• Richard Stevens, Aidan Bennett and Lester De Vere.

A chat with Lester and Richard…

ABC Business Sales duo for the North Shore

ABC Business Sales has been around for 32 years and operates nationwide. On the North Shore the business is represented by two very well-known local identities, Lester de Vere and Richard Stevens. Both were born and bred on the Shore, met at Westlake Boys High School, and more recently were on the Westlakers committee (the alumni organisation) together for 10 consecutive years. So the Shore is in their DNA. Lester, who is in his fifth year with ABC Business Sales – and has been a regular contributor to Channel Magazine for quite some time – has recently been joined by Richard, creating a dynamic duo helping North Shore business people achieve value from their businesses when it is time to exit. Channel Magazine’s Aidan Bennett caught up with them for a chat in early July. You can also view the video of this interview online (www.channelmag.co.nz).

Both Lester de Vere and Richard Stevens come from strong business backgrounds.

Lester had a professional photography business for 30 years, ending up with a base in Barry’s Point Road. He had the great privilege of photographing a good number of  families on the Shore and some have even trusted him enough to sell their businesses for them. After photography he transitioned into business broking and now is in his fifth year with ABC Business Sales. Lester says also being a landlord has had its advantages in rounding out the experience in understanding the needs of a transaction.

Richard worked in food manufacturing, ran Mövenpick Ice Cream, had a senior role at Fisher & Paykel and more recently was in the professional services sector with large advertising agencies. He says he is now taking his love of the business of businesses and moving  into next phase. (On a side-note, Richard was one of the writer’s first advertising lecturers at ATI (now AUT) back in the early '80s. So his business expertise does go back decades.)

When asked why they decided to team up in business sales, the two say they had numerous discussions over the years when working and socialising together as part of the Westlakers initiative. They always got on well and believe their different skill sets completed a good combination for all round success, for their customers and for themselves. So, when the timing was right Richard came in to join Lester at ABC.

“The benefits of the journey we’ve both walked, as business owners and directors, is that we know how to walk in the owners’ shoes,” says Lester de Vere. “We know what they are going through, and because of our past experiences, have the relationship skills to understand the other person's needs and objectives.”

The two are seeing lots of activity in the market post-COVID-19.

“There are clearly big opportunities in the market right now with lots of people looking to purchase,” explains Richard Stevens. “In fact we are in the unusual situation of demand outstripping supply. We simply don’t have enough businesses to sell.”

The two say that this makes it a perfect time to list.

“With the unsettled global situation – COVID-19, Hong Kong, BREXIT, the US politically – people are flocking back from overseas. It’s the ‘brain gain’ which is excellent for New Zealand and great for the economy as it’s keeping investment here that might normally have gone offshore.”

Another factor they point to is the historically low interest rates. Money has never been easier to get and the returns for money invested in a business will traditionally deliver around 20% – not the 2% of a bank deposit.

Lester and Richard say that the large number of COVID-induced redundancies will bring new people into the market and there will also be companies who are looking to grow through acquisition.

“To those vendors who are sitting on the fence, perhaps asking themselves if now is the right time to sell my business – the answer is a very definite yes,” adds Lester. “The future economic outlook is mixed. If you go to market now you will have a greater chance of preserving the value of your business. There are also businesses that aren’t affected in this environment – such as those with a recurring subscription-based model. There is strong interest out there for those businesses that we are seeing on a daily basis.”

So, if North Shore businesspeople are thinking of selling their businesses, how do they start the ball rolling?

“Getting the ball rolling starts with a market appraisal which is done around a board-room table with around 10 seasoned brokers reviewing the details,” explains Lester de Vere. “This is done along with using statistical data of recent sales in that business sector – to give a ‘window’ of where we see the market value being.

“Prior to that, our strengths really are on spending time with the business owner understanding who they are and how they have run their business they have owned for, in some cases, decades.

“The back story is incredibly interesting and helps us understand what a ‘right fit’ looks like from a purchaser’s point of view.”

“An example of that is a food manufacturing business that we listed earlier in the year,” says Richard Stevens. “We received 60 expressions of interest and had two full price offers just five days after listing. They tell me this is unheard of.”

Richard says the vendor has since referred them to four of his business-owner friends due to his liking for them being “straight talking guys with no corporate bull”.

“The feedback we get is that we quickly understand peoples’ businesses and what makes them tick and how we can maximise the value for those business owner’s lifetime of hard work.

As part of ABC Business Sales' network we have a backup team assisting with all aspects of the process along the way, such as marketing, legal and production requirements.”

If you are thinking of selling your business, contact the North Shore’s home-grown team – Lester de Vere or Richard Stevens – they say they’re a Shore Bet!

Lester de Vere, Phone 0274 599 773 or email: lesterd@abcbusiness.co.nz
Richard Stevens, Phone 021 375 149 or email: richards@abcbusiness.co.nz
Visit: www.abcbusiness.co.nz