Recruitment - Frequently Asked Questions

What does a recruitment company do?

A recruitment company does two things. One is to find work for members of the public, either temporary or permanent. The other is to find members of staff for companies and organisations.

Why should I choose Optima UK and not other agencies?

At Optima UK we have experienced recruitment consultants who are experts at matching the right candidate with the right job. Our consultants see their candidates through the full process meaning we can offer a more personal touch as our consultants know their candidates and understand their needs and demands. Our Consultants are also experienced in all the sectors we work in so have expert knowledge of the job roles and skills required for each position, they will also have in depth knowledge of the recruiting companies so are able to give candidates full insight into the job vacancies. At Optima UK we also have a dedicated payroll department to ensure you are correctly paid and can easily contact someone regarding your wages should you need to.

What type of vacancies do you deal with?

Optima UK have experts recruiting temporary, interim, contract and permanent positions ranging from skilled workers through to senior executives. We work across all sectors, but major in the technical, manufacturing, engineering industries and also procurement and supply chain.

Is there a fee to register with Optima UK?

No. Recruitment companies do not charge candidates any fee. They make their money from the clients that candidates are placed at whether it is a temporary or permanent placement. It is illegal for a recruitment company to charge a candidate a fee for accessing a job.

What do I need to register?

To register with Optima UK we will need you to complete a short registration form and provide some form of identification to prove you are entitled to work within the UK. If you are operating through a Limited Company we will need your Limited Company details, Incorporation Certificate and VAT Registration (if applicable).

Can I register with more than one recruitment company?

Yes. There are no laws to say you are restricted to one agency. However, it is wise to make sure you do not allow your CV to be submitted to the same employer more than once for the same job as this can make you appear desperate rather than selective. At Optima UK we are confident that we can offer a first class service so there is no need to register with more than one company.

What is temp to perm?

Temp to perm is when a worker is taken on to a permanent contract by the company they have been working on a temporary basis for.

I have applied for a job on the Optima website. What happens next?

Your application will be distributed to a dedicated recruitment consultant who will contact you to carry out a telephone interview. If successful, you will be invited into the office to register with us.

Will Optima UK send my CV to employers without contacting me?

No, we only send your CV to a client after we have spoken to you about the vacancy and received your permission to do so.

How and when will I get paid?

If you are working as a temporary contractor you will be paid every Friday, excluding Bank Holidays, each week, one week in arrears by Direct Debit into a UK bank account.

When do I have to submit my timesheet?

If you are working as a temporary contractor you will need to submit your timesheet to the business you are working at by 12pm on a Monday to allow the client to submit a full timesheet of all their temporary contractors to Optima UK.

Am I entitled to holiday pay?

You are entitled to the statutory 28 days, including bank holidays, on a pro rata basis providing you are working on a PAYE basis.

Can I work through my own Limited Company?

Yes. If you are likely to be in a temporary position for an extended period of time it may be beneficial for you to set up a limited company. More information can be found at https://www.hmrc.gov.uk/.

What are the Agency Worker Regulations?

These are regulations that came in to force in 2011. They give temporary agency workers the right to the same pay and conditions they would have received had they been employed permanently. These rights are split in to Day 1 rights and Week 12 rights. More information can be found at https://www.gov.uk/agency-workers-your-rights/overview

Training - Frequently Asked Questions

Why should I choose Optima for my training?

– We have over 30 years’ experience of delivering people performance, business impact, management, supervisory and executive training across a range of industries. – Our trainers are some of the most experienced and knowledgeable. We pride ourselves on using trainers who can demonstrate people and business impact. They are not institutionalised trainers but more senior practitioners who have made the journey of success themselves. – We understand the need for the training that we deliver and therefore focus our attention on our customers at all times, ensuring they has a rewarding and impactful learning experience.

Do I need to do any specific preparation before I attend my course?

In some cases we ask attendees to complete a short preparatory exercise before attending the course. We will notify you by email before the course begins if this is the case.

Where does the training take place?

We would normally ask the organisation requesting the training to arrange a suitable venue. If we are arranging the training the venue is determined by how many staff will be attending. We try to use central locations and accessible venues.

