A Management Buy-Out Case Study

The Client & Their Situation

Our client was a long-established legal company who had been in business for over 125 years.  They had a large client-base, both nationally and internationally, some of whom were internationally know brands.  The business has been family-owned and run since its inception and had a culture based on internal inter-department competition which created a ‘them and us’ atmosphere.

The then owner of the business decided that he wanted to retire and decided to give the senior member of the company the opportunity to buy the business, rather than sell it to a competitor (which would have been the only other option).

Unsurprisingly the deep divisions within the organisation made the process challenging to say the least!  A management consultant was brought in to try to bridge the gulf and put together a business plan that would enable the management ‘team’ to obtain the finance they needed to buy the business.

His specialty and, therefore, focus was very much on the financial numbers and not the basic inter-personal issues. As a result the first meeting with the bank did not go well and they did not receive the necessary funding.

The Brief

The initial brief was to work with the proposed management team to determine if there was any way to bring them together to form a team that would be (a) capable of running the business and (b) able to convince the bank to provide the funding for the buy-out.  Further to a successful MBO, we were asked to build a new brand and corporate identity based on the foundations created during the MBO Journey.

The Journey

After meeting with the people involved, we decided that a starting the strategy creation process with group workshops would not be the most productive way to obtain the information that we needed.  As a result, we ran a series of individual interviews with the key people involved with the MBO.

This enabled us to uncover a huge amount of information, both positive and negative and allowed us to understand the complex issues within the business that would have to be addresses in order to enable the management team to come together to attain the goals and aspirations they had for the business and as individuals.

We collated the information obtained from the interviews and presented the most important points to the group in a series of workshops which enabled us to develop the goals and vision for the business as well as addressing the underlying issues that would have to be addressed for the business to move forward.

After working to improve communications within the management team, we were able to working with gain an understanding their individual and joint vision and aspirations for the business.  We then helped them to develop and agreed a set goals and objectives for the business, as well as a strategic plan that would help them get from where there were to where they wanted to be.

Business Plan and Funding

A business plan was written based on the work we did with the management team and this plan was presented to the bank.  At a subsequent meeting, attended by all of the team, the funders quizzed the team on their business plan.  Unlike the first meeting when nobody showed any knowledge of the plan, this time everyone was able to answer their questions with confidently.  Not only that but they showed genuine commitment to the plan and knowledge of the issues that they needed to address in order to move the business forward.

A few days after the meeting, the bank confirmed that they would provide the funding in order to allow the MBO to go ahead.  In addition, the members of the management team invested a considerable amount of their own money in the business, something they would never have done just a few months earlier.

After the MBO

We continued to work with the management team for a number of years after the MBO, running annual strategy workshops to review progress and revise their goals and objectives.  In addition, we worked with a number of their staff, assisting with projects that were critical to their strategic plan.


As part of the business strategy the company decided that it was appropriate to re-brand the business.  The purpose of the re-branding was two-fold.  Firstly to signal to clients and the marketplace that the business had changed ownership.  Secondly, to rejuvenate a tired, outdated brand and make it more relevant to the market.

The work we did during the MBO process formed a solid foundation on which to build the new brand and also provided a good basis for the design brief.  The resulting brand identity was professional yet modern in appearance and was supported by relevant business and promotional materials.

In order to ensure that the brand was applied consistently we ran seminars to introduce the new brand and explain how it should be used.  We also created a brand guide and even modified computer systems and templates in order to ensure that all of the materials produced by the company used the correct font.


The transition to the ‘new’ company went well, retaining all of their existing clients and attracting new ones.  It continued to suffer from some internal conflicts but managed to make progress in building a more cohesive team, even attaining Investors In People accreditation.  With a little help and a lot of hard work the company successfully made the transition from a family business to a more corporate structure and went on to grow into a successful business.


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