Does my Business need an Advisory Board ?

May 11, 2011

In Australia there are 10’s of Thousands of businesses in the $5M to $250M turnover size.

Most have the same issues as the $Billion businesses, but they cannot afford to pay $250K to $1M+ per year for a specialist Advisory Board.

Issues companies need to address for sustainable success – whilst doing business:

Management Finance, Commercial & Legal
  • Business growth strategies
  • Increase in competition
  • Succession planning
  • Changes in business process
  • Leadership
  • Strategic vision
  • Compliance
  • Ageing management team
  • Divergent risk-appetite of Executives
  • Disconnect between Board and Executives
  • Maintaining margins
  • Keeping focus on bottomline
  • Fixed-price contracts
  • Minimising legal exposures
  • Risk vs Reward management
  • Capital to sustain growth
  • Cost of money
  • Return on Investment &/or Capital
  • Exposure to currency fluctuations
  • Mergers & Acquisitions
Research & Innovation Human Resources/Capital
  • Lead-time to Revenue
  • Innovation by competitors
  • Cost of innovation
  • Cost of NOT innovating
  • Value-creation opportunities
  • Service-line extensions
  • Product-line extensions
  • New entrants re-shaping a market (eg: Google)
  • When to innovate, and when to wait
  • Intellectual Property protection
  • Knowledge retention
  • Cost of Retention vs Acquisition
  • Motivation and productivity
  • Fixed vs Variable workforce
  • Total Cost of Employee
  • Skills transfer
  • Team morale
  • Poor internal communications
  • No sense of ownership/belonging by staff
  • “Bench” management
Sales & Marketing Technology
  • Qualifying opportunities
  • Increasing gross margins
  • Salesforce efficiency
  • Brand Identity
  • Brand Promise vs Service Delivery
  • Customer experience
  • Product/Service differentiation
  • Channels to market
  • Channel management
  • Market segmentation
  • Dis-integrated systems
  • Business/Technology alignment
  • Outdated technologies
  • Cost of ICT operations
  • In-house vs Outsourced
  • Poor documentation
  • Limited/No knowledge of systems in use
  • Not leveraging the full benefits of technology
  • Unable to make sense of voluminous data
  • Rising power & consumable costs

The list of challenges facing small to medium, and even large, businesses is bewildering.

The items covered above are only a small sample of the total array of issues that distract business owners and executives away from their main concern – which is making or saving money.

As it just happens, we offer an Advisory Board Bureau that provides you with access to all the expertise you need, when you need it, to help you navigate your way through incredibly complex issues that are taking up TIME YOU DON’T HAVE.

Expertise available through our Advisory Board Bureau

The following list gives you a sense of the expertise at your disposal as/when you need it.

  • Drop-in CEO, COO, CTO, CIO or CFO for a short-term engagement to turn around a company.
  • Development/Review/Validation of a Marketing Strategy or Plan.
  • Mentoring and Measurement of a Sales Team.
  • Mentoring of the CEO/CFO/COO through periods of dramatic change in the business.
  • Development/Review/Validation of a Business Growth Strategy or Plan.
  • Support the business executive team through the pains associated with actual business growth.
  • Oversight of the Acquisition or Divestment of Businesses &/or Business Units.
  • Creating, or Maintaining, High-Performing Teams within a business.
  • Dealing with staff, talent and knowledge retention (or high turnover)
  • Mediating between the Executive Team and The Board where there is a disconnect.
  • Development/Review/Validation of an ICT Strategy or Plan.
  • Oversight of the creation of a Project Management Office to handle all project activity.
  • Health-Check, or Audit, of specific projects that are concerning Management.
  • Specialist sector-specific advice relating to Product/Service innovation.
  • Expanding your sales channels.
  • Health-check of your IT Systems.
  • Benchmarking your Outsourced service providers against industry accepted performance.

So, we can deliver to your business the same quality of Advisory Boards that $Billion businesses have, but with a small business price tag.

How do we do this ?. We’ve aggregated many $5M to $200M businesses, who use our Advisory Board service as a Bureau, which means we can afford to pay for Top Talent by sharing the cost across many businesses.

What will it cost you …. Let’s talk to understand what you need, it could be as little at $5,000 per month.

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Revisiting the Topic of “Is 2011 the year of M&A, IPO or the return of Private Equity ?”

February 28, 2011

In 2010, I kept getting asked about this – it seemed to be the topic de jeur in many of the meetings I was in during H1 of 2010.

Check here for a link to the 2010 blog entry I wrote.

As I said last year, everybody has their reasons why they might favour one dominant approach (M&A versus IPO versus PE Funds) over the others, and ultimately that’s what it tends to be … people pushing their own wheelbarrow on the coat-tails of one of these types of trends.

