Today we had the great pleasure of catching up with Dean Ayling of Colin Dean Residential in Harrow, London. Dean launched his agency in 1989 and completed on the sale shortly before Christmas to industry giants Dexters. In this frank and honest interview, he shares the reason behind the sale, how challenging the process was and how adamant he is that he couldn’t have got the outcome he did without the support of Atomic Consultancy.
Shortly before sitting for this interview, whilst enjoying day three of his newfound retirement, Dean and his family had enjoyed a leisurely walk and a couple of pints at their local pub. Bear that in mind as he talks about the stressful few months that came before …
Talk to us about your decision to sell the business?
We had been running the business since the late 80’s and successfully running it too. I wasn’t in a desperate rush to sell, I thought we probably had another two or three years left to go, but personal circumstances expedited the decision. Over the last eight years, I’d been approached every six months or so by the same person to ask me if I’d sell. The answer was always “not yet”, but when the call came again, at a time when I needed to be at home more, this seemed like the perfect time to pull the trigger. Fast forward six months, and thousands of pounds in solicitors’ fees later, and the deal fell through. The stress and anguish on my family was huge, but we were in it now. We were in sell mode. We’d come this far, and we knew we had to soldier on. But next time, we had to find the right buyer, a buyer that would complete.
What was important to you in choosing the right buyer?
After going through one deal that fell through, of course the right buyer for us was one that could actually complete the sale. A buyer that had the funding and the experience in place to get a sale over the line. But it was also critical that we found a buyer with integrity, with knowledge of the process and with a team of people that could not only understand but execute such a complex process smoothly. As you start this journey, you think the price is the most important factor, and of course it matters, but as an estate agent I know as well as anyone that often the buyer that offers over the asking price fails to complete. The same rules apply in selling your business and this was a sharp learning curve for me. So, I wanted a buyer that delivered on their promises and truly knew their stuff.
Why did you choose to get external support from Atomic?
I’d seen Lucy present at a webinar some time back before I was considering selling and at the time I thought: she knows what she’s talking about! When it came to putting the business up for sale, we knew we needed help and we spoke to a couple of different brokers. Atomic impressed us hugely with their pitch. They provided more detailed information than anyone else and showed incredible knowledge, but the thing that stood out was their energy and enthusiasm. I saw a lot of myself in Lucy. I’ve been an estate agent for many years, but I still get excited about a deal and I’m still full of energy for the process.
Lucy was clearly hungry, ambitious and competent and my wife and I just had a gut feeling that Atomic was the company we wanted to work with.
How did Atomic Consultancy help?
Relationships can break down easily if promises are broken, and I can categorically say that Laura and Lucy delivered on every single promise they made to us. Communication was always spot on, they did what they said when they said, they guided us through the process, they brought options and advice, and they were incredibly patient and professional with me when I stalled or had any doubts or queries along the way. We did a beauty parade of interested buyers which we then whittled down to the ones we thought we could work with, and the team guided me to understand the true value of the business and therefore what the right offer was. Thanks to Lucy and Laura I absolutely know I made the right decision, at the right price. I would not have got close to that outcome without them.
What lessons have you learnt throughout the process?
In all honesty, working on this transaction is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. The secrecy, the lack of privacy (trying to run a business in an open plan office without letting things slip was a nightmare), the late-night calls, the Sunday emails, the complexities, the list goes on. It’s not easy and that’s why you can’t do it alone. The whole process is so much more complex than people think, and you need to partner with a team that you trust, that are competent, that work tirelessly and have the energy to pull you through it.
What advice would you give to others going through this process?
Phone up Lucy! Whatever she’s going to charge, pay it!
On a serious note, of course I recommend Atomic, but my advice is to ensure you have the support you need in this process. Choose a broker that is experienced, but this process is so much more than a commercial transaction. Everyone has their own personal circumstances, their reason for sale, and don’t kid yourself that this isn’t emotional. I felt like I was selling a part of my family and found that tough at times, so pick a team that gets that side of things too.