Why You Can’t Miss This Year’s BTF Vancouver Conference
September 7, 2021 | Bonnie Elgie
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After taking a bit of a break over the summer, we are resuming our bi-weekly publishing schedule and are kicking this issue off with an interview with our BTF Vancouver Chair, Axel Christiansen who is the Managing Director with Baker Tilly Canada Corporate Finance.
A CFA charter member, Axel has more than 25 years of mergers and acquisitions, as well as corporate finance experience. With a career focused on serving small- to mid-sized B.C. companies across a wide range of industries, he’s routinely sought out by entrepreneurs who want to successfully transition their businesses.
We recently invited him to share his thoughts on emerging industry trends and why entrepreneurs will realize great value from attending BTF. In this interview, Axel shares:
the importance of understanding the pandemic’s impact on valuations
key M & A trends
the value of hearing other entrepreneur’s experiences
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Q: What is the value for entrepreneurs to attend the Business Transitions Forum?
The vast majority of entrepreneurs looking to transition their business have never gone through the process before. They are very adept and comfortable in running their respective companies, but when it comes to transitioning, they don't really know what to do. What are the issues? What where should they be focusing? What sort of advisors do they need? BTF brings all of that expertise together in one place. There are high quality entrepreneurs who have already gone through the process and can share their experiences. The concentration of advisors, contacts and information in one place makes it the best conference of its kind in the country.
Q: What can people expect from this year’s program? How will it reflect the changes we are seeing in business as we emerge from the impacts of the pandemic?
Transitioning your business is a complex enough process and now there's this overlay of highly unusual market forces that have impacted companies in different ways. For example, how do you overlay the impact of COVID when you are valuing a company which has either been significantly challenged or benefitted greatly by the pandemic? That will be a unique conversation. What are some of the new diligence things that people are seeing as a result of the broader economic conditions? The landscape right now is incredibly busy. Merger and acquisition activity was down 80% at certain points last year, but it's completely the opposite now. Understanding that market dynamic is critical when entrepreneurs are trying to decide if this is the right time to sell.
As entrepreneurs ourselves, we get what it means to be a business owner. We have decades of experience at the top accounting firms in the world. Reach out to have us on your team and take your deal to the next level.
Q: Looking at the various program sessions, there promises to be some great conversations about preparing to transition and what buyers are looking for. What can entrepreneurs do to start to get their company ready, even if they're not planning to transition in the immediate future?
I often recommend to people come to the conference, even if selling is a glimmer in your eye at this point. There is so much information that you can start implementing in your business that will help you when you actually do come to transact. And the content is so dense, many entrepreneurs choose to come several times. They will also really benefit from the networking opportunities and the advisors they will meet. BTF is the biggest conference of its type in Canada and is exceptionally well attended both by the people that come out and the presenters.
Q: Can you tell us what you are seeing in terms of key trends in your work at Baker Tilly Canada?
There is a massive turnaround from 2020 when nobody really had the bandwidth to think about M & A. Everybody was either putting out fires in their business, or they were tremendously busy and pursuing the growth that COVID was providing to their business. Now it's completely flipped. Money is back in the market; buyers are chasing transactions and we're seeing really good valuation multiples.
There are a lot of sellers who looking at transitioning now. If they've done well through COVID, they're seeing that the market is really hot. Baby Boomers continue to age and that demographic increasingly has urgency to transact. These factors are creating a lot of deal flow.
Q: Are there certain industry sectors where the bulk of the activity is happening?
It isn’t as much by industry sector as divided by companies that did really well through COVID or that continue to operate at a stable level versus those that underperformed. There’s been a flight to quality on behalf of the purchasers and the money is tending to gravitate to the companies that have done well over the past 18 months or were stable through that environment. The companies that are fortunate enough to have performed well by being in the right industry or by doing a good job of managing through this very challenging time are getting disproportionate interest.
Q: You’ve gone through your own change this year with your company joining Baker Tilly Canada.
That's right. My former company Renaissance Mergers and Acquisitions joined Baker Tilly Canada about four months ago. Baker Tilly is 10th largest accounting firm in the world with 53 offices and 1500 employees in Canada. There is a massive network for us to tap into on behalf of our clients and of course, a broad pipeline of potential business for us as well. It's been a nice level of progress.