Selling a family business – a personal story

In September 2019, the Family Business Network hosted a special video interview at a family business located in Barrow-in-Furness, in partnership with Network partners, RfM Accountants

This is the first in a planned series of short filmed interviews with our network partners, each with a different family business theme.

The opportunity originally arose through a conversation with Paul Newsham, one of the partners at RfM who had recently completed the sale of a family business for a long-standing client.

The sale of a family business remains of the biggest challenges and milestones for many family business owners, due to the number of considerations and the level of emotion involved in the transaction. Founder and Co-Director of the Network, Sue Howorth says, “Selling a family business can occur for a number of reasons, sometimes necessitating a quick sale or as part of a long-term succession plan. No matter the circumstances, the nature of such a life-changing decision requires expertise and support and we often signpost businesses to organisations that can provide this”.

Dave Clarkson, Co-Director of the Network added, “Part of what we do here at the Network is about encouraging family businesses to share their stories and talk to one another about their challenges and their learnings to mutually benefit one another. When we come across family businesses who are willing to open up and share their unique stories, it’s a real opportunity! Our Network partners work with us to provide expertise and support to family businesses, including everything from start-up support through to a sale process or succession planning. The recent video case study that we did with RfM Accountants  and their client, Moduflow Fan Systems provides a great insight into how a family business can prepare for future sale, attract the right buyers and achieve maximum value.”

The story:

RfM Accountants has worked with Moduflow Fan Systems in Barrow for a number of years and has recently supported owners, Ron and Beryl Whitworth to sell the family business they built together from scratch.

Ron launched Moduflow Fan Systems with wife Beryl in 2009. Over the last 10 years, they have worked tirelessly to grow their business and disrupt the market through a combination of innovative design and engineering precision. Ron and his experienced team now have a solid reputation for technical expertise, quality workmanship and high levels of service.

The company’s cutting-edge design and manufacturing facility is located in Barrow-in-Furness but its reach has expanded far beyond the Lake District, and Moduflow fans are now distributed all over the world.

Listening to Ron Whitworth talk about the design thinking behind Moduflow’s flagship fan products, it was clear that he is hugely passionate about what has been, in effect, his life’s work. Ron has been designing industrial fans and air movement systems since 1979. As such, few people have as much knowledge of the industry or such a clear vision of how the future of air movement systems should look.

Explaining about the circumstances of the sale, Ron said “We decided to sell the company approximately two years ago, which was quite an emotional thing to do. You do get very involved with the business. I was totally involved with it. The amount of blood, sweat and tears that I’ve personally put into it have been really high. But, as we didn’t have anyone to take it over from me, we decided to sell.”

RfM partner Paul Newsham first discussed the sale of the business with Ron and Beryl early in 2019. They had already taken steps to find a buyer through a specialist broker but the right investor had yet to come forward.

Ron said, “When I first met Paul, he explained how to put the business on the market and how it would be sold. Paul came up with the prices that we might be expecting – which were far greater than what we would have expected – and my involvement was very minimal because Paul did all the work for me.

Drawing on his knowledge and experience of the business sale process as well as his professional connections, Paul was able to assist with finding a buyer and completing the sale to everyone’s satisfaction. Following the buy-out, Ron continues to support the business as Chairman, managing the transition to new ownership and ensuring Moduflow continues to be successful for many more years to come.

Speaking about what key advice he would provide to family businesses looking to sell, Paul said, “It’s important to look at maximising the value very early in the process. That doesn’t happen at the end – when you reach retirement age – it should probably happen a good five or six years before. At that point, you need to, in effect, plan your exit, and that’s where RfM come in. We help the client get the business ready for sale. That could mean adopting processes, recruiting people, incentivising people with things like share option schemes… all things that need to be put in place to make the business achieve maximum value on the day of sale.”

Watch the video interview in full here

For advice on buying or selling a business, RfM would be happy to help and a member of the team at one of their regional offices will direct the enquiry to the relevant contact. Alternatively, complete their online enquiry form and they will get back to you.

Video filmed by Sheenah Alcock in partnership with RfM Accountants. Thanks to Ron and Beryl Whitworth and Moduflow Fan Systems.