Acumen business convention 2015

On behalf of Absolute magazine, I attended for the first time this year, the Acumen business convention organised by Penina Shepherd, founder of Acumen business law. Here’s a brief account of my afternoon.

The event sees delegates from businesses all over sussex come together at the lavish Grand Hotel Brighton for an afternoon of talks from guest speakers, workshops, networking and of course a nice bit of food and drink.

Straight away over lunch I got talking to two absolutely lovely and super interesting business people; Merete Langler of Langsand Coaching and Philip Warford, MD at Renaissance Legal.

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Photos by Sophie Sheinwald

Merete is a master coach and NLP practitioner and discussed some of her work with young adults, helping to coach them through some of life’s truly challenging choices which, often at that age, they’re required to make for the first time. I noted that at 28 years old, I’m still prone many such crises! More about Merete:

Philip operates in the legal sector but specialises in asset preservation for families and carers of disabled people. He discussed with us some of the delicate issues surrounding the nature of his business but was clearly passionate about helping his clients. This is reflected in the many hours of work he provides to charities. More about Philip and Renaissance legal here:

Afterward, Penina welcomed us all to the event and we then broke out in to workshops. Mine was based on business transfers and covered an overview of the most important aspects to bear in mind as the buyer or seller within a business transfer. The information was useful and highlighted aspects of best practice and due diligence.

We then did a brief buyer/seller team based exercise and afterward, headed back in to the main conference hall for the guest speakers.

I had some other work to attend to so only managed to catch Darren Shirlaw and Josephine Fairly.

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Photos by Sophie Sheinwald

Darren opened his talk with a somewhat acerbic, self assurance. Questioning the existence of luck as a factor of business success, he made the claim that, no… growing a business is merely a result of grasping the numbers and timing your investments.

This was backed up by some rather outstanding figures and valuations of businesses he’d worked on during his time in corporate fund management.

It was only after about ten or fifteen minutes in that Darren, founder and CEO of Shirlaws group, started to charm the audience by telling the story of two business partners that he’d helped to sell their business so they could look toward retirement. They’d had lower valuations than the type of figure they realistically wanted. But even their target sales price (900k) was a mere drop in the ocean in Darren’s eyes who proclaimed that he offered to just buy their business there and then!

In the end, after a routine set of questioning with the couple, devouring all the data, Darren agreed that if he couldn’t achieve a bid for the target sale price within a short matter of time, he’d buy the business himself.

Within a year he’d achieved a purchase that was in to the millions… He says to this day the couple regard Darren almost like a son and they’re best of friends. I’m not surprised!

Josephine Fairley is the co-founder of Green & Blacks chocolate. Because of this, as you would expect there were of course murmurs of, “where’s all the fancy chocolate then?” throughout the earlier part of the afternoon. It was only once Josephine pointed it out that most of us realised the table centrepieces were actually stocked with Green & Blacks.

Then the scoffing began!

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Photos by Sophie Sheinwald

I admit, I had to sneak out about 30 minutes in to Josephine’s talk but this was long enough to savour some of her fantastic anecdotes.

She discussed the need for businesses to underpin the quality and design of their products or services with upstanding brand values. Imparted some quality practical advice to outsource those jobs that can be executed better by someone else. Josephine also told us that whilst growing the Green & Blacks brand they didn’t once allocate any budget to direct marketing, instead relentlessly leveraging effective PR.

Here’s some of the response on twitter during the day: