Buying Into a Vision

Stibnite Office Furniture has been an institution in Coffs Harbour for a quarter of a century, but three short months ago new owners took the helm.  Business coach Neil McVicar and Toormina Post Office licensee and stationery supplier PT Clarke joined forces to realise their vision to create modern office and business environments on the Coffs Coast.

Only a few weeks ago the pair added stationery supplier Coffs Coast Office National to their growing empire.  Mel talked to Neil McVicar about their vision and the process of buying and growing a business.

Mel: How did a business coach find himself buying an office furniture store?

Neil: It’s really the coaching that led me to the business.  I was working with PT and we were talking about the possibility of expanding his stationery business through an acquisition.  Someone mentioned that Stibnite was for sale and we both saw the huge potential in the business.

 Mel: What is the potential that you identified?

Neil: It’s a well-known business with a solid reputation.  Stibnite has a niche, being the only provider of business office furniture that does complete office furniture fit outs, from planning right through to installation.

But the big potential is leveraging the office supplies business with the furniture business.  Our vision is to become a complete business-to-business offering with office supplies, furniture, and office machines.

So really we weren’t looking to buy the businesses; we were looking to buy the potential in the businesses.

Mel:  What due diligence did you undertake?

Neil:  We hired MJ Accountants and they liaised with Stibnite’s accountants and prepared a report.  We had a number of meetings with the owners to clarify different aspects of the business.  We got a feel for the customer base and developed a thorough understanding of what the business does – the services, products and pricing.  We looked at the outgoings and made sure we understood the cash flows.  We did fairly intensive due diligence and everything came up with ticks.

Mel:  You’re not a furniture man Neil.  Has that been a disadvantage now that you’re running the store?

Neil:  Not really.  As part of the acquisition we retained John, who has been with Stibnite for six years.  We’ve also got Alecia and Gyan on the stationery side of things and they’ve got a huge amount of experience.

And one of the first things I’ve done is to document processes so everyone understands how things are done.  And on top of that I’ve been working 7 days a week to get my product knowledge up to speed.

Mel:  Now that you’re in the business, have you started to make some of the changes you had envisioned?

Neil:  We don’t want to rush it.  We really want to spend some time in the business before we start to change things. We’ve been focusing on managing the cash flow and getting benchmarks in place.

Mel:  You’ve already got your hands full with Stibnite.  Why purchase Office National as well?

Neil:  When Coffs Coast Office National came onto the market recently we could immediately see the fit with our vision. You’ve got to act when opportunities present themselves.

Mel:  Putting your coaching hat back on for a minute, what advice would you give to someone else looking to buy a business?

Neil:  Don’t buy a business just because it makes money.  Buy a business because it suits where you are in your life at the time.  Have a vision for the business for a period of time that’s relevant to you.  Then do the hard yards of due diligence, planning and goal setting.  Make sure you understand whether the business can deliver your vision.

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