Director at Cavu Corporate Finance
What were your career
ambitions growing up?
To be honest my initial interest was in politics. That was short lived when mortgages and family commitments came along!! I still retain a keen interest in that area. You never know perhaps I have a second career in me yet!
Can you outline your career path?
After leaving University I applied to most of the major accounting firms. That threw up the first career choice. Whether to join Price Waterhouse in Newcastle or KPMG in Manchester. The draw of the North East and family brought me back here.
After qualifying I joined the PW Corporate Finance department in 1993. After an enjoyable 10 years with PW I moved to Deloitte as Director of their Corporate Finance business in Newcastle in 2000, helping to establish what was a fledgling business at that time and building a great team.
In 2007 Begbies Traynor asked me to assist them with developing a new service line both in Newcastle and in their wider business so I joined as a partner.
I recall the first year both recruiting the team and enjoying some early successes such as sale of the largest independent pharmacy group in the North East, HF Healthcare to Alliance Boots, the sale of Heighley Gate to Wyevale, the acquisition of Arthouse for a private equity investor and many other great deals.
Then 2008 arrived. The run on the banks. M&A activity crashed and the Corporate Finance world changed for a few years. That was a challenging time and has helped prepare me for running my own business.
In 2013 Cavu Corporate Finance was established. The model is simple we are totally focussed on delivering high quality advice to clients. We transact deals in the £2m to £100m space with most of our work in the £5m to £50m arena. Outstanding client service and delivering exceptional outcomes for clients are our primary aims irrespective of the deal size.
After 3 years of trading we have enjoyed some great successes. Recently (pre summer) we raised £25m of private equity for local business Fairstone – Fairstone is expanding quickly and it was a pleasure to work with the CEO, Lee Hartley, and his management team. We have been active with other clients raising £7.5m of equity for J&B Recycling based in Hartlepool, £5m of equity for Cussins Homes, leading on the sale of GB Lubricants and Action Can and we were delighted to act for the management team who acquired the Pen Shop. Our clients are our biggest advocates so my ongoing thanks to them all.
I think that journey has made me more rounded. As an owner of a business I feel totally aligned with our clients. I have experienced the top and the bottom of the market and we bring that wealth of experience to all client situations, tailoring every piece of advice to the specific client needs.
Describe a typical day
You read these pieces and everyone says “Most days start at 5.30am followed by a visit to the gym”. I think that occasionally but most days actually start at 6.45am and I tend to go straight to the office. One of these days I will hit the gym before going to work.
I tend to catch up on client e-mails before 8am. Some clients like to talk early in the day, pre 8am.
One of the things I love is very few days are the same. I will meet clients, potential clients, funders and discuss with the team specific matters relating to client projects. I also like to have time carved out to think…it’s easy in a project based business to be active but corporate finance is about original thought – no two scenarios are the same – so finding time to innovate and consider key transactions decisions is vital to the success of projects and to client outcomes.
At the back end of each day that thought about the gym usually rears its head again.
Most weeks I do like to run – it clears the mind and de stresses you – 3 runs ideally, 2 some weeks if work is heavy. I have taken to cycling recently having been talked into cycling 150 miles in 2 days for Prostate Cancer.
Can you tell us what you are currently working on?
I could but I would have a few irate clients! Confidentiality and integrity are the fundamentals in our sector.
Needless to say we are working on a range of projects – sale mandates, acquisitions and equity funding.
Summarise your greatest business achievement to date
That is difficult.
Personally I enjoy selling businesses – the tangible value we add can be demonstrated when prices increase from buyers as a result of our involvement.
I have sold many businesses over the years and delivered some great deals for clients. It would seem wrong to pick one over the many we have worked on.
For me the achievement is about how the client feels about it after the deal – and on that front we have had many happy clients.
What’s the best advice you have been given?
Bill Teasdale (ex PwC) – “you have to enjoy the journey” – that is true you have to enjoy what you do – so thanks Bill that was and remains great advice.
I worked with the late John Wall for many years. John was a real character and preached the virtue of tenacity. Corporate Finance is really about being tenacious – when things are not going as well as you would like, do you have the staying power to bring buyers and sellers together in an environment where everyone remains happy with the deal.
Who are your heroes?
I do not really go for all that.
What motivates you?
Doing a great job for clients – that has driven me on over all my career. My family.
How do you relax?
With family and friends mainly in Corbridge where I live. I run and cycle. Walk with my wife, Fiona and our retriever Max. Last month you would have found Max and I on the top of the Cheviot. Fiona decided to give that walk a miss!!!
How will you be remembered?
An easy-going bloke who did a great job for his clients and loved his family.