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Marc Noel - Impress Sensors

Taking the decision to sell a profitable, growing business can be tough. But as Marc Noel explains, when your business is peaking, that’s exactly the right moment to move on…

Marc Noel and his fellow shareholders formed Impress Sensors near Reading in 2002, and the business quickly established a best-of-breed reputation as a specialist manufacturer and distributor of pressure, temperature, level and distance sensors.  With double-digit sales growth, high levels of exports, growing profitability and a strong pipeline of major new projects, business was booming. So why on earth did they decide to sell?

“I think the main thing for us, was the fact that we did not want to take the business to the next level,” Marc tells us. “It was at the point where it needed probably another five years investment in time and money, and another layer of staff.

“We could have done it - don't get me wrong - but it would have been difficult. That made selling a stick or twist moment.”

In his forties when he engaged BCMS, Marc was younger than many business owners when he took the plunge. “I've come to realise that time is important and you can't buy that. My children were leaving home and I wanted to spend more time helping them. I'm not the sort of guy who's going to go and buy a boat or a Ferrari – I was quite happy with my old banger and a nice level of income. I knew wanted to be relatively comfortable, and it was nice to do it at a younger age!”

“We had a number of offers from areas that surprised me, including overseas and venture capitalists and other potential purchasers we just didn't expect to see.”

At the deal-table

Interest in Impress Sensors was strong: over 70 seriously interested parties, 16 face-to-face meetings and six competing offers. It’s a textbook example of the power of BCMS generating competition and choice, and looking far and wide.

As Marc explains: “We had a number of offers from areas that surprised me, including overseas and venture capitalists and other potential purchasers we just didn't expect to see. We did have a strong offer from a European company we knew really well - a multi-million-pound business – but the structure of the deal meant we would have been tied into profitability targets.

“It was great that we had the choice of buyers, as that meant we could literally pick the one that was right for us.”

Often with younger business owners, or those key to the day-to-day running of a company, acquirers are keen to keep key directors in the business post sale for an earn-out period.

“We realised we couldn't walk out on day one. Ours is such a niche market, and we as directors had a lot of specialist expertise, and we understood that no matter how good a businessman you are you couldn't just parachute into our business and hit the ground running. We were happy with the transitional period suggested by our acquirer. There were other offers on the table – higher offers – but they felt overly complicated. It’s not just about the money. With our buyer, Cynergy3 Components, the cultural fit swung it.

“The only condition with the earn-out was that we had to work in the business. That was it: no targets on turnover or profit. And we just thought it was clean, decisive, and that was a smart move from the acquirer. The deal has worked out well – turnover has doubled since we sold.”

“BCMS coached us so well I was confident that I wasn't going to say something that I shouldn't.”

Business owners are often understandably nervous about the idea of ‘playing hardball’ and negotiating face to face. Marc explains what it really feels like to sit at the deal table: “Initially, it was really scary and intimidating, but the coaching the BCMS Deal Leader gave us was brilliant. He had all the cues in place, all the techniques, and we rehearsed it all in advance.

“BCMS coached us so well I was confident that I wasn't going to say something that I shouldn't. When we’d finish a meeting we’d sit down and discuss it. After a while we pretty much found the formula and Steve would say: “Close the book! You sold it!”

Crosshead: Insights and real-world advice

Marc is clear that BCMS was instrumental in driving the deal. But what attracted him to BCMS as an advisor in the first place?

“I saw one of your flyers, and that there was a BCMS event presentation nearby. I had a vague intention to sell the business, and I thought, ‘You know, I will go along and see how this works.’ To be honest it blew us away. It was a really good presentation - and I'm not exaggerating. I went there and just thought ‘These are the guys’.

So having sold, what's life like on the other side?  “Well I'm still working with the business for a couple of days a week in a consultancy role,” says Marc. “It's nice because you don't get that Monday morning feeling. You know you're not going to be working 12-hour days.”

When it comes to Impress Sensors, it’s obvious Marc is proud of the business he built. “It was our baby. It's like one of your kids that you bring into this world and watch it through various stages. I still think of Impress Sensors like that. That’s why I was very happy to go back to the business as a consultant. It's nice to see the business grow and be successful post sale.”

Having been through a successful sale, Marc has some practical advice for other business owners.

“Don’t have any skeletons,” he says. “For us, everything was on the table. It was all transparent – financially, commercially. No surprises. Everything we said about the business was credible and accurate. When potential purchasers started to drill down a bit, they could see that. It’s an important factor in building trust.

“Obviously, you also have to have realistic expectations. We took a sensible view on the value of the business and we shared that with you at BCMS. I know some business owners have such unrealistic expectations. I had a business to run, I didn’t deal in fiction!”



Company name
Impress Sensors
Aldermaston, Berkshire UK
Business activity
Specialist manufacturer and distributor in pressure sensors
Reason for sale
Company growth
January 2013
Cynergy3 Components
Impress Sensors acquired by Cynergy3