Growth Through Business Acquisition

Growth Through Business Acquisition

Business acquisition will accelerate the growth of your company faster than organic growth. Ambitious entrepreneurs and business leaders often consider merging with or acquiring another company for this reason. You expand your company fast and increase your assets and customer base. You often eliminate a competitor from the marketplace. However, there are lots of considerations around employment regulations and you need to take account of the laws that govern your region.

In this article, we’ll go through our business tips for growth through acquisition in the UK.

Such a move can help business owners like you to grow your top line and profitability, says The CFO Centre’s CFO in East of England North, Lynda Connon

A successful merger or acquisition can also give your company access to your target company’s technology, skillsets, markets, and target customers.

If the target company is in a different industry, the merger or acquisition can help to diversify and mitigate risk. 

Considering a diversification strategy like this is valuable if there is any doubt about your company’s prospects for long-term profitability.

The standard form of acquisition is when one company (the acquiring company) buys another company. 

It does this by either buying all the shares in the acquired company or by purchasing its assets. The shell company is then liquidated.

Types of Mergers

Likewise, there are several types of mergers, including:

  •         Horizontal merger (in which you merge with a company in your industry).
  •         Vertical merger (in which your target company is at a different production stage or place in the value chain).
  •         Product-extension merger (in which your target company sells different but related products in the same market).
  •         Market-extension merger (in which your target company sells the same products as your own but in a separate market).
  •         Conglomerate merger (in which your target company is in a different industry and has different products or services).

Growth through acquisition has many benefits, including the following:

  •         To achieve a lower cost of capital.
  •         To improve your company’s performance and boost growth.
  •         To achieve higher revenues.
  •         To reduce expenses.
  •         To achieve economies of scale.
  •         To diversify your product or service offering in your existing markets or move into new markets.
  •         To increase market share and positioning.
  •         To achieve tax benefits.
  •         To diversify risk.
  •         To make a strategic realignment or change in technology.
  •         To obtain new technology, more efficient production, or patents, and licenses.

Dangers of mergers and acquisitions

As beneficial as mergers and acquisitions (M&As) may be, particularly in terms of achieving fast revenue growth, they are not for the faint-hearted. 

The merger or acquisition process can take anywhere from a few months to a few years. Depending on such factors as whether the target company is a public or private entity, the negotiations, legislation, and the involvement of financial institutions and other stakeholders.

“The actual transaction can be done very quickly if you’ve identified your target and if all parties are keen to go ahead and legals can be put in place,” says Connon. 

“But typically, a merger or an acquisition takes several months.”

But you also need to factor in the time that will be involved in the identification of suitable target companies as well as the post-acquisition integration.

The post-acquisition integration can take anywhere from six to 12 months, she explains. 

“So the actual transaction itself can be done very, very quickly. It’s the process of identifying the target and making sure it’s something that will work for your organisation as a combined entity and making it happen after you’ve done the deal.”

It’s estimated that of all M&As, 70% to 90% fail for various reasons. 

Many failures are due to a lack of strategic planning and incomplete due diligence, according to Connon. 

They also fail if there is a poor strategic fit between the two companies, a poorly managed integration or an overly optimistic projection of the target company.

The result is a failed growth strategy and a large number of lost opportunities.

Successful merger or acquisition strategy

So, how can you be sure of being in the 10% to 30% who achieve successful acquisitions or mergers?

Before even starting your search for target companies, it’s essential that you clarify your acquisition strategy and reason for merging with or acquiring a company, says Connon.

Most successful acquisitions happen when companies have identified and understood their own acquisition strategy, says Connon. 

They have clarified the company’s direction over the next two to five years, understand the market challenges for their core business, and know the gaps in their own portfolios and skillsets.

“They also take time to identify potential targets and to subtly review and understand the strengths and weaknesses of each of those target companies,” she adds. 

“Post-acquisition, the ones that tend to fail are the ones where acquiring companies haven’t taken the time to really understand their own strategy or market challenges and what they want from an acquisition. Often, it’s been done for emotional reasons rather than good, sound business reasons. Those companies will typically fail.”

