The CP Deals team has provided corporate finance and tax advice to the management team of Land Survey Solutions Limited (t/a Survey Solutions), a leading provider of engineering surveying and monitoring services to a range of sectors across the UK.

The transaction provides an exit for RJD Partners and the founder James Cooper, and sees WestBridge invest £14.2 million to take a majority stake in the business.

First formed in 1997, Survey Solutions has experienced impressive growth to become a national company with 14 regional offices and 160 full time employees, most of whom are specialist surveyors. The business has also expanded its service offering to clients, adding capabilities such as drone surveying and hydrographics.

The secondary buyout was led by David Lowe, who joined the company as CEO in 2022, along with the senior management team who have all been instrumental in driving growth over the last few years, both organically and through acquisition.

Niall Chantrill, Corporate Finance Partner, CP Deals, commented:

“The deal represents another great example of our capability to provide integrated corporate finance and tax advice to management teams participating in a private equity-led transaction.

We wish the team all the very best with their future growth plans.”

Sara Thompson, Transaction Tax Director, CP Deals, added:

“It was very exciting to work with our Corporate Finance team in providing support to David Lowe and the Management team. We’re delighted to play a key part in the next step of their journey and wish them every success going forward.”

On Thursday 16 November, the CP Deals team welcomed Managing Partners, CEOs and senior leaders from a number of professional services firms to Soho’s award-winning Bocca Di Lupo.

On the agenda, a delicious roundtable lunch, paired with a lively discussion that captured our guests’ insights and best practice tips, based on their experiences of living through a transaction and working alongside investors.

We were delighted to welcome guests from a range of sectors, including legal firms, ESG advisory, pensions and insurance.

The afternoon treated us to a whole host of questions, recurring themes and brilliant tips, and we’ve summarised all the best bits below.

ROUNDTABLE ROUNDUP: KEY TOPICS

1) What makes a professional services company attractive to private equity?

A massively important question, but one which our leaders had no trouble answering.

In their experience, private equity investors look for high-quality, strong, strategically focused management teams and favour companies with a diverse range of services to spread risk, recurring revenue and a B2B model for greater resilience in the face of recession.

There is a strong investor interest in professional services right now due to the fragmented nature of the market and the buy and build opportunity this brings. Increasing regulation is driving consolidation in the sector – we’ve seen similar regulatory pressure in healthcare (CQC) and financial services (FCA).

A business that can demonstrate successful acquisitions already or present a list of potential acquisition targets, to enhance their own growth story is particularly attractive.

Many businesses in the sector have achieved a certain scale organically and by tuck-in acquisitions but see a ceiling in their growth trajectory. Private equity investors, with their deep pockets, can supercharge this growth through acquisition and through investment in technology.

It was widely acknowledged that the inability to invest sufficiently in technology, particularly AI, is a real issue for the longer term, as there is a risk of being left behind.

2) Private Equity investor involvement

Our guests were keen to know how much day-to-day involvement private equity investors have, and what this looks like?

CEOs need to get used to having a boss again. This does however provide a sounding board to run big decisions past before turning ideas into reality. Our guests agreed private equity investors typically provide quick decisions supported by data, so long-drawn-out board decisions are a thing of the past.

Also, guests were keen to understand what it means practically for the second tier of management when investors come on board and how to best incentivise them, whether it be a bonus, a long-term incentive plan or sweet equity.

3) The importance of KPIs

When you’re working with private equity investors, it can take time to get used to the importance they place on KPIs.

You’ll notice a step change in the reporting demands and the sophistication of the data analysis to support decision making.

The positive is private equity can be objective. They don’t dwell on dips. Instead, they just want to implement change to grow – it can be more difficult for a founder to do the same, who is so emotionally involved in their business.

4) Culture remains key

With professional services firms being ‘people businesses’, their ability to attract and retain top talent is important to investors. What’s more, how well the business can protect and evolve that culture post-investment will be scrutinised, especially as it scales and welcomes more people.

When businesses grow quickly, they can lose the personal touch that made them a great place to work in the first place. We listened to examples where external experts came into a business, asked their people a series of questions and performed an evaluation of their culture from the bottom up, so investors could focus on the aspects that mattered most going forward.

With private equity rollups companies growing quickly, maintaining culture is more difficult, and it’s never been more important for owners to set an example and lead from the front.

