By Penny de Valk, Associate Director, Equiteq
It’s now well established that millennials are changing the nature of the workplace and businesses need to respond. However, the extent to which millennials are influencing M&A activity – as well as how creating a culture in which millennials can thrive can drive equity value – is yet to receive the same level of recognition.
The importance of millennial views when it comes to M&A was underlined most recently by research from the consultancy EY. This found that almost three quarters (74%) of senior executives consider millennial attitudes and preferences when making M&A decisions.
With millennials a growing section of the workforce, they could be set to influence M&A activity further still. Those organizations that meet their needs and earn their loyalty will become more attractive to prospective buyers – who will naturally gravitate towards firms with an engaged and loyal workforce. That’s because engagement is a major driver of productivity, encouraging people to perform at their best, as well as central to retaining talent. All of these things are crucial to accelerating growth and driving business success.
Also, because a culture that meets the needs of millennials can also help boost engagement amongst the wider organization, focusing on business culture can be an effective way to drive equity value by motivating and engaging the entire workforce.
By Jason Parks, Director, Equiteq and Pat Webb, Director, Equiteq
Clients give knowledge-intensive services firms such as consulting, IT services and media agencies difficult and constantly evolving problems to solve. Markets change, competitors emerge and macroeconomics shift, all of which have an impact on what’s hot and what’s not when it comes to M&A.
That means buyers are attracted to firms with a clear value proposition that transcends service offerings and the capability to respond and deliver a relevant service portfolio in a changing environment. Simply put, a firm is worth more when it is bought for its strategic capability rather than just offering the buyer additional service capacity.
Achieving a relevant and effective service portfolio means more than investing in new service lines, because it’s also important for consulting firms to phase out what is no longer working for the future value of the business.
David Ogilvy explained in his “principles of management” (which took his firm from a start-up to generating billions) that dropping services that have become unprofitable must be driven by management:
“To keep your ship moving through the water at maximum efficiency, you have to keep scraping the barnacles off its bottom. It is rare for a department head to recommend the abolition of a job, or even the elimination of a man; the pressure from below is always adding. If the initiative for barnacle-scraping does not come from management, barnacles will never be scraped.”
There’s perhaps no topic more important for consulting firms than improving profits. Because of this, we recently ran two 30-minute webinars on improving margins. This week, we’re looking at questions asked during the first of these, which explored how to put margins at the center of your business.
If 20% EBIT is a good target for a consulting firm, would a firm achieving 40% EBIT be viewed as considerably more valuable?
At face value, a 40% margin business might appear more valuable, but it depends on whether the buyer considers this sustainable.
Some will interpret a margin of this size as indication that the firm has under invested in itself and will discount this. Because of this, we typically recommend that 50% of revenue be spent on the delivery of your services and 30% should be allocated for overheads – such as selling or marketing the business, admin costs or recruitment or IT fees – leaving the remaining 20% for EBIT.
Firm owners might be wise to consider investing any EBIT above 20-25% into growing the top-line instead.
By Adam Blatchford, Associate, Equiteq.
Smart Scaling is all about growing revenues and profits while also building your equity value, as opposed to doing one at the expense of the other. Intellectual Property is central to that, it is a ‘win-win’ because buyers want it and it drives profitable growth in your firm.
Whether your firm generates revenues of $20m or $100m, IP differentiates you. It ensures clients buy your services, means you can deliver profitably, and makes investors love you. This blog will focus on how to achieve that in your firm.
What is IP?
In simple terms, intellectual property is any knowledge recorded and maintained as a usable business asset. In most consulting firms, this means ‘trade secrets’, such as process maps, methodologies, training systems and software tools, rather than just copyrights and trademarks.
There are three main types of IP:
- IP to market the business
- IP to deliver business
- IP to run the business
All three are important, but in the context of Smart Scaling we will focus on delivery IP. See here for a deeper discussion of the three types.
Last year, Considerati, a Dutch legal and public affairs consulting firm, was named one of Holland’s fastest growing businesses by a prestigious Dutch financial newspaper, Het Financieele Dagblad. Last month, the UK’s most respected financial newspaper, the Financial Times, included the company in the FT1000, its list of the fast-growing companies it considers the driving force of the European economy. In this blog, we catch up with Considerati managing partner Ton Wagemans to discuss the secrets of this success and the challenges that were overcome to achieve such high growth.
From our chat with Ton, we’ve put together three things to get right if you want to break through the growth ceiling that traps many consulting firms.
Ton and his business partner, Bart Schemer, come from academic backgrounds and have developed expertise in designing the ecosystems in which technology companies and data-intensive organizations can thrive.
Ton and Bart positioned their firm to help digital businesses deal with the legal and policy challenges regarding new technologies (i.e. privacy, security and data protection) – essentially helping clients build trust with their stakeholders.
“In 2007, we started a business in what we believed was a very niche market at the time, so had very little competition,” says Ton. Despite the lack of competition, Ton and his partner found it difficult to translate their knowledge into a successful, viable proposition that businesses would pay for.
If you own a knowledge-led services firm in a sector such as consulting, IT services or media and you want to grow revenues to, say, $30m, it is unlikely that the expertise of the founders will be able to drive this. What you need is a team of specialist C-suite executives on board.
However, at some stage a founders-only team will put a break on growth. Here are three reasons why founders maintain the status quo and fail to see the damage it may be doing to their business:
- Growth creeps up on you so you don’t notice the degree to which the requirements have changed
During the start-up phase your main focus will be delivering on your particular domain expertise, but as time goes by you’ll spend more time on anything from finances to dealing with people issues.
Equiteq is pleased to announce the sale of its long-term client, Aecus Limited, to The Hackett Group Inc. Aecus is an award-winning European consultancy that helps clients optimize business process outsourcing (BPO), IT outsourcing (ITO) and robotic process automation (RPA) through benchmarking and implementation consulting.
Equiteq acted as exclusive financial advisor to Aecus Limited and its shareholders on the sale of the business having previously worked with the company for over 8 years in a strategic advisory capacity. The transaction closed on April 7, 2017.
Discussing the transaction, Aecus Managing Director Rick Simmonds commented, “We are really excited by this – joining The Hackett Group represents a fantastic move forward for Aecus. The strength of The Hackett Group’s brand combined with the breadth of complementary services will enable us to serve our clients even more effectively and will provide our people with greater professional opportunities.”