To develop your acquisition strategy, you’ll need to be clear about what you hope to achieve. What is your business model? What do you want to do? Do you want to grow income, improve profitability, or enhance cash flow? Where are the market challenges in your sector and can you address them all? If you can’t, do you need to make an acquisition? Do you need to merge?

If you conclude that a merger or acquisition is desirable and will be beneficial in the long-term, then you need to develop an “identikit” of what that potential company looks like. 

Every company you consider should be evaluated against the metrics you’ve decided upon.

“Don’t get distracted by personal judgement. If you stick to the metrics you’re looking for, you’re more likely to make a successful acquisition,” she adds.

Due diligence

You and your team of M&A experts need to carry out due diligence and investigate the target company’s business, people (particularly crucial personnel), records, and key documents. 

The point of the due diligence process is to uncover any inherent risks in the target business, to question the value placed on the investment or acquisition price, and to identify critical issues.

Your M&A team should ask questions and request documentation about the following areas:

  •         Corporate information, including the company structure, shareholders or option holders and directors.
  •         Business and assets, including your business plan, assets and contracts with both customers and suppliers.
  •         Finance including details of all company borrowings and loan agreements, cash flow statements, and business reports, plus all tax liabilities and VAT returns.
  •         Human Resources including details of contracts for directors and employees.
  •         IP and IT, including information about IPs, owned or used by the target company and the software and equipment that are used.
  •         Pension plans that are in place for directors and employees.
  •         Litigation, including details of any disputes or legal proceedings the company is involved with now or in the future along with licenses or regulatory agreements it has.
  •         Property including information on real estate that’s owned or leased by the target business.
  •         Insurance policy details along with recent or future claims.
  •         Health and safety policies that are in place.
  •         Data protection, including information about how sensitive data is stored and protected and reassurance that the target company is compliant with data protection laws.

Post-acquisition or merger

You should use your original strategy to measure its success, whether that’s income growth of 25% or improved profits of 2%.

“That would be the target by which you’d measure your combined entity. You’d go back to those numbers and see what you’ve achieved compared with what you set out to achieve.”

Make sure to contact us now so we can book a consultation meeting with one of our dedicated Regional Directors. This is to show how we can help you to know more about growth through acquisition.

The Best Business Scaling Strategy

The Best Business Scaling Strategy

If you want your business to achieve high ambitious turnover growth of at least 20% year on year, you need a business scaling strategy that incorporates a strong vision and a solid business plan.

Helping your small business to grow, to achieve a sustained annual 20% turnover growth and scale up, will involve careful planning.

It will also most likely involve taking calculated risks.

You need to think about what you want to achieve. You won’t find that easy unless you know your target market and your customers thoroughly, have products and services they’re keen to buy, and are aware of the expenses you’re likely to face.

That’s the case for all business models, including those for manufacturers, retailers (whether they’re brick and mortar, brick and click or eCommerce), distributors, and franchises.

Achieve Revenue Growth

You also need to have a clear understanding of what’s achievable both in the short and long term.

At some point, you’re likely to need to invest in the company to achieve revenue growth and scale your business the way you want.

That might be to cover the cost of hiring more team members, the training of your existing employees and their retention, or the development of new product lines or services to boost sales.

Like some companies, you might need additional funding to be able to hire external experts such as The CFO Centre’s part-time CFOs to fill the personnel gaps within the company as it scales up.

You will also have to decide how you will fund the additional resources you need to sustain your growth.

Companies that enjoy strong growth are prepared to employ the right people and raise the money they need.

Sometimes they have even personally guaranteed the loans they’ve taken out on the company’s behalf.

They’re taking well-planned, well-considered risks.

The more risk-averse often shy away from offering personal guarantees on loans or embarking on mergers and acquisitions that would help to fuel their rapid growth.

Invariably however you do need to borrow money to achieve growth.

Managing Growth Successfully

To manage your company’s growth, it’s critical that you refer often to your business plan and keep an eye on the business’ key metrics, benchmarks, and timelines.

You need to make sure that people have actionable activities; things that they can do and which can be measured.

