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How family firm became a world leader in its field

BCMS chief on 30 years of growing M&A consultancy

Sarah Bosley

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Sarah Bosley

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How family firm became a world leader in its field

Dave Rebbettes, one of the founders of Kingsclere company BCMS

WHEN Dave Rebbettes’ family sold their publishing firm, they had no idea where the experience would lead.

Now, nearly 30 years on, the family owns a market-leading mergers and acquisitions consultancy and employs more than 260 staff across five continents.

Born and raised in Tadley, Dave went to school in Baughurst and then undertook an engineering apprenticeship at the Atomic Weapons Establishment in Aldermaston. The highlight of his time there was making a large skeleton clock for The Queen, which is housed at Windsor Castle.

After seven years at AWE, Dave, now aged 56, joined his father’s publishing business, which they went on to sell.

“We sold the business in 1987 and then set aside a year to find something new to do, and it was within that year that we came across the concept for BCMS,” he explains.

It was the family’s negative experience of selling their own firm that sparked the idea for a new one and in 1989 Dave, his father and his brother Steve launched BCMS (business consulting and marketing services).

“When we had sold the previous company we had used a well-known corporate finance firm and they really did such a terrible job that we ended up doing everything ourselves,” he adds. “It left a bit of conviction in our minds that we could do this better and that made us think about it differently.

“Selling a business isn’t a financial problem, it’s a sales and marketing problem. You would never ask your
accountant to sell your products, so why ask them to sell your biggest asset?”

The family connection deepened when younger brother, Mark, came home from travelling and joined the firm six years later.

Now Dave’s two sons and his son-in-law, as well as Steve’s son, all work at the company.

Over the years the business has continued to grow and is now a world leader in its field, which has seen a board of directors brought in to manage the day-to-day running of things.

“When you start a company, it is quite difficult to step back and hand over the reins,” says Dave.

“But we have managed to do that. We are delighted that we have got such a great, loyal and competent board of directors.

“It is liberating for us to know we have put the business in good hands.

“It is difficult to keep a family feel about a company as it grows and we have spent a lot of time, as a family, talking to our senior managers about how we want the business managed and their thoughts are all in line with that.

“We have the professionalism of the corporations while maintaining the agility of a family firm. “I think on the whole we are hitting the mark. We are a family business that is professionally managed.”

Dave says he enjoys the variety that BCMS has brought to his working life.

“Our services are appropriate for companies in every industry you can imagine, and companies of all sizes, from half a million pound turnover to £100m turnover,” he adds. “We are dealing with people’s dreams; selling is not a budget-influenced decision.

“We work in every country, every industry, and every size. None of the companies are ever the same, even in the same industry.

The company has recently moved in to a large, new office on Kingsclere Park, having been previously scattered in a number of buildings on the estate.

“The proximity of teams now and the ability to bounce off each other has had a real impressive impact,” Dave says.

“Teamwork has improved a lot and the ability to work together is great. A nice environment is always good for morale.

“Another major benefit is that it makes a good impression when people visit our offices.

“This in turn has a very positive impact on the local area.

“We are very conscious that our staff are fantastic. You only have to spend a few hours in a team to know that what we achieve happens because of the competence and loyalty of our staff.”

Rugby legend Sir Clive Woodward officially opened the building in February, with a reception evening for staff and clients.

As well as a new home, the firm is also now looking to ‘redesign’ its product and its way of working.

“When a company is ready to sell, we will sell them, but we are now working with companies to get them ready to sell,” says Dave. “So there is a shift and that has gone down very well with our clients.

“We are continuing to work with SMEs and seriously strengthen our major transaction team to work with larger companies. We have some very big clients on the books, especially in Europe and North America.

“In countries such as China, Hong Kong and Poland, entrepreneurs are just starting to come through. What we do here is very transferrable to other countries.

“Trends often start in the UK and USA.”

The company is always keen to support good causes and so the directors formed The Poor and Needy Benefit Trust to support people in some of the world’s most deprived areas.

Its primary charitable work is on the east coast of India, where it helps to fund an orphanage and school in Kakinada.

BCMS became involved after Dave and his wife, Rachel, met a man who was helping rescue orphans from the rubbish dumps, while they were visiting the country.

“It is just shocking that it can even happen in this world,” he says. “We just started helping him fund taking some of the children in and then built a school for them.

“There are now about 300 children living there and going to the school.

“We are amazed at the generosity of our staff and it is something we are very proud of.

“The most exciting thing to see is that it is a place now filled with laughter and smiles.”

Children attending the English-speaking school are now producing the third highest exam results in the district, with pupils going on to achieve places at university thanks to the greatly improved prospects they leave with.

The trust has also provided funds to help support the construction of an orphanage in Bangalore, as well as helping establish a project in a village in northern India that aims to support villagers to develop their own farming business and create a
sustainable future.

Dave, who travels the world giving seminars, describes himself as a ‘competent sailor and an incompetent golfer’.

He lives in Basingstoke with Rachel, where he is close to his two sons, his daughter and his grandchildren.

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