How we started up: Hilton Smythe

Craig Graham - Group Operations Director, Gareth Smyth - Group Managing Director, Phil Maguire - Group Finance Director

How we started up: Hilton Smythe

Buying and selling businesses is a business in itself – so says Gareth Smyth, a co-founder of business transfer agent Hilton Smythe. He tells us about his business and why he’s proud to be a local Bolton employer.

What did you do before you started this business?

I worked for another business transfer agent, and decided to go to university to complete a law degree. In 2011, my business partner Craig and I started Hilton Smythe from a small rented office in the centre of Bolton, funded by student loans and overdrafts.

What inspired you to start up?

We felt that the world of buying and selling businesses had too many people pretending to be brokers and agents. They never really worked had for the client to sell the businesses. We wanted to be different. We cared more and wanted to change the way business brokers and agents operate, and were viewed by clients.

Tell us about your business in 100 words

Hilton Smythe was established in 2011. We help buyers and sellers of businesses throughout the UK to achieve their dreams. Having started on a shoe string from a rented office, the early days often meant my business partner and I had to sleep on the office floor, working 18-hour days to get the business off the ground. We now have our own offices and employ over 40 people.

Thankfully, we don’t sleep over at the office anymore.

How would you describe your business to your grandma?

We are an estate agent for businesses. Nobody really understands what a business broker or business transfer agent is, so it’s the simplest explanation. We help buyers find the new business that suits them, and help sellers to get a competitive price, while handing their former job over to a safe pair of hands.

Where do you get advice, support or help?

Having a good relationship with our accountants and the bank is key. I learnt so much and have made so many great connections through the Goldman Sachs ‘10,000 Small Businesses’ program, which I recommend to anyone in business looking to grow.

Finance is one of the most common barriers to starting up. How did you access the finance you needed?

Finance is only a barrier if you lack determination! In some industries, finances may be more important, but I believe anything is possible. You just need to keep hammering doors down until someone says yes and, if you’re persistent enough, they will.

What has been your biggest achievement so far?

Employing over 40 people and knowing you’re responsible for their mortgages and families. Craig and I are very pleased to have been able to create jobs in Bolton, as this has helped us to give something back to our local community.

How do you differentiate your business from others?

We have a mantra that we are upfront, honest and put our customers first; something our industry lacks. We believe in transparency and simplicity, which is why we include the sellers’ legal fees when they sell a business with us.

What’s it like to be your own boss?

It’s not for everyone, but I couldn’t work for anyone else again. Being your own boss gives you the freedom and flexibility to enjoy what you do. That said, you’ve really got to love what you do. If you do not love what your business does, being your own boss wouldn’t be all that fun.

Where do you see your business in 5 years time?

We will be the market leader in our industry. We want to dominate the small to medium business sales market as a reputable agent. We want to be the first choice for business owners or future entrepreneurs looking to buy or sell within the UK.

What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?

Nothing compares to getting out there and making it happen. I hear so many people say they are an entrepreneur, but it is becoming a bit of a corporate buzzword. Don’t be all talk and no action. Get your hands dirty and make your dreams come true.