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Putting plans in place for the future

With the ever-changing commercial landscape placing increased demands on owner managers, many are rewriting blueprints to secure fresh futures. For a good number, those drafts pivot on fundraising and succession planning. Here, Steven Hugill speaks to Chris Hird, corporate finance partner at accountancy and business advisory firm Haines Watts, to learn how its expert support is helping bosses take their next steps.


Business is emotional.

Whether hothousing a back bedroom venture into a multi-million-pound enterprise, writing the next chapter in a family firm’s legend or ceding control to a new owner, the journey is laden with feeling.

It isn’t without complications, either.

With political and economic shocks exacerbating a world altered irrevocably by COVID-19, the commercial landscape is nothing if not turbulent.

And caught in the middle are owner managers, the changeful environment stirring their every sense.

Relief then, for accountancy and business advisory firm Haines Watts, which melds passion with proactivity and sentiment with skilled support to deliver calm among the commotion.

Particularly intrinsic is its guidance around fundraising and succession planning, the significance of which, says Chris Hird, corporate finance partner, continues to escalate in the post-pandemic panorama.

He says: “There has been a real change of dynamic, with lots of owner managers, across all sectors, making decisions on their futures.

“For example, there are some, who are now in their mid-50s and who rebuilt their businesses after the 2008 credit crunch, who don’t have the same energy to do so again after COVID-19 and are looking to sell.

“And it is making for a buoyant market; there is a lot of activity, particularly around transactions worth between £2 million and £15 million.

“At the other end of the spectrum, there are businesses that weathered the storm and are wanting to grow again, and owner managers in their 20s and 30s, who see a world of opportunity they want to fund.”

Facilitating the evolution is Haines Watts’ trusted team of experts, which combines financial knowledge with an empathetic approach that speaks to every owner manager.

Chris says: “Finding the right support is a little like a jigsaw puzzle – you need to have all the pieces and put them in the correct places.

“But it’s a very bespoke process too, and the advice we provide ensures clients receive comprehensive guidance distinct to their circumstances.

“For example, if a client wants to expand an operation while retaining 100 per cent of the business, one of the areas we would discuss would be debt funding.

“Conversely, if a client wanted to sell shares to aid growth plans, we would talk about equity funding.

“The latter typically allows faster growth, but means a client is handing over part of an organisation.

“It’s ultimately about matching funding with aspiration, laying out the options and how they complement owner managers’ respective positions.”

Such discussions have taken on greater importance in recent months, with subdued post-pandemic economic sentiment – impacted in no small part by Liz Truss’ mini-budget – compounded by rising energy and supply chain costs.

The volatility means owner managers need more support than ever, particularly when trying to understand the mounting stringency surrounding capital release.

Chris says: “The world is a very unpredictable place, and attitude to risk has risen massively, certainly among the high street banks.

“Lenders are looking for that bit more visibility and information than they perhaps were in the past.

“And we’re attuned to that; we’re increasingly helping owner managers with business plans, forecasts and further information to ensure they more than meet criteria.”

The support to which Chris alludes effectively stitches Haines Watts into a firm’s fabric, allowing it to provide various strands of support that make a material difference to an organisation’s market standing. 

He says: “We become an extension of their operations, an impartial sounding board for an owner manager to express their thoughts.

“A lot of business owners are very good at what they do, but they sometimes can’t see the wood for the trees.

“The advice we provide, however, allows them to step away and gain some clarity.

“We discuss their ideas and plans, assessing all options, and those conversations can, at times, be frank.

“But if it is the right advice, it is the right answer, and being involved in this way can really change a business’ trajectory for the better.

“Discussions might focus on a client’s incumbent bank, for example, and how another lender could provide a quantum of money to expedite growth plans.

“On other occasions, they might be about acquisitions.

“It’s a cliché, but for the perfect acquisition, two-plus-two should, ideally, equal five or six, and through our talks we’re able to identify which potential target would marry best with a business’ existing operations.”

And, says Chris, the guidance is always delivered sympathetically against each owner managers’ backstory.

He adds: “We know the sentiments attached to a family firm, and the sacrifices people have made – and continue to make – to grow their organisations.

“And we respect and harness that raw emotion into advice and support that enables them to confidently move forward.”