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Company name
Wireless Innovation
Location
Gloucester, UK
Founded
2004
Business activity
Electric utility manufacturer
Reason for sale
Retirement of one of the shareholders
Sold
August 2017
Acquirer
Lyceum Capital Partners
Jeff Martin Headshot

Jeff Martin - Wireless Innovation

A matter of necessity

2004: three co-workers came up with an idea to save the company they worked for from being closed down, and Wireless Innovation was born. The three friends were directors at a network timing, components and wireless solutions company. The company had a variety of technological verticals, but, as Jeff Martin, former Commercial Director at Wireless Innovation says, “the owner hadn’t cut his cloth and adjusted the shape and size of his company as one of the market verticals decayed.

“Wireless Innovation was born out of necessity.” Jeff and the other directors found themselves in an over-staffed, over-stretched organisation, being threatened with closure from the bank. The three decided a radical solution was called for: the company needed to be split up. They took their idea to the owner and the bank, and with the help of a family friend, who became a fourth shareholder, they completed an MBO, taking the rights from the satellite and wireless division.

The new shareholders left town, owing the bank a lot of money, with just their desks and the belief they could grow their little part of the business into something successful. Ten members of staff, trusting in the new shareholders’ vision, came with them. As Jeff says; “[this] was our most important asset, because they had the knowledge to deliver what we needed to.”

Five years of double-digit growth

Wireless Innovation assisted clients to retrieve data from remote locations to a central site. The company worked at a global level, including enabling equipment on the Antarctic ice shelf to transfer data back to Cambridge for analysis. Jeff likes to describe the company as helping experts in the collection and analysis of the data with the transfer of the data – "the blurry bit in the middle" – that they don’t understand. “We ride in on our white horses and say, ‘well, we’ll take the pain away’.”

For 13 years the shareholders were enjoying their jobs, developing the company into a leading global provider and a recognised pioneer in wireless data communications. The company experienced five years of double-digit growth when the Managing Director dropped the bombshell.

“I have nothing but respect and gratitude for BCMS. It was most definitely a team effort that really got us to the point we wanted to achieve and ultimately did achieve.”

What is our company really worth?

At a board meeting, the MD, and eldest shareholder, brought up the topic of exit plans. The other shareholders were shocked at first, but the four agreed to at least find out what Wireless Innovation was worth. “It was the first time in 13 years we took a breath, took a step back and said, ‘what are we really worth?’”

Jeff and the others started researching advisors. Their accountants suggested they talk to BCMS, as they had dealt with the advisor previously. The accountants advised that BCMS’ international reach would be an advantage to a global company such as Wireless Innovation – a global company needed a global advisor.

“I have nothing but respect and gratitude for BCMS, James [Pugh, Lead Advisor] especially, but the whole of BCMS. It was most definitely a team effort that really got us to the point we wanted to achieve and ultimately did achieve.”

The biggest personal decision of their lives

Before the sale, the shareholders didn’t believe their company was special. It was working well; staff were happy, and customers were satisfied. But they knew the sale would be the biggest decision they would ever make, so they sat down with their wives and accountants to discuss their expectations for the future. They were relieved to discover their value aspirations were all in the same ballpark.

When James shared the first offer with them, Jeff says “I think secretly all four of us did a little fist pump and thought ‘this really is going to happen now’.

“Through the whole process, from the IM, the interviews with BCMS, the review of the potential targets, cleansing lists and making phone calls, all that wonderful stuff, you still sat there and thought ‘well, until somebody actually puts a number on the table, you still don’t know’. All these wonderful things, like EBITDA and multiples, to be honest I still don’t really believe that. It’s more a case of can you look someone in the eye, and how much they value you and your business.”

The company attended 13 meetings with clients, and received offers from six bidders, before accepting one from Lyceum Capital.

The aftermath

The transaction included a cash sum on completion, and a year’s handover with a retained amount at the end. Jeff struggled with handing the control of the company and his own destiny, over to someone else. He has still not made any big plans for the future, as he feels he has been too busy to completely process and come to terms with the situation. Although apparently his two teenage daughters have plenty of ideas!

 He does know he won’t be changing his family’s lifestyle; their feet will remain firmly on the ground. He and his wife have worked hard to get where they are today, and they don’t want to change that. They enjoy special moments but are not splurging the cash.

“I would certainly like to give back some of the knowledge I’ve gained. There are a lot of charities I could assist with my knowledge or contacts. There’s the luxury that I don’t have to do it for the money, so I can be more generous with my time and I’m quite happy to do that.

“You’re still trying to maintain your company, so you’ve got double work to do. But the prize at the end is worth every second of it.”

Final thoughts

The sale process was hard work, with an immense amount of information to collate, but the process was made easier with the help of both an experienced accountant, and advisor, such as BCMS.

“Making sure your accounts are being prepared the right way, and there are no skeletons in the closet will save you a lot of time, because once you’re on that diligence gravy train, there’s no stopping it and sometimes people want it yesterday. You’re still trying to maintain your company, so you’ve got double work to do. But the prize at the end is worth every second of it.”

 

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Company name
Wireless Innovation
Location
Gloucester, UK
Founded
2004
Business activity
Electric utility manufacturer
Reason for sale
Retirement of one of the shareholders
Sold
August 2017
Acquirer
Lyceum Capital Partners
Wireless Innovation acquired by Lyceum Capital