In this final Blog in our series on innovation we describe the final challenge for us with our succession planning tool: getting the product into the market. Those who read my previous Blog in this series on the story of Watt and Boulton will know that it took them 20 years to get their new steam engine into the market. So one must not underestimate the marketing and selling challenge!
Most business owners do not plan for the sale of their company. When the time comes to sell they assume they will find a trade buyer but they fail to anticipate the (considerable) stumbling blocks.
The challenge for us as lawyers is that business owners who do decide to plan with generally think they should speak to their accountants. They think they only need a lawyer when they have negotiated a deal. They will use a business broker or corporate finance adviser to find and negotiate a deal with a buyer.
As we went out to try and sell our service we encountered:
- Confusion on the part of business owners: they thought we were perhaps business brokers.
- Incomprehension from other professional advisers unfamiliar with the technicalities of an MBO.
- Indifference from some other professional advisers perhaps fearful that to introduce us to their clients could lead to the loss of their client if they were to sell. In fact the reverse can be expected as on the V-F MBO they should expect to continue as advisers to the new team.
- Perception from the bigger accountants that we are perhaps trying to do the corporate finance work for which they have a dedicated team member.
- Incredulity that we might suggest a buyout by a team that has no money and would struggle to raise money from external financiers.
As these frustrations were encountered we comforted ourselves with the story of Watt, Boulton and Murdoch’s struggle to get a foothold in the market. The Cornish miners had no money and the existing supply chain for the current steam engine was hostile. Any innovative new approach had the same barriers: existing vested interests.
How then to by-pass those vested interests?
Happily in the new age of the internet and social media there is the potential, with clear messaging, to provide information that allows owners to find us.
A new website was called for. The messaging to the business owner interested in the legal detail was not lost. But a new friendlier tone with new imaging was devised.
A marketing campaign was constructed and executed with discipline by a committed team.
The drive to be part of the local community (not a remote niche provider of corporate legal services) was central to this campaign. Over time key introducers have found us and we have found them.
Six years on from the idea we now have our clearly defined offering and our routes to market understood. A team with a shared culture and values and with a shared purpose in place.
The journey has shown that from idea to development to product in the market is not for the faint hearted! But as we look back and look forward to what is now possible the whole team is energised.
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