What was your most unusual experience

From teacher to entrepreneur: the unusual story of Cédric Knell

In March 2020, Cederic Knell took over the polo shirt brand AD.M with the online shop the-polo.com in an asset deal. Today he is the owner and managing director of AD.M Fashion AG. The brand was brought to life in 2010 with the aim of creating the perfect polo shirt for the modern man. AD.M, born in Switzerland and spoken like [æadam], stands for “Assorted Design For Men”.

Photo: The reinvention of the polo shirt. By AD.M the-polo.com

Entrepreneurial freedom as a motivation

Valentina Keller: Your goal was not always to be self-employed. How did it come about anyway?

Cédric Knell: After high school I didn't really know what to do. The career counseling service didn't change that much either - they said I had a lot of interests. After studying medicine for two years, I realized that I enjoy working with people, but the course is too theoretical for me. So I did a one-year internship as an assistant at Novartis and finally ended up at the University of Education, where I trained as a teacher. The teaching profession was cool and varied because you teach a lot of subjects. I enjoyed dealing with students, parents and other teachers. Nevertheless, I found that the opportunities for development in the profession are limited. The little performance-oriented environment made me a seeker again. I am a bird that has to be able to fly - that is, convince myself and others with my performance. That was the starting point that got me into entrepreneurship.

Valentina Keller: What is it about entrepreneurship that attracts you?

Cédric Knell: Entrepreneurship brings exactly the environment that I was missing in the teaching profession. There are no limits, neither up nor down. As a teacher, I had to adhere to many guidelines and my free thinking was restricted. As an entrepreneur, I enjoy a lot more freedom. In addition, I am a night owl. I don't really wake up until the evening, when I have the best ideas. In the teaching profession, performance is asked for in the morning and so my potential was wasted in the evening. Now I decide when and how I work. I iron a lot more, but that's consistently positive because I design the time and content according to my ideas.

How Cédric Knell and A.DM came together

Valentina Keller: How did you hear about Business Broker AG's offers?

Cédric Knell: I started my research two years before actually buying the company. I was constantly collecting ideas and doing all sorts of calculations. I browsed a variety of websites for inspiration looking for companies. When doing such research, you immediately come across Business Broker AG. I soon ordered the dossiers from a number of companies and familiarized myself with the content. I was interested in what information is made available in these dossiers and what kind of companies they are. When I had the AD.M dossier on the table, I thought “yes, another cool company”. I was then invited by the then company owners and Business Broker AG to get to know each other for the first time, and that's how I got to know Business Broker AG.

Valentina Keller: How did the idea of ​​taking over an existing company develop instead of founding it yourself?

Cédric Knell: My partner advised me to concentrate on something that I already have hands and feet for further development. This is also a risk question: in my opinion, the risk is smaller if I take over than if I set up a business myself. If you start yourself, you will probably inevitably build up more slowly.

Valentina Keller: What advantages and disadvantages do you see in a takeover?

Cédric Knell: As mentioned, I see the advantage of the takeover in the fact that the infrastructure is there and that it is built on what already exists. On the other hand, there is the price: a lot of money that is typically paid right at the beginning. As a buyer, you need the mental willingness to say to yourself “if it goes in my pants, I'm in debt”. In addition, the expenses remain high even after getting started. The costs of operation just keep running. You should be able to cover these costs for a few months because the returns will almost certainly be lower than planned due to the distraction of the takeover.

Valentina Keller: What was the biggest challenge for you in the buying process?

Cédric Knell: I'm the type with my head against the wall. You have to be the same when buying a company with my background: I took over a company “out of nowhere” and was neither an entrepreneur nor an investor before. For me that was a monumental, risky decision.

The start of the buying process was "easy", you pass by a few times, but then suddenly things get serious. You are looking for security, but you will not find it anywhere, not even in your own environment.

