How to Get the Most from Your Advisers

15 September 2016 |
by Jo Haigh

We are all aware of this proverb and it applies to many areas of our daily lives, while many hands make light work, too many cooks can make that work hard going. The same can be said of advisers involved in a corporate finance deal.

When carrying out any sort of buying or selling business transaction, the people around the table, who are neither the vendor nor the acquirer, can outnumber those two critical persons sometimes to a ratio of 10 to 1.

Of course you need advisers. To add another proverb to the mix “the man who defends himself has a fool for a client”. The key questions are: who and how many?

Sadly, there are numerous advisers out there who like to “shake their horns” for the sake of looking the part and charge you through the nose for their efforts.

One of the most trying deals we worked on had no less than 15 lawyers! 15 lawyers for just a £4m transaction.

Advisers are a necessary evil, of course we would say that, but it is so important to be clear who is doing what and for whom! Essentially you need to decide:

  1. Who do you want next to you around that deal table?
  2. What is their job?
  3. How you will measure their performance?
  4. How will you know they are on your side and not on some sort of Machiavellian tirade?

All too often the ‘fight’ going on in your corner isn’t against the other side. Instead it is in-fighting and point scoring against each other, all the while running up fees and delaying deal completion.

We have a saying in our office: “delays cause disasters”, don’t let your own advisers be the cause of the delays. Be prompt, be as honest as you can be and make sure your team do the same.

One way to mitigate this is: when pulling together your “dream team”, consider players who have worked together before. We all have our own ways of working and it's better these methods have been honed on someone else's time and not yours.

If that isn't possible and you have a favoured accountant, lawyer and corporate financier who have never crossed paths, then get then in a room first, all together and lay out the conditions of what you expect behaviour wise.

You can pin this down further by agreeing fixed fees, when advisers are not working on a clicking time sheet it's amazing how much faster things progress.

Also be very clear on what your own criteria is for a deal and who you want to be the main point of contact. Usually this is the corporate financier, but choose one person. This is very important as the worst thing that can happen is conflicting messages from your team.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly: don't tolerate the antler waving.

Based in Yorkshire we tend to say it as it is, and quickly. We don't dance around any bushes, in fact we chopped the bush down years ago and if anyone dare to replant it we carry our own saw.

But that's not everyone's modus operandi so be fully aware of the saboteurs and take pre-emptive action.

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