As well as having repeatable processes and measuring your progress on a day-to-day basis, it’s crucial to be able and willing to adapt and be flexible if things change.

KPIs

Besides monitoring KPIs for turnover, gross profit percentage, and salaries, it’s also important to establish KPIs for your profit per product and customer profitability.

You need to know whether you’re doing more business with each of your customers than you were doing the previous year, for example. That’s more important than focusing on going out and winning new customers.

Equally important is being aware of your balance sheet.

Other important KPIs are those that relate to your customer conversion rates, your sales profitability, and your working capital.

Learn how you can use management dashboards to make fast data-driven decisions.

Pros and Cons of Inorganic Growth

One of the fastest ways to scale your business is to merge with or acquire another business in your market. Or, in the case of retail or hotel/restaurant companies, open new branches in different locations. It could also involve forming a joint venture partnership.

You need to ensure there is alignment and support from all the company’s stakeholders. Including customers, senior management, non-executive directors, and potential joint venture or merger partners. And your banks and other finance institutions, your accountants, and your immediate team.

The benefits of choosing the right target company for your merger or acquisition can mean your market share and assets increase.

Your new staff may have more expertise and skills than your existing employees.

The merger or acquisition may make it easier to obtain capital if or when you need it.

However, this kind of inorganic growth can be problematic.

The purchase price for the acquisition can be prohibitive while restructuring charges can increase expenses.

It also takes time to benefit from the knowledge or technology your company has acquired through the merger or acquisition.

You may find you need to recruit more managers to cope with the increased workforce.

The business may move in a direction you never anticipated. Or the new company may grow too quickly which puts it at greater risk.

Often, the combination of organic and inorganic growth gives you the best outcome. Your company can diversify its revenue base without having to rely purely on current operations to grow its market share.

Three tips to scale your business

  1. Be open-minded about taking on investment. Scaling your business will be hard work and you need to find a way to do it without running out of cash. 
  2. Conduct market research to ensure people want to buy what you’re offering. It’s got to interest and excite them so much they’re willing to hand over cash for it.
  3. Reward your employees and make sure they understand and are engaged with your vision for the business. You’ve got to bring them on the journey. 

Contact us now so we can book a consultation meeting with one of our dedicated Regional Directors, to show how we can help you to have the best business scaling strategy.

Organic Business Growth – a Magic Ingredient in Every Entrepreneur’s Success Story

Organic Business Growth – a Magic Ingredient in Every Entrepreneur’s Success Story

When you choose an organic business growth strategy, you are choosing a safer route to growth and success. The most obvious disadvantage is that it is generally slower. Some entrepreneurs prefer to accelerate their growth with a merger or acquisition. Bear in mind that this route is more costly and the risks are higher. If this doesn’t appeal to you, it is perhaps not the right path for your company at present. One thing is for sure, a low-risk strategy looks very appealing during periods when the economy is turbulent.

Benefits of Growing Your Company Organically

Coming back to basics, you might be wondering if you really have to grow your business at all. Why bother, you might ask? One clear reason is talent acquisition. Top-performing people, from your C-suite to your apprentice, will be attracted to your company if they can see that it is growing profitably. Employees will feel reassured that they are joining a thriving workplace that can offer them future opportunities. A company with owners who know what it takes to succeed.

If you decide to look for investment in the future, a track record of organic growth will be very helpful. When your company can show profitable organic growth to potential investors, it becomes an attractive investment opportunity. Organic growth is a sign that the market likes your products or services and your leadership team knows how to reach the right people. If you decide to access funding for future expansion, you’ll have strong credentials to show to banks and investors.

Opt for organic growth in your business and you set a strategy that focuses on harnessing internal resources to achieve success. This model lets your company expand operations without having to borrow money. You also avoid getting involved in takeovers, mergers or acquisitions which can be time-consuming and might feel risky.

If you are unsure which growth strategy is right for your business in the current economic climate, find someone to talk to. It can be invaluable to explore your options with someone from outside your company. Clients often tell us that they really value having their CFO on hand to give fresh insights and a new perspective. You might choose a part-time CFO for this, or you might have a business coach or mentor. No matter who you ask for support, it’s good to hear from someone who can step back and see the bigger picture.

