Dan Bowtell works as an adviser at Smith Cooper, a business advisory firm Foresight have worked closely with on a number of MEIF deals.
Tell us about Smith Cooper and your work within LLEP and the local area.
Smith Cooper is a Midlands focused business advisory firm with six offices. We offer business owners a full suite of professional services ranging from accounts, audit and tax compliance to strategic consultancy, corporate finance and tax advisory services. We also have two IT businesses which provide advice in relation to implementing and maintaining the suite of Sage software and a Microsoft-aligned managed services business.
Within the LLEP we have appraised a significant number of investment opportunities, provided advice in relation to growth and financing of SMEs and also provided due diligence services to investors.
What opportunities and challenges do you see for local business owners?
One of the big challenges SME’s face is access to and development of talent within their organisations. The competition for good staff can be intense and this is where both utilising the services of a trusted financial adviser and access to additional finance can help develop the a world class staff roster.
Equally, the pace of change in the business world is increasing and smaller organisations can be more agile and move with markets quicker than larger counterparts – however the ability to do this often depends on the quality of the workforce to spot and develop these opportunities.
What level of business activity and investment are you seeing locally?
Despite ongoing political and economic uncertainty we are seeing lots of “business as usual” within the Midlands business community. Investment in early stage and development capital opportunities has been rising in the last couple of years and we are strong supporters of this for the benefit of the local community and job creation.
Assuming an orderly Brexit our expectation is that further market expansion will occur in 2019 (although not on the scale seen in previous years) which will continue to drive investment opportunities in the local market.
What advice would you give to local business owners who are thinking about seeking investment?
Make sure you are ready before starting the process. We see far too many businesses that seek offers of investment but then are surprised when they are asked for a well-researched and evidenced business plan and integrated cash flow forecasts. Having these prepared in advance speeds up the process but also makes any investment more likely to succeed.