Selling a business with heart, as well as value

Having built a business with meaning, one local businessman in East Sussex approached Martin Howe, of Transworld Business Advisors, for help with the next stage of his career: retirement.


One local business owner in the East Sussex area had built a strong business, but, recognised it was time to hang up his carpentry belt, and exit the business. He approached Transworld Business Advisors for guidance to find exactly the right buyer. This was a business with heart, so he wanted to sell it to someone who recognised the value of it, beyond picture framing and woodworking.


“The client was a friend of mine,” Martin Howe, co-owner of Transworld Business Advisors of Sussex and West Surrey, explains. “So, he was already aware of my own personal experience and success with helping owners to exit their businesses. He’d used his skills to help people frame memories: from pictures, to police and war medals, or signed memorabilia. The business was both well-known, and highly-valued – not just in Uckfield, but across the UK.”


This was more than just a retail opportunity for the right buyer. “Beneath the shop, the owner had a woodworking area below, where he would often hold workshops and picture-framing classes. People would attend these from across the South East, inspired by his story, and keen to learn the techniques he had mastered. He was also involved in the local town fair, displaying art for local artists on the local high street. He didn’t want to just close the business, he wanted to hand it on to the right buyer who could build on what he had founded.”


The biggest challenge for Martin, who co-owns Transworld Business Advisors of Brighton, was knowing how to present the business to attract the right buyer. “This wasn’t a ‘run-of-the-mill’ retail business, this was something which offered a premium service, as well as an experience. In addition to the normal channels Transworld uses to sell a business, we encouraged the seller to write about the business in the local press. This combination of strategic marketing led to serious interest in buyers who saw the value of this unique opportunity.”


The buyer approached Martin in August, right in the middle of the Pandemic, keen to buy the business. “The buyer was attracted by the fully-functional woodwork workshop the business has attached to it, as the husband and wife team have a vision to support those who struggle to find work, by training them in a new skill. One of their objectives is to give disadvantaged people the chance of a better future, through learning a trade. The business is about so much more than just selling products, which is exactly what the seller was hoping for, when he initially decided to sell it.”


Martin wanted to make sure both the buyer and the seller were comfortable with the deal, and confident the future of the business was secure. “This has been achieved, and is helped by the seller having agreed to support the handover, and work with the buyer for a few months, whilst he settles in. The seller is a well-respected member of the local community, so this all adds value to the business. And as a friend, who has almost certainly saved my life by teaching me to ride motorbikes safely, it was personally rewarding to be able to do something so significant for him, too. Now he can enjoy his vintage bikes as much as he wants.”