November 28, 2017
This month, we had the pleasure of getting to know Samir Edwards, Managing Director of KK Fine Foods, an innovative, profitable and multi-award winning frozen food manufacturer based in Deeside, which Bluebox Corporate Finance recently had the pleasure to sell to Belgian food group Ter Beke.
1. How did you start you career with KK?
At University, I studied Chemistry and Law with the idea that I would eventually go into Law. However, after a period of time, I realised that Law was not for me and following a brief spell travelling, I then started working in the family business
I was always passionate about food and cooking and the fact that it was food manufacturing business made it very exciting to me and kept my interest.
2. What roles have you undertaken since joining KK?
Every role! I’ve worked in the factory, in the packing area, in distribution, in technical, in sales so every single role within the business, I have undertaken at some point.
That’s the best way to learn how the business operates isn’t it?
This gave me a real understanding of the business and at the end of the day, the activity is happening on the shop floor so there’s no point in me sitting in an office and not understanding how each area of the business operates. This has been key to driving the business forward I believe.
3. How has the business evolved since you joined?
When I first started we were probably only turning over a couple of million pounds, so we were very much a small, family owned business. Leyla (Samir’s Mum and Co-Owner of KK) was still doing multiple roles and wearing lots of different hats and as time went on, the business expanded and with that expansion you have to focus in specific areas of the business and break the roles up.
We then started to put a management team in place, and I think that’s the most interesting growth I’ve seen. Since then, the business dramatically grew and then become more about people. I know this is a cliché but you really do learn the importance of having well trained people within your business who are knowledgeable enough to make decisions on your behalf (however I still struggle with delegation at times!)
How many people were you when you started?
We were about 70 people onsite in the early days, but today we have between 350 and 450 as it’s very variable in terms of the peak seasons.
4. Who comes up with the ideas for the ready meals and do you ever get input into the recipe and ingredients for the dishes?
Well in the early days a lot of it was driven initially by Leyla and then I took over the sales and Product Development role so a lot of it was then led by me. Nowadays it’s very much about the chefs presenting ideas to our Head of NPD who now ensures that the products come up to the expected KK standard; I have stepped back and let them take control but I still poke my nose in though as it is hard to lose that passion for a great product!
5. With so much recent focus on organic, low GI, gluten free, vegan and generally healthier foods, have you seen a difference in food trends and what consumers want from their food in the last few years?
Absolutely, it’s been phenomenal actually! I would say that organic isn’t that relevant for us within ready meals but within fruit and vegetables (produce) it would be. In terms of gluten free, vegan and vegetarian products, this trend has been huge and in high demand. People’s eating habits have changed purely on the basis that people really want to understand what they’re eating from a health perspective. People are much more conscious of looking after their bodies and themselves. We see it on nearly every brief we get that we always need a gluten free, vegan and vegetarian product as well as the normal demand for mainstream products but this is a popular area which will continue to grow over the next few years.
6. What is it like working in a family business and how easy is it to draw the line between business and pleasure?
In the early days it was quite challenging. I came into the business with my Sister and we had to learn the boundaries of what is work and what isn’t and how you communicate with each other in both a family environment and a business environment. We now have a ‘no work’ rule outside of the office as you need to be able to have fun and relax with your family too.
7. How did you and your family come to the decision that you wanted to find a strategic partner and what were the motivations behind the exercise?
We arrived at a natural point in the business where we recognised that we needed to invest if we weren’t going to stand still. The problem with standing still is that you will probably end up going backwards and it’s our belief as entrepreneurs that you’ve got to keep investing in your business and pushing things forward.
If we wanted to go forward and expand the business it would be a very significant investment for us, in the region of £10-15million. As a privately-owned business, it would mean finding the investment ourselves and this would have taken a number of years to execute. We felt we needed to take a bigger step and bring an investor into the business to help accelerate the growth process more quickly which were our motivations behind the exercise. That is exactly what Bluebox helped us do so elegantly.
8. Britain is currently in negotiations in Brussels over Brexit, what was the biggest negotiation point when you were selling KK to Belgium based company Ter Beke and how did you work through it?
I wouldn’t say that there were any huge sticky negotiation points. Ter Beke were looking for a company that could compliment their skill set, which is automation and standard products as they didn’t have a huge product range at the time. Our business is all about innovation and a wide portfolio of products and Ter Beke loved the idea of adding our skill set to their existing business which was not necessarily a negotiation but it’s part of what attracted them to us and visa versa.
