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Jeff Camborne-Paynter – The Consultancy Company

How it began

Jeff Camborne-Paynter set up The Consultancy Company after an organisation wanted to set up a franchise business: “They ran out of funding, so I gave them the elbow and set up on my own. I set up with the intention to sell one day. I had planned to sell for some years, and so it wasn’t a spur of the moment decision. I always felt that as part of running your business you need to plan where you want to be and start planning ahead.”

Why BCMS?

After receiving a mail shot from BCMS and leaflets across the years, Jeff felt that BCMS had a very clear process. “The reason I came to you was that I had had an experience of another advisor which was not successful. I did that as a market test to see what the market was like. If the price had been right then I would have sold. I looked at some other offerings in the market. I spoke in some detail to one of your competitors. It came down to a mix of the overall process – I felt comfortable that BCMS had a managed and very clear process.

“In many ways there was elements of it that were similar to the selling style we use in our own consultancy, so that was good. The fit of people worked better for me. On that basis, I opted to use BCMS.”

Experience of the sales process

Jeff said: “I felt the experience was very good and BCMS were very prompt and responsive when things came up. The only question mark I had about the whole process was at the stage when potential acquirers began submitting valuations. How positive we could be about whether people could follow through? One guy had said he had the funding, but in the end it fell through.”

During the sales process, Jeff had minimal involvement in the company’s day to day delivery of services. Jeff said: “I got to the stage at the end where I could manage the business from 300 miles away with a visit to the office 2-3 times a month. The people looking after stuff were very high quality which meant I was free to pursue sale discussions. The only impact was on my admin manager, who required information in a different form for acquirers, and she had to extract information. So that was a challenge for her.”

Confidentiality was key

As with most of our clients, confidentiality was key to Jeff. “Confidentiality was very important to me for two reasons: 1) Externally potential and actual competitors realising something is going on was dangerous, where they could perhaps make approaches to people was a concern. 2) The bigger concern was the internal one as people could feel something was going on where they had no control. Where you have fear and uncertainty in an organisation, it stops performing properly. So I was keen that no one knew what was going on internally apart from one selected individual.”

“I had to find a buyer that would respect the background of the people and the history of the practice, and really add value.”

How did you tell your staff?

Jeff had always explained the direction he wanted to take the business and how it was an interdependent organisation. “Part of that culture I felt was I had to find a buyer that would respect the background of the people and the history of the practice and really add value to it rather than totally change it with a high-risk element.

“The purchaser of my company [Aidan Salter] decided he didn’t want to change much, but just wanted to bring some different skills and some different strategic intent. He was quite sensitive to the culture we had. He took over at a time when we had some recruitment processes running and as part of that ongoing process he has taken on some more people, following processes that we have already in place.”

When telling the staff, Jeff told them in stages beginning with the management team. He explained the process so that they were all aware and made sure that everyone respected confidentiality.

“At the final stages the purchaser did want to meet some of the staff. Each person was surprised that I was selling. I then sat in on the meetings and they went really well. The people were very good, very honest, so there were no shocks or surprises from either side. I ended up being a bit of a wallflower. When we actually did the deal Aidan and I rang everybody. We had discussed it in detail before and Aidan had asked my recommendation on what the process should be. I involved the management team in that discussion, and we took our time in deciding. I wanted any transition period to be as seamless as possible from our consultants’ point of view.”

What happened post-sale

“I’ve had relatively little to do. I was very open to everything as part of the sale culture. I gave Aidan a number of de-briefs as a snapshot of the team as he had a feel as the characters and business from my point of view. I had always said that it needed very little handover, due to my lack of day-to-day involvement. Aidan came to recognise the fact that it was actually the case when he came to meet people. We did agree that I would give him some time as part of the support package. But he’s never come anywhere near the level of time that we had set out as part of the sale process.”

Even though Jeff has left the business he has been in touch with ex-colleagues: “It sounds like nobody is unhappy with Aidan. They like his approach. I’d like to think he’ll be more successful than I was.

“Now I plan to relax and take some holidays. I’m not going to actively look for any other entrepreneurial activities, because I have been so busy over the years. I don’t feel the need to rush out and build up other businesses. By the time I had moved down to Cornwall I had already dabbled in property and established a restaurant, got it to two rosette level and then sold it. I think I’ll be focusing on relaxing, retirement and pottering-around type activities.”

“The price that anything is worth is what the market says it is worth.”

Advice for others

“I think the lesson I’ve learnt over the years - not from selling businesses but from consultancy, and from life experience – is this: you can have ambitions for price, which have been created emotionally because of what you think something is worth, because of what you believe you put in and the value you’ve added, but it doesn’t matter a lot if the market disagrees. The price that anything is worth is what the market says it's worth.”

 

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Company name
The Consultancy Company
Location
Oxfordshire
Business activity
Management consultancy
Reason for sale
Wanted to retire
Sold
9 Sep 2013
Acquirer
Private Investor
The Consultancy Company