Marc Matthew, former owner and Chairman of the Lifestyle Motor Group, recounts his experience of selling the business.
It is probably never going to be an easy decision to sell. In our case, we had created, over a 15 year period, a fantastic £200m turnover dealer group geographically spread across three counties, and it was doing very well. Receiving an approach, however, can prompt you to reflect on both the future and what had been created in the past. I started my working life in the industry at the age of 14 valeting display cars of a Ford main dealer in North London and working every day in the sector since, and so the decision to change was led by the opportunities to start a new chapter personally.
Lifestyle has 50 industry and manufacturer awards, clearly demonstrating its success and the quality of its processes and the team members, but leaving behind 500 loyal, hardworking employees is not a straightforward decision for the seller who leads them. Yet once the decision to pursue the sale is accepted, you have to focus on moving forward swiftly with the project.
No one prepares you for a sale of your business but one thing to bear in mind is using your same everyday skills to ensure you gain momentum through quick, open and transparent delivery of information. Ensuring all legal documentation in its various forms, including all company committed contracts, are all in electronic form makes it easier to support the requests arising from the buyer’s legal and financial due diligence requirements. As the leader of the business, it is critical that all important documentation is maintained in good order and sits within your easy reach, so that upon a sale you have instant access to them in the sale process without the need to involve others.
Keeping tight control on timings is a top tip. Once the seller has made such an important decision they will be more mindful of time control than the buyer. The buyer will constantly encounter hurdles that they have perhaps not anticipated, and a key part of the seller’s role is to help and support them through such times.
Another good tip is to ensure that principal leaders on both sides meet face-to-face, with agenda-led structure to those meetings, which has significant value to ensuring speedy outcomes.
Taking time to read the marked-up various changes to the sale document, and the warranties and indemnities you are being asked to give, is a critical path for the seller. You can never spend enough time doing this – remember you only sell the business once, so it has to be right for you.
The professional team you select to support you in the sale is another vital decision. Getting good quality knowledgeable advice and opinion from them is a must.
With major outside influences such as Brexit and the present US presidential elections, timing can play a huge part as it will often influence any transaction, which is important when accepting an offer, and affects the decisions you take once you have agreed. Brexit will have a business and economy effect if not immediately, then certainly within the short term.
Having made your decision - stick with it, but remember it has to be your decision based on facts and advice.