Congratulations to all you SME owners out there!
According to Government Statistics, 99% of all private sector businesses at the start of 2017 were SMEs, accounting for 60% of private sector employment and 51% of private sector turnover. SMEs account for 99.5% of businesses in every main industry sector.
But let’s not fall into the trap of thinking that these are all tiny businesses. The definition of a medium sized enterprise is a headcount of up to 250, a turnover of up to 50 million euros and a balance sheet value of up to 43 million euros. In my book, a business at the top end of that range doesn’t feel quite so small.
As regional corporate finance advisers, we are often asked to advise businesses at the lower end of the range, let’s say those with a turnover in the region of £5 million. You know the type – great businesses that make healthy profits and have provided their owners with a comfortable lifestyle. On paper, they look to have a high potential value and quite often, the owner believes that a large trade buyer will sail over the horizon and snap them up. But how often does that really happen?
Whilst each year, we see many success stories involving trade buyers and SMEs, it doesn’t work for everyone. Trade buyers can often say “it’s just too small for us”, “it’s not as scalable as we’d like”, “there is too much reliance on a single product or customer”, or “we are looking for second-tier management”, after looking further into an opportunity. In these circumstances, an MBO deal is often a great alternative for the shareholder.
MBOs are currently very attractive, due to large amounts of available funding at historically low rates of interest. Typically, a successful MBO needs three things: a profitable and cash generative business, a competent and complete management team and a flexible seller confident enough in the new management team to be part of the funding solution.
Let’s take it as read that you have a good business. Your critical task is to develop or find a management team with the ability and experience to run the business such that you feel able to take the risk of part funding the deal.
If you are a business owner or a management team and you think that the MBO route might be the answer for you, don’t put off thinking about it because these things take time. Talk to us, and let us give you the benefit of our experience.