4 Elements of Organic Business Growth

Sanjay Patel is a part-time CFO with The CFO Centre and he’s also a multi-channel retail specialist. Through his many years of experience, he says that he has seen many companies focus on organic business growth and reach their goals. Although internal growth is slower, Sanjay helps clients achieve success by focusing on 4 key areas:

  1. increases in output,
  2. greater efficiency and faster production,
  3. higher revenue growth and
  4. better cash flow.

Sanjay is a champion for organic growth for businesses. He says it will put your business expansion on firm foundations and provide a critical element in the success of any company. This is a truth that applies to all companies, not just those in the retail sector.

Why is Organic Growth Important?

If you can grow a company organically, it is a sign you are providing goods or services that people are keen to buy. Also, it shows that you can profitably supply these goods and services. Investors find this very reassuring, whether they are already involved or looking to come on board. Remember that existing and potential investors will look closely at the way your business is performing. They expect to see that the company is capable of increasing output and earning more than it did in the previous year.

Many high-growth companies grow organically, according to a global McKinsey report. In fact, the study found that organic growth is key to companies’ futures. This might sound a bit contradictory when we’ve already mentioned that organic growth is generally a slower way to grow a business. However, the survey broke down the activity of top performers into 3 main areas:

  • Invest in existing high-growth activities by using funds from a variety of sources;
  • Create new products, services or successful business models; or
  • Perform better by continually optimising their core commercial capabilities such as marketing, sales, and pricing.

The key to becoming a top growth company is to use a combination of all three strategies, according to the survey.

They found that top performers also tend to be better at developing the right capabilities to support their chosen growth strategies. For example, by using advanced analytics and digital customer experience. Although the study focused primarily on publicly listed companies in the US and Europe, its conclusions are just as crucial to both small and large privately owned companies.

Three Organic Growth Strategies for Your Business

Of course, your business might not have the resources that top growth firms do. They can introduce more than one strategy at a time, unlike most companies. Nevertheless, if you want your company to enjoy the benefits of organic growth, then you need to use at least one of the three main organic growth strategies. You should:

  1. Continuously optimise your commercial activities. These are the ones that involve how your products or services are priced, marketed, and sold.
  2. Reallocate funds from unproductive costs or low-growth sectors into activities such as high-earning products or services. Support areas of the business that already perform well to boost earnings and growth.
  3. Create and develop new products or services and develop new business models.

Measure Success

It’s crucial you use data analytics to determine which growth initiative is having the most impact. Such analytics should make it easy to see which organic growth strategy is the most cost-effective in your business.

Sanjay’s experience is that many businesses find it hard to embed analytics into their company’s most critical commercial processes. Like all our part-time CFOs, he helps clients set up their reporting. With fast access to your analytics, you can leverage these insights to make timely decisions. This allows leaders in an organisation to make important strategic decisions in the moment.

Why Knowing Your Target Market is Critical

Thorough knowledge of your target market is essential for long-term organic growth. Without it, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to increase your market share.

If you know how your target customers or clients think, behave, and make decisions, you’ll know in which products and services you need to invest most of your funds.

Your research should make it easier to know what new product lines or services will appeal to your target market. Then you can tailor your marketing efforts and the pricing of your products or services towards your ideal customers. They’re the ones who buy the most products most frequently.

Social Media Marketing

Use market research to find out where you can reach your customers online. If, for example, the research reveals that most of your customers come to your online retail shop via recommendations they find on social media, you know this is an area where you should invest. You might focus your efforts on social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, blogs, vlogs, forums and consumer review sites.

This insight could mean you decide to focus most of your marketing efforts on getting more organic sales via social channels. You might decide to reach out to more social media influencers and produce SEO (search engine optimised) content for other people’s blogs and vlogs, as well as your own blog and YouTube channel.

The deeper your understanding of your target market and ideal customers, the easier it should be to identify potential markets. Then you can invest in product line extension and create future revenue streams.

