Jim, what is one of the most common questions you ask your corporate clients?
There are many but one of the most important is: What would you like to achieve and how are you going to do it? It is always surprising to find how many look not much further forward than next week when they need to be thinking longer term.
What is the problem?
Well, we often see a reality gap between the current position of the business and the value aspirations of the shareholders. Not only that, but the thoughts of individual shareholders on matters such as strategy and value realisation also vary. Needless to say, if you have disagreement at the top then the business is more likely to underperform. And some of the changes required might not be overnight fixes. It’s often the “elephant in the room” syndrome.
How do you overcome that?
These things need to be discussed openly and often they are not, especially in family businesses. Shareholders must be encouraged to produce a plan to deliver both business and personal objectives which can only be done through honest dialogue. We work with business owners to resolve various issues, including those relating to growth, exit and succession.
When should the process start?
It’s never too early to start, so now. And it doesn’t just apply to more mature businesses. For example, we are working with a new, high growth software business and already talking about how to realise value for the shareholders.
What does the process involve?
We begin with a strategic review which looks at shareholder aspirations for the business, and ultimately themselves, as well as assessing business performance. Significant issues can be identified and we can start to work with shareholders to agree a shared vision for the future. For some businesses a sale might be the best way forward. For others it might be a question of re-focusing and making changes to create additional value.
How challenging is it?
It depends! Some businesses face more difficult circumstances than others and you can imagine how challenging shareholder dynamics can be. We work in partnership with shareholders to create achievable action plans. Being part of a larger accountancy practice also allows us to tap into other skilled professionals from within the firm. So, for example, we will work closely with our tax and wealth management colleagues to ensure that all angles are considered. This provides reassurance for our clients.