Phil Hunt

A lack of confidence often stops dealmakers from making progress, but if you can overcome it, the sky’s the limit as business owner Phil Hunt has found.

From HR Director To Hairdressing Salon Owner

The threat of redundancy spurred HR Director, Phil Hunt, to investigate ways to secure his financial future.

Phil ran his management consultancies in the past. But after going through a divorce, he’d gone back into full-time employment.

Seven years later, he was faced with the possibility of losing his job.

“I felt I was probably going to be made redundant due to all that was happening in the organisation I worked for. So, I started putting my CV out there, and soon realised that I was a bit old. I wasn’t getting any bites on my CV despite having a lot of experience.”

“I thought it was another risk I needed to manage. I couldn’t risk not having an income. So, I needed to find a way to manage that.”

His search led him to YouTube videos of the Dealmaker’s Academy.

“When I first watched the Dealmaker’s Academy’s videos, I thought it all sounded too good to be true. But I was intrigued. All the things Jonathan said kind of checked out when I did a bit of research. He talked about things like different methods of funding and deal structures. I thought, ‘This is worth exploring.’”

And so, Phil joined the Mergers and Acquisitions FastTrack programme at the Dealmaker’s Academy. He sat in for monthly group calls, but it was about eight months later that he took a concerted action.

“All the things we talked about made sense, but I realised after about eight months that I hadn’t
really done anything. I’d sent out a few inquiries, but it was in small numbers. I got nowhere, and I was a bit depressed.”

Phil admits he’d stymied his progress. “I realised that I’d spent the first eight months trying to almost not send the letters out. I was thinking, ‘That word won’t be right. Have I gotten the right address? What if the person doesn’t like to be addressed like that? What if they don’t like what I have written? They’re not going to reply.’”

He realised that he was overthinking and getting in his way.

It was then that he heard a Dealmaker’s Academy podcast with a member, Darren Jacobs, where they discussed buying hair salon businesses, and everything changed.

“I think the light bulb moment was hearing Darren Jacobs talk about his hair salon businesses. He’d just gone for it. He was looking for a salon for his daughter. I thought, ‘I know nothing about that, but neither did he,’ which made me think, ‘Just go out there, and do it. What on earth have you got to lose?’”

With newfound resolve, he began by sending several hundred enquiry letters to hair salon owners.

“I’m sure that the letters weren’t perfect, but the phone calls started coming in. It was incredible because I’d wondered if it would work. It did.”

The first few conversations led nowhere; Phil treated them as a learning exercise.

“The first couple of conversations were just dire. I think I said the wrong things; they asked the wrong questions. But quickly enough, you learn and move on.”

He refined his approach and began to ask more sector-specific questions. And after about half a dozen calls with salon owners, Phil got lucky

“One just landed. It was quite spooky how all the stars aligned. It was clear from the outset that this one was going to happen very quickly. The person I spoke with wanted to spend more time with her husband, who had retired five years ago.

“I think it was on the first week of November that we had our conversation, and the lease on the building was running out on Christmas Eve.”

“Although she had been talking to somebody who wanted to buy her business, she didn’t want to sell it to him. She didn’t want her team to be made redundant. Her motivation was to sell to someone she trusted and, more importantly, to keep the salon going.”

After the initial conversation, Phil visited the salon, “I thought, ‘I really need to see the place.’ I’m not sure I did, but I went and did it anyway. The owner said she didn’t want to sell to the other guy. She decided that I was the right person to buy her salon.”

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This proved that what he had learnt really worked. “Jonathan claimed that success as a dealmaker was all about building a relationship with the vendor. They need to trust you, and you need to trust them. If you can’t build that trust, the deal won’t happen. But if you can, the vendors will find a way to make the deal happen.”

The salon owner’s husband was at that initial meeting. Although his wife ran the business as a sole trader, he was involved as well.

“We hadn’t discussed the financial side of things on the phone, so the three of us had a conversation there in the salon, and I asked, ‘What’s it worth?’

“He said, ‘Oh, we don’t want any money for it.’”

“I did a double-take and asked, ‘What do you mean?’”

