Carole Leslie

  • RSS
    Subscribe to the RSS feed
  1. Seller’s remorse: it’s about more than the money

    March 23, 2012

    For most business owners, selling their firm is more than just a financial transaction.  Many describe it as akin to saying goodbye to their child, and indeed, many entrepreneurs will have spent more time with their company than with their family.  There are the customer and supplier relationships, the loyal employees and often a unique culture and way of doing business.

    Yet, when the business owner seeks out the adviser for guidance on business exit, the most likely option presented will be a trade sale. Sell to the highest bidder, and sit back and enjoy the spoils.  If this is the right answer, why do so many business owners regret taking this route.

    At a workshop run by Telos Partners a few months back, we heard from an entrepreneur who had set up a successful recruitment business.  He sold to one of the multinational players, and he remained as an employee.  More accurately, he planned to. He left within the first month.  He told the group that the culture changed almost immediately.  The personalised service was ‘deskilled”, and quantitative rather than qualitative measures were used.  The bespoke consultancy was becoming a CV factory.  He told the group that he had his nice car, the cash in the bank, but wished there had been another way.

    The irony is that there is another way. Employee ownership must be one of the best kept secrets of British business.  By selling a business to employees, the business owner can manage their own exit from the business, to an extent shape the future of the company, and importantly, ensure that as long as the business remains viable, it can remain in the local area providing jobs,  developing skills and retaining much of what made that business special.

    Oxford academic, Will Davies, carried out a comparison of a business sold to private equity investors, and one sold to its employees.  The report can be read here.  The findings were conclusive.  The private equity sale led to decline in quality, in customer relationships, and employee relations. The employee owned business, Gripple, continues to be innovative, profitable and productive. Employee ownership can lead to a sustainable, successful business.  Selling to employees must become a serious consideration for owners looking to exit their business.


  2. Peter Huntley – a life well-lived

    March 4, 2012

    The best thing about my work is being welcomed into so many great companies. They aren’t all household names and not all of them are experiencing the easiest of times right now.

    I had the privilege of visiting one such company this week.  The TAS Partnership is a transport consultancy based in Preston. It’s a small business, under 20 employees, all of them passionate about what they do.  TAS Partnership became employee owned because its founder, Peter Huntley, wanted the business to remain committed to excellence in public transport. He didn’t want to see the company sold to a larger organisation where that excellence might be diluted. Peter recognised the contribution the employees made to that success and he wanted them to take control of the business, and share in the rewards. I had the privilege of working with Peter, the Board and the employees as they moved into employee ownership in 2009.  He was a challenging client, but only because he wanted TAS Partnership to stay true to his vision of enabling accessible, affordable public transport.

    As well as being a well-known character in the field of  transport, he was dedicated to raising funds for charity. Indeed, I first met Peter at a TAS Partnership board meeting where amidst the suits, he was wearing a “John o’ Groats to Lands End” teeshirt which he had worn on one of his fundraising cycle trips.

    Tragically, Peter died while training for a trip to the North Pole. Everyone who knew this vital. passionate man was shocked at his death. It really was not believable. Peter Huntley, with so much left to give, to be no longer with us. How fitting then, that attendees to Peter’s funeral arrived in a fleet of buses.  I use the word attendees rather than mourners, because the funeral was a true celebration of the life of a man who touched and inspired so many.

    Peter was raising funds for Transaid, the charity that works to reduce poverty and improve livelihoods across Africa and the developing world through creating better transport networks. Peter’s website is still open for donations. You can donate here

    Peter Huntley 1956 – 2012