“A hand-up, not a handout”
BCMS do a lot of events – I reckon around 1000 in our 30-year history. But we’ve never done anything like this.
Our first-ever event at BCMS was in front of a few dozen people at Donington Park, sometime in 1989. Back then, as a start-up M&A advisor, we just hoped our basic business idea – that selling a company is a sales and marketing exercise - had potential.
Over 1000 business sales later, including 600 in the past 10 years alone, the venue (and the guests) are a little different. At the stunning Drapers’ Hall in November 2019, we put on a fundraiser called The Hope Supper, to raise money for The Snowdrop Foundation, which aims to support the most vulnerable in society, both in the UK and overseas. The goal of the night was not to celebrate BCMS, but to raise as much as possible to support St Mark’s School in Kakinada, India – a school built by the Foundation in 2004, which today educates 500 children from some of the country’s poorest communities. The audience included partners from the worlds of law, wealth management, charity, and business – and 60 of our former clients, who we call the BCMS Fellows.
I was Master of Ceremonies for the night. As a regular speaker at events, I don’t tend to get too nervous. I’ve got full confidence in the brilliant team I have around me. But I’ll admit the sheer scale of The Hope Supper – well over 200 guests, a full entertainment programme, a three-course meal, a range of fundraising initiatives on the night, and all the complex logistics involved – had me a little worried. But the minute I walked into the reception rooms, and felt the warmth from all our guests, I knew it was going to be a great night.
The partnership approach
BCMS Marketing Director Liz Jackson’s blog offers a great account of the evening – so I won’t try to compete with her! (Anyone who’s met Liz will know that’s usually a mistake.) What I will say is that events like this are always about the people, and I’ve noticed a real shift in the relationships we have with our partners these days. A few years back, our partners were professional connections. Today they’ve become friends, aligned with what we’re trying to achieve as a business. In the words of Rebecca Tunstall, from Rathbones: “Thank you for inviting us to be a part of the event. The Snowdrop Foundation is a truly wonderful cause, I was so moved by the presentation and I hope you raised a huge amount of money on the night.”
For me, the most exciting development over the past few years has been the BCMS Fellows programme, spearheaded by Liz Jackson herself. When we started BCMS, we never expected to have long-term relationships with our clients. We thought we were simply offering a one-off business sale service – and that our clients would probably see us as a necessary factor in helping them sell, nothing more.
A post-sale network
Which is why it is truly astonishing that so many of our former clients want to stay in contact and involved with BCMS after selling with us. I’m incredibly proud to say that we now have 200 former clients in The Fellows, a figure that is growing rapidly. Each Fellow has their own unique business sale story, and loads of advice and insight to give to our current (and future) clients. They know things about selling a business that no advisor on the planet can ever tell you, no matter how experienced.
My most memorable moment of the night? Well, it’s not every day that a member of the House of Lords grabs you by the shoulders and says “Dave, I’ve got to give you a hug.”
That, of course, was Lord Bird – crossbench peer, founder of The Big Issue, and a veritable force of nature. He, like many guests there, realised that at BCMS we think the term ‘giving back’ is a bit of a cliché. That the most effective charitable work is giving people a hand-up, not a handout – something we hope we’ve managed to do over the last 30 years in business, and the last 15 years with The Snowdrop Foundation.