Is there a limit to how many members of staff from each organisation can attend the staff training?

The ideal number of delegates for each session is between 8 and 12 although sometimes we are restricted to numbers depending upon the room size.

What is the difference between Training and Development?

The basic difference between training and development is:-

Training helps to make the employee to be more effective and efficient in the present role and responsibilities of the job and fulfil the short-term needs of the company.

Development helps to improve the overall personality dimensions of an employee to take up any future assignments and better equips them to handle any critical situations and fulfil the longer-term needs of the company

Is ‘Off the Job’ Training better than ‘On the Job’ training?

It depends on personal need and circumstance, but essentially we recommend a blended training experience tailored to specific needs of the individual or teams, rather than taking a ‘one-size fits all’ approach. This ensures a much richer experience and guarantees that the training is embedded to make a lasting impact.

Consultancy - Frequently Asked Questions

Business strategy consulting is usually expensive. Are you able to help companies on a more limited budget?

We are able to set up a half day business strategy workshop for less that £1,000. As everything we do is tailored specifically to your individual situation we are able to start here and build up what we can do within a reasonable budget.

It is important to us that certain information about our company remains confidential. Are you able to guarantee this?

Once it has been decided that you will be working with Optima we can arrange for a mutual non-disclosure agreement to be signed by both parties. This protects us both from disclosure of confidential information.

I notice you only name very few clients on your website. What is the reason for this?

Most of our clients require strict confidentiality so we are unable to divulge any information about them.

Do you work with non-profit organisations?

We are happy to work with any legitimate organisation although most of our clients are small or mid-size businesses.

Do you also help clients with marketing or strategy execution or do you only focus on business planning and strategy?

We are experts in business strategy, planning, growth and exit. We can also help our clients with a wide variety of other issues. Please contact us if you wish to discuss your particular situation in confidence.

I am setting up a business and need help developing a marketing plan and researching the industry. Will you work in exchange for equity as I have limited funds?

Research for a high quality marketing plan is extensive and time consuming and as such we usually operate on a strict fee-for-service basis. However, in exceptional circumstances we will discount our fees in exchange for an equity stake or percent of sales.

Can you make an equity investment in my business or provide debt financing?

Optima is not a lender or private equity firm but we do act as a business advisor intermediary in any financial transaction. We can support your search for funding in a number of useful ways such as market research, preparation of a business plan, development of a business presentation, etc.

We also arrange introductions to qualified funding sources. All work of this nature is strictly fee-for-services without guarantee that a deal will be completed. However, we also work specifically on business sale transactions and where work is undertaken to support a business sale or purchase then we would charge fees based on part fee (on agreement) with the remainder on deal completion.

I need a business/marketing plan urgently. Are you able to help me?

We are willing to go the extra mile for our clients but the most straightforward projects can take at least 3 to 4 weeks. More involved projects can require several months to assure a high level of quality and accuracy. However, we are able to assist with a high level summary plan, but recommend to achieve appropriate impact and influence then a more thorough and robust plan is necessary.

I have been thinking about, and researching, a new business for a long time. I am looking for someone to help me sort through my ideas to form a realistic business plan however I need to do this on a limited budget. Are you able to help?

We frequently deal with clients in this situation. If you do the market research which can be very time consuming we can act as facilitators and business advisers. This keeps your expenses to a minimum and plays to our strengths.

I have developed a patented product and need help getting it to market. Would you be able to help with this?

We do not just help inventors to sell their product without asking any questions and this is not usually a successful way to work. We can help formulate a strategy first and then help with commercialisation. If you already have these things in place we can go straight to the execution phase.

I have a business plan already but I need a great presentation for investors. Do you offer this service?

We often help entrepreneurs with developing presentations. We find poorly designed and executed presentations are a major factor in failing to raise capital and as such we develop and practice concise and compelling presentations.

I am an ‘angel investor’. I have already invested in a couple of early stage companies but want to find more opportunities. Can you assist with this?

As we talk to thousands of small business owners each year we are in a good position to do this. We would need to mutually agree that Optima is a good fit then we can define search criteria and set up a Finder’s Fee arrangement plus a small monthly retainer to cover our expenses. We will carry out due diligence checks on potential companies

Buying or selling a business (Acquisition of a business)

Is a strategy essential?

