Firstly, I want to begin this blog post by saying a big thank you to all our clients - without you, we wouldn’t have had such a successful year.
Over the last twelve months we have really been able to prove our thesis that technology firms in Canada are in desperate need of quality M&A advisory services. We started this journey with an idea that our 25+ years of combined Wall Street experience could be a significant asset for many technology firms in Ottawa that are looking to acquire other businesses or working towards an exit and that has been proved over the last twelve months.
Here’s some stats that quantify our first year:
- Advised on and closed two M&A transactions (1 sale and 1 purchase) for total proceeds of greater than US$350 million
- Working on 5 M&A transactions that we expect to close in 2017
- Established relationships with nearly 500 tech companies across North America
- Grown team from 2 to 5 and adding 1 more in early January
In addition, we’ve learned a lot along the way about what it takes to run a new business. Here’s some of the things we figured out:
- Branding is important – Building a brand is important and doing it right from the start is a must because it’s hard to compensate for any missteps. In everything we do, we always consider the impact on our brand and our market positioning. This includes every facet of our online presence (logo design, website, social media) as well as how we interact with our clients and potential clients around town and across the country. We have built a reputation of deep domain expertise with unbiased advice and that’s a reputation that is extremely important for us to continue to build on.
- Knowing when (and when not) to show financial discipline - You need to find the right balance between spending ahead of revenues and showing restraint until proof points are in place to demonstrate you have a sustainable business model. This is easier said than done especially when you have limited operating history and sometimes it’s about trusting your gut. But in general spend where you can get the quickest validation of what you’re trying to do and know when you’re throwing good money after bad.
- Research, Research, Research! – We spent months before we even started Sampford meeting with CEOs and CFOs to validate the need for quality M&A services in Ottawa. We also spent a lot of time researching the overall market dynamics so we could get a sense of where to spend most of our business development efforts.
- Lean on other business owners and founders – We were new to a lot of facets of running a business and have therefore leveraged our relationships with other business founders and CEOs to hear out what went right for them and early lessons they learned from the experience of running their own business. This has been of real value to us, so to all the people that gave us advice along the way, thank you!
- The right team is critical – everyone says this but it can’t be emphasized enough. We spent many months looking for the right people, not just from an experience and intelligence perspective but also from a fit to our corporate culture that is still evolving. In a small and growing company, those first hires are critical in keeping the culture on the path you want – so definitely hire slow and get the right people as part of your early team.
- Leverage all the technology that’s out there – We built our own website leveraging a good template from one of the DIY website providers. We also rely heavily on new technology and doing everything in the cloud. This helped keep upfront capital costs to a minimum and ongoing maintenance to a level where we could do it all ourselves.
- Keep it local – we try wherever possible to use and refer local providers to our clients. Whether that be the sign we got made in the office, printing for our corporate events or use of local lawyers and accountants. The local economy is important to us and the success of our business in the future depends on it.
Once again, thanks to our clients and our team for a fantastic year. We look forward to continuing to grow our team and further entrench ourselves in the Canadian tech market, so we can provide even better service to our clients in 2017!
About the author
Ed Bryant is the President and CEO of Sampford Advisors. Ed started Sampford because he wanted to provide world-class Investment Banking and Strategic Advisory services to Canadian technology companies. Ed has over 20 years of experience including over 17 years in Investment Banking with Deutsche Bank, Morgan Stanley and Sampford in Hong Kong, Singapore, New York and now Ottawa. In that time, Ed has raised in excess of $20 billion in equity and debt capital and completed over $10 billion in M&A transactions.
Visit us at www.sampfordadvisors.com