The pair, it turned out, just wanted to be paid for the salon’s fixtures and fittings.

“I had to try and control my face. Here was a deal that had landed in my lap that would happen in about four weeks, and I was going to have to pay very little money for the business.”

The asset purchase was completed with the help of Phil’s lawyer. The vendors, keen on saving money on legal fees, were advised by a friend
who happened to be a lawyer.

“They didn’t want to spend any money on hiring someone else. I used a lawyer to take care of the lease with the landlord. It was a pretty straightforward process, and it happened smoothly.

“I was introduced to the landlord by the vendor, and we had a conversation about what I was after. The salon is in a shopping centre owned by
a chap who’s 94 years old. He has a team that takes care of the details for him. I said, ‘I’d like this kind of lease, please.’”

The landlord’s team checked if Phil was happy to keep the existing terms, and the lease was extended.

The whole salon deal, from the initial meeting to the completion, took about five weeks.

And in that time, a second salon owner reached out to discuss the sale of her business. Even she was eager to sell, as she wanted to spend more time with her husband, who was working in the North of England.

“She was keen on ensuring that the business went to somebody who would keep it going the same way.”

“This was trickier, and it took a little while to finally land, as the owner was really involved in the business. Also, she wanted a lot more money for
her salon.

“One of her first questions was, ‘Are you going to change the name?’ to which I said, ‘It doesn’t really bother me at the moment. Its reputation has been built on you and the name and location it’s in. So, I’ve no need to change that straight away.’ Who knows if it’ll happen in the fullness of time? But that was kind of a deal-breaker for her.”

This deal involved a share purchase rather than an asset purchase. Phil used the funding techniques he had learnt from the Dealmaker’s Academy to complete the acquisition. He bought the limited company using government funding that covered the initial consideration and agreed to an 18-month deferred payment plan for the additional consideration. In short, he didn’t use any of his own money.

“I’d been considering finding an angel investor or talking to a bank, when Jonathan said, ‘You don’t need to do that. There are other sources of funding.’ It just made me double down and have another look.”

Phil was able to then guide the owner through the deal.

“She didn’t know how to sell a company at all. I guided her through the process of what would happen and what she needed to do. She didn’t believe me when I said we could use the loan she had taken out as part of the initial consideration. I said, ‘Go and talk to your accountant.’”

“It worked, and she was very grateful for that. We built up a great level of trust.”

He is now working towards his goal of owning six or seven salons.

“When I get my third salon, I will employ an MD to run the business for me. I should be able to afford it at that point. The intention is to get six or seven salons and then perhaps enter a different sector.”

The profit margin in the existing sector is between 10 and 15%. Phil expects to make a net profit between £175,000 and £220,000 in a year from the two salons he now owns.

He admits he would have been closer to achieving his goal of owning half a dozen businesses if he had been more confident in the beginning.

“When I started, I was looking at buying campsites. I spoke to about half a dozen of them
after sending out around 75 letters, but it was very half-hearted. That was what was making it not happen; I wasn’t fully engaging with it. I wasn’t doing what I knew I needed to do.”

Now, he is contemplating running groups of businesses in about four different sectors.

“When I decided to start with the hair and beauty side of things, I mapped out a plan to be involved in four or five different sectors. Each group would manage six or seven small companies.

“I’m still investigating and contemplating what the overall long-term plan might look like.”

“I’ve got three daughters and two stepsons, and one of the things I was thinking was that I could retire and give the groups to them to manage as a legacy. Who knows? It’s still up in the air.”

Phil, who still works full-time as an HR Director, admits that he’s in a far better position now than he was before taking part in the Dealmaker’s Academy programme.

“My journey started with the idea that I was going to be made redundant, and that I’d struggle to get another job. It just made me think I needed to take control. “Had I not done the course, I perhaps would have become an independent management consultant again, but that’s no more secure than being employed. In fact, it’s probably less secure than being employed. So, I would have struggled, I think.”

The programme gave him the knowledge, practical tools, and confidence he needed to take control of his future, he says.

“It’s the tools, techniques, the unlocking of the confidence, the networking, and the knowledge that you gain that makes it absolutely priceless.”

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