Press - Articles: Case Study: IoD November 2004  

A client approached us to seek support for the transition he and his company were about to experience. The client was an operational director of a medium sized chain of public houses. The chain was about to be sold by a private equity firm and the likely choice of buyer would be one of three companies.

The client knew that his life was about to change. He was certain he needed support, but was not sure what; all he knew was that change was inevitable. He had got as far as understanding the Churchillian quote, “If he didn’t hold change by the hand, change would grab him by the throat.” Change, like death and taxes, is inevitable.

The first session enabled the client to realise that his anxieties were normal, and although some of his fears were irrational, they were nevertheless real to him. Irrespective of the nature of the fears, he had found a safe place to share them and explore them.

The client had a number of dilemmas. It was likely that whilst the best price would come from the pub chain and as a shareholder, he would benefit from the highest price, but he would lose his job. If it was sold to a large leisure group, he was concerned about being absorbed and subsumed in a large multi-national. Conversely, if it was sold to another private equity company it would be at a lower price but the chances were that he would be promoted to MD.

Through the coaching process, he was able to unravel seemingly inextricable, but connected emotions and potentially unsolvable perceived conflicts. He was able to see that he could have the best of all worlds: He could go for the maximisation in the value of his shares by going for the highest bidder, and he could use the coaching process to become strong enough to realise that he did not have to necessarily join any of the suitors; he could take the money and look for another business opportunity, and not just a job.

During the process, he had to learn how to delegate the day to day operational issues to his number two. This freed him up to experience the new challenges of high level negotiation. He learned a lot about how different organisations perceive value, and as a result, had more time to truly value himself. The successful outcome was that not only did he realise that he was a contributor to negotiating a very successful and lucrative sale, he also managed to leave on very advantageous terms and the proceeds enabled him to have a short sabbatical. The coaching process enabled him to see himself not as a future employee, not as a victim of the buyout, but as a truly successful businessman, who was now looking for his next business opportunity.

The client admitted that forcing himself to take time out to reflect on the bigger picture of what he wanted from his life, gave him an almost magical sense of what was possible, in stark contrast to his past behaviour of being trapped in the reactive state of constantly putting out fires in his operational role. The experience completely changed his view of himself, his potential and his life.

Since this article was written, the client has been asked by another private equity firm to lead a bid for another pub chain. The bid was successful and the client is now a shareholder and Managing Director of the new group.

Peter Burditt

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