Acquisitions frequently form part of a strategic expansion plan. The project to identify a suitable target at the right price and appropriate time scale is often far from easy.

The acquisition of another business can have enormous potential rewards but to establish and satisfactorily conclude the right deal takes a lot of knowledge, experience and skill. This is where Optima can smooth the path from start to finish. There are a number of key steps to a successful purchase beginning with an acquisition strategy.

What is the business search?

The approach to identifying the right target business varies from assignment to assignment and a number of avenues may be pursued at the same time. It may be that the client already has a target or targets in mind and simply wishes to use our services, for example, to make confidential approaches or to assist in the negotiation process. If, however, there are no specific targets in mind then appropriate businesses can be identified in a number of ways. In addition to our own database of businesses for acquisition or disposal, we maintain a continuously up-dated database of businesses available or sought through our network of contact with both the M & A industry and our own sector networks.

Targets may also be identified through our access to highly refined database searches or specific industry databases and, although not openly on the market, approached on a confidential basis. Advertising is also used to seek out target businesses, either through our general advertising or through specifically designed advertisements.

Whatever the appropriate approach, we will prepare an initial assessment of each target business and then make an exploratory approach to each of them.

How do the remaining processes work?

We will make the initial approach to each target business, deal with confidentiality issues and, as information is collated, assist in the evaluation of each target.

We play a full role in valuing each business and negotiating a satisfactory price. The process is moved forward to Heads of Agreement, close liaison being maintained with other legal and financial professionals through the due diligence and legal drafting processes.

Our comprehensive service takes the client from strategy and search to completion of the contract. This includes assistance with warranties and indemnities, completion accounts, publicity and all other associated issues. Our help does not stop with the contract being signed; all post-acquisition issues are properly dealt with to ensure that the acquisition is a total success.

P/E ratios, what are these and are they useful?

A purchaser of a business may be much more interested in earnings than assets as businesses are frequently sold based upon a multiple of earnings. It is in this context that one generally talks of price/earnings (P/E) multiples and ratios. This is, in fact, simply a multiple calculated by dividing the consideration for, or value of, a company by the adjusted annual profits. It can be expressed on either a pre-tax or post-tax basis. If you look at the Financial Times then the P/E ratios for quoted companies are invariably given on the post-tax basis. The pre-tax multiple is, of course, lower than the post-tax. For example, if the standard tax rate in a particular jurisdiction was 25% then a post-tax P/E of 20 would equate to a pre-tax P/E of 15. Notwithstanding the figures quoted in the FT, it is often when dealing with a private company to talk in terms of pre-tax multiples. Provided that one adjusts for the tax, then average sector P/E ratios can often be utilised in negotiating private company prices although, other than in exceptional circumstances, one would normally expect a significantly lower multiple for a private company than for a quoted company.

Whilst P/E ratios form a useful guide to the price, based on historic numbers, the prudent purchaser, whilst having regard to the history, will really only be concerned with a purchase price based on potential further earnings.

What are the tax implications of acquisition?

The purchase of a company should generally be commercially driven rather than tax driven. The objective must always be to acquire at the lowest possible price. Having said this, a keen eye on the tax situation can prove invaluable. In particular, the following are important:

– The lack of sound tax advice can often leave the potential acquirer with a tax ‘headache’ after the deal. There are so many areas in which the parties to a transaction may unwittingly leave themselves open to attack from the Inland Revenue, that clear skilled advice throughout the whole transaction is absolutely essential. – It is often the case that, by judicious but legitimate arrangement of the transaction, the tax consequences can be mitigated to the benefit of the purchaser. Indeed, it is often possible to achieve more for the vendor at less cost to the purchaser (but, of course, at some cost to the Chancellor!) such that both parties can do better. In fact, it is not uncommon for legitimate but carefully planned tax savings to be the difference between making or breaking a deal. – Optima work closely with experienced tax advisors such that any tax issues can be immediately addressed and arranged to the optimum benefit or our clients.

Why use Optima?

