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How a Cambridge NZ Couple Successfully Sold Their Business

I had the pleasure of talking with Toni and Keith Paton last week who successfully sold their business last year and have been enjoying retirement ever since.

They had just returned from a motorhome trip around NZ and were excited to share their experience in selling the business.

A key insight from this is that while Toni and Keith ran a successful business, it wasn't as prepared for sale as they initially believed.

What started as a plan to sell the business turned into a succession planning programme with a staff member buying the business a year later.

Here's their story.

An interview with Keith and Toni Paton

Why did you start the business?

“We started our business in 1992, inspired by a desire for change and to work for ourselves. Keith was working in a joinery business at the time and saw a growing opportunity in manufacturing beautiful kitchens.”

Was it an easy 30 years and what challenges did you face?

“We were lucky enough to enjoy 20 years of growth, and yes -- plenty of growing pains along the way.

Life wasn't easy all the time however, we were enjoying it immensely even though there seemed to be a myriad of challenges somedays. We built up a loyal clientele over the years and had some great clients.”

Keith started his joinery career in 1977 before opening his own business in 1992.
Keith started his joinery career in 1977 before opening his own business in 1992.

What made you want to sell the business?

“During Covid, we both started feeling the need to take a step back. Keith felt burnout and we knew it was close to the right time to retire. The thought of spending more time with our grandkids and family was very appealing. ”

Did you list the business straight away?

“We just assumed we would just sell the business as it was however thankfully a close family friend informed us this was not the right strategy and we should definitely talk with someone first. He recommended BSP Advisory Group and the local guy in our area is Phil Wicks.

After meeting with Phil over coffee, it quickly became apparent that we needed to make some improvements to enhance the appeal of our business and Phil pointed out that staying on a bit longer in the business would be beneficial long term.”

What changed in the business?

“Phil advised us on establishing essential systems, from workshop efficiency to financial monitoring, ensuring we had everything in place for a potential buyer.

Phil also discussed the opportunity of succession planning and identifying people within the business that may be interested in buying. After speaking to our team and telling them of our plans we learned that one of our joiners; Jamie, was interested in buying the business.”

Jamie Harding, award winning joiner and new owner of Keith Paton Joinery.
Jamie Harding, award winning joiner and new owner of Keith Paton Joinery.

Had you considered succession planning before?

“Yes we had heard of it and what we had heard was true. Selling your business to someone already in the business has some advantages and Phil played a pivotal role in the whole process including working with Jamie to ensure everybody got a fair deal. I would recommend working with a professional if you plan on doing this.”

How was your experience?

“What made Phil stand out was not just his expertise but his genuine investment in us and our business. His commitment went beyond just business transactions. He became a mentor, regularly tracking our progress, offering invaluable advice and being the supportive outside party we could turn to.”

Any advice for someone considering selling their business?

“Yes. Speak with a professional, make sure you get good information first and establish that the person has a good track record.

Fortunately we were introduced to Phil and went down the succession planning route. It turned out that was the best advice ever and 1 year later we sold the business and everybody was delighted with the outcome including Jamie.

Thank you, Phil, for being such an integral part of our journey. ”

It was lovely to talk with these two legends and the smiles say it all.

This is a great story and one that unfortunately many business owners don't get to experience as they rush into selling and potentially run the risk of exploring the options throughly first.

At BSP Advisory Group we have advisors throughout the country and as shown in the story above, the time to starting planning to sell your business is yesterday.

Contact us to have an initial chat here.