We’re in the middle of July now. Pre-Covid-19, we never could’ve envisaged how this year was going to pan out. We had very clear plans for growth and how we’d go about it, so to get to £300million in the next 3 years, we knew it was going to take a lot of work and a lot of effort – that was pre-Covid.

Then we get to the middle of March and BANG, we get hit with a full scale lockdown and the whole dynamics and outlook of the world have changed. But for us the plans haven’t really changed at all, in terms of our objectives and aims. If anything the opportunities are better for us because what we’ve seen is that there are clearly a number of distressed businesses out there.

I think a number of smaller businesses see selling and staying on, being part of the business and being part of a larger group as a really sensible decision for them. To consolidate their position now in an uncertain market and rapidly changing environment, whereby the sellers can possibly take some money off the table now and still remain involved in the growth of the business is a good move for them.

They’ll have the strength of a well-resourced group behind them, and they can tap in to these resources. We use some of the best accountancy and legal firms in the country, so it makes absolute sense for a number of smaller companies, any businesses with £10million – £30million in revenue, can access the best of the best at a fraction of the cost.

For them and for us, that’s a key point, and why when we’re looking to acquire businesses, we’re a better option, in my opinion, than management buyout for example, or management buy-in because we just offer more. We buy the businesses, we support them with their growth plans, we consolidate and take a lot of the pressure off from the business side through our team. This means these people that started the business can go out and deliver on the park, do the damage if you like.

They can focus on growing their business without the fear of having to worry about how they’re going to finance it, fund it, deal with the ups and downs and peaks and troughs. That’s our core skill as a group and with a hugely experienced board of directors who have been through this, not Covid-19 directly, but certainly financial crisis and recession, I think we’re a great option for anyone looking to sell.

After over a decade of friendship and support, Leanne catches up “Rich Woman” owner, Kim Kiyosaki, to chat about business success and women’s increasing role in it.

Visiting Kim in her home in Scottsdale, Arizona, Leanne discusses how much has changed since they made their original ‘Rich Woman’ clip together back in 2009.  “We’ve grown our business, to multiple properties. We sold the management aspect of the properties, which we used to take care of ourselves. We have now started acquiring building services. A lot of the business is from government contracts with us renovating, plumbing electrics etc. we’ve got a pipeline of acquisitions for this first half of the year and are working on that.”

Having moved into business acquisition from properties, Leanne discusses being financially free: “We’ve had a fantastic time, we’ve had our ups and downs. We’re good at taking action and taking everything on board and applying it. In the seminars, so many people will read the books, take the course, but only a small percentage go out and do something with the education.”

Kim describes how there has been an increasing female demand for financial education around the world with her Rich Woman Cash Flow clubs, exclusively for women, becoming more and more popular. Speaking about an event she hosted in India, she explains how the dynamic completely changes when men are not around. “These were a group of women who were doctors, lawyers, business owners, investors, all sharing and helping one another with whatever issue they have at the time. It becomes a safe place for women, they can create friendships and their genius and who they are comes out.”

“They’ve done studies here in the US of the Fortune 500 companies, and those that have women in board level, management level, outperform the companies that do not. There’s a huge need for the energy, the personality and knowledge that women bring to business and investing. The world’s pretty messed up, look who’s been in charge. I think we need that female energy, thinking and mentality to turn things around. More and more women should become role models. Too many women are depending on other people to take care of them. Now is the time for women to step up and take a leadership role.”

What would the entrepreneurs say to aspiring businesswomen today? “Go out and do it, take action and learn from your mistakes. Fail fast, learn quickly and it’s not all that bad. If you see a problem go and solve it. If you were to invest in a small property and you see a problem, fix it. Start small ideally with a mentor. Not a college professor, someone who is doing exactly what you want to be doing. Make sure you’ve got a good team.”

In our latest instalment, CEO Graeme Carling talks about the importance of his commitment to success throughout his entrepreneurial journey, and how fear seems to be a consistent factor in why people aren’t willing to make that commitment.

Speaking from Scottsdale Arizona, where Graeme’s journey really began in 2008, he walks us through the last 12 years. “I came to my first seminar out here in Arizona in 2008. The seminar was called ‘How to Predict the Future’ and it was right in the eye of the storm of the financial crisis.

