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When it’s time for entrepreneurs to say goodbye to the business

/ 05:01 AM March 26, 2018

Link leaders Efren Pascual (left) and Aaron Toresen

Sometimes, when an entrepreneur reaches the end of the line—whether due to retirement, lack of funds, shift in focus or dispute with partners—selling out is the only option left.

But there are many businesses for sale that are just too small for investment bankers to be interested in.

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This is where Link, the world’s biggest business brokerage firm, comes in.

Founded in New Zealand in 1996, Link has expanded to Australia, South Africa and the United States and is now setting up operations in the Philippines, its springboard to the rest of Asia.

“It’s badly needed here, this kind of service. Imagine if one person gets a call from the doctor and the call isn’t very nice and if you have a few months to live and you don’t have a successor—what will you do? Imagine a husband and wife quarrelling (over the business), what will you do? What if it’s only P12 million? What if it’s only P1 million?” Link Philippines chief executive officer Efren Pascual said in an interview with the Inquirer during the launch of the brokerage business.

“We’re here to help people get out of business, for whatever reason,” he added.

Pascual can speak from experience. He is the first Filipino business migrant to New Zealand in 2002. He sold his first business in Auckland through Link in 2007 and joined the firm in 2010, and has established himself as a seasoned business broker since then. His family is still based in New Zealand and so with his new role as head of the Philippine unit, he goes back every quarter to visit his family.

“For a long time, the Philippines has been among the top places to invest in,” said Auckland-based Aaron Toresen, managing director of Link, when asked why his company was setting up shop in the country. “Even though there are issues, the fact remains that it’s an amazing place to do business.”

Apart from the country’s sound macroeconomic fundamentals, Toresen said Filipinos were entrepreneurial in spirit and were an English-speaking people.

“It’s the doorway in Asia for us, and I have a very good partner in Efren (Pascual). It’s a perfect opportunity to come to Asia. The opportunities are huge,” he added.

Link seeks to professionalize business brokering in the country, citing “integrity, honesty, uncompromising quality and passion for bringing businesses and buyers together” as the key values driving the business. A strong focus on workplace training and rigid quality control have established Link as an international authority on selling businesses, Link’s statement said.

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“These are exciting times,” Pascual said.

As part of its business proposition, Pascual said Link could help people sell their business even if the business had not been there for a long time, even if it’s losing money, even if the bookkeeping was bad or even if the sellers do not have majority control.

While Link has the capacity to handle businesses worth over P1 billion, it can also cover those that are as small as P500,000.

Since opening its first office in Ortigas Center in April 2017, Link has listed over a hundred businesses for sale from diverse industries such as retail, information technology, education, food and entertainment.

It’s also possible to sell a franchise of the business through Link.

Manuel Enrique Zalamea, CEO of elarzlechon.com—which sells lechon and also builds mobile apps for various groups in exchange for online advertising space for lechon—has tapped Link for this purpose.

“What we’re doing is trying to expand all over. We have a program for international franchise, where you can order there (overseas) and deliver lechon in the Philippines,” said Zalamea, who was one of the guests during the recent grand launching of Link.

“These guys want to sell through us and not investment banks because they find us more relevant,” Pascual said.

“We match businesses with buyers. That’s what we do. We do opinion of value, as we call it. In fact, we believe that we are in a better place to put value to the business because we talk to business sellers and buyers every day. We know the market versus a valuer who has not really done business brokering. We know the beat of the market. We know what’s hot and we know what sells, so we put more value on that business,” Pascual said.

In cases where the business has poor bookkeeping, Link can help normalize the accounts.

“Some financials will have expenses that are not related to the business—personal expenses, discretionary expenses. For instance, you bought a car and put it there. We recast the financials to get the actual cash flow, and that’s what we sell: The cash flow,” he said.

After estimating the value of the business, business brokers advertise it for sale without disclosing its identity.

Confidentiality is seen paramount in the whole sale process. Business brokers handle initial buyer qualification interviews and conduct discussions and negotiations with those buyers.

They prepare and manage completion of a formal business purchase agreement, facilitate the progress of due diligence investigation and generally assist with the business sale.

Prospective buyers, meanwhile, are attracted to Link as they are looking to take over a business with an existing track record and good reputation and unlock values from it from day one.

To date, Link has about 134 brokers, mostly fully trained independent contractors and the target is to end the year with 250 to 300. Some of its brokers are ex-CEOs, ex-bankers, ex-business owners, real estate people and insurance agents.

“This is a game-changer. We’re introducing a totally different industry in the Philippines,” Pascual said, adding that Link will soon set up more offices in the country, he said.

“Time will come when we’ll always be in the news because we’ll make all those deals happen. Time will come that we’ll have thousands of businesses for sale,” Pascual added.

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