Jo Haigh, business and finance expert looks at the role of a lead advisor in Management Buy Out (MBO) and what she learned when she was also the client
I have bought and sold over 300 companies in my career, each one unique as you would expect.
My job is that of lead advisor i.e. getting the deal done in the best way for my client and in the timeliest way possible.
Ok, that is the grand plan for any advisor in a transaction.
The reality is the role of a lead advisor is complex and includes;
- Being a shoulder to cry on
- Being a confidant
- Being bad cop or good cop
- Being project manager extraordinaire
- Being the negotiator and re-negotiator
- Kicking the tails of the lawyers, banks and other third parties
- Sweeping up teddies thrown from various cots
- Being on call 24/7 to listen and support
- Keeping all players focused on the end goal no matter what that may be
- Supporting, supporting and supporting the client and advising when to hold them, when to 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, as my job was lead advisor I clearly didn’t need someone to fulfil that role (of course I could do it, I had done it for hundreds of others).
Oh what an mistake! Cobblers’ shoes and painters’ homes come to mind, and although I clearly believed my role is hugely important in a transaction (I know for a fact I have brought deals back from the brink if not from death and certainly been the voice of reason when all about is failing) 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 was ME! Not as the MBO team member but as the advisor.
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 advisor, 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 will I do the job as well whilst at the same time remembering I do actually have a day job?
A salient lesson and 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 advisor 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 advisor can be I would never ever do a deal for myself without one again.
Head of Corporate Finance for Corporate Finance Services LLP
01274 868 958 / 07850 475878
Jo Haigh is an expert on finance… check out her books here!
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