Leadership succession involving a transition from the founders has its own specific challenges. Founders leave a huge legacy in the business, which in one sense is extremely valuable but can also result in a level of dependency that introduces risk.
Governance roles will change at exit, when an owner/founder will typically move from an executive position. The challenge here is that the owner/founder will need to be conscious of their change in role and step back sufficiently to allow successors to create their own leadership identity, while still continuing to offer their unique skills and experience in a broader governance role.
If you’re a founder preparing for a transition, getting it right involves ensuring you set up the new CEO for success, while simultaneously moving away from the operational side of the business and continuing to add value.
The difficulty for founders is they are used to being in control and making decisions independently, which means trusting the new leader can be difficult.
If they do achieve this, it ensures value is not diluted. In fact, it can result in value being enhanced.
Equiteq is pleased to announce that it has advised CMF Associates (“CMF”), a leading provider of financial and operational consulting services to the private equity sector, on the sale of its business to CBIZ, a national, publicly-traded professional business services firm.
This transaction highlights Equiteq’s position as the leading global provider of advisory services exclusively to firms in the knowledge-intensive business services sector.
Founder and Managing Partner at CMF, Thomas Bonney said, “CMF sought a committed partner who shared our growth-oriented vision of scaling our position as a premier service provider to private equity and their expanding portfolio. We found in CBIZ an advocate that will provide us with offices across the country, complementary tangential services and the resources to drive portfolio value creation in a more comprehensive way and on a national scale.”
One thing you need to assure future owners of when preparing for an exit is leadership capability and stability, as well as the continued positive effect of this on profitability and growth. Ownership succession generally involves management succession and because buyers buy people and great leadership, it is natural for them to want to assess the quality of bench strength, as well as the planning that has gone into ensuring the right people are in the right roles. Your management succession plans throughout the company are an aspect of good governance that you can expect to have evaluated in due diligence. And CEO succession in particular will be critical. It is a key responsibility of the Board and is central to good governance.
Why the lack of planning?
So why do so many companies not prepare well on this front? Often succession planning is mistakenly just not seen as a priority against the immediate operational requirements of getting the company to grow and become profitable.
Sometimes this lack of focus relates to the size of the business. Even in some mid-size organizations, without a big HR function, there are few resources to manage succession compared to the formal talent programs enjoyed by larger organizations. Yet being a smaller organization makes it even more important, as not only is the company very exposed to key talent leaving, but those firms can also have a shallow pool of talent to draw from and are unlikely to have the rotational assignment opportunities that allow people to build their skills and experience.
Sometimes firms feel that planning around succession can be distracting for the individuals and the company and create a political tone in senior management that isn’t helpful.
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.”
The most prolific acquirers of knowledge-led businesses are undergoing unprecedented diversification and convergence across adjacent consulting segments and sectors. At the same time, digital transformation is driving hybrid business models with consulting, technology and managed service revenue. This change is fuelling high levels of M&A activity from trade and private equity investors, which we review in our 2017 M&A report. For owners considering selling their business, an appreciation of these trends is critical to uncovering the synergistic buyers that may offer the highest value.
Convergence between consulting offerings
Global consulting clients are increasingly looking to their advisors for best-in-class, end-to-end consulting solutions. These trends are driving established consulting buyers to use M&A to enter new geographies and acquire complementary capabilities.
The review covers deal activity and equity market trends across fives consulting segments: Management Consulting, IT Services, Media Agencies, Engineering Services and Human Resources. Equity market trends are analyzed through the Equiteq Consulting Share Price Index, the only published share price index for the industry.
Strong deal activity
In 2016, the number of completed transactions in the consulting sector nudged up to reach a nine-year high. This was in spite of the restraining influences of slowing growth in global GDP, the UK’s vote to Brexit and the US Presidential election, which caused a slowdown in the preceding quarters. Activity from both strategic and financial buyers swiftly bounced back, and the year ended with conviction and momentum that has carried into 2017.
The top consulting segments for deal activity were the rapidly evolving Management Consulting, IT Services and Media Agency segments.
There may not be a more fundamentally important topic for consulting firms than improving profits.
Shareholders ultimately want a return on their investment and buyers are looking for evidence of healthy growth, while strong profitability is required to sustain growth and equity realization.
The levers that need to be pulled to improve margin – revenue and cost – might be well understood, but the combination of activities required are often more nuanced.
We’ve identified the top strategies firms can use to start improving profits now:
The leadership team must make profitability an ongoing focus
Profitability has to become embedded in the leadership team’s mindset for sustainable margin improvement to be successful.
Achieving this requires strong communication around accountabilities, clear success measures being established and tactical activities – such as margin exception reporting, resource management, and utilization forecasting – becoming integrated into regular business updates.
Once a shared understanding of what success looks like is established within this team, firms can create strategic work streams – such as market expansion or IP development – and make people accountable.