It was a huge event, there must’ve been 800 or so people attending. People from all over the world, all with the same concerns and challenges, and people wondering what was going on in the world, but more importantly it was entrepreneurs and people who are wanting to get on in the world.”

This seminar was the start of Graeme’s entrepreneurial journey, and would contribute to changing Graeme and his wife Leanne’s life dramatically. But over the years that have passed, Graeme’s found that disappointingly less than around 5% of the people who go to these seminars actually do anything with the learnings.

Graeme would go on to attend a lot of conferences and seminars to build on their financial education after attending that first conference in 2008 and it was the start of a shared journey with his partner in business and life, Leanne. They attended every event together and became incredibly successful entrepreneurs together.

“We bought into it and made sure that we then implemented the lessons, learnings and the education we had. Because the education is just the starting point, the act of going out and doing it and taking action – that’s where it all starts.”

A lot of people were just there for the thought of it. They wanted to do it but when it came to the crunch they just didn’t go ahead do it. I’m not sure why that is, but I think a lot of it’s driven by fear.” Throughout the seminars they attended, Graeme and Leanne found that a lot of people just like going to these seminars as a social or networking event.

Graeme and Leanne quickly adopted a strategy of avoiding networking events. They completely stopped attending anything with likeminded people who, like them, didn’t have anything at the time. “We wanted to be surrounded by people doing significantly greater, who had achievements and were far further don’t the road than us. We were laser beam focussed on what we wanted to do and what we want to get out of it.”

Instead of going from guru to guru, Leanne and Graeme identified two mentors who they look to for advice who specialise in the areas that they want to excel in to keep their focus where they need it to be.

Graeme identifies procrastination, lack of a solid plan and lack of determination as the killers of successful entrepreneurialism, and sums up his commitment to success with “Top guys are hardworking, ruthless, determined and have a clear plan. It’s hard work and a lot of the gurus make it sound simple. But just because it happened once, doesn’t mean it’s permanent – you’ve got to keep working and keep pushing it. You have to keep going. That’s what we’ve done from day one.”

In the latest instalment of our Business Insights series, CEO Graeme Carling and our Mergers and Acquisitions Director, Leanne Carling discuss why work-life balance doesn’t apply to successful entrepreneurs, and how their dreams changed with success.

“We wanted to become financially free to be able to do the things we wanted to do, whenever we wanted to do them. We had the dream to retire early to the beach and live off our income and do nothing. The reality is we would have been able to do that fairly quickly.”

The power couple describe how they quit their jobs and had quick success acquiring property which would’ve allowed them to retire to the beach early on, but when they actually reached that stage, they couldn’t think of anything worse. “We realised that we were trying to live our parents dream. We love work!”

“The reality is that when you get to a certain point, where we are, the idea sounds horrible for us. We work harder, longer, we take less holidays. It’s the complete opposite, but we love that! We’re never on holiday, we’re always on it. We started with nothing and you can’t get where we are without complete and utter commitment.”

When it comes to work-life balance Graeme and Leanne tell of how alien it is for them to hear from accountants or other employees that they’re out of office or have their phone switched off. Their commitment is full on, but for Graeme and Leanne, the sacrifice is worth it. “We never thought we’d get to this point, we absolutely love it. We enjoy the responsibility and commitment.”

Graeme and Leanne believe that work-life balance is a myth for entrepreneurs, and being there to solve problems around the clock has been key to their success. “Anyone who has been super successful will be all in. We don’t work a limited amount of hours each day or week. We’re fully in the problem solving game as entrepreneurs.”

Part Two in our Business Insights series, our Mergers & Acquisitions Director, Leanne Carling and CEO, Graeme Carling discuss how working together in business and marriage makes them stronger.

“When it comes to ambition, we always try to push the envelope.” Graeme explains how he and Leanne create unachievable goals for themselves, in order to keep striving for the best. “You’ll never exceed your wildest goals, we want to do the best we possibly can. We set ourselves huge goals that we’ll never achieve in our lifetime.”

Each other’s wingmen, the couple describe how they both know each other’s goals and how holding each other accountable is one of their keys to success. “We’re each other’s fiercest critics and biggest supporters. We always want the best for each other and push each other to the greatest potential.”

