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Acquiring a business is always challenging. Acquiring a business during a global pandemic might be considered stupid.
In August 2020, we acquired Start.Biz after the best part of 12 months trying to get the deal over the line and it was the best decision we ever made.
Bevan and I became friends whilst our wives, Kirsty and Michaela, were pregnant. During the first year of becoming parents both couples decided that we wanted to control our own fate.
We had spent the best part of 15 years working in businesses and helping the Directors and Shareholders of those businesses make a lot of money. We thought it was about time we pooled our resources and brains to have a go ourselves.
On 3rd January 2020, we received confirmation that our offer for the business had been accepted. After initial jubilation/celebration, the hard work began. Alongside working in full-time roles across the UK and completing Due Diligence, we had to start and complete our finance raise. Our journey to raise finance and finalise the deal had six steps:

Step 1 – “Skin in the game” 

No-one was going to lend to us without us putting some money in ourselves. The business was profitable and cash generative, but lenders wanted to see us share some of the risk. Over a period of 6 months, we managed to raise one-third of the deal value using our own money plus begging/borrowing from family.

Step 2 – Start Up Loan salvation 

We were one-third down but still some way to go. Due to us structuring the deal via the formation of a new Limited Company, we were eligible for a Start-Up Loan. Both of us and our wives were able to apply for these loans which secured another 25% of what we needed. Although these are personal loans, the business (post-acquisition) makes the repayment and at an interest of 6%, it is a great funding source to go to when there is a funding gap.

Step 3 – Alternative providers 

High-street lenders weren’t interested in the deal. At the time of our finance raise, Covid had just started, and all focus was on businesses securing CBILS or Bounce Back Loans for survival. We were way down the pecking order so had to approach other funders. Luckily, in BCRS and ART Business Loans, we found two lenders that were willing to work with us and provide the required debt to get the deal over the line. Funding secured, or so we thought….

Step 4 – Panic 

We arrived in mid-June engulfed in ‘legals’ and things started to go quiet. Having been through a few of these processes previously, I knew that this wasn’t a good sign. After what seemed like an eternity, we finally spoke to the Seller who told us that he had been giving the deal a lot of thought and decided to pull out. Bevan and I had already racked up a lot of costs to get to this point and more importantly, we had started to get emotionally invested in the business and our plans to drive it forwards. Although all seemed lost, we went back to the Seller for one final time with a revised/improved “Hail Mary” offer – two days later, it was accepted. Phew!

Step 5 – Completion 

From the moment the deal was back on track, we went into overdrive to get the deal done as quickly as possible but now we needed more finance!! We had run out of time to go to another finance provider and the effects of Covid had started to be felt throughout the UK. Eventually, one of our contacts was able to provide a short-term loan to give us the space to get the deal done before then applying for new finance, post-Completion, to repay him.
Right up to the day of Completion itself, we really weren’t sure whether the Seller would go through with the deal which, in itself, was pretty stressful. At 1:30pm on 28th August 2020, the legal documents were signed, and the business was ours.
We gave ourselves the weekend to celebrate….

Step 6 – Re-focus and drive 

From the following Monday and ever since, we have been striving to drive the business forwards with new staff, products and systems. Like any SME, day to day costs need to be managed as we grow our customer base. All of this has required investment and use of working capital. From day 1, raising finance has been inextricably linked to our ownership and management of the business. With the plans that we have in place, that isn’t going to change any time soon.

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