JacTravel’s former chief executive has offered advice to travel businesses looking to secure investment, urging them to have a strong team in place, and to ensure their company has a “point of difference”.
In an interview with Deborah Potts, summit advisory director and Elman Wall’s head of marketing and communications, Terry Williamson explained the process behind the £200 million sale of JacTravel to Webjet in August this year.
He said the company had not been looking to sell, as it was only part-way into his five-year business plan, but he admitted that the “price was right, so we went ahead”.
“We had had investment [from Vitruivan Partners] in 2014 and I still had plans for the company... I never formally put the business up for sale but there were approaches made.
“We had a five-year plan to grow the business and we were only two years into that plan. We hadn’t yet realised all the benefits of it. [But] the price was right”.
Williamson, who previously held roles as managing director of UK tour operations at Thomas Cook and chief executive at Cosmos Holidays, highlighted differences between selling businesses to those in the trade compared with private equity buyers.
“You hope the trade buyer understands your business. But with private equity you’re selling to financial people – they really don’t understand your business. You get asked the same question by 20 different people. You want to tell them to go away and learn about your business and then come back!”
He added that going through due diligence was “tough”, generally lasting three months, although he warned it could take longer.
“It’s really good to have a corporate finance advisor. There will be a lot of people that have set up their own business and will have enormous emotion involved [in selling it] – you need good advisors to bring you back from the emotion.
“You have to have a strong team too. It’s not just about you. It’s a really intense process and you still have to do the day job as well, and run the business,” he said.
Williamson’s key advice for those wanting to sell was “preparation”.
“It’s really important. Your financials need to be in the black. And you need a plan on where you want to take the business – they want to hear the story of your business.
“And they always ask one question – what’s your point of difference?”