Succession in Belgium: The Value of Intermediary Services in Successful Business Transfer

The importance of external and impartial support in ensuring successful leadership transfer cannot be understated. Experts and literature agree that without the assistance of intermediary services, companies often face unsuccessful transfers that can lead to bankruptcy or closure. Each year, approximately 150,000 SMEs in the European Union fail to transfer leadership, resulting in bankruptcy or closure. This case study focuses on Risterm, a Belgian-based SME specializing in industrial valves, and highlights the challenges faced during its leadership transfer journey. The study highlights the impact of BestValue, a consultancy specializing in mergers and acquisitions, which provided crucial assistance throughout the transfer process and argues for the vital role played by intermediary services in overcoming these challenges.

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Both literature and expert interviews suggest a link between the lack of intermediary services and challenges in succession. Emotional factors, such as attachment to the company and subjective decision-making, often hinder successful leadership transfer. Additionally, the complexity of bureaucracy and the need for specialized knowledge in finance, law, accounting, and taxation further complicate the process. However, employing impartial intermediary services can significantly increase the chances of a successful transfer. These services provide objective perspectives, offer financial and legal expertise, and help SMEs make informed decisions.

Risterm’s owner, a serial entrepreneur, approached BestValue in 2020 to facilitate the sale of the company. BestValue played a crucial role throughout the transfer process. As an “informant,” they conducted a thorough analysis of Risterm, providing the owner with valuable insights, including the company’s value estimation. BestValue also facilitated meetings between Risterm and potential buyers, acted as a negotiator and strategic advisor, and ensured clarity during the final sale agreements. Ultimately, Risterm was successfully acquired by Engie Fabricom, a major competitor, with BestValue’s support.

This case study underscores the value of intermediary services in the business transfer process. By offering external opinions, expertise, and objectivity, these services help entrepreneurs overcome barriers related to succession. They assist in choosing the best candidates, evaluate offers objectively, and provide crucial financial and legal knowledge. The involvement of intermediary services not only guarantees a successful transfer but also provides reassurance to both buyers and sellers. Moving forward, it is clear that the support of intermediary services is crucial in facilitating effective leadership transfer.