BREXIT and Donald Trump’s arrival at the White House are among the variables that businesses will face this year, but fortune will favour companies that keep up with the market leaders, according to Danny Mills, the former England footballer and businessman.
Former Leeds United player Mr Mills is a significant investor in Enact, which specialises in transforming the prospects of SMEs (small and medium sized enterprises) that have the potential to grow.
Last week, the Leeds-based Enact fund announced the sale of its first investment, the West Cornwall Pasty Co, to Samworth Brothers for an undisclosed sum.
Since Enact’s investment in 2014, the West Cornwall Pasty Co’s profits have quadrupled. Enact, which is managed by the private equity firm Endless, bought the West Cornwall Pasty Co out of administration in April 2014.
Enact helped to save around 230 jobs and increased the company’s total number of till points from 50 to 300.
Commenting on global political and economic trends, Mr Mills said: “When (Donald) Trump got in, everybody expected markets around the world to crash. And they didn’t. They actually stayed relatively stable.
“There are so many variables out there right now. Brexit has not taken effect - it’s still to come. Trump isn’t President as yet.
“Currencies have fluctuated and have caused one or two businesses some problems. The next year, there will be a lot of variables and it will be very unsettled. There will be an awful lot of turbulence. Some companies will prosper. Some may struggle.”
He added: “Everything is just up in the air. People will have to sit tight..But ultimately, if there are problems, that might be where the likes of Enact come in, and help to get people back on an even keel.”
“As a player, you run yourself as a business,’’ he said. “In all businesses, across the board, the fundamentals are pretty much the same.
“You’ve got to have a good product that’s worth selling that people want. You’ve got to market it correctly. You’ve got to keep re-developing that product.
“If you stand still, you go backwards. You’ve got to keep up with the market leaders.
“If you’re a football player, or a football club, or a Cornish pasty company, you’ve got to keep improving your product.”
Mr Mills said the West Cornwall Pasty Co was a good brand with good products that had needed refreshing.
He added: “We’ve made it look an awful lot better. The management team have worked tirelessly to make sure that the products are top quality.”
“Everybody who invests in Enact has something to offer. That gives us a knowledge base of 20 very successful people, who are generally in and around the North of England. It means that our area of expertise is far wider than who sits around this table. There is a huge satisfaction in turning around something that’s gone wrong.”
Chris Cormack, the investment director at Enact, said there were other transactions in the pipeline.
He added: “We’ve always got a steady stream of opportunities. The challenge for us, is to look through them, and understand what businesses to invest in. You’ve got to find the right opportunity.
“Often people say to me, ‘What makes a good opportunity?’
“I ask myself a very simple question, ‘Does this business have a unique selling point?’
“If it wasn’t here in a day, or a week, would people really notice?’ If you can say, ‘Yes’ to that.. you have got a good business platform to grow from.”
Endless has also announced that Endless Fund IV has acquired MTI Europe from the US-based private equity fund Garnett and Helfrich Capital.
MTI is a £70m turnover, European market-leading provider of IT storage infrastructure and security services to national and global enterprises. The acquisition price was undisclosed.
Headquartered in Godalming, Surrey and operating predominantly in the UK, Germany and France, MTI provides services including on-site and cloud-based storage, security services and infrastructure-as-a-service.
Endless was founded in 2005 and is currently deploying its fourth fund of £525m from investors in the US, UK, continental Europe and China.