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Plan to succeed

Anthony Adler, Managing Director of Adler Insurance Brokers Limited talks about how a detailed business plan and sound advice from Haines Watts lay the foundation for a smooth business hand-over from one generation to the next.

Q

Tell us about yourself and your business

Adler Insurance Brokers is an independent Chartered Insurance Broker that was established by my father, Andy, in 1982. It offers tailored insurance services to small and mediumsized businesses throughout the UK, and currently employs over 30 staff.


Q

Tell me about the succession process?

Andy had wanted to retire for a few years. There were three other directors in the company but it was decided that I was the most suitable person to take over as Managing Director, while he has become Chairman and is less involved in the day-to-day running of the business. The whole succession process took just over three years to complete.


Haines Watts doesn’t just look at our financials, but acts as a sounding board and an independent, third party advisor.”

Q

What were the key challenges?

We had to consider the impact on the business of the MD and Principal shareholder leaving. After all, it was his relationships with clients, insurers and suppliers that made it a success. It was important to sit down as a board and identify skills gaps and people’s strengths and weaknesses. My father has gradually delegated more duties to the other directors and I have worked more closely with him to ensure a successful phased transition. Our Haines Watts Partner, Darren Holdway, suggested that we change the structure of the business too. He made us realise we should no longer think like a small business but like a large/ medium-sized business. This involved creating a new level of middle management to allow the directors more time to concentrate on the strategic planning.


Q

What core skills did you learn from your father?

I learned the importance of building and maintaining relationships with clients and suppliers from my father. I’ve also learned to listen to people and to ask questions if I don’t understand something.


Q

What have you done to secure the business’s future?

The directors introduced a detailed business plan to give the organisation direction. My father has helped shape this plan, which has given him peace of mind that his business is in safe hands.


Q

How has your father coped with no longer being the key decision-maker?

The business plan has been the key to my father settling into his new role. He also attends monthly meetings so he can check on the performance of the business.


Q

What is your vision for the business?

The business is now at the stage where it can grow to the next level. Many of our clients are doing well and expanding, so some growth will be organic. We are also considering acquisitions. We decided to become a Chartered Insurance Broker two years ago so that we would stand out from the crowd with our professional qualifications and knowledge.


Q

How do you manage threats to your business?

While the Financial Conduct Authority states that we must have a set amount in our reserves, Adler Insurance has always allocated a larger percentage of its profits than required so we can overcome the unexpected and take advantage of any acquisition opportunities


Q

How has Haines Watts helped the business to achieve its goals?

Darren has worked with my father for the past 20 years and, together, they have seen the company grow. Haines Watts does not just look at our financials, but acts as a sounding board and an independent third party advisor.


Q

How has your business benefited from Haines Watts’ advice?

Darren played a fundamental role in putting the shareholders’ agreement in place as part of the succession plan. This contract ensures shareholders and directors know how much they need to pay the person leaving the business and avoids disputes later on.


Q

How do you expect to continue working with Haines Watts?

Darren and the team at Haines Watts will continue to work with us, but in a different capacity. As we look for acquisitions and other business opportunities, we will need an unbiased sounding board and expert advisor.


Haines Watts Partner view

Passing on a business is a personal journey. Business owners have often built it from scratch and want to be certain that the next generation will do a good job. My role has been as a trusted advisor to both Andy and Anthony during the process of succession planning. The challenges are that business owners don’t tend to delegate well and there is a threat that the next generation will underperform and undermine the family wealth, and the business owner’s legacy. It can be difficult to know if the business owner is being over-critical of their child, or if there are skill gaps – but I have identified Anthony’s strengths and how these can be developed to meet the requirements of the role. It’s not always possible in a family-run business to find someone to speak to as everyone is too close. Having a person who can be objective and one-step removed is important.

Darren HoldwayManaging Partner

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