It's business time again

CECILE MEIER
Last updated 05:00 12/07/2014

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Small Business

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Business brokers say they have seen a significant increase in the number of businesses sold this year, with bigger businesses going to the market.

Brokers and an independent expert put the trend down to the rebuild, good economic news, a booming agricultural sector, baby boomers retiring and expat Kiwis returning.

One well-known family business that changed hands this week is Dunkleys Shows.

Fiona and Kim Dunkley say it was the right time to sell the 32-year-old nationwide business that has run The Great NZ Craft Show, the Pet Expo, and previously Gardenz.

"We need a change of direction," the Dunkleys say.

Fiona started the business at age 23 in 1983 with her older brother Rob when she returned from the United States where she saw the expo concept flourish.

Dunkleys Shows expanded to include the whole family - the parents and the other brothers.

Even though it's time to move on for the Dunkleys, letting a 32-year enterprise go is not easy.

"We've lived and breathed and even dreamed about the business."

"We've been to exhibitors' funerals, wedding, seen their kids grow up," she says.

But knowing that the new buyer will keep running the shows brings comfort. Fiona might even keep a mentoring role in the business.

University of Canterbury business management adviser Tony Mortensen says the quakes drew a line in the sand for many Canterbury businesses.

Many moved into emergency mode for 12 to 24 months and owners are now at the point where they have to decide whether they have the energy to commit to a new, challenging business environment.

"Some obviously noted this as an opportunity to make hay while the sun was shining, taking advantage of new market opportunities, while others also felt that the market was prime for the sale of such businesses.

The exit of some business owners could mean the local economy would lose people with intuitive knowledge of their field, he said. But new owners brough fresh energy and drive.

Knight Frank business brokers Charles Deans and Colin Askin say they have never seen so much activity in Canterbury's market place.

The post-quake environment has meant delays, a shortage of space, inflated prices and insurance issues, but things are starting to go faster now.

And with the right combination of baby boomers looking to sell their business and people in their 40s or early 50s wanting to exit the corporate world, the market is looking good, Deans says.

NAI Harcourts business brokers team manager David Wells agrees. He says he's seen an upturn in the last 12 to 18 months. A lot of cafes, restaurants, takeaways, and engineering companies are changing hands at the moment, he says.

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Some sell and buy a new business right away.

Lindsay Winchester is one of those. He traded gumboots and shorts for black shoes and a city life this year. He sold his chicken farm on the outskirts of Christchurch at the end of last year and bought Copy Land on Riccarton Rd in May this year.

"We had thought about the change for some time and the market was finally right for us to sell with lots of interest in farms," he says.

Winchester and his wife went from operating a farm with over 73,000 chickens to checking the latest printing technology.

"After 16 years, it was time for a change," he says.

He says he's always had an interest in the printing industry. He likes the technology behind it - and the office is warmer than the farm.

Copy Land, a medium-size business with six staff, had a good, manageable size for him and his wife.

The premises are not particularly big, but Winchester would like to upgrade the technology. He says it is a good time to work in the city.

"Christchurch has a bright future ahead of itself."

Tabak Business Sales partner Damien Fahey says a growing number of business owners want to understand the value of their business so they can make decisions around their future.

He says he hasn't seen an increase in sales yet, but larger, more profitable businesses are coming on to the market. He reckons it's going to kick on strongly over the next 12 to 24 months when more buyers come back to the market.

Middle to senior management working at Cera, EQC, or Fletcher EQR, might be looking for six figures income when their job with these organisations come to an end, Fahey says.

"Probably the only way they'll get it is by buying a solid business."

- The Press

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