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Company name
Cox Agri
Location
Durham
Business activity
Stockbreeder products
Reason for sale
Responding to acquisition approaches
Sold
2014
Acquirer
Allflex
Andrew Sesemann Headshot

Andrew Sesemann – Cox Agri

A businessman, entrepreneur and MBA from The London Business School, Andrew worked for the London Stock Exchange and Danbury Mint before agreeing to join the family business in 1996. In 18 years as Managing Director of Cox Agri Ltd – a company specialising in a wide range of agricultural products including tags and shearing equipment – Andrew developed the company significantly. Under his management, the company restructured, relocated, and diversified its product range, securing a number of exclusive distribution agreements.

By the time Andrew sold the business in 2014, Cox Agri was a key player in its sector, holding significant UK market share in its areas of operation.

Approached by a buyer

It’s not unusual for a business owner to receive an offer from someone they are aware of, this was the case for Andrew.

“Like many sectors, the agricultural products industry is fairly close-knit. My buyer, Allflex, was a competitor, who had at one point been our key supplier. I knew them fairly well. My industry was cattle tags, and Allflex was the No 1 in a global industry, with a track record of buying companies being totally dominant in the markets they operate in.”

The game shifted significantly in the industry when the second-largest company worldwide bought Andrew’s key supplier.

“Within hours I got a text from Allflex saying “Fancy a coffee?” I assumed immediately that meant he was interested in buying us. So, I said yes, but I was mistaken – he actually wanted to supply us as he thought my supply chain might be under threat. Essentially his had been a sales call, not a buying one!”

After a long conversation Andrew convinced Allflex to consider buying his company which Allflex then went away to discuss with the board. Allflex got back to Andrew very, very quickly – which was clearly a green light.

No fear of selling

Andrew had previously sold a business, Cox Orthopaedic Limited in 2007, with BCMS. “The fact I had experience, and because I could see the market clearly, meant I didn’t have a fear of selling. I knew – as soon as I got the green light from my buyer and his board - that I would come to BCMS for advice.”

Don’t have all your eggs in one basket

“I didn’t want BCMS to contact other companies. I knew I wanted to sell to my buyer, but BCMS convinced me that it wasn’t a good idea to have all your eggs in one basket, and advised me otherwise.

It was clearly the right thing to do in retrospect. If you genuinely have no Plan B, then a buyer will sense that. You’ve got to get competition, because you just don’t know what else is out there. My buyer knew we were talking to other parties, which I am sure influenced their thinking.”

Selling a business is an intense experience

Andrew sold in just four months, he said that one of the reasons was due to the buyer knowing the industry and knew how to buy companies. “It’s not like this was a one-off deal for Allflex. For a business owner, selling might be a once-in-lifetime experience. But companies like Allflex buy other companies all the time. This meant they were utterly serious, professional and pragmatic about negotiations.”

“Having access to all the financial and administrative documentation required – putting your house in order, effectively – is a key factor in successful deal-making.”

Even though it was a quick sale Andrew explains how difficult the experience was: “Even if you’ve done it before, selling a business is an intense experience. Apart from BCMS, the only person I told about the sale who could give me advice was a part-time Financial Director who came in once a week. I confided with him at a very early stage. Having access to all the financial and administrative documentation required – putting your house in order, effectively – is a key factor in successful deal-making.

“You don’t want to get too emotional or want to raise your hopes too much in case those hopes get dashed! I really tried to make a point of always seeing the deal through the eyes of the buyer.  He, after all, is the person who will see the value in your business. He’s not interested in my emotional baggage.”

Living two lives

The sales process became quite challenging for Andrew and he felt that he was living two lives: “I created a separate email account and had phone lines at home specifically to deal with calls related to the sale. But I still had to run the business as well. Selling a business is not something you can do part-time, to be honest. I think that the fact that I had sold before meant I knew I needed to be responsive, focused and reactive to any queries.

“And doing that without an advisor in your corner? Forget it.”

The decision to sell

Many business owners struggle to decide when to sell: “It’s like scaling a vertical cliff. It’s a huge, huge step. In many ways, speaking to someone else, rather than keeping the idea internalised – makes it real. Once I’d talked about it with someone else - and the world hadn’t collapsed around me! – that made it easier.”

“A little bit of hand-holding goes a long way.”

Andrew had previously been to an event with BCMS two years before the sale of his first business. “I’d read that as a business owner you should always bear in mind how to sell long before you actually need to or want to! I am the kind of person who likes getting their ducks in a row.

“Any advice, material, or information you can get – like the booklets of information BCMS provides – can break down that vertical cliff into smaller steps. A little bit of hand-holding goes a long way.”

Identity crisis post-sale

The shock of selling a business affects business owners in different ways, Andrew felt that he had lost his identity: “I was in a complete state of euphoric shock, and I kept saying ‘I don’t believe it! I don’t believe it!’ It was truly bizarre: we signed at 6pm in Birmingham, and by midday the following day I was on a beach in Corsica.”

Many business owners stay in the business on a consultancy basis, but Andrew didn’t he decided to have a clean break.

“I threw myself headlong into reorganising and restructuring my personal financial affairs. I then started thrashing around for things to do – I began decorating the house manically, then did a lot of travelling. I hadn’t got anything to hang on to, there was no routine. It was very, very odd. But as the months went by, I started to find the person I was 30 years ago, which had been beaten out of me by the pressure and stress of leading a business and trying to have a life at the same time.

“Now I’m working as a business mentor, including with a couple of trusts helping young entrepreneurs. I am trustee for a local hospice. Nothing full time!

Running a business definitely changed me. Now, I’ve got my life back. It’s a different world, and I cannot believe how lucky I am.”

 

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Company name
Cox Agri
Location
Durham
Business activity
Stockbreeder products
Reason for sale
Responding to acquisition approaches
Sold
2014
Acquirer
Allflex
Cox Agri acquired by Allflex