What we have done
Your success through our experience
Set out below are a number of examples of the work we have done both individually and together. Our formative commercial experience is included in our Bios, and summarised below:
Between us we have accumulated considerable experience, and set out below are a few examples of this:
Launching a new business, generating new digital revenue and raising funds / Lawrence Gould & Tom Donnelly
Citywire was a concept with financial backing, seeking commercial and operational management.
Lawrence Gould and Tom Donnelly were employed as COO / CFO and CTO/CMO respectively to develop a business plan, and then launch and fund the business. Like most start up businesses, it was faced with an apparent multitude of opportunities and directions.
Lawrence quickly rationalised these to some core value adding / revenue generating services from which a plan evolved to launch the first SFA regulated online advisory service. Tom managed the development of the SFA regulated publishing system which was launched after just 3 months.
With the internet bubble exploding, and valuations plummeting, Lawrence & Tom enhanced the business model by providing for licensing income from the web site content without undermining the value of the web site to investors and advertisers.
The business successfully raised funds from Reuters and operates highly profitably today .
Launching a commercial digital service / Lawrence Gould & Tom Donnelly
A premier UK TV broadcaster was seeking to generate new digital revenue streams utilizing its considerable footage library.
Tom Donnelly & Lawrence Gould were employed to develop a comprehensive business plan to launch this service and to then assist the management in its execution.
Tom & Lawrence developed the plan addressing the commercial, operational, content management and technology challenges faced by the broadcaster, and set about building a division that could operate this kind of business.
A business model was evaluated and then launched which allowed the broadcaster to generate income from licensing footage clips into the film & TV markets.
Rationalising a business and achieving an exit / Lloyd Pinder & Lawrence Gould
In the first Internet wave, MyTaxi had launched a prototype shopping hub. Considerable monies were being spent in London and LA in building and marketing the service, and investors were concerned that the business would run out of funds before achieving the necessary goals.
Lloyd Pinder & Lawrence Gould were employed as interim CEO and CFO respectively to evaluate the company position, develop and deliver a plan to ensure the business sustainability and successful exit.
Lloyd & Lawrence completed a situation analysis of the company and acted accordingly. They implemented a strategy which firstly rationalised the company yet provided the tools necessary for completion of the technology platform which presented an exciting and profitable future.
The action taken by the company under their leadership was a follows:
1) Develop a 3 year business plan with a view to exit
2) Re-organisation of the executive board
3) Raised £500K of investment funds
4) Redesigned and developed a new technology platform
5) Prepared the company for exit
6) Successfully sold the company to Chrysalis Group Plc (UK media company)
The result was a resounding success for the shareholders who benefited from a substantial return on their investment.
Start Up to Sale / Paul Rayfield
Tall Stories was established in 1991 to deliver a new type of Sumer holiday. Based around the same proposition as a ski holiday [activity + good accommodation] and aimed primarily at 20/30 year olds, Tall Stories offered an opportunity to try a different adventure sport every day. One day white water riding, one day paragliding, one day glacier skiing etc. - all with expert tuition and all for those with no previous experience.
The concept worked well and after a first season in Austria the company opened a second destination in the French Alps. However, it soon became apparent that the high percentage of repeat customers wanted something different and so an additional sea based location was opened in Spain offering sports such as Scuba Diving and Water Skiing.
This type of holiday attracted another type of customer - families and this helped the business grow further, with Corsica and Mallorca opening over the next few years. The final direct growth area was back into the winter with a winter sports offering, though clearly not just downhill skiing.
One of the key challenges at this stage was not just to operate across 5 locations, and all the issues around remote management of staff, but in the 1990's to work with 4 different currencies and their fluctuations, as well as many different country based regulations.
Finally in the late 1990's/early 2000's Tall Stories was approached by a number of Charities to run fund raising challenges and this led to the creation of events such as 'Ski 24peaks in 48 hours' before focusing on off and on road cycling. By mid 2000's challenge events represented 50% of the business
At that time Tall Stories decided that it was time to sell and focus on the 'event' part of the business. Competition was increasing from the larger companies such as Crystal and Neilson as well as many Ski companies looking for summer revenue. Tall Stories therefore successfully negotiated a sale of its business to TUI, primarily for Tui to incorporate Tall Stories customers, prospects and products into the Crystal Active programme.
Paul was a founder of Tall Stories and an active partner throughout.