In terms of negotiations between Ter Beke and other suiters, it was very important for us that any partner had a culture perfectly aligned to ours. It was as important as price. In Ter Beke, Bluebox identified a partner that was a family business with very similar values to ourselves.
Do you think Ter Beke got a better deal with the pound being weaker against the euro?
Yes absolutely – they had been looking to invest into the UK for a number of years and in terms of timing that helped with the sale price and getting the deal completed.
9. What advice would you give someone thinking about selling their business?
Don’t take anything personally. In terms of Due Diligence, work through it as a process and don’t get emotional. It can be a very emotive time especially for entrepreneurs who have built the business up from the start.
It is also important to carry on the day job and not take eyes off the ball. Leave the experts to do the job of securing the deal with your investor and work as if it is business as usual. Nothing is guaranteed until completion day and the deal is signed!!
10. Post deal, you remain at KK as Managing Director, where do you see the company going in the future?
There is a focus on more strategic development within our current client base but I think the area that is of interest to us is expanding into Europe to create new international opportunities.
11. If you had the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently?
Coming into the family business, I had to learn in my own way without a direct mentor. I would have liked to have learnt from someone who had done it all before me as a lot of my experience came from learning the hard way. ?
Home cooked food or fast food?
Home cooked – as long as I’m not cooking! Mums Moroccan meatballs
Bucket list must?
Go scuba diving in Galapagos Islands
Favorite blue thing?
Be happy, it’s not that bad
Favorite thing about Christmas?
Wrapping presents for my daughter…..and mince pies !
“We were delighted with the services that Bluebox offered us. Bluebox’s attention to detail through their Diamond Programme ensured that we were well prepared for when the business was taken to market and that the sale process itself was managed expertly.
We challenged Bluebox with finding the right strategic buyer and thereafter negotiating a deal that met our requirements. In helping initially to identify and to secure the deal with Mountville Mills they accomplished just that. Communication throughout was excellent and professional, managing each stage of the process. I would have no hesitation in recommending Bluebox to any corporate shareholder or private business owner looking to divest their business.”
Richard Millward, Former Client
“We were delighted with the services that Bluebox offered us. Bluebox were challenged with finding us the right strategic investor and, thereafter, negotiating a deal that met our complex requirements. In identifying and securing the deal with LGC they have done exactly that. The process itself was efficient and smooth, largely due to the excellent communication from the Bluebox team, who also demonstrated excellent experience at managing a very engaging auction process. I would be delighted to recommend Bluebox to any corporate shareholder or private business owner looking to divest a business.”
Helen Dickinson, Former Client
It has been a real privilege working with the team at Bluebox over this last year or so. Bluebox’s attention to detail ensured that we were well prepared for when the business was taken to market and the sale process itself was managed expertly. Starting the process, I had no idea exactly what this would entail and the volume of work that has been produced by everyone and the result reached today is nothing short of brilliant.
Hugh Morris, Former Client
We are delighted with the services that Bluebox was able to offer. They showed an intimate knowledge of a deal cycle, managed a tight auction process and were highly communicative from the start. I would happily recommend Paul and his team to business owners contemplating a sale of their business in the next 24 months. Experience is key and this has paid off for us.
Laurence Seward, Former Client
Aligning ourselves early with Bluebox, and entrusting the team to guide us through their process proved to be a highly rewarding investment from all viewpoints. Bluebox’s support significantly enhanced both the value of our business and its ‘saleability’. I would highly recommend Bluebox to business owners contemplating an exit in the next two years. The earlier the engagement the better so far as I am concerned.
Mike Minett, Former Client
We began working with Bluebox in early 2015 through their Blue Diamond Programme, as we were contemplating an exit. We found that the process focussed our minds on the key areas of growth in the business, and prepared us well for the inevitable rigours of due diligence. During the sale process itself, the advice offered by the Bluebox team was invaluable. We found them to be helpful, straightforward and honest.
David Stokes, Former Client
When selecting our adviser, it was extremely important that they had access to international buyers and were experienced in cross-border M&A. The team at Bluebox proved to be invaluable by identifying a strategic acquirer from America who was not known to us and by negotiating an excellent deal for all parties. I was also impressed with the process management from Bluebox, which ensured that the deal was closed in a timely fashion.
Jeff Weinstein, Former Client
When I first engaged with Bluebox, I was hesitant as to the benefits of using an advisor to firstly, find a buyer for my business and secondly, to get a deal over the line. However, now that the deal has completed with KPM, I can honestly say that the finer negotiation points handled by Bluebox and their overall management of this process has been nothing short of first class. I would be delighted to recommend Bluebox’s services to any entrepreneur contemplating the sale of their business.