Graeme and Leanne discuss how having completely different skillsets and outlooks on things works perfectly in their partnership. Their trust in each other that they’re both getting on with what they’ve set out to do stems from over a decade of learning business together.

“Since 2008 we’ve been learning together. Pretty much everything we’ve done together, we’re following the same path. We consciously make an effort to stay on the same trajectory. This strategy has absolutely worked for us.”

As part of our Business Insights series, our Mergers and Acquisitions Director, Leanne Carling discusses the importance of recruiting good advisors from the get go. From her background in property acquisition to acquiring profitable businesses, Leanne’s experience working with advisors spans over 13 years.

Leanne’s advice to people starting out in business is to recruit good advisors from the get go “It might be expensive to start off with, however it will save you a lot in the long run.”

She explains how when her and her partner in business and marriage, Graeme, were starting out, they sourced cheap advisors, a decision that would go on to cost them a lot of money further down the line. Leanne’s advice for people starting out is to make sure you have professional law firms, accountancy firms and bookkeepers that will keep you on the right track.

Leanne’s strategy is to seek out advisors that are going to take her to the next level, and advises to “Look for advisors that are at a higher level than where you are at the moment. You’ll find as your business grows, and you grow as a person, you’ll change advisors. You might want to change them for different deals, you might have certain advisors that are more qualified in that sector.”

What to look for in advisors?

Be sure they are performing in your sector, they’re fully qualified to give you advice and they’re walking the talk. Be careful who you take advice from – family members, friends, teachers – are they qualified to give out the advice that you’re looking for?

Leanne sums the importance of advisors up with her top tip: “Get great advisors and don’t be afraid to change!”

In our latest Business Insights update in the series, our CEO Graeme Carling discusses how United Capital go about acquiring deals with the company’s no-nonsense attitude.

Over the past 13 years, Graeme and his partner in marriage and business, our Mergers & Acquisition Director, Leanne, have been involved or made over 1,000 deals. They follow a policy and view that when value is clear, decisions are easy.

With their wealth of experience over the past 13 years, Leanne and Graeme know intuitively when a deal is good and if they want to get involved. They’ve taken this approach to their business acquisition model for United Capital and pride themselves in their ability to make decisions quickly, and in letting potential sellers knowing whether they’re interested or not.

Graeme says “When you’re at our level, you don’t dither or delay. Professionals know instantly whether it’s a good deal or not. So when we’re analysing deals, we know very quickly if that’s going to fit our criteria and if we are going to be interested.”

A lot of the options that come through the pipeline, aren’t in Graeme and Leanne’s interests, but the volume of options allows them to analyse their options quickly.

Graeme and Leanne rely heavily on their combined gut feeling, which stems from their experience and the deals that they’ve been involved in. “We are in an aggressive acquisition mode, actively seeking deals. We don’t mess about, it either fits or it doesn’t. It’s strictly confidential and we will let you know as soon as possible if it’s not for us or if we are interested.”

We’re always looking for profitable businesses with good, secure contracts and a solid, experienced management team who would stay on post-acquisition to manage the business. If you’re looking to sell up, get in touch today with an honest and realistic valuation and we’ll let you know if we’re interested!

As part of our Business Insights series, in this video, our CEO Graeme Carling, talks through his approach to managing the fear of failure in investing and decision making.

“Everybody’s got fear.” Graeme describes having a financial bank account and an emotional one.

“Most people worry about the financial side, but the most important is your emotional bank account. How will you cope with failure?

Everybody fails. The more you fail, the less fearful you are of it. You just go on to bigger challenges, but the fear never leaves you. Instead you’re able to control it and progress. So, when it comes to business, why start small? Really challenge yourself. The further away you get from your comfort zone, the better.

Most people want to operate within their comfort zone, that way if something goes wrong it’s all sensible. Meaning when it does go wrong it isn’t painful enough. There’s not a physiological reaction where you’ve really got a lesson out of it.”

His main piece of advice to budding entrepreneurs is to find a mentor. “Someone who has been hugely successful in the industry you want to get into – find out what they’ve done and implement it. Fail fast, and get it out of your way.”

