What did you do before Surestop?
My whole career has been spent running businesses across a range of industry sectors and turning good ones into excellent ones and loss makers into profitable businesses. I have been fortunate during my career to have had the opportunity to successfully complete a number of mergers, acquisitions and disposals. During 2003, with around 20 transactions under my belt, I was part of a four man team who acquired Frederick Cooper PLC.
My job as Managing Director of Cooper Coated Coil was to turn a loss making company into profitability as soon as possible. After a major restructuring programme and within 2 years this was achieved and we sold it to Metalrax PLC in 2005.
At the age of 55, I decided that this would be an opportune time to retire! This lasted for only a few months when the Managing Director of Birmingham Passenger Transport Services Limited asked if I would assist in the sale. A few months later a successful sale was completed with the Go-Ahead Group PLC.
How did you get involved with Surestop?
After retiring, I soon started to miss the day to day buzz of business. I decided then that I should come out of retirement and buy a business which required my turnaround skills. I identified Sure (GB) Ltd which was a company in administration and had been consistently losing money during the 7 years since its formation. I bought the assets jointly with the inventor of the product and a new business was formed as Surestop Limited in 2007. It had developed a unique plumbing product and it had great potential.
What were you major achievements at Surestop?
In January 2015, with the assistance of Bracebridge, the business was sold and proved to be an exceptional return on our investment. How was this achieved? Obviously year on year profit growth was important but also using the benefit of my many years of preparing businesses for sale was crucial. My objective and focus was – If I were to buy this business what would I be looking for? What would concern me? Where is this company going? I also knew the questions that were likely during due diligence and made sure I could give an immediate answer. A prompt efficient response gives the prospective buyer confidence in the management and the organisation of the business and allows a much reduced due diligence period which is when the seller and the price is most vulnerable. In my view, the value of a business can be dramatically reduced if the business is not professionally prepared for sale beforehand. This exit planning period can take up to 12 months to complete and if you are thinking of a sale in the not too distant future, then you should consider this as a priority. When the business has been prepared for sale, the next step is to appoint your Corporate Finance adviser.
What made the Surestop sale successful
I felt that a prospective buyer for Surestop could be from overseas. Having undertaken a review of the corporate finance market, I decided that Bracebridge Corporate Finance would be our best fit. They did not disappoint, we had blue-chip company interest from Europe, USA and Australia although we eventually sold to a UK company – Polypipe Group PLC. From the appointment of Bracebridge to the time of completion took only around 4 months. Make no mistake, it was a very intensive and stressful period despite having removed myself from the day to day side of the business and focusing all of my time on the sale process. There is no doubt in my mind that most companies do not anticipate the amount of resource that is required during a sale process and this often causes a deal to collapse as the eye is taken off the ball and the profitability of the business starts to suffer at a crucial stage. This can prove very expensive, particularly if you are at the exclusivity stage with a preferred offer. My top tip is to engage additional expert resource and to choose a Corporate Finance partner who you can work well with. In the meantime, the business must continue in good shape to ensure results do not suffer.
There is no doubt in my mind that the collective efforts of myself preparing the business for sale whilst working extremely well with Bracebridge gave the shareholders of Surestop Limited the result they were looking for.
I am semi-retired and enjoying travelling the world, but I am sure I will find something else to do in the not too distant future!