What was your MSP Business and when did you start it?
I ran SproutIT for a little over a decade before exiting in November 2020. Earlier in my career, I had worked in a vast blue chip (Microsoft’s largest global customer at the time) and hated the fact that I was ‘just a number’.
I take pride in making a real difference, every day, positively impacting clients and colleagues alike – and I felt this was much more achievable in a small business.
Can you explain a little about the business?
Sprout was a pure-play Legal IT partner to our customer base of solicitors and barristers. Whilst many saw us as an MSP, I understood the ‘P’ to mean ‘Partner’ rather than ‘Provider’. Lawyers look after some of the most critically sensitive data and often work on a time-critical basis. That meant we had a real focus on cyber security, system availability and service levels.
Over the years, we grew to a team of 60+ with most of us based in London and a small team in Wellington, New Zealand, providing pure in-house 24×7 support and maintenance as well as rapid project deployment.
Our client base was predominantly in the UK but included locations such as Hong Kong and Singapore.
The real key to our success was our team and culture. The people at Sprout were fantastic, and I worked hard to foster a culture of inclusivity, honesty and candour. I am privileged to have worked with that talented group of people.
Were you always planning on an exit and what was the driver to exit?
Running the business was fun, and always a pleasure. As we grew, the approaches from potential acquirers came regularly, but we were firmly focussed on becoming the UK’s number 1 Legal IT ‘MSP’.
When we were eventually acquired by another Legal IT specialist ‘MSP’, we realised our dream of that number 1 spot, together.
How did you find your acquirer and what did the process look like?
We were approached regularly by several suitors over the years. In the end, we managed to complete the deal despite the pressures of the pandemic in 2020, including the preparation of the IM, market research and all the fun of due diligence!
We were represented by a fantastic corporate finance team who provided tremendous support from beginning to end. Ever available and with good humour, I would not hesitate in recommending them. Any MSP considering M&A should realise your CF team is critical, and you must get on well with each other!
A fantastic achievement during a very difficult year.
Can you tell us a little about your exit?
Over several years, we worked hard to establish a Senior Leadership Team within the business, separating me from day-to-day duties. This meant that the transition, post-acquisition, was more straightforward. I remained with our acquirer beyond the one-year workout period, heading up the New Business department and enjoying fantastic success.
Ultimately, I decided to take some time away from work and concentrate on one of my major ambitions – to buy a plot of land and build my dream family home. I didn’t last too long out of work before my wife decided I should go back, and Endgame Consulting was born in March 2022!
What was the main thing you learned about M&A going through the process?
Prepare early. We did. That meant that when the time came, we were fully prepared and never on the back foot. Very often, MSPs enter an M&A process without all their ducks in a row and with far too many opportunities for the acquirer to chip away at the price.
The backbone of Endgame Consulting, is to ensure that all pillars of enterprise value are in place and matured, before any M&A activity is considered. These same pillars enable a profitable and successful business journey, whether or not there is ever an exit. Win-win.
It makes a lot of sense to plan for that moment to maximise your outcome and journey.
A well-planned exit will always be preferable to one forced on you by circumstances. Planning lets you choose how you leave and groom the business for that specific strategy.
Planning ensures the smoothest possible transition while releasing maximum value from the business during the journey, and at your exit. Any transfer of ownership is likely to be by far the largest financial transaction in your lifetime, and I passionately believe that business owners ‘earn’ the right to optimise the outcome.
That’s where I love to help.
Knowing what you know today, what would you have done differently?
Not much! I don’t believe in regrets.
Whatever happened in the past led me to where I am today, and my focus is always on the present and future in pursuit of my ultimate life goal: “To enjoy the passage of time, for as long as possible.”
Is there any advice or things to watch out for that you would like to share with fellow MSP owners?
Yes – watch out for crap business advice.
Too many people are floating around the MSP space, looking for easy money in the form of coaching. Most of these people have never run a business, let alone an MSP, and those that have run an MSP, have a mediocre story of their business and exit.
Of course, there are some great coaches and mentors out there too. Choose wisely.
What are you up to now and how can people find out more?
My new business, https://www.endgameconsulting.co.uk/ helps MSP and Tech Business owners build a high-quality and profitable business that affords them more time, money, and fun.
And on that journey, create significant equity value – for their EndGame.
It’s expert Non-Exec advice and mentoring from someone who has got the t-shirt (and doesn’t like suits!).
I’m also working with some channel vendors to deliver non-product value to their client base and provide advisory services to Private Equity.
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