selling your business and need the right team, contact CMC Partners


By Jo Thornley, Head of Brand and Partnerships at Dynamis.

Joining in 2005 to co-ordinate PR and communications and produce editorial across all business brands. She earned her spurs managing the communications strategy and now creates and develops partnerships between, and and likeminded companies


Succession Planning for a Family Business – Who Is Next In Line?

As a business owner you have built up a good business and have been assuming that your children (when old enough) will eventually take over and continue to grow the business.  But the penny will drop that your children will not be doing this for a variety of reasons, including some great reasons such as they want to follow a different passion or career. So succession planning often happens too late.

Combine this with research from the USA that has shown that –

  • 88% of current owner manager and family businesses believe the same family will control their companies in five years, but succession statistics undermine this belief.
  • Only  30% of family and businesses survive into the second generation
  • 12% are still viable into the third generation
  • only 3% of all family businesses operate into the fourth generation or beyond.

This research indicates that family business failures can be traced to one factor: a lack of family business succession planning.

Lack of Family Business Succession Planning

This problem is encountered far too frequently and points out how vital it is for a family business and owner manager companies to have open and honest conversations about what will happen with the company when the founder or current generation eventually retires.

Unfortunately too many business owners put off succession planning discussions far too long.  Subconsciously they know that their children are not prepared to succeed them or they have no interest in doing so.  Sadly, too many don’t want to admit this because the family business is more than simply a company, it has been a major part of their life for so long.

Factors all family businesses should consider

Based on our experiences and discussions with owner manager and family business owners about succession planning there are a few things you should start thinking about now.

  • Do not assume that your children will be as good or as committed as you are in running your company.
  • Entrepreneurial skills are not inherited by children, and you need to assess this during your exit or succession planning.
  • Passion or necessity has often driven an owner manager to start and build successful companies.  If your children are not passionate about wanting to take on your family business and will be doing it out of a sense of obligation, then your business will almost certainly not continue to prosper once you pass on the reins of the family business.
  • Do not assume that your current long term employees will be happy with your children taking over as the new owner manager. Quite often these employees are more qualified and knowledgeable in the management of your business than your children may be. The dynamics of current employees versus family members in succession planning for a family business is a serious concern and needs to be handled correctly.
  • And finally (for now at least) do not assume that the future monies, dividends or payments you are planning to receive from the business to fund your retirement will automatically be there when needed. Experience will have taught you that businesses go through ups and downs and earnings are not always guaranteed. This is blatantly true if you turn your company over to a family member who is not fully prepared to be the new owner manager and all that entails.

These factors and more are critical to consider as you begin to think about leaving your business to family members.  If you have not spent years preparing and grooming your children to take your place, and if they don’t have the skills necessary, and if they don’t have the passion for your business – you could be heading for trouble.

CMC has put a guide together to help business owners with succession planning and think about their exit strategy, download it from here

If you want to discuss your personal objectives and how to prepare for your future exit or business sale, call 01844 319286 or alternatively contact us via this form.