Irrespective of which one ultimately dominates during 2011, there are some things we can definitely observe and therefore make some educated guesses about:

  • Mergers & Acquisitions will continue to be very busy during 2011, continuing what happened in 2010 with industry consolidations and tactical acquisitions.
  • The number of attempted IPO’s in 2010 was only a small % of the successful ones. In 2011 this % will be much higher, and also be based on a much higher number of attempts.
  • Private Equity got a bit of a run-on during 2010, but is still being brought unstuck by having to hold onto the trading operations for much longer than they used to.

Now, whilst those observations are very much SFW, there are some specifics to consider.

M&A.

  • M&A activity will actually be stronger again in 2011 than in 2010, last year it was about businesses leveraging their balance sheets again. In 2011 it is all about growth by acquisition.
  • Businesses were being picked up at 3 x EBIT early in 2010 it got better through the year – but didn’t get to the 6 x EBIT I thought it would. However, roll-ups have intrinsically greater value than a tactical acquisition and this is being borne out by some of the multiples being achieved.
  • At the larger end of town hiring of staff has become very tight, in the SME space it isn’t as tight but this is because they’re being less picky. As always, acquisition is an easier way to get the right people (then you just have to find a way to keep them !!).

IPO’s.

  • Public interest/appetite in solid businesses looking to list has continued to increase, and will do so throughout 2011.
  • Trading conditions are still very fragile in some sectors, so whilst IPO’s are a viable option again, there is definitely enough downside risk to require caution.
  • There are some heavy duty businesses looking to list, an example is the iSelect business in Australia which I gather is looking to IPO and list towards the end of 2011.

PE Funds.

  • The Facewash/Strip/Sell strategies are still not viable because of the EBIT multiples available.
  • PE Funds have had to hold and run businesses for the last 2-3 years, previously they’d have been out in 12 mths.
  • The PE Funds have now got a totally different skillset/timeframe/approach courtesy of the GFC.
  • Providing that trading conditions improve there will be a number of PE Funds looking to offload businesses during 2011, as they seek to reset their investment strategies for the growth times ahead.

Given all of the above, it will be a very active and interesting year for Corporate Advisory firms (like ours) and for those businesses out there that have a good story to tell.

Feel free to contact me if you want to explore this topic in greater detail.


The biggest problem in selling your business is what you value goodwill at

June 19, 2010

When I do post-mortem reviews with business owners about business sales that have fallen over, one of the most common points of failure is a dispute over the value of Goodwill.

It is fair to say that establishing a reasonable value for your business is fairly straightforward – in most cases it is a defined multiple of the EBITDA.  However, when this number doesn’t match up with what the current owner(s) want they resort to Goodwill to create the necessary “padding” to create the total value they want.

As the current owner, you’ll unconsciously factor in how difficult it was in the beginning and how much sacrifice was necessary to weather the difficult times.  The owners must realise, however, that others will evaluate your business from a much narrower point of view … it’s ability to return an investment over a fixed period of time with an acceptable margin of risk.

This doesn’t mean that a prospective buyer fails to appreciate your efforts in building the business.

But goodwill is the single most difficult portion of your business to value.  Your reputation and relationships with your customers, vendors and the community, along with your participation in trade-related activities, all contribute to goodwill.  In fact, your customer list is probably among your business’s most valuable assets.  In fact … sales of some businesses are based on this alone.

One of the key factors that causes sales to fall over is greed, or ignorance, with respect to Goodwill.

This is because the factors used to increase/decrease the EBITDA multiple have already been assessed and the judgement has been made.  Therefore you can’t have those contributions to the business valuation TWICE.

Some examples are:

  • The quality of your current clients;
  • The duration of your current contracts;
  • The level of current revenues that are annuity-based;
  • The reputation of the business in the industry/sector it trades in;
  • The strength (or lack of strength) of your competitors;
  • How much of the effort has already been completed that is needed to yield a great return on a product/service.

Some factors that legitimately contribute to Goodwill, and are not likely to be reflected in the EBITDA:

  • Brand recognition;
  • Product recognition;
  • Intellectual Property that has yet to be fully commercialised;
  • Intellectual Property that has real licensing potential;
  • Intellectual Property that can be OEM’d into the product set of a major global player.

As a rough guide, if the Goodwill value is more than 20% of the total business value then you’re double-dipping on Goodwill factors and will have trouble justifying the price.

Remember that in the final analysis, your company is worth only what someone will pay for it.

Generally, a potential buyer’s offer will be influenced by how soon they expect to see a return on their initial investment.  As a guide, anything longer than 5 years is too long … therefore you’re trying to get a higher price than the business can actually deliver to the new owners.

Feel free to contact us if you want to understand more about business Goodwill as part of selling your business.