Diary of a Sharemark float: why now?

James Hunt is a solicitor, serial entrepreneur and founder of Everyman Legal – a new type of law firm providing legal services for entrepreneurs. The company of solicitors is the first in the UK to announce it will take advantage of the new practising regime created under the Legal Services Act by seeking a stock market admission. The company intends to trade its shares on Sharemark – a stock market for smaller companies – in the last quarter of 2012. In an honest and open account for Real Business, James Hunt will be charting the ups and downs of preparing his company for an admission.

After a series of meetings, we’ve decided the time is right to announce our intention to seek admission for Everyman’s shares onto Sharemark, the stock market for smaller companies.

A move onto Sharemark had always been my plan when I set up law firm Everyman in July 2007. By way of background, we’re a company of solicitors providing practical and affordable legal advice to companies and individuals around the UK. We have a low-cost business model (with solicitors working from home) and innovations such as fixed fees for corporate transactions.

So, to prepare for making a public announcement, I visit Everyman solicitors around the country to brief them on our plans – and most of them haven’t heard of Sharemark. I explain that it is a stock market for smaller companies. The market does not have market makers but provides a platform for matching sellers and buyers and is low cost.

It’s not necessary to have a corporate adviser (unlike AIM where a nominated adviser or NOMAD is needed).

I liken Sharemark to a kindergarten for ambitious entrepreneurs and their companies. It can be a great way to build profile and value.

I’ve asked myself: why a public market rather than private equity? Well, we’re an early-stage company. Our value would be too low to attract private equity.

Even if that was not the case, I’ve had experience as a corporate solicitor of the dangers of private equity. Private equity investors want an exit within five years and often require significant controls over the companies in which they invest.

Once we make the announcement, we’ll be in the spotlight of the legal community and our financial performance will be subject to external scrutiny. After some soul searching, I see all this as healthy accountability.

Stay tuned for the next instalment.  

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