Our popular Meet the client series reveals the inside story on the companies we support with legal services. We caught up with Taliesen Hollywood, director of Hahnbeck, a specialist M&A consultancy, that’s changing the way small companies are bought and sold, with high service levels and low fees.
Name and job title
Taliesen Hollywood, Director, Hahnbeck
What is it your company does?
Hahnbeck is an M&A consultancy. We help business owners to sell their businesses, or to acquire other businesses. We operate differently to business brokers in that our fees are substantially lower and our standards of service substantially higher due to our consultancy model, much like Harper James! By operating on a distributed basis, with no office overheads, we are able to charge industry-leading low fees, while ensuring high quality work and attention to detail by having only experienced M&A professionals on board.
Who do you work with?
We specialise in e-commerce and technology. The majority of our clients are Amazon FBA sellers, and we have specialist knowledge in this area (we understand their systems and the drivers of their businesses, we can use their software and we know all of the key buyers in this space). We also have clients in the technology and technology consulting sectors, and occasionally we work with clients in sectors that are adjacent to e-commerce, such as 3PL warehousing businesses for example. Our clients tend to be in the £1m to £20m enterprise value range, although we have several who are larger than this. Around half of our clients are UK-based while the rest are in the US and the EU.
How long have you been in business and how has your business grown?
Hahnbeck started as an educational site originally, providing information and resources to help people to avoid the shadier practices of business brokers and successfully sell (or buy) businesses without the need to use them. In e-commerce, brokers had better reputations, but were extremely expensive. In other fields, brokers tended to be sharks. Corporate finance and investment banking firms existed but were perceived as being too expensive. We were providing resources to help business owners navigate this. People would ask us for advice and guidance, so we started providing consultancy on elements of the process. Eventually we realised that what people really wanted, instead of education to help them avoid using a business broker who would charge too much and not do a very good job, was actually just to have access a corporate finance firm who would provide an institutional-calibre service, but for a more reasonable price. So, in 2019, we decided to serve this need instead, and we converted to a full-service corporate finance firm (brokerage). Since then we’ve grown quickly and within e-commerce, we’ve become the leading firm in the UK and one of the leaders in all of Europe.
What have been the biggest recent challenges you have faced and how did you overcome them?
The coronavirus pandemic has been a challenge for us and our clients, as it has been for many businesses across the UK. Merger and acquisition activity fell 99% in April 2020 as the pandemic took hold. The coronavirus had much more important consequences for many people than the mere impact on business of course, and it was a timely reminder that there are more important things in life. But in business terms, it basically put the M&A market on hold. Thankfully for most of our clients (who are e-commerce businesses), business continued as normal and in most cases even accelerated in 2020. From mid-2020 onwards, the e-commerce M&A market expanded rapidly, and the most difficult challenge since then has been recruitment. Despite the difficulties of hiring during COVID we’ve found some great people and 2021 is looking much better.
What are your hopes/goals for the next 1-3 years?
Hahnbeck is already the leading brokerage in the UK and Europe for Amazon FBA businesses. We would like Hahnbeck to become the first name people think of in e-commerce acquisitions more broadly (not just Amazon FBA). Our core clientele is within the £1m to £20m range, but we are working with many clients larger than this and we hope to close our first $100m deal in 2021.
What has it been like to work with Harper James?
It’s been great to work with Harper James. Their business model is not unlike our own, with highly qualified people working on a distributed basis rather than all in one office, disrupting the normal business model and charging slightly lower fees. We’ve built relationships with several of the lawyers in the firm and we can rely on them for advice at short notice. The model works well.
How has working with Harper James benefited your business?
We’ve received some great support and advice already and we know that when we need something in future Harper James will be able to provide it.