mlm Solutions was born in January 2005 so on the 10th anniversary of the business this blog takes the shape of a Q&A with Director Maureen Leslie.

Why did you decide to set up MLM Solutions?

Back in 2005 Antonia and I felt that the needs of owner managed businesses in Scotland were not being served adequately. There was a lot of innovative work on business turnaround and restructuring taking place in England but these did not translate into cost-effective solutions for Scottish businesses.

At the time, both Antonia and I were part of one of the Top 10 accountancy firms and when an opportunity arose to buy out their insolvency practice, we took it.  

What early challenges did you face and how did you overcome them?

As we started the business before the recession we were able to secure a substantial bank loan to finance the buyout. As a result, we were a highly leveraged business with a lack of working capital and cash flow management was essential. We had to quickly develop and build our client base to ensure we generated an income and then tightly manage our billing. Communication was a critical success factor in managing our cash flow and this relied on our skilled team and excellent relationships with suppliers.

This experience has given us considerable insight into the issues faced by individuals running their own businesses.

What have been the biggest successes to date?

Last year we helped the board of one of the largest steel fabricators in Scotland to agree a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) with its creditors. The CVA, which will see the business repay 65 per cent of its debt over five years, saved the company and its 60 skilled employees. This example shows that a good business, which is operated by dedicated and highly skilled people, but has suffered a difficult period, can be restructured.

I am very proud of the role we have played in the development and launch of the Business Debt Arrangement Scheme in Scotland. For the past two years our team had been adapting the consumer version to help small businesses and this experience led to our invitation to represent the Insolvency Practitioners Association in the Scottish Government’s Business DAS working group. Having played a key role in shaping the new legislation the Business DAS now provides a formally recognised debt support tool for a sector which is paramount to the economy and local community.

It has also been very satisfying to have been recognised as a Finalist and Winner at recent Insolvency & Rescue Awards and the Scottish Accountancy Awards.

How has the market evolved over the last 10 years?

The recession heralded a seismic shift in the market. A common misconception is that insolvency practitioners are busiest during an economic downturn. However when asset values plummet creditors tend to be less inclined to pursue insolvency actions due to poor recoveries. Activity is likely to increase as the economy recovers and individuals and small businesses have more valuable assets.

There has been a commercialisation of the profession with many new organisations emerging to target the mass consumer market. A key focus for these organisations is to actively market and sell consumer debt solutions.  Arguably, there has been a dilution of our traditional professional values as a result of growing commercial pressure.

How does the business look today compared to January 2005?

The business is much more focussed today. During our ten year journey we have recognised that we cannot be all things to all men. We took a strategic decision to exit from the volume personal debt market and have been phasing this work out over the last couple of years. We will still continue to provide personal debt advice to individuals but our focus will be on professionals and small business owners.

Our approach is very much on providing a high quality of service, delivered by high quality staff to high quality clients. Key to this strategy is to continue to develop and maintain strong relationships with intermediaries to ensure we are well placed to advise their clients be they individuals or small businesses.

What are the plans for the future?

We, like most SME’s, have a business imperative to grow. In fact we have set an ambitious target of growing turnover by 150 per cent to £5 million in the next five years.

With interest rates at historic lows many struggling businesses have managed to survive but if, as expected, the Bank of England raises the base rate from 0.5 per cent in the near future the viability of such businesses is threatened. However, with Business DAS advisers required to be qualified Insolvency Practitioners we are ideally positioned to help small Scottish businesses to fulfil their obligations to creditors and continue to trade: a win-win scenario for the economy.

Although we remain absolutely committed to serving the market in Scotland, we have recognised that our more streamlined approach will allow us to take our services to the English market which should help us to accelerate our growth. Charles Turner, a former FRP Advisory LLP partner and previous president of the Insolvency Practitioners Association, has been appointed to lead our corporate restructuring activity in London and beyond. I would expect the team in London to grow in line with the anticipated increase in appointments.

On a personal level I was delighted to be elected deputy vice president of the Insolvency Practitioners Association last year and I am looking forward to becoming the first Scottish woman President in April 2016.

Contact MLM Solutions Scotland

Call mlm solutions: 0845 485 7102. We offer a free, no obligation, 1-hour options review. If you would rather visit us in person at our offices in Glasgow, London, Edinburgh, Livingston or Fife.