Monetising YouTube content beyond Adsense / Tom Donnelly
Fast-growing City & Guilds education provider offered subscription video courses through its website and a CDN. Uncertain that whether YouTube was an opportunity or threat, Tom was asked to review their approach and suggest a new way forward with the objective of protecting their IPR and increasing awareness of their video-based product using the world's second largest search-engine, YouTube.
A key issue to overcome was some within the business were convinced that a significant presence on YouTube would cannibalise their core subscription income. Their small YouTube presence to date had not matched expectations.
Tom analysed how they had configured their channel, examined metadata, thumbnails and cross promotion of their videos.
He found that the channel was not optimally configured. Incorrect associations prohibited the exploitation of powerful annotation features.
Metadata focused on names of people in the videos with colloquial use of descriptive tags. This did not give the automated advertising on YouTube the "triggers" it needed to serve targeted adverts.
First channel was correctly re-associated with their prime subscription platform. Targeted annotations were then added to all videos that offered YouTube viewers the ability to click the video to watch the rest of the trailer and subscribe. This "outbound link" from YouTube directly to their subscription platform transformed the way the business and its investors viewed YouTube. Ad-friendly descriptive tags were added to videos, hinting at major brands within the industry.
The result of Tom’s work was that professional and education subscriptions increased by 7% and 4% the following month. YouTube Adsense revenues increased 14%, with a marked increased in "Monetised playbacks" after the ad-relevant tags were added.
Within 2 months Tom was managing a live broadcast for them from YouTube space in London. YouTube was now "core to their business model" according the CEO.
The brand was acquired 4 months later by a leading provider of education but continues to use YouTube to cast a wide marketing net.
A Private Equity backed buy and build business in the converged voice and data communications sector leading to a successful exit - Ian Bennett
Azzurri was a buy and built start up backed by a Private Equity group with the remit to buy owner managed BtoB telecommunications reseller businesses that covering voice and data, fixed and mobile networks, equipment and service. The aim was to create a very successful and well run company with scale for a profitable exit.
After an initial acquisition phase the PE group appointed a new Chairman to review the strategy and plan. He introduced Ian Bennett (who had worked together on a Deutsche Telekom project) to the management team to ensure an accelerated acquisition programme was effectively integrated and promoted under one brand.
The actions taken (that Ian was responsible for) were:
• A clear 3 year Business Plan was produced
• A brand review was undertaken and toolkit introduced to ensure a consistent brand was implemented across the group
• Built an effective centralised marketing plan and team to deliver one approach to market
• The first acquisitions were rebranded under Azzurri in one programme and all subsequent acquisitions were re branded within 90 days of completion as a key part of the integration plan and process
• Product harmonisation and rationalisation was carried out to produce best of breed partnerships and supplier accreditations
• Carried out all due diligence to Gross Profit level for all acquisitions
• Built a successful profile and status which resulted in winning the Sunday Times Best Management Team and Technology Entrepreneur of the Year for the CEO along with many other industry awards
• Exit team strategy member working with advisors Citigroup and Lawyers to produce and deliver all key documents, presentations, tours etc for an IPO and secondary buy out process.
The result was a fully integrated business of 15 acquisitions with a turnover of c£120m with c180 employees with a strong organic growth profile. Following a dual track exit process Azzurri was sold for £182.5m producing an IRR of 38%, a money multiple of 4.9X for the Private Equity group and substantial returns for management.
Building and developing a digital technology business and managing exit / Angus Bankes
Moreover Technologies a venture capital backed business intelligence and news aggregation company based in London and San Franciscothat is now owned by LexisNexis.
Angus Bankes was a founder of the company and was the executive CTO responsible for technology and product for the company. Angus was responsible for building the technology team from scratch and subsequently a product team.
Angus created the aggregation platform that pulled in content from thousands of news sites and blogs with automatic tagging.
Moreover pioneered the use of RSS feeds to deliver category or search specific information.
As a founder Angus was instrumental in transitioning the company to the new market of business intelligence through development of enterprise portal alongside the firehose core business.
Moreover provided news aggregated products for enterprises aggregating more than 12,000 news sources and millions of blogs. Customers for the technology included MSN, Ask Jeeves and the BBC. Moreover also provided free news feeds to consumers.
Having built a successful technology company Angus was part of the two person management team that managed the successful sale and exit of the company to Verisign (NASDAQ:VRSN) for c$30M.
Royal Sun Alliance - Matching a company's sales and marketing efforts to the value of it's customers / Paul Rayfield
Royal Sun Alliance is an international Insurance company, with offices worldwide and a diverse range of customers from large corporates to individual consumers.
