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Antony Fanshawe

Antony Fanshawe on acquiring a wealth of experience

By Antony Fanshawe

Co-founder, FPN Limited

Entrepreneur, corporate finance specialist, expert witness, insolvency practitioner and forensic accountant are just some of the multi disciplines associated with Antony Fanshawe.

Ultimately driven by the goal to help owner-managers; Antony’s practice, FPN which is run in partnership with Co-Director Rosemary Penn-Newman, specialises in corporate finance and strategic advice.

Here, the aficionado of vintage cars, shares a snippet of his expertise accomplished from three decades of experience in the accountancy arena.

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Aside from FPN, you also run the Business Cobra entrepreneurs club. Have you always been entrepreneurial?

I think I’m entrepreneurial almost by default, because I'm just not somebody who really fits in very well to corporate organisations, it just doesn't work for me, I don't get on very well with authority.

You describe yourself as a serial owner manager. When analysing businesses to work with, what is your evaluation process?

I’ve got a couple of shareholdings in companies that supply cross laminated timber for construction. They're both pretty early stage, but they're both going very well, so far.

I have to like the business; I have to like what it does and I have to like the people. I have to be able to believe that the business is going to go somewhere. It's all about human relations, trust and all those good things.

What are your top tips for selling a business?

It's really important that by the time you come to sell a business, the business isn't dependent on you, because you can't sell yourself when you're trying to exit.

Do your housekeeping: a tidy business will always sell more easily and better than a messy one.

Plan and take your time. I always say to owner-managers that they really need to have some idea of how they're going to exit before they start. Trying to detach yourself from the business and take a more long-term objective view of what you're doing is quite difficult.

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"It's really important that by the time you come to sell a business, the business isn't dependent on you, because you can't sell yourself when you're trying to exit."

What advice do you give to clients regarding acquisitions?

An acquisition is a trade-off between cash and time. Because a business that you acquire is probably something you could go and develop yourself, but it would take you a lot of time and money to do so. You need to think about an acquisition as being an alternative to that.

The acquisition needs to have a strong strategic reason. You need to integrate it well into the rest of your business. Poor integration is a massive reason why acquisitions don’t work.

Can you tell us about your work as a forensic accountant?

This is when people want a problem solving such as partnership breakups or quasi-partnership breakups. I’ve done a bit of work on behalf of executors; valuing companies for the purposes of inheritance tax, and so on.

It really comes down to looking at documents, pulling them together into a rational framework and telling a story as to what actually happened. I also act as an expert witness in court cases in some quite contentious things.

What are the biggest changes that you’ve seen in your realm of expertise throughout your career?

Companies have completely changed. People don’t own anything anymore, companies rent their premises, equipment and cars. Whereas companies used to own those things, and that was a completely different way of thinking. Lots of companies in my career have made money out of the property they own even when they didn’t make money out of the trade they were pursuing.

Companies are very lean now and can be built using very few people and very quickly with virtually nothing.

What impact have you seen from the events of 2020?

We’ve discussed this at great length in Business Cobra. Obviously, businesses have been affected negatively in many ways; a lot of them have lost money through the pandemic.

But we’ve also seen a lot of people taking a close look at their businesses from top to bottom, and managing them better because there are things they had allowed to carry on which they just can’t afford to tolerate anymore. There is a lot of sensible cost management happening.

It’s also stimulated a lot of innovation, people have gone into new products or found new markets for existing products or started doing their marketing differently.

"Companies are very lean now and can be built using very few people and very quickly with virtually nothing."

Antony Fanshawe

What principles govern your guidance in life?

You’ve got to retain a sense of humour; you’ve got to laugh. Don't get too upset about anything, because nothing much matters. Keep going and you will be rewarded.