It was unanimously agreed that owners need to communicate, embed and embody a clear vision on culture, that needs to flow through the senior management team and beyond so everyone else in the business can bring it to life.

Our professional services guests spoke of managing generational divides and expectations, particularly around working practices (office-based vs. working from home) and the fact that younger generations tend to think in the shorter term than their older counterparts.

THE TABLE’S TOP TIPS

To wrap up our summary of a fascinating afternoon, we wanted to share some final tips from our professional services leaders.

Firstly, thinking two steps ahead. Who are your buyers? And who will be the next buyer?

Secondly, the importance of Vendor Due Diligence (VDD) as part of a transaction – a hugely beneficial step that more than pays for itself.

Thirdly, engaging with the right advisors early on to navigate business owners and management teams through a process.

Finally, preparing and rehearsing your management presentation to buyers to make sure you’re all aligned and own the information memorandum is one of the best ways to make the process as smooth as possible.

Thank you to all our guests for an excellent roundtable discussion.

Get in touch if you’d like to be part of the next event.

OUR AWARD-WINNING CORPORATE FINANCE TEAM ADVISES NELSONS SOLICITORS ON SALE TO LAWFRONT

Our team advised on the sale of leading East Midlands Law firm Nelsons to Lawfront, backed by private equity firm Blixt Group (Blixt).

Nelsons is Lawfront’s fifth acquisition and its fourth in the last twelve months, giving it a strong foothold in the East Midlands from which it intends to grow further in the region, along with expanding nationally with more acquisitions of leading regional firms.  The acquisition takes Lawfront’s revenue to over £45m, with market leading profitability, and is an important step in achieving its vision of building a high-quality, national legal services business.

Celebrating its 40th year anniversary on 3rd May this year, Nelsons was co-founded by Tim Hastings in a small Nottingham office and has gone on to become one of the leading law firms operating across East Midlands with offices in Derby, Leicester and Nottingham.

The business recently reported over £20m revenue with 161 legal and investment management fee earners.

Tim Hastings, chairman at Nelsons said:

“Cooper Parry has been our advisor for over 20 years so they’ve been a constant presence during Nelsons’ journey. But, this is the first time we’ve worked with its dedicated Corporate Finance Team and we’ve been delighted with the service and advice. Sachin and the team’s specialist knowledge,  coupled with its understanding of our business, the sector, and how we work, helped pave the way for a smooth transaction.”

Stewart Vandermark, CEO at Nelsons commented:

“The legal sector is constantly evolving and since the pandemic we had anticipated an increasing move towards consolidation. Change has always been part of Nelsons’ DNA and having consistently achieved excellent results, we wanted to be at the forefront of this consolidating market and joining Lawfront ensures that for our ambitious team.  It was clear early on that Lawfront was a great fit for Nelsons, bringing greater opportunities for all our colleagues and enhancing the services we can offer to our clients.”

Sachin Parmar, Associate Director at Cooper Parry Corporate Finance, added:

“Nelsons has a built a fantastic reputation as a leading regional law firm focussed on the needs of private businesses and their owners. We’re delighted to have been able to support the management team on this transaction and really look forward to seeing the business prosper in its next chapter.The legal sector is attracting attention as a hot space for investment from private equity in addition to other players looking for synergies. This deal underlines Cooper Parry’s expertise and commitment to supporting businesses operating across the professional services space.”

Hot on the heels of becoming the UK’s largest accountancy B Corp, we’ve created a new Associate Partner role. Sitting between Directors and Partners, the role is designed to give our people more recognition, more opportunity for development and well-defined career progression as we target five-fold growth over the next five years and scale nationwide.

The first cohort of Associate Partners features thirteen key figures from around the business, including:

In February 2023, we also appointed ex-Deloitte Global MD, Timothy Mahapatra as Partner and Head of Deals.

Previously a strategic adviser to CP, Tim will lead and grow our Deals business, feeding into our wider growth plans, as well as looking for opportunities to broaden our advisory services and continually deliver more value to clients.

Ben Eason, Business Development Director, will become a Partner from the start of May. After quickly establishing himself as a big part of CP’s growth team, Ben has been going through our Partner track development process since November 2021.

Ade Cheatham, our CEO, said:

“Massive congratulations to all those who have been promoted and those currently working on the same path for their development. It’s great for them. But talent like this is also great for CP and our clients.

