"Life as a business owner had become quite stressful," he says. "I prefer not to have to manage conflict. I didn’t want to become a disciplinarian and it was obvious I needed to do something to deal with those issues.”
Options as a business owner
The first impulse was to bring in experienced management, “I thought about it, but there are all the issues of salary, how do I fund that in the short term. We had a product that had helped us become the market leaders in a certain area, and I just thought it was a good time to find someone to invest further in that technology. As a business owner, you just get a feeling. It was time.”
Like many first-time sellers, Winston didn’t know where to go to for advice.
“I didn’t know what the process of selling or investment involved. At that point, I hadn’t heard of BCMS. The first person I spoke to about the process worked for a competitor. I talked to him tentatively, he had a bit of a look around… and then they were very aggressive with pursuing us, just relentless.”
Understandably, Winston backed off. But then he noticed one of his competitors had sold, and was keen to find out more. “I thought they had just been approached and sold the business. I didn’t know anything about how they had sold – except their buyer was very obviously the right fit for them.”
The motivation to sell
“I rang a contact of mine, and said, you know, I’m just interested in my options… and they suggested you as nice people to talk to. I went straight to your website, and saw you’d done a deal for Advanced Diagnostics, a business I knew well. I thought right, I’ll give BCMS a call…”
Winston is refreshingly clear about his rationale for selling.
“Obviously, I wanted to get a return for the years of work, stress and minimum wage. [The acquirer] was either going to be a huge company, with an unlimited amount of money, which would give me the opportunity to look after the staff. Or a complementary fit that would grow the business and keep the staff employed and give them opportunities to grow with the business.”
For Winston, his acquirer had to be someone he felt he could work for, and security for the staff was also major factor: “I’m their friend and it’s about having longevity in my position, and, also, longevity for everybody else.”
Bartec: the buyer from left-field
But the eventual buyer wasn’t even on Winston’s radar.
“I didn’t even pay any attention to them! I probably would have looked at their website and thought: “who?” They were on the BCMS research list and I suppose I was just distracted by all the other people I was looking at – all the big names, the world beaters.”
As meetings progressed, the world beaters became less appealing. The more Winston found out about Bartec, the clearer the synergies were: “They manufacture their tools in the majority of the brands we see every day. So it’s a bit like us with our tools; we don’t really sell in our brand, we manufacture for everyone else’s. And, once I’d found that out, I could see the similarities.
Bartec put together an offer with a flexible structure that included property and other aspects. But the price wasn’t right at first.