DMH Stallard

Name: Jonathan Grant

Member since: 2016

Tell us about your business:
We are a law firm who provide services for businesses and individuals in the South East of England and London. We have some national clients, but our focus is on delivering high quality support to clients within our region. We have offices in Brighton, Crawley, Guildford and London. We are ambitious as a firm and are growing fast. Our view is that in the UK there are too many law firms offering very similar advice, and often giving poor customer service. We aim to be one of the strongest South East firms, which means attracting the best lawyers and having a reputation for giving practical and commercial advice. In recent years we have grown by signing up key lawyers from other firms and merging when we can find the right partner firms. Internally we set ourselves up through small partner led teams, to ensure experienced lawyers can influence and control deals. I am responsible for running the corporate department in the region and London, although my work is with clients in the South East. We have a corporate M&A team and a commercial contracts and banking team. We run small deals for clients reorganising their business or acquiring business and assets through to deals with headline values up to £100m. In recent years we have been recognised in the regional deal award run by Insider magazine, winning Corporate Law Firm of the year in 3 out of the last 5 years (2012, 2014 and 2016).

The beginning - your ‘eureka’ moment:
Understanding being a trusted adviser to clients is as much about personal commitment as it is about technical skill. You need to invest time getting to know businesses and give direct and clear recommendations (don’t hedge!). I have the benefit of seeing many deals and the tactics employed by Buyers/Sellers/Private Equity, which many very successful businesses have never come across.

The best and the worst of times:
The recession was tough. We had set up to be growing fast and had leveraged ourselves to do that. We had to simplify our business, get rid of unnecessary cost and pay back debt. Restructuring any business where your asset is your people is hard. Best would be great deals with clients: In 2011 we sold Shoreham based family business Pyroban to Caterpillar - a deal which took around 8 months, but we got a fantastic deal for our clients. In 2013 we completed an exit and MBO of Autism and Childrens home business Hillcrest to Sovereign Private Equity.

What gets you out of bed in the morning - what motivates you?:
It used to be that Zen principle of doing what you do as well as you can. Now it is interesting deals I do for clients, getting to know clients and their businesses and making a contribution to my own business.

Luck or skill - what gets your further?:
Mine is a technical business, so technical skill remains pretty crucial; we will be up against local lawyers with limited experience on one day and a big team at a magic circle international firm the next. There is a level of luck in terms of finding clients and deals at the right time, but it is more about constant effort and hard work. That old adage “the harder I work the luckier I get” rings true.

Define ‘entrepreneur’:
Someone prepared to risk money and reputation to deliver a business they believe in. If they fail they will bounce back and go again, if they succeed, they recognise their skill is taking the business to a certain level, after which they need to move on or sell.

Moving on up - your ambitions and the next big thing:
I am lucky to be an owner and Partner in my business (akin to director/shareholder). DMH Stallard have a real opportunity to continue our fast growth, whether that be organic or through merger/acquisition. The next target is £30m turnover which we should achieve in the next two years. Beyond that if we find the right bolt on deals we could move to £35 to £40m. That gives us more options in terms of how we manage ourselves and the resources we provide our clients and our people. I am building my London business, putting a new corporate team in Guildford and seeking to build profile in the Gatwick Diamond and Brighton/South Coast.

Your top tips:
If you ask advice of the right people it is amazing what you can learn. Don’t be afraid to ask an obvious question and never worry about looking stupid! Recognise what you do really well and build your work around that.

What others say about you and your business:
"Their strength is the people in their firm; they're very well organised, highly personable and friendly." Independent client quote from Chambers & Partners "They're absolutely excellent. They're very easy to contact, their advice has been very professional, the whole team gels well and when they say they're going to do something they actually do it." Independent client quote from Chambers & Partners “Business People who happen to be lawyers” Independent client quote from Chambers & Partners "They are switched-on, commercially minded and sharply focused." Independent client quote from Chambers & Partners

"I founded Brightwave and it was difficult to know who I should entrust with the sale, especially when it was a first for me. Jonathan and the team invested time with us before the deal to help us plan, which was essential in order that we could deliver a complex deal in a very short time-frame. Closing a deal just before the Christmas holidays involved some other pressures, but the DMH Stallard team found ways to complete and secure our money before the long holiday, when at one stage it looked unlikely. If I was making a recommendation to someone else in my position I would say to select experienced lawyers, who are locally based and with a strength in depth to call on when needed." Testimonial from Charles Gould, CEO of Brightwave

DMH Stallard