As a director of QCI Paul was lead consultant on RSA and led a programme to assess how effective individual operating companies were, at aligning their businesses to the differing value of their customers.
In real terms this meant:
1) Analysis of which customers consistently made money for individual company's and how good each company was at retaining those customers and recruiting others like then.
2) Conversely an analysis of which customers lost them money and how much time, effort and budget was mistakenly spend on recruiting and retaining these customers.
3) The development of new marketing programmes to recruit and retain the good customers.
4) Review and realignment of individual performance targets [from board directors to telesales operators] to match customer value groupings
5) Review and reorganisation of sales, marketing and customer service departments to reflect new programmes and priorities
6) Training and best practice sharing.
7) The establishment of a worldwide benchmark and assessment process
For a company the size and complexity of RSA this was a considerable undertaking, but importantly we discovered an enormous overlap in practices and processes that were able to be shared across the business, irrespective of customer or business type.
Many small business instinctively match their effort to the value of their customers but as the company grows, instinct has to be complimented by training, measures, processes and products to make surethat what you do, is done by others.
A premier UK TV broadcaster was seeking to generate new digital revenue streams utilizing its considerable footage library.
Project managing an acquisition process to successful completion / Ian Bennett
Sadek Wynberg a successful owner managed Qualitative Market Research Consultancy with an annual turnover of c£6m was approached by Millward Brown a WPP company with an interest to acquire the agency.
Ian Bennett was appointed by Sadek Wynberg to lead; advice and project manage all elements of the process to deliver a successful exit for the shareholders of the company enabling the partners to concentrate on running the business through the process.
The actions taken were:
• Production of a full plan and time line of everything that would be required to complete the process
• Ensure the partners understood the terms and workings of the offer, including initial consideration , earn out calculations and requirements, producing a model to show what this meant in terms of actual business results required to maximise their exit
• Project manage the whole process from start to finish
• Manage all third parties including lawyers, accountant and tax advisors
• Coordinate all requirements and requests from Millward Brown and WPP Group
• Manage and carry out both vendor DD and reverse DD requirements
• Co ordinate the post acquisition terms and positions for the partners
• Plan for post acquisition integration completed to ensure a smooth transition and clarity of roles and responsibilities etc were well defined and communicated
The result was a very well run process where all parties were fully co ordinated, obstacles and issues resolved, and a successful completion occurred with a well defined integration plan to follow.
Advising a branding and digital agency on a strategy for growth / Ian Bennett
START, a successful owner managed marketing agency from a branding heritage with strong digital delivery skills and an annual turnover of c£5m. The owners were looking to develop a strategy and plan for growth.
Ian Bennett was appointed as a non executive director to help the shareholders develop a strategy and plan on how to grow the company and provide ongoing support and advise on each area of implementation of the strategy.
The actions taken were:
• A full review of the business to establish a clear documented view of “where we are now”
• A vision established of “where we want to be by when” and a clear set of objectives established both quantitative and qualitative.
• Business, strategic, financial and tactical plans were developed and implemented showing “how we were going to get there”
• Organic growth plans were developed to get more business from existing clients and new business initiatives were established to grow and reduce reliance on a small number of larger clients
• An acquisition strategy was reviewed and a brand interiors business was invested in eventually leading to an acquisition broadening the skill sets and offering
• Overseas expansion was successfully achieved using a strategy of opening offices with key employees in Dubai and Hong Kong
The results were that during this period revenues doubled to c£10m. The customer base was widened, the skill sets broadened and geographical reach expanded producing a more robust business that could attract global work and clients ready for the next stage of the companies development.
Improving margins and cash and heading for an exit / Lawrence Gould
Youthsight, is a dynamic youth market research company focusing on providing insight for both Brands and for the Higher Education market. Profitable with a 7 figure turnover, Youthsight was looking for improved growth and margins.
Lawrence Gould was initially appointed to help launch the new co-creation service and he advised on packaging, marketing and pricing. Thereafter Lawrence was asked to advise and assist in the restructuring of the core business, with a view to enhancing the sales and profits.
The action taken by the company, with Lawrence’s assistance was to:
1) Define a 3 year plan for the business, and as a result:
2) Focus the company on developing new higher margin renewable research products
3) Assign greater sales and margin responsibilities to the management team
4) Enhance the reporting and forecasting to promote better monitoring , and allow the company to create new profit related bonus schemes.
