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When to Exit: Been There, Done That

A panel of experts sat down to discuss the ins and outs of business exits, buyouts and M&A at CityUnrulyversity.

CityUnrulyversity welcomed a panel of experts to discuss the ins and outs of business ‘Exits’.

The advice was given from entrepreneurs who have sold their business and who have acquired others, plus Cass’s academic expert in M&A transactions.

The panel were:

  • Sarah Wood, co-founder and Co-CEO of Unruly.
  • Debbie Wosskow, CEO and Founder of Love Home Swap.
  • Jan Reichelt, former owner of Mendeley which was acquired by Reed Elsevier in April 2013.
  • Pawel Tomczak, co-founder and co-CEO of BHere.tv and who sold his business to Publicis Groupe.
  • Scott Moeller, Director and founder of the M&A Research Centre (MARC) at Cass.
  • Helen Reynolds, Investment Director of the Cass Entrepreneurship Fund (moderator).

The recurring theme of the evening was relationships. Building good relationships, from choosing staff to selecting investment partners, is essential. All of the experts agreed that this was just as essential to your exit strategy as it was to running a company.

“Most large corporate businesses buying out a smaller company think people and relationships are replaceable, but they’re not,” said Jan Reichelt. “When you lose those good relationships, you lose a third of the business's value."

The Panel's Top Tips for navigating your business exit:

  1. Build relationships and put them to work – 97% of M&A deals are friendly.
  2. What you do before the deal is crucial. Most of the work is done at the negotiating table, before the papers are signed. If you can’t agree terms then, it’s a sign that the deal isn't viable.
  3. Timing is crucial, whether you’ve been sought out or are seeking a buyout.
  4. M&A and investment outcomes will depend on the current market conditions and can change mid-deal.
  5. Make sure everyone in your organisation benefits from the buyout. They are a part of company’s success too.
  6. Make sure your team are set to succeed for the future, even if that future isn’t with you.
  7. Look for the personal value beyond the financial and remain focused on that throughout the process.
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