I have bought and sold over 300 companies in my career, each one unique as you would expect. My job is that of lead adviser – getting the deal done in the best way for my client and in the timeliest way possible.
But that’s not all. The role also includes
1. Being a shoulder to cry on
2. Being a confidant
3. Being bad cop or good cop
4. Being project manager extraordinaire
5. Being the negotiator and re-negotiator
6. Kicking the tails of the lawyers, banks and other third parties
7. Sweeping up teddies thrown from various cots
8. Being on call 24/7 to listen and support
9. Keeping all players focused on the end goal no matter what that may be
10. Supporting the client and advising when to hold, fold them and when to walk away.
So that’s generally my role once the transaction process is in play.
Having just done my own MBO, I decided I didn’t need my own lead advisor. After all, that’s my job. Of course I could do it, I had done it for hundreds of others.
Oh what a mistake (cobblers’ shoes and painters’ homes come to mind).
How strange it is to do a transaction for yourself rather than someone else.
It’s only now, in retrospect, that I realise what was missing from my own deal: ME!
The deal has gone through and I am pleased with it – but it could have been different, and possibly better, if I had stood outside of it as well as in it.
As a seasoned professional (I have been doing this for 25 years). I believed it was unnecessary to have a lead adviser. I was wrong.
Much the same as I can, if I want, choose to sell my home rather than using an estate agent, the question is “Can I do the job as well when I’m representing myself?”
This is what I have concluded from a very real practical situation:
1) It is impossible to play in the game and act as the referee.
2) It is very lonely trying to do it all and you need to realise sooner rather than later that it is not a sin to ask for help.
3) Don’t let lawyers remove the commerciality of the deal. I knew, and know, this. But suddenly when it’s your risk, wow, can it spoil relationships with buyers and sellers if you aren’t absolutely focused on a positive result.
4) If you are committed to leading your own deal, acknowledge that something of the day job will have to give. Are you happy with that? Otherwise everything gets diluted to a level of unacceptability.
5) Deal changes are much more likely to occur at the 12th hour and you are much more likely to give into these if you have no third-party adviser to keep you on track. You are much more likely to be subjective and emotional when really you need to stay calm to get to the end game.
So finally, without wishing to blow the trumpet too loudly about how valuable a good lead adviser can be, I would never ever do a deal for myself without one again.
Jo Haigh is head of corporate finance for Corporate Finance Services. She can be contacted on 01274 868 958/07850 475878 or at Jo.firstname.lastname@example.org
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