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How a chef or a bricklayer can earn you millions

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What have Indian restaurant chefs got in common with bricklayers and biochemists? They’re the latest profession to become an endangered species in the UK economy, and it’s threatening the survival of a £3bn sector employing more than 100,000 workers.

The curry industry blames tighter immigration controls for cutting off the supply of chefs from the subcontinent. As may be expected, chefs are being enticed from rivals to plug the gap, but menu prices are creeping up to cover these pay rises, and the sector is losing market share to cheaper formats – something unthinkable just a few years ago.

We are facing the biggest skills shortage for a generation – and the UK isn’t alone. Germany is short of engineers, South Africa needs architects, and so on. Huge talent gaps have opened up across a range of industries, so those with bigger balance sheets are increasingly happy to acquire a few SMEs in the search for skills.

For example, civil engineering contractors and consultancies are in huge demand as Europe embarks on a continent-wide high-speed rail upgrade. There isn’t the time to recruit and train up staff, the qualifications and permits need buying in now, and as a result our current clients on the market are attracting multiple offers.

Sometimes it’s not the skills, more the expertise. Earlier this month, we advised on the sale of UK pharmaceutical regulation consultancy Wainwright Associates to YES Pharma – a larger German competitor. This deal added 20 specialists including subject-specific experts – to the acquirer’s team. But the quality of the workforce gives the buyer a meaningful market entry.

Elsewhere, industries from retail to business consultancies value customer service highly, and those who can clearly demonstrate this tend to do well at the M&A deal table.

So if you’ve got a good team, they’re worth real money. Don’t neglect training or expect the acquirer to sort it out – you could be leaving a lot more money on the table than you think.

Dave Rebbettes's picture
Posted Aug 2015
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