30 Years in Corporate Finance

Posted: Apr 11, 2018
Nigel Barratt

"On 6 April 1988 I started my corporate finance career and although I don’t honestly know, I have probably been involved in circa 200 transactions or so.

The vast majority of my transactions have involved owner managers wanting to sell their business. Some owners are working to a plan with clear timelines but most do not and a sale results from a life event, an approach from a potential buyer or a gradual realisation that the enjoyment has gone. A frequent underlying theme is that having built a successful business, owners start to become risk-averse and are reluctant to push for growth which results in them managing rather than pioneering.

Over the last 30 years, the mergers and acquisitions market has become massively sophisticated with multiple solutions available to business owners looking to deal with the issues outlined above. A straightforward sale of 100% of a business to a third party is no longer the only option. The growth of private equity, high net worth investors, cash flow and asset-based lending mean SMEs have access to finance that can result in a multitude of outcomes. The ability to access some cash but retain equity can re-enthuse owners.

In my experience, business owners rarely understand the range of options available and it’s my job to make sure clients understand and explore the different available options. Having access to such a wide variety of solutions has made the last few years as exciting as any in my career.

Nigel Barratt  Nigel Barratt - Head of Corporate Finance 

Over the last 30 years, it’s been my privilege to have worked with great people and businesses, I have tried to identify some consistent characteristics of the great businesses I have worked with:

  • Successful businesses require absolute commitment and owners/managers must be passionate about their service/product and be able to convey that passion to staff and customers
  • Nearly all the successful business owners I have worked with are good with their staff in a natural rather than a rehearsed way, they inspire loyalty but aren’t soft-there is generally a close inner circle of longer-term staff prepared to tell leaders the truth
  • Business leaders must make decisions, in smaller businesses those decisions will not necessarily be made with all the available facts to hand. When making such decisions a confidante who will give you advice rather than agree with you is important, I am a big fan of non-executive directors with business experience
  • Successful business owners are resilient and see problems as a challenge, positive thinking differentiates leaders
  • Business owners generally have great intuition about their business often unsupported by data and instinctively know when things are going well or less well. They also know the important numbers in their business and have a few KPIs that are produced daily if not weekly
  • Finally, they stay in touch with their industry, know the key customers and are aware of the macro trends

So what advice could I give a business owner over and above these points?

As both an accountant and a partner in a great firm of accountants, you might not be surprised that I would mention how vital a good finance function is, your finance function should, in turn, be supported by great external advice from your accountants.

A transaction of any description places a huge burden on a business but particularly on the finance team, so investing in quality systems and people will not only make your business more efficient but will enable you to command better value in a transaction.

Before I sign off and get on with the rest of my career I would like to say thanks to all the great clients who have placed their trust in me and to the partners and staff of HURST for supporting me, with a particularly big thank you to my current team for their wonderful support."

If you would like to speak with Nigel to understand the different options available, please feel free to contact him by clicking here or by calling 0161 832 6633