To an outsider, taking over a family business may seem like an easy task – a successful operation handed from one generation to the next, smooth as you like.
But the reality is much different, with pressure on the incumbent not to be the one that loses the family silver thanks to a string of bad decisions.
Hayden Rushton joined the family business after being educated and working in Germany, working in every department before he became Managing Director.
It wasn’t long into his tenure that the recession hit but instead of re-trenching, Hayden saw an opportunity to grow the business dramatically.
He explains: “When the recession hit, our industry became tougher and we were looking at alternatives to grow and we had the opportunity to buy a new business. The owner was at retirement age and it was a good deal, with easy integration for both parties.
“This started the ball rolling and three months later we bought two more businesses and went on an aggressive period over three years, where we were buying a business every eight weeks.”
Hayden says that with every acquisition you gain experience and put procedures and systems in place; which in turn make it easier to strike bigger deals.
He continues: “We bought Launa Windows during the recession and also ASG Home Improvements – which was a £7million company.
“By 2014 we had a situation where we’d grown from £5mllion to £25 million and from 50 employees to 250. The company had completely changed.”
To deal with this Hayden says that Britannia has focused more on consolidation in the last three years, putting systems and processes in place and building a strong senior management team.
So, what advice would Hayden give to business owners looking to grow through acquisition?
He says: “It’s very important when you’re buying a company, that the person selling has a genuine reason for exit – like retirement for example. In this scenario, the staff and business will be more prepared and will likely have a plan for going forward as the owner will typically be less involved.
Furthermore the staff will have a vested interest in ensuring the business is successful and will want to get behind the acquisition.”
Hayden also says that when he has acquired a new company he makes a conscious effort to respect the company name and brand.
Regarding potential red flags to acquiring another business, Hayden says it’s important to look out for businesses where the owner exits and owes a substantial amount of money, such as arrears to HMRC and suppliers – also if there are residual issues with staff.
But he says that due diligence and thoughtful planning will usually unearth any issues.
Secrets to success
The growth that Britannia Windows has achieved is noteworthy and Hayden says that a key factor has been the firm’s prudent and Germanic approach, that focuses on the long-term and investing in core resources ahead of time.
He comments: “This is rare for a UK company but our family has always done things for the long term, in an industry where the average life span of a company is eighteen months.
“This allows us to be strong and respond to any financial volatility as we have a strong balance sheet and have invested in resource, people and systems.”
Rise of peer to peer
Regarding finance methods to fund deals, Hayden says that the company has always been financially strong enough to finance them but due to the banks pulling funding for most companies that aren’t property or asset backed, peer to peer lending and non-traditional finance options represent the future.