Graeme believes if you want to succeed you need to stop putting it off. “Most people are just speaking about it, thinking about it. When the conditions are better – when they have more money or time. All rubbish, just procrastination. Get out and do it. Put the book down, stop going to the networking clubs and get out there and start today.”

Our company directors regularly speak at academic and business events. These talks are normally about their background and telling our story of how we do business. Although our top team’s backgrounds may be varied, there is one bit of advice that always features…be careful who you listen to.

The World has always had gurus, those individuals revered above others…though, these days it seems to be a self-given moniker rather than a title that has been earned, or deserved. In the words of world-renowned high performance coach, Tony Robbins, we are not your guru, but we have got significant experience running and growing successful businesses, experiences that have formed the way we do business…and that is all we ever offer…our story of what works for us, what happens next is up to you.

Our number 1 bit of advice is as important in life as it is in business, be careful who you listen to and take advice from. The Coronavirus pandemic has un-earthed many “experts”, people who share articles from their news feed without any due diligence to question the information or its sources. Remember the conflicting news from seemingly reputable sources about whether or not to take Ibuprofen if you were experiencing symptoms of Coronavirus, or the story about drinking warm water every 15 minutes…it’s all rubbish, worse than that, it’s dangerous!

In these unique times, we will rely on the information shared directly by the Government and associated agencies and will continue to apply sound common sense, which also appears to be lacking at present. Don’t forget the basics. Keep your customers informed, keep your people informed, take the necessary precautions but focus on your own business and what you can do to ensure it survives

United Capital CEO, Graeme Carling outlines plans for 2020. Even with two companies, with a combined turnover of £35million already at legal stages, and a pipeline of potential acquisition businesses with turnover in excess of £100million, we are still looking for more businesses that meet our criteria. Get in touch directly to discuss in the strictest of confidence

UK entrepreneur, Graeme Carling discusses why businesses don’t sell. It is reported that over 90% of the businesses listed for sale will not ever sell and will eventually end up being closed down. Serial entrepreneur and Managing Director of United Capital, an investment organisation that is consolidating the fragmented UK building services and facilities management sector, offers his expert business insights into what goes wrong and how business owners looking to sell can improve their chances.

Why Businesses Don’t Sell

The most common issue faced when acquiring businesses is the seller’s unrealistic expectation of the value of the company. This is usually from broker’s touting for business and offering free valuations, basing the figures on face value.

Brokers will take the information provided by seller, and it is their job to make the company look as good as possible to buyers. However, after a buyer applies due diligence, scratches under the surface and takes into consideration EBITDA – the most commonly known way of valuing a business – there becomes a considerable difference in the broker’s valuation and the market valuation.

The broker’s valuation provides an unrealistic expectation of the business’ value and as a result, 90% of businesses won’t sell.

How Should Businesses be Valued?

As a buyer, it’s important to find out the exact cost of running the company before valuing the business. For example, the owner and directors of a business are most likely to take their wage from dividends as opposed to a salary as this is the most tax efficient choice for the business and director. However, it is very unlikely that a broker will be looking at this level of details. Say there are three directors at £100k, that would be £300k less in value for the business.

What is the Broker’s Role?

The broker is there to get the seller as much money as they possibly can. They’re there to “beef up the hog”. Whether that’s telling sellers to reduce expenses where they can, drive revenue to create a greater EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization) total.

Any credible buyer will be able to see through this with the process of due diligence and will get to the bottom of the figures by taking a more holistic approach at the business’ performance by potentially going back years.

A broker won’t explain that payments for buying a business are typically staggered, possibly with performance reviews and other indicators being reached before the next payment. It’s unlikely that any buyer would provide all of the money upfront as this would leave themselves with the full risk.

Importance of Advisors

Anyone who is looking to sell their business, make sure you appoint experienced legal and accounting advisors. You might have ones that you use for everyday business needs, but when it comes to selling you want advisors who have a wealth of experience in the buying and selling business.

At United Capital we prefer to deal with sellers directly than through brokers. The reason for this is we find that more motivated sellers are looking to speak directly and are invested in the company, whereas the brokers are working on behalf of the seller.

Our Criteria

We deal with motivated sellers, where we can identify a strong management team, proven track record of financial growth. Strong businesses that can prove they’ve been successful in their industry. Be honest and clear.