Becoming more effective at generating sales and annual revenue should result in better top-line figures. It’s also important for your company to become more efficient in spending and managing your operating costs.

The Organic Business Growth Mindset

To be one of the top growth companies, your business needs a growth mindset, as opposed to a fixed mindset. The fixed mindset organisational culture is based on the idea that personal traits are fixed. It assumes that natural ability is unchangeable and it can create a culture that limits people and their creativity.

Organisations with a fixed mindset tend to reward ‘genius’ type employees, the ‘star’ performers. They overlook so-called ‘underperformers’ and miss opportunities. Such organisations by their very nature hinder rather than encourage growth.

A growth mindset is based on the belief that everyone can increase their ability, talent, and intelligence, given the right opportunities to learn and be curious.

Organisations that share a growth mindset are more adaptive and flexible and, therefore, more agile – the very qualities that a company needs to be able to take advantage of new growth opportunities.

At The CFO Centre, we’re passionate about working with people who have a growth mindset, as you’ll discover when you meet our adaptive, flexible, and agile CFOs. These people work flexibly as individuals or as a team to deliver outstanding support to our clients. If this sounds like something you’d like to explore, why not get in touch to book your no-obligation discovery call with one of our team? Call us today on 0800 169 1499.

Top Business Expansion Strategies for Entrepreneurs

Top Business Expansion Strategies for Entrepreneurs

To fulfil your business expansion ambitions, you’ll need to adopt the right growth strategy. As an entrepreneur, you’ll be looking to find a strategy that involves the least amount of risk and effort. This is a huge responsibility and you might feel rather daunted as you weigh up the options. At times like this, you might be thinking that you could really do with a professional sounding board. Someone who “gets” your vision, who has your back and shares your focus on translating vision and strategy into deliverables in your business. Our clients tell us their CFO gives them this support but you might also talk to a business mentor or coach or even a friend whose judgement you trust.

As you begin to weigh up your options for business expansion, you need to consider which opportunities are the best match for your company. To do this, you’ll need to appraise the demand for your products and services, your competition, the size of your market and market conditions. Once you have this information to hand, you can select the growth strategy that matches your situation.

The 6 common business expansion strategies that most entrepreneurs favour are:

  1. Increase your market penetration by selling more of your products or services to your existing customers.
  2. Expand your market by moving into new areas, territories or countries.
  3. Increase the range of products or services you offer to new and existing customers.
  4. Diversify your existing products or services to attract different customers.
  5. Use new channels to sell your products or services such as setting up an online shop on your website, selling through social media channels, direct mail catalogues, joint venture partners or affiliate partners.
  6. Acquire or merge with another company (to increase market penetration, market expansion, product diversification, and market share). You could buy or merge with a competitor, a supplier or a distributor to achieve your growth objectives.

As you can see, most of these expansion strategies will lead to organic business growth. Although this typically takes longer, it often feels safer and you can put systems in place gradually to match the increases in customers and jobs. You can tap into specialist expertise at the right time and de-risk each decision as it arises.

The exception in this list is option number 6, the acquisition of or merger with another company. There are advantages and disadvantages to merging or acquiring other companies. This strategy can be riskier than relying on organic growth because you’re bringing together two different operations and integrating the cultures and teams. On the other hand, when an acquisition or merger is successful, it can accelerate your company to achieve rapid growth.

If you are an entrepreneur facing the challenge of balancing out these risks or opportunities on your own, you might feel overwhelmed. It can be tough to keep a clear focus on all the factors in the decision. We completely understand how this feels. Our CFOs work one-to-one with clients, or as an expert team where a company needs specialist advice, to help them build winning growth strategies. Read on for insights into their approach to the challenges.

Overcoming obstacles to growth

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), only about a third of small businesses survive more than 10 years, which is a great shame. Looking at the main reasons that they fail, we see some key themes. These include:

1. A lack of planning

Too many small business owners create a business plan to get start-up funding, then never refer to it again. If this sounds familiar, it’s worth taking a moment to reflect on the value locked up in that plan. You have already invested time (and maybe money) in setting out how you plan to expand your company, so let’s dust it off and start putting your efforts to work in your business. If you need a little inspiration, our CFOs confirm that the owners of growing, thriving companies develop and implement their strategies. This is the key to achieving the objectives they’ve detailed in their business plan.

