“We can only speak as we find, but 2016 has been a great year for us and the Brexit vote has had very little impact on our business or our clients.” So says Terry Rainback, the man who leads EMC’s operations in Surrey.
Indeed, since the 23rd June referendum, EMC has actually seen an increase in activity, not only in the mergers and acquisitions market where it already holds a commanding position in the region, but also in its interim support services focused around its ‘mobile boardroom’ of senior business advisers.
The firm, whose CEO Nik Askaroff has been named Insider South East’s Dealmaker of the Year for the last two years, completed a record 17 deals in 2016. And there are plenty more in the pipeline to give the firm encouragement that the current impetus will continue for some time yet.
“I’d be very surprised if there’s another corporate finance firm as active as we are currently in our part of the South East,” Terry said. “While the stats show that the M&A market generally is down on last year’s record levels, partly caused by the uncertainty created by the decision to leave the EU, we are finding that there is still a healthy appetite for getting deals done, particularly at the smaller end of the SME market.
“Many larger companies are holding cash at the moment. What do they do with it? The banks, combined with low interest rates, aren’t exactly falling over themselves to encourage businesses to keep hold of it. So many of them are scouting around to see if they can invest the money by making strategic acquisitions.
“At the same time, many owners of small businesses are recognising that this may be a good time to capitalise on the years of hard work they have put into building and running their companies. The profit multiples aren’t what they used to be but, good, well-run businesses can still attract a premium. With the future somewhat unpredictable in terms of values, many owners are deciding to cash in while the going is still relatively good.”
Terry, who operates out of EMC’s office at Global House, 1 Ashley Avenue, Epsom - one of five offices the firm has across the South East - was the firm’s lead adviser in the recent £6m sale of Lancing-based Pasante Healthcare to Malaysian company Karex Bhd, the world’s fastest-expanding condom and sexual health manufacturer.
Pasante, which was formed in 2000 by local entrepreneurs Lawrence, Dominic and Paul Boon, had been a long-standing EMC client throughout its years of growth.
Terry said: “In lots of ways this was a typical EMC success story where we had worked for many years with business owners and then, when they decided the time was right, to help them to exit successfully.
“We are able to do this because of the type and calibre of the people who make up our team, nearly all of whom have had many years’ experience either running their own businesses or working at a very senior level in large national or international companies.”
Terry is a case in point. He held senior management positions in one of the world’s leading international banking groups before joining EMC in 2003. The experience he gained and the contacts made over nearly two decades of dealing with domestic and international corporate finance, syndicated and asset-backed finance, mergers and acquisitions, as well as significant recovery and turnaround operations, has proved invaluable in the work he has done subsequently to help businesses and their owners.
One recent start-up with which Terry has been closely involved is Zeus Events, started and co-owned by three professional rugby players. The company has grown rapidly to become a leading provider of corporate and hospitality events in the UK spanning rugby, cycling and cricket.
It founded and runs the National Rugby Awards, which recently saw over 700 guests experience a night to remember at Twickenham, and has had the pleasure of running and organising a massively successful 2016 testimonial year for the Harlequins and England International, Chris Robshaw.
“It’s the opportunity to work with clients like Zeus that make this work so enjoyable,” Terry said.
“It has been incredibly rewarding to see the company grow and blossom since the first seeds were planted in 2014.
“It’s why I and most of my colleagues made the decision to join Nik Askaroff at EMC. The opportunity to work with businesses of all shapes and sizes across a range of sectors is something we all enjoy.
“A lot of my colleagues have been tremendously successful in starting, building and selling their own businesses. They could quite easily have slipped into a fairly cosy retirement, but they feel they still want to offer something to those who are just starting out on the often bumpy entrepreneurial road, as well as those who are already well established but may be in need of some short or long-term support.”
It’s this ability to attract top-end consultants that prompted the Financial Times some years ago to describe EMC as being akin to a ‘mobile boardroom’.
The epithet sums up perfectly what former Accountant of the Year Nik Askaroff set out to achieve when he formed EMC in 1989 at the start of what turned out to be a fairly lengthy and deep recession.
“Lots of businesses wanted help back then just to survive,” Terry said. “EMC very quickly established a reputation as corporate first aiders, particularly for smaller firms that either couldn’t afford or didn’t feel the need for top-end advice full-time. That’s still an important part of what we are and still do today.
“Companies still turn to us for help when they’re in some sort of crisis, just as they did back in our early days. But importantly lots more of them now choose to seek our support and advice when they are doing better as well.
“For many owner-directors, their business is their biggest asset. It therefore needs protecting and nurturing. Plans and strategies need to be developed and followed to ensure that, when the time comes to sell, it is in the best possible shape to give them the maximum reward for their years of hard work. That’s why we are increasingly getting involved in businesses at an earlier stage as owners start to make plans for maximising their exit.”
Terry added that he finds it strange, and even a little worrying, that some business owners still question the need to engage a corporate finance adviser when selling their businesses.
“Let’s face it, you wouldn’t climb a mountain or venture into uncharted waters without a proper guide,” he said. “It’s the same with selling your business. It is important to get support, advice and guidance to help you through what will be an exhausting, challenging and often frustrating journey. Your adviser’s job is to ensure that you get to the desired outcome with minimum pain and disruption. The work and effort will still be significant, but with the right support you should get there and not regret the journey.
“That means having someone by your side who has all the right attributes and skills. They need to have the knowledge and experience to be able to provide you with the critical advice and guidance through what will usually be a complex process. Then they need to have a strong track record of having successfully been through the deal process many times, and having dealt with the seemingly endless array of scenarios that will arise and be thrown at you along the way.
“Last, but by no means least, they’ll need to be people you can trust. This is vital as you are going to be relying on your adviser and their professional team to help guide you through possibly the most important transaction of your life.”
Terry’s background and experience in corporate and international banking is often put to good use when assisting businesses and owners looking for borrowing and financial support.
A recent survey carried out by Close Brothers showed that almost half of UK SMEs have experienced barriers when attempting to access finance. Just under a quarter have been turned down for finance when they were seeking to expand.
“It is true that it can be a bit of a minefield,” Terry said. “But for borrowers with a good business proposition, it is one that with the right knowledge and approach will often be successful.
“I have, over the years, helped many business owners to secure funding arrangements vital to their growth and success, and knowing what works and what doesn’t can make the whole process easier.
Banks and other business lenders often welcome receiving proposals that have been prepared with the help of specialist advisers because of the clarity and structure that such proposals usually provide.”
You can contact Terry Rainback by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or to find out more about EMC visit www.emcltd.co.uk
IoD Chairman joins the EMC team
The latest person to join EMC’s ‘mobile boardroom’ is Howard Wilder, an award-winning Chartered Director and Chairman of the Sussex Branch of the Institute of Directors.
Howard founded Billingshurst based company Genitrix in 1997, growing it from scratch into a top 20 UK veterinary pharmaceutical business before exiting via a trade sale to Dechra Pharmaceuticals PLC in December 2010 for a seven-figure sum.
He said: “Joining EMC gives me an opportunity to use the experience I have gained over more than 30 years in industry, to help the owners of small and medium sized businesses to develop the same sort of winning strategies that set me on the path to a successful exit.
“EMC has a tremendous track record in providing board-level expertise to companies on a short or long-term interim basis, as well as being able to field a corporate finance team without equal in the South East. It’s a unique offering that enables the firm to support businesses throughout their lifespan.”
Howard adds his considerable knowledge and experience in strategic planning and direction to a team that offers expertise across all the main professional disciplines – finance, sales, marketing, production, logistics, and strategic IT.