What's the attraction for people looking to own a business in the West Country?

Wednesday 12th February 2020

Well that’s an easy question to answer I hear you say. It’s obviously the fantastic scenery, wonderful countryside and impressive coastline. It’s the leisure facilities and the more favourable climate. It’s also the slower pace of life and lower crime rate, etc. Oh, and (of course) the benefits and satisfaction of having one’s own business. Yes, with its very attractive environment and the quality of life on offer it’s a great place in which to live and work – but only if people have the time to enjoy it!

For very many years the vast majority of people who bought businesses in the South West were attracted towards such as post offices, shops, pubs, guest houses, hotels, cafés and restaurants, etc. However, for many they soon discovered that such businesses involved very long hours, high levels of competition and fairly low profits – often not sufficient to satisfactorily reward the owners for the time they were having to devote to their businesses. The majority of these businesses had premises which incorporated living accommodation for the owners and, although this was in some ways convenient, it usually meant that the owners rarely ‘escaped’ from their businesses! Consequently, the real attraction of living in the West Country were seldom experienced by these business owners who, more often than not, found themselves working whilst others around them were playing. For these reasons these types of businesses tended to change hands on a fairly regular basis!

The business transfer market in the West Country during the last ten to fifteen years has seen a sea change in the types of businesses people wish to buy. No longer are they persuaded simply by the idea of having a business with accommodation and roses around the door or by being on or near the coast. They want businesses which are in less competitive sectors (especially niche sector businesses) and ones which operate no more than 5½ days per week, less if possible. They look for businesses which are large enough to be able to afford sufficient staff – often with supervisory and/or management structures in place – where they themselves do not have to work long hours, including those which requires only their part time involvement. (Some want no participation at all in the day to day business operation, preferring to have the business managed for them). And they all want businesses which they can get away from at a sensible time each day and be able to take time off during the week as well as having most, if not all, of their weekends and evenings free. Is this beginning to sound a bit like utopia for business owners? No, not at all – it’s simply a question of finding appropriate businesses to fit the bill.

This quest has led to more and more people recognising that they can have the best of both worlds. They can own a business and enjoy all of the benefits the West Country has to offer by acquiring a business in such sectors as engineering, joinery, manufacturing, distribution, wholesaling, transport and haulage, automotive trades, building and construction, etc. and the myriad of service industry businesses including professional services. Such businesses – both large and small – are often found on industrial or trading estates, business parks and other suburban or out-of-town locations and a considerable and growing number are operated from home (but not with customers calling on them!). Not only are they less demanding of the owners’ time than the aforementioned other business types, but usually they are far more profitable and achieve super or true profits, i.e. after properly accounting for the value of the owner’s time working in the business. In other words they produce real returns on investment.

Whereas the previously more popular business types such as shops, pubs, etc. saw owners working all hours for relatively low profits (and, not unusually, for less than the National Living Wage or Minimum Wage rate equivalents!) and only produced a ‘profit’ for the owner when the business was sold (and even then by no means always), the businesses now more in demand tend to yield real profits/returns on investment whilst they are owned as well as providing realistic prospects of being sold for prices significantly higher than was paid for them, especially if they have been well managed and developed in the intervening period.So, now you know the answer to the poser at the top of this article – the only question which remains is are you going to take advantage? We at Beardsley Theobalds did just that a long time ago when we recognised the start of this trend, which is why we specialise only in the sale of businesses in the industrial, commercial and services sectors. For more information and help please visit our website www.beardsleytheobalds.co.uk or give us a call on 01392 253071.

Roger Mundy
Managing Director
Beardsley Theobalds