These entrepreneurs then use their business plan as a benchmark. This allows them to measure progress towards their goals on a monthly, weekly and even, a day-to-day basis. Even if your numbers have to change, you still have some guiding principles so you can keep a focus on where you’re heading.

For instance, you can see how close you are to achieving a percentage increase in profit margins. You can also use the business plan to develop systems and processes that will help make the company more efficient. This puts you in a position where your business is more likely to survive and achieve its long-term objectives.

2. Lack of skilled people

To expand your business you need people with the right skills and knowledge to deliver your products and services, says Paul Vennard, an experienced CFO, and Regional Director for Kent at The CFO Centre.

Unfortunately, a 2018 global talent shortage survey by the Manpower Group showed that 45% of companies struggle to find people with the right skills to fill open positions. Recent surveys show that this problem is persisting into the 2020s and these unfulfilled roles pose a threat to a company’s productivity, efficiency, and future growth.

3. Lack of expert advice

Businesses can fail to achieve their growth projections simply because their owners and management team don’t have access to people with the right expertise. Quite often, business owners are not even aware of how easy it is to get help from people with experience of growing companies. Whether you choose a part-time CFO (backed by a global team) or another trusted advisor who is on your side and shares your passion, you need to work with people with vision, ambition (for your business) and experience of business expansion. You need someone you can rely on to guide you and help you overcome obstacles to growth.

4. Inadequate risk management

When the managers in a company have poor risk management skills, we see an inconsistent approach to this key aspect of leadership. It is critical for your team to identify, assess and control the internal and external threats to the company’s capital and earnings. Without this, you could be exposed to excess workplace accidents, failed projects, computer security breaches, loss of contracts, higher costs, legal action and, in the very worst cases, closure.

5. Poor financial management

Quite often we find that CEOs of small companies lack sophisticated financial knowledge. They have many other admirable attributes but this is an area where many people struggle. If this sounds familiar, you should seek support from a CFO who has seen it all before and won’t judge you or the skeletons in your cupboards. Bringing the issues into the open, with someone who is firmly on your side, will help you address the barriers that could hamper your business expansion plans.

If you don’t tackle the status quo, poor financial management can lead to inadequate controls, high overheads, and overly optimistic financial forecasts. Unfortunately, business owners don’t always realise that rapid growth can have a huge impact on cash flow and they come unstuck as a result.

6. Too little market research and poor marketing efforts

Inadequate market research can have disastrous consequences for any company. The last thing anyone wants for your business is that you expend time and energy trying to sell to an audience that is not interested or can’t afford to buy your products or services.

Similarly, your company could miss opportunities such as joint ventures or expansion possibilities. It could also overlook threats such as new market entrants or changing consumer tastes.

You need to have realistic expectations of your marketing’s reach and likely sales conversion ratio. This sounds easy but we find that it’s actually very hard to keep a fair perspective when you’re so close to your own products and services.

Assuming your market research is adequate, your company still needs strong marketing to ensure your target audience is aware of your products and services. You need to have the capacity to send the right message to the right people at the right time. You also need to have the right ethos and skills in the business to make sure you can deliver on the promises that marketing is making to your prospects and customers.

Lack of funding

Your company’s growth might plateau due to a lack of growth funding. This is a particular risk if your company is past the start-up phase, and if you don’t have further assets to borrow against. It can be very frustrating but it is a common challenge that our CFOs help clients to overcome. Through our team approach and our exceptional network of contacts, we help clients access the funding they need to fulfil their ambitions for growth.

Are you wondering how a high-calibre CFO, with a track record in business expansion, can help you?

Would you like a chance to talk to someone who understands exactly what’s involved in business expansion? We’re pretty sure the answer is “yes” so why not book a no-obligation, 30-minute discovery call with one of our high-calibre CFOs?

Simply give us a call on 0800 169 1499 and let our in-house team know that you’re looking to expand your business. They’ll book your call and help you get your journey to success underway.