“I’m proud to say we’ve got some of the best people in our industry, and as we continue to grow quickly, rewarding them for their incredible work, attracting fresh new faces and maintaining CP’s one-of-a-kind culture are all hugely important.

“Creating an Associate Partner role has been a big step towards that, and I can’t think of a more deserving bunch.”

 

Cooper Parry Corporate Finance, with colleagues from the Transaction Tax team have advised the shareholders of Power Control Ltd on the sale of their business to Legrand SA, a listed French company.

Established in 1990, Power Control is a leading specialist installation and maintenance service provider of critical infrastructure and Uninterruptible Power Supply (“UPS”) equipment. Based in Sheffield, Power Control has a strong reputation throughout the UK.

This acquisition of Power Control is closely aligned with Legrand’s strategy to strengthen their global positions in segments buoyed by strong, structural trends (energy-efficiency infrastructures, solutions for flexible and comfortable ways of working). At the same time boosting their total annual sales of companies acquired in 2022 to nearly €145 million.

Legal advice to the shareholders was provided by Knights, led by its Corporate team including Martin Smith, Gareth John, James Sparkes and Tanya Dobson.

Power Control’s shareholder, Tom Nicholson, will remain with the business and continue to play a leading role in the integration and combined growth of the group going forward.

Tom Nicholson, Managing Director of Power Control, said:

“The Cooper Parry team added value throughout the deal process, giving invaluable support and technical guidance at each step. They understood the fundamentals and competitive positioning of our business. I would recommend any owner-managed business to work with Cooper Parry to deliver their transaction.”

Katie Cash from the Corporate Finance team said of the deal:

“We’re delighted to have supported the Power Control team on this deal with Legrand.

The business’ success is a testament to the hard work of their team and its emphasis on high quality service and maintaining strong relationships. We’re excited to see its growth continue as it successfully transitions in the Legrand’s expansive geographical plans.

It was a pleasure to work with the Power Control team and we wish the business all the very best success as it moves forward with Legrand’s direction.”

Cooper Parry Corporate Finance with colleagues from the Transaction Tax team have advised the Shareholders of SV Timber on the sale of their business to National Timber Group (NTG), a portfolio company of Cairngorm Capital Partners LLP.

Established in 2004, SV Timber is a specialist, independent timber merchant supplying an extensive range of timber materials to a broad range of trade and commercial customers, including joiners and manufacturers, from three branches across the Midlands. SV Timber has a strong reputation for outstanding service and quality, recently supplying the timber for the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. SV Timber employs 50 people and, in 2021, achieved revenues of £17m.

This transaction is well-aligned with NTG’s strategy to become the leading, independent timber processing and distribution group in the UK, with a focus on value-added products and industry-leading margins. SV Timber fills a geographic gap in NTG’s existing branch network and further extends its customer reach within the Midlands.

SV Timber’s shareholders, Edward Holder and Richard Rowley, will remain with the business and continue to play leading roles in the integration and combined growth of the group going forward, including the relocation of SV Timber’s flagship site from Ilkeston to new, larger premises in Nottingham.

Rob Barclay, Group Chief Executive of National Timber Group said:

“We are delighted to welcome SV Timber to the Group – our shared expertise and commitment to our customers makes this an obvious and complementary partnership. Together, we will extend our range of services in the Midlands, improving our customers’ experience.”

Edward Holder added:

“As the founder of the business, I am extremely proud of what the team at SV Timber has achieved to this point. We know that the business is capable of achieving much more over the coming years. The priority was to find a partner with shared goals and values who would help us to fulfil the future potential. We were impressed with National Timber Group’s focus on product quality and its commitment to the highest standards of customer service. We are confident that we have selected the right partner and that SV Timber will continue to prosper within the enlarged Group.

 The Cooper Parry team gave us fantastic support throughout the deal process, providing excellent technical support, managing all workstreams diligently and ultimately adding value. I would highly recommend Cooper Parry to any business looking at a potential transaction.”

 Alex Ydlibi from the Corporate Finance team said of the deal:

“We’re delighted to have supported the SV Timber team on this deal with NTG.

The business’ success is a testament to the hard work of the team and its emphasis on building and maintaining excellent relationships. We’re excited to see its growth continue as it successfully transitions to an impressive new flagship site in Nottingham.

It was a pleasure to work with the SV Timber Team and we wish the business all the very best success as it moves forward under NTG’s stewardship.”