Back to listings
Company name
Recommended Hotels
Location
Derbyshire, UK
Founded
2003
Business activity
Outsourced sales and marketing solutions for hotels, apartments and venues
Reason for sale
Lifestyle change
Sold
January 2014
Acquirer
Cultuzz Digital Media GmbH

Martin Phillips - Recommended Hotels

Until he hit 40, Martin Phillips was happy in his career as a freelance sales and marketing manager, and felt no need to start his own business. The hours were mainly Monday to Friday, and in his words, he had “a nice life”. So what changed his mindset?

Becoming an entrepreneur

“I had been looking for a niche for about 15 years before starting Recommended Hotels,” says Martin. “With freelancing you could only earn as much money as there were days in the week. Added to that I was hitting 40 and it was very much a young man’s job being on the road doing sales five days a week.”

Michael had his lightbulb moment in 2003, when online travel agents started to emerge. Clients began to ask him to set up their hotels on these websites to increase bookings. Martin recalls: “I don’t know why I suddenly realised the internet was going to be huge for the hotel sector, but I guess I just spotted a niche and realised its potential!”

Martin started selling his service on a monthly retainer, with a commission in the volume of business generated, moving quickly from his back bedroom into leased premises. “After starting out with just seven hotels we ended up with 250 clients and selling an average of 9,500 rooms a year: we generated £26.5m worth of business for our clients on average.”

“Everyone I met at BCMS gave me confidence: from the first meeting at the Haslingden office through to the project team assigned to sell my company.”

Deciding to sell

Like many entrepreneurs, Martin enjoyed being out on the road meeting clients, more that the day-to-day office and staff management. As Martin says: “The business grew in a way that I totally didn’t expect. What I envisaged as a way to top up my pension pot and be able to work from home grew into something much more demanding. We became a 24-7 operation and it was intense. I was always the one to man the out-of-hours emergency number most nights.”

Martin felt that the clock was ticking: “I accepted that to build the business I needed to commit to it 110%, but I was only prepared to do that for around 10 years. Running your own business is hard work: with long fourteen-hour days, six-to-seven days a week. I was on call after 9:00pm on week nights and usually in at 10:30am on a Saturday. I wasn’t desperate to sell but it seemed a worthwhile exercise discovering if what I had built was genuinely saleable before considering other options.

“BCMS had written to me inviting me to a seminar at Crewe Hall. Both the venue and the seminar content enticed me as I knew the building was a beautiful hotel belonging to the Duchy of Lancaster. It was a half-day which sounded manageable and non-threatening. In the break I chatted to a few people who were from all different backgrounds. It was refreshing as an owner-manager to meet other business owners discreetly who were also in a similar position to me. It removed some of the isolation I felt as a business owner.

“I took my time before deciding to sell: I went to see BCMS at their Haslingden office and met the team. I spent a half-day talking to people and having a good look around. I wanted to feel absolutely confident that BCMS was a reputable company.

“Above all I needed an innovative approach to selling my business to go along with my unique business model. Everyone I met at BCMS gave me confidence: from the first meeting at the Haslingden office through to the project team assigned to sell my company.”

“BCMS’ international focus paid off for me as I sold to a German buyer.”

An international focus

Martin remembers being surprised at the number of international buyers on the research list BCMS put together: “Even though at times I couldn’t work out the synergies involved with some of the companies, I trusted the BCMS team to make the right choices on my behalf. In the end BCMS’ international focus paid off for me as I sold to a German buyer. We had the UK market knowledge they had software systems which greatly complemented our model – the synergies were fantastic and I knew it could work hand in glove.”

Feeling the pain

Although Martin found the sale process manageable, there were areas that weren’t so easy: “Due Diligence was the thing I disliked the most. I spent Sunday afternoons putting together files and photocopying 250 client contracts. It probably took me about two weeks to prepare everything. When I was suddenly faced with 50 detailed legal and commercial questions during Due Diligence that was definitely a low point!”

After the sale

Surprisingly, Martin was not tied into the company post sale. For him this was the best possible outcome: “Without being tied in I didn’t feel obligated or pressured. I did exactly what BCMS taught me – I told the new owners if you need me I’d be happy to do so at a daily rate and they accepted that. I pop into the office now every ten days or so, and it’s really just to give a few steering points.”

Martin has been having some time off since the sale, but plans to do some renovation work on his own home and a house he has bought to let. He is also looking at new investments

When asked what advice he would give to a business owner thinking of selling, he says: “I would say to anyone thinking of selling now – get your paperwork in order! A lot of things you have to prepare for lawyers are things that you don’t necessarily handle day to day.”

Recommended

Company name
Recommended Hotels
Location
Derbyshire, UK
Founded
2003
Business activity
Outsourced sales and marketing solutions for hotels, apartments and venues
Reason for sale
Lifestyle change
Sold
January 2014
Acquirer
Cultuzz Digital Media GmbH
Recommended Hotels acquired by Cultuzz