Against this background, the biggest challenge for me was to assess how great the risk is and whether I should strike or not. I called in experts for this and received a lot of opinions and advice from my environment. It was not easy for me to work out my own conclusive picture from all this and to decide. The lawyer, the trustee and the takeover advisor, they all pitted the case from different angles. In the end, I set a period in which to make decisions, regardless of what everyone says and thinks.

Valentina Keller: What three tips would you give other potential buyers who are about to start their own business?

Cédric Knell: I advise potential buyers to consider the following points:

  1. I think it's important to take the time you need. I have postponed the closing from the beginning of January to March. This gave me enough time to get an external report from a specialist and check the contract with a lawyer.
  2. The takeover costs more than the purchase price. You should definitely include a buffer. When you take over a running company, unexpected things come your way. For example, I had to call in specialists for certain things for which the know-how was previously available internally.
  3. When the transaction is over, the seller is no longer available without restriction. This particularly includes the seller's know-how. For example, I had to teach myself a lot about marketing and promotion management.

Photo: The perfect corporate polo shirt. By AD.M the-polo.com

The alternative financing of the company acquisition

Alwin Meyer: How did you finance the purchase?

Cédric Knell: In addition to examining classic bank financing, Business Broker AG also made me aware of swisspeers. I wasn't familiar with direct lending before. I researched it on the Internet and found out how this alternative form of financing works. I financed ¼ of the purchase price with my own capital and ¾ with debt capital via direct lending from 36 investors on the swisspeers online marketplace for corporate financing.

Alwin Meyer: How did you experience the process online and offline?

Cédric Knell: I was surprised how easy it was for a project as large as my takeover. After starting my financing request on the platform, I met Andreas Hug from swisspeers shortly afterwards. We structured the financing. It was a pleasant and easy process.

Alwin Meyer: How did the auction on the marketplace and the payout go?

Cédric Knell: After the first round we were at 70% of the financing amount and with an interest rate increased by 0.5%, the extension was quick. The payout went smoothly, although we experienced a little excitement. Actually, I should deposit the entire equity for the transaction into a blocked account, to which the loan should also be paid out. However, since a deposit for A.DM was due to the seller in the meantime, compliance with this credit condition was no longer possible. After a short conversation with Mr. Hug, that was quickly resolved.

Valentina Keller: How did the company handover go?

Cédric Knell: The handover went smoothly and I went to and from the sellers regularly for over two months. Nevertheless, in the end 90% of the tasks were 'learning by doing' for me.

After the takeover straight into the Corona crisis

Alwin Meyer: How has the situation developed since the handover?

Cédric Knell: It could have been better: Corona has had a major impact on my business at AD.M since the takeover. The entire summer collection was delayed and as a consequence the delivery costs rose massively. We had to bring in half of the goods by plane in order to be able to deliver. That really messed up my budget.

Although I run an online business with AD.M, Corona has not brought us any higher sales. Since we are positioned in the business segment with our polo shirts and our customers now mainly work from home, we did not experience a corona boom. The numbers are below the previous year, but we caught up again in late summer.

Photo: The timeless design of the polo shirts is based on the highest quality materials.

Alwin Meyer: How do you position yourself with A.DM and what are your plans?

Cédric Knell: We deliver a niche product that is very focused on quality. I don't know of any other polo that is made in this quality. I am convinced of the brand and the product. We have quite a few new products in the pipeline. For example, leather goods and winter hats are now available in the shop.

Alwin Meyer: your conclusion so far?

Cédric Knell: I really enjoy the company and I really enjoy it. I can only recommend the path to entrepreneurship. Thanks to Business Broker AG, I have found the right company and with swisspeers the ideal partner for follow-up financing.

Valentina Keller: Thank you very much, Mr. Knell, for the personal insight and we wish you continued success!

Alwin Meyer: Exactly, and now I'm going to shop online at the-polo.com!

-> Update: ordered yesterday Friday morning and already arrived today Saturday in a stylish gift box, very cool 👍:


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