The result has been that the company is moving towards more products based services, which are both annually renewing and have a higher margin, the management team is more aligned to the corporate goals and better incentivised to deliver against them and the entrepreneur / owner is developing and building a solid management team and a more valuable business.
Taking an idea to product introduction and initial funding in the Fintech sector / Ian Bennett
Laurus Equity was established by an experienced City banking and FX director who saw the opportunity to use technology to provide on line guidance tools and reduce costs and charges for financial products and services. With the upcoming introduction of work place pension auto enrolment this became the entry market on which further individual financial tools could be offered.
Ian Bennett was introduced to the start up to work with the entrepreneur to help put together a business plan, product definition and development plan and establish initial funding requirements.
The actions taken were:
• Production of a full business and financial plan built on key assumptions
• Full documentation of the product description and development plans
• Initiated proof of concept software design and build
• Initial funding achieved from high net worth individuals on EIS schemes followed by further funding from Irish Development Agency
• A management team put in place to take forward
The result was a funded development and successful launch of an automated on line auto enrolment platform for small businesses under a new brand Husky Finance that now has live customers and is growing.
Start up , Business Development and Exit in 3 years /Lloyd Pinder
Mirai Networks Ltd was a company that started from scratch in the Computer Distribution industry, which grew rapidly and profitably over a 3 year period to a turnover of £8M. The company successfully exited to the largest Computer Distributer in the world (Ingram Micro Inc.) who are quoted on the NYSE.
Lloyd Pinder was the co-founder, Managing Director and was tasked with developing and executing a business plan that would distribute niche computer networking products to the trade. Lloyd was actively involved in all aspects of the company, with particular emphasis on sales development and channel partnerships.
The action taken by the company, under Lloyd’s leadership was to define the following:
1) Develop a 3 year business plan with a view to exit
2) Recruit a sales team to develop a customer base of 100+ active resellers
3) Continually develop our channel partner relationships to ensure the company could provide cutting edge products with ‘best in class’ customer support
4) Prepare the company for exit in conjunction with skilled and experienced advisors
5) Successfully integrate the company into the acquiring company.
The result was a success for all involved. The staff of Mirai were retained on new employment contracts and shared in the success over the following 3 years. The networking division grew exponentially to a turnover of £140M representing 20% of the total company’s turnover of £700M in the UK.
Ingram Micro Buy, Build & Consolidate – Lloyd Pinder (VP Sales)
Ingram Micro (UK) Ltd was launched in 1991 following 2 simultaneous acquisitions in the UK (Mirai Networks Ltd and Software Ltd). Ingram was looking to build on their already preeminent position as the world’s largest IT distributer. As the former Joint Managing Director of Mirai Networks Ltd, Lloyd Pinder was appointed as Vice President of Sales at Ingram with the task of supporting the integration of the acquired companies and subsequently building a sales force to rival the largest IT distributers in the UK.
The sales activity under Lloyd’s leadership included the following:
1) Develop a 3 year sales plan to become the leading distributer in the UK.
2) Recruit a telesales department capable of managing a customer base of 3000 resellers across several sectors.
3) Recruit a Field sales Team to attract and manage the largest IT resellers in the UK.
4) Identify potential strategic acquisition opportunities to achieve goals.
5) Ensure all sales activity was supported by other departments to ensure successful execution of the plan.
The result after 5 years was a resounding success! Revenues of £500M were achieved at the required gross margin (£700M after a further 2 years of dramatic growth). The telesales force grew to 300 and overachieved on the recruitment of 3000 resellers. The Field sales force managed 50% of the revenue by attracting and developing the largest resellers in the land. Additionally, a successful acquisition was made in year 5 to enhance the networking division and achieve revenues of £140M.
Ingram Micro Inc. continues to be largest distributer worldwide with annual sales in excess of $40B.
Worldwide service rollout , digitisation & Exit - Lawrence Gould (FD)
Tony Stone was the market leader in the UK stock photography market with turnover of c £10m and ambitions to expand worldwide. The company had just raised a new substantial tranche of equity from 3i and as a first step recruited Lawrence to oversee the acquisition programme, and overall group financial management.
Together with the CEO he then planned out an acquisition programme , scrutinizing and evaluating target businesses. As FD he undertook due diligence and negotiated the detailed acquisition agreements on a number of nascent and trading photo-libraries in USA and Europe.
