Elliott Garden was snapped up by Giles in April 2008. Its former owner Kevin Elliott quit less than a year later, and is now waiting for his restrictive covenant to end before starting up a new broker in the North East

Elliott recalls his experience of selling his business and working within a consolidator in fine detail, insisting: “I had no intention of selling the business … it went on for nine months. The price involved was just too good to refuse the situation.”

The Durham broker admits the last two years have been a “nightmare” after detaching himself from the business he had been involved in since a young age.

Giles is one of a number of consolidators that has spent big in a bid to grow their respective businesses. Elliott insists that he has no hard feelings against the company itself. “I’m not criticising Giles. I wouldn’t like to be a larger broker buying businesses especially going through this last two years of recession,” he says.

Too much change

But he admits that he could not handle working within the consolidator model.

“I left in February last year. I had a contract for a year but that’s when I had to say goodbye because I could handle the changes. I could handle the change in staff, the different attitudes and the corporate mentality. I think most self-employed brokers who have gone through the route I’ve gone are in exactly the same boat.

“It was just a total change of tact. Rather than managing the people below me, when you go into a corporate you have to be more particular about managing the people above you. And that doesn’t work for me when I’ve done almost 20 years on my own.”

He continues: “When you have to see members of staff of 15 years being made redundant, when you see other members of staff being shifted around, when you see clients of 10 to 15 years jumping ship for whatever reason – in practise it’s a lot more difficult than in principle.

Regrets? I have a few

He does not think he was misled when selling the business, however. “I think they advised all the right things verbally. In practise, it never goes that way. They didn’t break any rules or agreements that I had in place and I didn’t break any of theirs. But it is a different entity all together. I think anyone selling their business is either glad to get out of it at the end, or like me, they really realise after a year that it probably was a mistake. But in setting my family and myself up for life, it was probably the best thing I ever done.”

So, does he regret selling the business? “In the price respect? No, because I’m set up for life really. On the other aspect of losing your identity, losing your connection with your team? That’s my regret.”

Elliott also makes clear that he would not be interested in selling his business in the same way again. “I liken my time of selling my business to when the estate agencies were bought by the banks. The money that the banks were paying was pretty crazy. And within a matter of years the estate agencies were all back in work because the banks couldn’t make the agencies work the way in which the principles did. And when that happened here, I knew that to get this sort of multiple on your business is never going to come back.”

Return to action

But Elliott is eager to get back to doing what he knows best and is preparing to get ready to return to action when he is completely free to do so in March 2011.

“[Selling] was too early for me. I’ve still got things to do. My decision is just to hang fire and do the covenant and then start up in a more sophisticated, better way with all my experience and expertise.

“I’m not one of these guys that tries the various ways to set up when they are on their covenant. I’ve heard of cases of that. I’ve got to reiterate that it was a fair price they paid me for my business and I’m prepared to stick to the covenant as well and not break any covenants.”

“It would be madness for me not to do my business in some shape or form within the next 10 years. I’m only 50. I’ve gone through the routine of building a business from nothing. Having five offices at one stage and around 60 staff and then going through the selling of the business. So there’s nothing I can’t do.”