What It's Like To Buy A Business

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We bought a business today (well technically, one of our companies did – Nomad International acquired the assets of a small haulage company based in Peterborough, Cambridegshire).

Our next few blog posts will tell the story of this acquisition, showing you inside the process of buying a business – where to find it, how much to pay, how to structure the deal, and how it feels to risk your own money on a high risk investment like a small business.

 

The deal was closed within one month of first viewing the business, a record-breaking result for us when you consider that this period included the Christmas and New Year break.

 

But as I write this – at a motorway services at the end of a long day, before commencing the drive back to London – I’m thinking about how it feels.

And for some reason, at this point, it always feels the same:

Relief.

Not excitement. Not fear. You’ve had those emotions by this point, and they will return. But at the moment of signing the deal, it's relief.

There are always so many little details that have to be clarified in the last days, even the last hours, that it seems like you’re going to have to call everyone at the 11th hour and change the completion date. Then when it seems like it’s back on track, some new piece of information will be discovered, some new point of confusion will pop up and threaten to derail it. And this was a very small company, with a very straightforward process – our company was buying the assets of the target company, limiting our risk. It was in an industry I was familiar with, only tangentially different to that of my own company. And yet repeatedly over the last 24 hours it seemed that the deal would not complete today.

Then it finally did. Not all questions were answered (they never are) – but all of the ones that mattered, to both sides, were satisfied. Deal signed. Relief.

Then urgency. All of those urgent-but-not-urgent-enough-to-hold-up-the-deal issues are now front of mind:

“The insurers need to be told! The clients need our new details… the leasing company needed confirmation before that truck can leave! Fuel cards – someone has to get those PINS to the drivers so they can use our cards. Let’s go back and tell the team we completed the deal! No, the insurance, then the leasing company, then DVLA… Did someone get back to the client about that trailer? Where did I park? Yes the bank transfer was definitely made – I don’t know what the delay is. Let’s go back and tell the team!”

As the new owner of all of these problems, they all now seem to carry significantly more weight than they did a few hours ago. And although of course you plan before completion to have systems in place to manage these issues after completion, the nature of the process means that gradually, tasks which are not absolutely mission-critical to signing the deal get de-prioritised to the "To Do Next" category. So the planning you would have liked to have done by now, the systems you would have intended to already have in place, aren't there. These are now your immediate focus, and there is a new sense of urgency around them.

But this fades. Problems are dealt with in order, new problems arise, but bit by bit, the chaos becomes more manageable.

It definitely helps to have a great team. Compared to the first time I bought a business, when it was just me, it is much easier now. The chaos is over more quickly. The team at Nomad are exceptionally good at their jobs; efficient and enthusiastic. Even though incorporating this new acquisition is not part of their normal roles, the guys leapt into action to help. Right now, on Day 0, we're still in the urgency phase, scrambling to tie up loose ends. But it is so much easier with a good team.

The vendor – let’s call him Arnold for confidentiality – was also very helpful throughout the process. It would also not have been possible to close the deal so quickly without his efforts, and the mutual trust we developed over the past few weeks.

As a result, the deal was closed within one month of first viewing the business, a record-breaking result for us when you consider that this period included the Christmas and New Year break.

The following blog posts will go into the details of this deal, and what it was like to buy a business in such a short timeframe. We'll go into the financial imperatives, the risks, and the practical details. Join us for the journey.