As one of the few husband and wife teams working in the specialist surveying sector of business sales and valuation with DM Hall, Margaret and Jonathan Mitchell see eye-to eye about their ambitions for their revitalised department.
But there is scope for difference of opinion on some matters. Asked if they take work home to the kitchen table, Jonathan emphatically replied: “Yes!” At the same moment, and equally emphatically, Margaret said: “No!”
The fact that they then both burst out laughing perhaps reflects the comfortable nature of a relationship which is introducing a new dynamism into the Scotland-wide firm’s business sales and valuation department.
Since the Edinburgh-based team took on responsibility at the beginning of the year for the division, which advises clients at national and local level on valuation, sales, and acquisitions, it has boosted both completed and pipeline sales.
The speed at which they have reinvigorated the department – Margaret moved over to the department in March this year and Jonathan returned to DM Hall after several years in the wider UK – has parallels in their own relationship.
They met while working at DM Hall in Fife and, in a classic whirlwind romance, became engaged to be married within 10 days.
“Although our working life might come up as a subject of conversation at home,” said Jonathan, “it is not all-consuming and, certainly in the office and in our dealings with clients, we maintain a strictly professional demeanour.
“But obviously, we know each other well, and that makes it so much easier to work together as a cohesive team, with shared ambitions and aims, for the benefit of our clients.”
Although Scotland is still very much in the recovery phase from Covid, the business sales market is vibrant and continues to display healthy signs of activity and volume, said Margaret.
“Most market sectors, particularly including licensed and leisure, were impacted by the on-off shutdowns over the past year and a half and, now that restrictions have been lifted, there is a surge in turnover since people are just desperate to get out and spend.
“With this sudden profitability, many businesses are refilling their financial coffers and paying back loans, but many business owners are also reflecting on where they want to go in life and concluding that it is a very good time to sell.”
Retirement is a significant driver in DM Hall sales, which tend to specialise in individual businesses, and the department has developed a niche in understanding the emotional bonds which owners build up over decades of business life.
“Many of our clients have invested blood, sweat and tears in the building of their businesses,” said Margaret, “and it can be a life-changing event to have to dispose of it, or hand over to the next generation.
“Part of where we fit is to listen and to understand their concerns. That is a key component of our brand. We provide professional, strategic advice, whether it is selling, buying or valuing, but we also have a comprehensive and detailed local knowledge and an unrivalled network of contacts throughout the country.
“We are not a call centre, with one-size-fits-all responses, and neither are we jacks of all trades. We understand the local market, the integral importance of profit and loss and the professional and personal imperatives of our clients.”
While at the moment in the marketplace willing sellers in search of willing buyers are in the ascendancy, the Mitchells argue that businesses which used the hiatus of the pandemic to refurbish, put training schemes in place, take the opportunity to trim costs and generally put the wheels in motion to reposition their offering will continue to thrive and will see greatest demand if presented to the market.
Meanwhile, despite kitchen table differences of opinion, the Mitchells agree about one thing: that the business sales and valuation department of DM Hall has a bright and sustainable future.
Jonathan Mitchell is an Associate RICS Valuer and Margaret Mitchell MRICS is a Chartered Surveyor in the Edinburgh Commercial office of DM Hall Chartered Surveyors.