Private Equity and Me (by Emma Banks, CEO)

Emma Banks
By Emma Banks

Our CEO Emma reflects on the private equity (PE) journey and how she found the whole experience, from the moment she heard that ramarketing Founder Raman planned to pursue PE to the day the deal was signed.

Take a peep behind the scenes and read Emma’s personal blog about how it felt to be on the receiving end of the PE announcement, to being thrown into the process and the learnings along the way.

It all started in Spring (2021)

When I found out…

You may have seen a recent article Raman wrote for Forbes Council covering key advice for anyone interested in, or considering embarking on a private equity partnership. It’s a great read – really interesting and insightful. And, as the owner of a business what a fabulous position to be in! But what’s it like as an employee…? 

I personally found the whole private equity experience exciting and full of learning and I’m as keen as Raman to share my experience and take you behind the scenes of the deal from an employee perspective.

Let’s go back to the beginning. 

It all started as a bit of a shock. The decision to pursue a private equity (PE) partnership was something Raman initially did alone (as the owner, this was entirely his prerogative), and then with support from Fiona our Non-Exec Director (NXD). When ‘we’ found out (Barry our Finance Director and me), the advisors were appointed and we were cracking on. 

It doesn’t matter where you are in your career or how senior you are – this was shocking news – not necessarily in a bad way but it was totally unexpected and it rocked my world for a minute (or two).

In reality, it took me a few days to process and work through the personal impact before I was able to get a hold of it and process the announcement. 

The May meeting

Our first meeting with the corporate advisors took place in May and it was a little frosty – I was underprepared and had no idea what was going to happen. We talked about it a lot (Raman and I as well as Fi). But eventually, after some counsel, I was ready and 100% embraced the process. 

Terrified and excited throughout, these emotions didn’t change until the deal closed. I think that was a good thing – it kept us all on our toes.

Just to add another layer of complexity to the process, we didn’t tell anyone else in the business what was going on. No one knew and that remained the case until much closer to the deal – in fact, we didn’t tell the wider team until after we had signed.

But, let me give you the punch line first – the PE experience (pre and so far post-deal) was one of the best things I’ve ever been involved in. It was bloody hard but if you thought you knew your business before, the process exposed areas we hadn’t even thought about let alone could talk confidently about. It shone a spotlight across our entire business and every process, system, and penny in it!

In those early months, we were in a bit of a daze. 

Not really sure what to expect and although we started to pull information together (financial and legal), it was the calm before the storm. 

Our eyes opened in Autumn

Our corporate advisors worked with us from September to develop the Information Memorandum (IM) and the process of seeing our business through PE eyes started.

We looked at all the elements that made us valuable (not just financially). Understanding what investors look for, and how we could demonstrate that in a way they understood. We learned a whole new language.

Where Raman and I are involved there is always a lot of laughter and we had some moments of pure comedy. Because this was happening at a time when it wasn’t that easy to travel and we were still largely working from home, at that point we had to make a video to accompany the IM, from our respective homes (my bedroom), we knew we were going to have to embrace the process, and whatever was thrown at us.

Preparing the pitch deck and the preparation to pitch was probably the thing we were most comfortable with; well, until I discovered Raman had covid and couldn’t travel to the UK for the week of pitches! 

Alarm bells rang in November!

Heading to London knowing I would be in the room with potential investors while Raman was on zoom (at 4am and with covid) did focus my mind. But we got into the swing of it – every pitch we did we got better and better. Until the fire alarm went off and we were sent out of the building to stand on the street – and the questions continued surrounded by fire engines and a few hundred other people in central London.

At this point, I had become a master of telling half-truths – the number of times we discussed how this was not in keeping with our values but understood the need to stay quiet was countless. 

The pitches continued into early December, all remote until we hit the first offer deadline. 

A data-driven December

We were happy with the options and it was left to the shareholders to decide which 2 PE teams we would proceed with and get into more detail. Up to this point it all felt quite fun – being schmoozed and in sales mode. Little did we know.

All of a sudden the requests for information started coming in thick and fast – we thought we had a lot sorted but two PE companies focusing on different things at different times and sometimes asking the same questions in different ways or the same question over and over again really stretched us. 

You know the end of this story so it all worked out but unless you’ve done this before, you have no idea what it’s going to be like. On the one hand we were being asked to do leadership team diligence, feeling like you’re being psychoanalyzed, and on the other, answering really detailed questions about a number in our accounts.

New Year, new addition

At the end of 2021, we told our Head of Commercial what was going on. After some discussion and questions plus lots of reading, Yasmin joined us on the journey. 

In Yaz’s first meetings with both PE companies in early January, she was a superstar – answering questions about our clients, how we market and sell to them and how we service, retain and grow them. 

As an aside, when we left London for the second time, I’m sure our advisors thought a bunch of children had been in the room – the sheer disruption to this very corporate office amused me greatly and reinforced to me why I love ramarketing.

By Valentines Day it was time to go exclusive

The relentlessness continued until final offers were made at the start of February. At that point we had to decide who to proceed with into ‘exclusivity’. 

We chose NorthEdge

I’m definitely not a flapper at work and Barry and I kept going through the questions, many of them at this point were financial but for the first time in a very long time, there was a point I felt totally overwhelmed. The time pressure as we approached the close, making a mistake that might change the deal, and not letting Raman down all played into it. 

Spring signing season

Late one Wednesday night, we found ourselves sitting with our lawyers in Newcastle preparing and signing documents – we signed everything in the small hours of Thursday and finally completed it around 10am. What an absolute relief but even at 3am I couldn’t sleep. Partly because we knew we were telling the company the same day but also because it felt incredible. 

We’re a big deal

The deal itself is an amazing next step for ramarketing and the team, but following some time to reflect my highlights were definitely gaining a deeper knowledge of our business, working with such a wide range of different people from corporate advisors, lawyers, accountants, and NorthEdge themselves. But perhaps the best bit for me is learning that our genuine canny nature translated into that world and we did ourselves proud. 

For this experience I am grateful, whatever the future looks like…

Reach out to
Emma to hear more about her thoughts on the PE process and how she feels now there’s some distance from deal day!

Stay tuned for our next blog that covers handling the announcement, bringing the whole company onboard, how we managed communications and what happened once the ink had dried…

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