We have a vast network across industry sectors, corporate finance, private equity of other professional services and can guarantee using the best skills and talent available to support a transactions.

We limit the number of businesses we work with, which means that we dedicate the time and resources necessary to get you the best result.

You will always know what is happening as you will deal directly with the lead person responsible and accountable for doing the work for you.

We have a highly skilled team of professionals who provide a wide range of financial & commercial skills. Thus the expertise and experience from a great many transactions is available to ensure the success of your particular deal.

Unlike many other M & A businesses, all our advisors have undertaken significant personal business M & A transactions in their own right as business owners

What kind of businesses do you acquire?

We work with a wide range of clients, including individual entrepreneurs, partnerships LLPs’, limited or public limited companies (PLCs) in most commercial and manufacturing sectors. Generally, we receive instructions from profitable concerns with a turnover between £1m and £40m.

Our skills are also available to assist with MBI, MBO and BIMBO transactions.

What geographical area do you cover?

We represent clients from all over the UK as well as oversea. Moreover, we are more interested in your business and its industry sector than where it is located.

What about solicitors?

Your lawyer has a key role to play in the acquisition of a new business. It is therefore important that your legal representation is experienced in the M & A arena – if not, then you should be wise to seek alternative representation.

The suitability of legal representatives is a matter which we review with you at an early stage. If it is decided to seek alternative representation then this can be via your own contacts or using one of you recommended associates who have the appropriate depth of knowledge and experience to ensure that the process is run seamlessly from beginning to end.

Sale of your business

How much is my business worth?

There is always a yardstick for quoted companies, i.e. the number of shares in issue multiplied by the market price at any time. However, in practical terms the only real answer to the question is to market the company and then it is simply worth what anyone will pay for it.

Of course this doesn’t mean that there is not a large amount of science as well as a lot of imagination and flair in achieving the highest price when selling a company. The starting point is to look at all the important factors which will influence value, which may include some or all of the following:

– The underlying assets employed in the business. It is, however, naive to think that a business is simply worth the net asset value. Indeed, it is often necessary to reassess the current value of the net tangible assets – for example, freeholds are often under-valued (being included in the accounts based upon the historic cost) – The tangible net worth of a business (i.e. tangible assets less liabilities) is only one factor in the valuation. In simple terms, if a company is achieving a return significantly less than one would expect from the risks of investment in a private company then one may seek a large discount on the asset value – otherwise it may be better and safer to put the capital elsewhere. On the other hand, if the return is a lot higher than one may reasonably expect on the capital employed in the business, then it is realistic to apply a premium to the net asset value – Are there any intangible assets? These could include patents, licenses, logos or purchased goodwill for example, and may or may not be shown on the balance sheet. Such assets would need to be looked at critically but in simple terms should be able to demonstrate their inherent value relative to current or future earnings The profits of the business. The purchaser of a business may be much more interested in earnings than assets and businesses are frequently sold based upon a multiple of earnings i.e., P/E ratio – see FAQs, Section 5 – Acquisition of a business. – Purchasers will obviously be much more interested in recent earnings than those from years ago. In looking at multiples of profits, the average profit is often “weighted” towards the more recent years. They will not simply look at historic profits but should be much more interested in current and future (i.e. anticipated) earnings potential when negotiating a deal based upon a multiple of profits – Lifestyle or other adjustments. It is far from uncommon for private companies to publish profits which bear little or no relation to the underlying profitability. Private companies are frequently used as “lifestyle” businesses with substantial private expenses of the shareholders/directors being passed through the company. In addition, remuneration or pension payments may be made which place a cost on the company relative to the direct employment of the directors which is greatly in excess of the cost of replacement management if the company was sold. In seeking to obtain the best price for a company it may be necessary to adjust the underlying profits to take account of this. – Any Unique Selling Points (USPs) which may increase the value of the company. In seeking to obtain maximum value for a company, it is important to establish any USPs which may set the company apart from its competitors and thus enhance the value – What are the future prospects? The value of a company can be significantly influenced by future prospects. These may not just be the prospects of the company itself but also those of the industry/sector in which it operates and the economy as a whole – Are there any complications? To obtain the best price for a company it is often necessary to remove any possible complications. For example, the vendor may wish to retain freehold property; there may be awkward minorities, and so on. These sorts of issues need to be addressed at an early stage in the sale process – Is there any undue dependence? Undue dependence upon any one or more of a number of factors can significantly reduce the value of a company. This could be dependence on a key supplier or suppliers, undue dependence on a small number of large customers, dependence upon a limited range of products or key personnel – The quality and depth of management. This will be of key interest to a potential purchaser. If they wish the company to remain largely autonomous then it will be essential to demonstrate the appropriate structure and depth of management in order to obtain the maximum price for the company – Are there any benefits from rationalisation? Rather than looking for continuity of management, a purchaser may be looking to obtain benefits from rationalisation and this may include parting company with some or all of the existing management. Demonstrating synergy with a purchaser and benefits from rationalisation can significantly enhance the value of a company – How heavily borrowed is the business? The borrowings of a company can significantly affect the value. For example, in theory a company with £2m of assets and £1m of bank debt has the same net assets as a company of £1m of assets and no borrowings – it is easy to see that a purchaser may find the latter company more attractive in spite of the theoretically identical net asset base