Bill Ballard, Former Client
Bluebox worked closely with us over the following six months and helped us to implement some key initiatives which made InferMed a more attractive acquisition target. Once we decided to sell the business, the Bluebox team were very diligent in ensuring that no stone was left unturned. They negotiated expertly on our behalf to ensure we got the best deal possible.
Alan Montgomery, Former Client
The pre-sale planning programme that we signed up for with Bluebox made us develop our strategies and focus on the bigger picture. It proved to be a very rewarding investment from all viewpoints and significantly enhanced both the value of our business and its ‘saleability’. I would highly recommend Bluebox to business owners contemplating an exit in the next two years.
Nigel Parsons, Former Client
I have experienced first hand the value that can be created through highly structured pre-sale planning. It amazes me that it is not something that everyone does. It is so disappointing to see around 90% of transactions collapse before they complete and pre-sale planning will not only enhance your price, but also significantly enhance your chance of a closed deal.
James Caan, Investor
We worked incredibly closely with our advisers who provided expert knowledge of the sale process with which we were not familiar. We were truly delighted with the results.
Marten Nielson, Former Client
We appointed advisers to manage the sales process after we had received a number of unsolicited approaches for the business. I was incredibly impressed by the immense value that could be created by expertly negotiating with a group of already interested parties.
Paul Duckworth, Former Client
I was delighted with the service that the team offered and their real attention to detail. The deal was not without its complexities and it was reassuring to have such experienced advisers assisting me throughout the negotiations.
Peter Bennett, Former Client
Truly delighted with the way my sale process was managed. The fact that the team I worked with achieved such a great multiple is testament to their experience and their ability to create some true competitive tension.
James Averdieck, Gü, Former Client
The team at Bluebox provided invaluable support in negotiating this complex transaction. Their access to international purchasers, and exceptional knowledge of cross border M&A ensured that the deal was concluded efficiently, achieving a highly successful outcome for us all.
Jon Parslow, Former Client
“We selected Bluebox after a fairly long round of evaluating potential advisors because of their scientific, yet challenging approach to maximising value. During our initial meetings they showed us how far short of “ready” we were and consequently we completed more preparation in the early stages which meant we were equipped for what was to come. We were delighted with our choice of Corporate Finance partner. I do not hesitate in recommending Bluebox for any SME to consider.”
Simon English, Former Client
Bluebox provided invaluable advice in managing the negotiations with incoming investors. Their skills in handling these discussions were evident from the outset and the vital interface that they provided between the incumbent team and the incoming investors was truly beneficial.
Henry Braham, Former Client
Bluebox have a professional, dynamic and experienced team that is greatly assisting me with my focus on my exit within the next 24 months. Their structured approach is very refreshing and their ‘Blue Diamond’ programme is adding immense value.
Matt Evans, Former Client
The team at Bluebox provided me with a seamless service from the start of the engagement until our deal was completed. Attention to detail was commendable and their understanding of corporate M&A very impressive. I could not recommend them highly enough.
Victor Lewis, Former client
Having tried to sell my business previously – and failed – I was only too aware of the importance of pre-sale planning. This is a talented team offering a service that most people find out about, but too late.
Simon Hulme, Former Client
Bluebox are a quality outfit. Their access to International acquirers and relationships with the highest quality domestic investors was impressive. My shareholders and I received excellent service from start to finish and it was refreshing to be dealing with a senior team throughout the sale exercise.
Michael Clapper, Former Client
I cannot recommend the team at Bluebox highly enough. Their expert guidance throughout the entire sale exercise resulted in my shareholders securing an excellent deal with which the entire team was delighted.
Mark Rodol, Former Client
I’m really pleased with the service Bluebox provided. The team demonstrated excellent knowledge of the process to follow and led negotiations for the hospital in a way that allowed us to ensure we received appropriate value whilst focusing on reputational risk. Communication and service were of a very high standard.
Steven Davies, Former Client
With Bluebox’s expert advice we were able to find the right buyer that will benefit our business strategically. We’re delighted with the outcome and look forward to starting our new chapter
Clive Hillier, Former Client
The advice offered by the Bluebox team throughout the process was invaluable to the shareholders. We strongly believe that participating in Bluebox’s pre-sale planning programme was a significant driver behind the success of the deal. Their project management and negotiation skills throughout the sale process itself resulted in an exceptional deal being delivered to all parties involved.
Harpal Singh, Former Client