The above is a long answer to the “simple”, six-word question but is far from exhaustive. There are many more factors which can affect a company’s worth, for example, the current or future competition within a market, the size of the company, how diversified the business is, and so on. The lesson is clear, however, and that is simply that the very best professional advice must be obtained to maximise your selling price.

We will provide a clear indication of value at an early stage. It is important that this should be an internal target which is not disclosed to any potential purchaser otherwise this sets a price ceiling in the negotiations.

When should I sell my business?

This depends on the motive or pressure for selling all or part of the business. Quite clearly, if there is pressure to sell due to lack of retirement planning, difficulties within the company, the departure or demise of senior management, and so on, then this can have a significant downward pressure on the price. There may also be other factors:-

– business strategy – the availability of finance for expansion or acquisition – shareholder disagreement – management buy-out or buy-in opportunities – tax planning – ill health – boredom and desire for a new challenge – retirement planning

There is not necessarily an absolute ‘best’ time to sell a business, other than at the height of a ‘boom’ period perhaps. However, a business exit strategy that is well planned, rather than a disposal ‘on the hoof’ is likely to significantly increase the chance of a successful sale of the business. Part of the exit strategy is a professional valuation of the business to determine a selling price expectation. The valuation will consider the financial aspects of the business and compare it to its marketplace and its competitors as well as an analysis of off-balance sheet factors which can play a significant part in determining the value of the business. If the sale process is structured, priced accurately and managed properly then normally a suitable buyer can be found.

The sale of a business may not always be wholly price driven and may include a softer element such as employment protection or rewarding loyal staff. It is, however, essential at an early stage to identify the goals, design a strategy and plan the disposal operation.

Be prepared for the whole process to take anywhere from five to twelve months, from instruction to completion, but prevailing market and economic conditions may significantly alter the timetable.

What information needs to be provided?

It is essential to present a business in the best possible light and careful preparation is necessary to achieve the maximum price. Initially, we would require such information as your latest set of management accounts, historical statutory accounts, business plans, profit and cash flow forecasts, Memorandum and Articles of Association, shareholder agreements and company literature – we prepare a full checklist of information and documents required, for you to work with. We would then use this information as part of our pre-sales planning, in order to work with you to groom the business for sale. The grooming process can take anything from weeks to months or even years.

Should I sell to the highest bidder?

Not always! There are a number of reasons for this:

– The short-list of bidders which needs to be whittled down to a preferred bidder may contain a bidder or bidders where there is some doubt that they have the financial wherewithal to complete the transaction. In such circumstances it may be worth trading “top dollar” for certainty – The consideration frequently includes elements other than cash. The security and certainty of such other elements needs to be carefully evaluated and if, for example, a sale is a retirement matter, then it may be better to take certainty than to seek the “top brick of the chimney” by way of a contingent deal – One of the more delightful situations which Hyde Corporate Finance has come across time and time again is the “softer element” to a sale. We frequently find that a vendor has spent his/her life building up a business and therefore does not want the company to be sold simply for the highest price. This may be because he/she simply does not feel comfy passing what may be a lifetime’s work to a particular company but, more often than not, it is because the highest bidder is not perceived to be the bidder most likely to look after the loyal staff of many years standing.

Should my accountant sell the business for me?

Don’t use your accountants, unless you are fortunate enough to have unusually commercial accountants. Unless this is the case, they are unlikely to arrive at or achieve the maximum value for your business. They are steeped in theory but very few have been in the real commercial world inhabited by our team. They are used to negotiating theoretical valuations with the authorities using values based upon applying multiples to historic profits – but this is not the reality of what a potential buyer is really interested in!

Of course a potential buyer will have some regard to history but achieving the maximum price will be driven by other factors, a key issue often being the quality of the customer base. Another key factor is what the business can achieve for the purchaser under new ownership, with new investment, potential cost savings, with fresh ideas and the benefit of synergies with the new owner’s business. These are some of the key areas which will help us to work with you in order to realise the maximum price.

Is my business in a healthy financial state?

It is essential that a company has readily available assets that the business can use in its day to day operations, without which the liquidity risk is increased and financing payment of resources, employees and creditors becomes more onerous. So whilst profitability is obviously important it is essential that creditors get paid. Therefore it is critical to review stockholding, accounts receivable and accounts payable.

The Current Ratio (i.e., current assets / current liabilities) indicates how easily payments to short term creditors can be met from readily convertible assets (stocks, accounts receivable, cash). If the ratio is less than one (worsened if you exclude stockholding, either because it is not readily convertible or it is not relevant to the company – called the Quick Ratio), a problem may well already exist.

The Capital Gearing ratio (i.e., long term debt / total capital) compares the amount of owner’s equity (or capital) to borrowed funds. Understandably, a company with a high ratio is more vulnerable to a downturn in the business cycle, having to meet its interest payments out of lower sales and reduced profits, whilst also reducing dividend payments to shareholders. A low ratio is seen as a measure of financial strength and stability.

The Debt: Equity ratio (i.e., total liabilities / shareholders’ equity) indicates what proportion of equity and debt the company is using to finance its assets. Although this ratio is dependent upon the industry in which the company operates, a high debt/equity ratio usually means that the company has been aggressive in financing its growth with debt. As a general rule capital-intensive industries, e.g., car manufacturing may have a ratio above 2, whilst an SME may have a ratio of under 0.5.

Lastly, is the Interest Cover ratio (i.e. EBIT / interest charges) and it shows how easily a company can pay its interest on outstanding debt. Therefore, the lower the ‘Interest Gearing’ ratio, the more the company is burdened by debt and the interest. A ratio of 1.5 is marginal for normal trading and below 1 indicates that the company is not generating sufficient revenues to satisfy interest charges.

Coaching & Mentoring - Frequently Asked Questions

What is Growth Accelerator?

Growth Accelerator is a Government backed scheme which provides ambitious businesses with access to funding to support their ambitions. Optima Consultancy are a qualified Growth Accelerator coaching provider on both their ‘High Growth Accelerator’ and ‘Access to Finance’ scheme. This means that you can start preparing your business for funding and get our expertise part paid for.

What does Growth Accelerator do?

Growth Accelerator provides you with subsidised financial support for coaching and/or training. You will be able to benefit from the services of a professional coach and/or trainer to work with you and your organisation to develop your business strategy. It can also help you to understand how to become more attractive to potential funders. It will assist in turning your most innovative ideas into profit or providing training to develop a confident leadership team.

Am I eligible?

Your company needs to be registered in the UK and based in England with fewer than 250 employees and a turnover of less than £40 million.

What part do Optima play in this?

Optima Consultancy are a qualified Growth Accelerator Coaching provider on the Government’s ‘High Growth Accelerator’ and the ‘Access to Finance’ Scheme. Optima are NOT serial trainers or consultants. Optima’s Business Advisors have a wealth of business credentials and role model experience of developing High Growth businesses, developing and executing strategies and business plans, together with planning and completing successful Merger, Acquisitions and business exit.