These acquisitions were then indoctrinated into the Tony Stone Images business processes including implementation of new operating and reporting systems under Lawrence’s management. In the UK, Lawrence oversaw the restructuring of the core business, including the centralisation of the key operational creative and production functions, establishing international licensing and pricing programmes, and the development and implementation of new sales and operations software. As part of his role, Lawrence implemented worldwide accounting and treasury functions.
Working at around one acquisition every 9 months, the company achieved its targets sales growth of 40% pa compound . without compromising the integrity of its offering, or its accounting.
In 1996 the company was an analogue business, distributing its product by courier, and using its printed catalogue as the primary marketing tool. The Internet was coming of age, and the opportunity to use it as a significant channel to market was top of management's minds.
A team was put in place to develop and then implement a plan to affect this, of which Lawrence as CFO, was an integral part. Responsibilities were assigned to the various team members to address the different effected components of the business, from production and distribution to pricing and licensing, the latter falling under Lawrence's area of responsibility. Both pricing and licensing had operated on a local national level in the analogue world, with all sales negotiated by phone with little international dialogue, the transition to the international digital world was a major intellectual challenge.
Substantial investment in time and money was made in this endeavour, including the creation of a unique and patented key wording system, digitisation programmes, a web site with new automated pricing, new licensing models and substantial marketing. The launch of the web site was a tremendous success.
The business success was identified by Mark Getty and the Getty family trusts, and as a result Tony Stone Images was targeted as the first and principle acquisition of Getty Images. As FD, Lawrence negotiated the successful sale of the company to Getty .
Buy, Build & Flotation - Lawrence Gould (CFO)
In 1995 Mark Getty, together with the Getty family trusts, were looking to invest their funds directly into business, and were seeking a high growth investment opportunity. They identified the stock photography market as one where there was a both a significant opportunity to consolidate the market and to exploit the, then, new internet channel. On completion of their first acquisition, Tony Stone Images, the industry market leader, Lawrence Gould, was appointed CFO of the new Getty Images, and assigned the task, as an integral part of the CEO team, to acquire complementary businesses, with a view to an early flotation.
A number of acquisitions proceeded rapidly , including the Hulton Deutsch collection and the Energy film footage library. Lawrence, as CFO, was heavily involved in the due diligence , negotiation and subsequent integration of these businesses.
The company chose to go for an early floatation in order that it could raise funds to support investment in digitisation and continue to acquire other photo library market leaders. NASDAQ was selected as the appropriate market, given its emphasis on growth and the new digital technologies. Alex Brown was appointed as the brokers, and the company embarked on the programmes to produce the appropriate documentation, and sell the shares, including a three week US and European road show.
The company floated successfully achieving an immediate uplift on its offer price. As CFO Lawrence played a critical role in this success.
Develop a strategy for a VC backed telecoms group affected by a credit crunch – Ian Bennett
Eurotel were a successful c£30m annual turnover BtoB telecoms and data reseller backed by Private Equity that was challenged by an inability to get leasing for its core sales to SME businesses when credit tightened. Experienced management were required to resolve the situation.
Ian Bennett was asked by the PE appointed Chairman (Ian and the Chairman had worked successfully on two previous telecoms projects together) to join a small team to resolve the issue.
The actions taken were:
• Remodelled and packaged the existing product range, reviewed all product suppliers and terms, developing new sales channels and increased margins.
• Introduced cloud services, hosted IP telephony and SaaS to provide the core SME customers with easy access to leading technology solutions on a price per station basis countering the credit restricted trading environment
• Carried out a broadband customer base acquisition to gain scale for the existing base
The result was that the operational business was stabilised and produced a 10% EBITDA enabling a competitive sale process to take place. Working with the advisors and accountants the company was successfully sold to a trade buyer ensuring the bank debt was fully repaid.
Launching a new London office for a leading Indian textiles manufacturer – Lloyd Pinder
Lloyd Pinder has recently completed an advisory contract with a leading textiles Manufacturer in India.
The company needed local advise on how to develop an operation in the UK and penetrate the largest retailers in the land. The 3local yr plan is to generate several millions pounds of revenue and ensure an ongoing profitable contribution to the group.
With Lloyd's help the company has now opened an office in London and has had several initial meetings resulting in a immediate order from TK Maxx.
Managing cash generation and reporting in a growth environment– Lawrence Gould
Ocean Media Group is a dynamic and growing Exhibition organiser and Publisher, focusing on weddings, babies and housing. The Company is VC backed with plans to grow both organically and via acquisitions. The combination of these acquisitions and a number of key staff departures have left the accounting department of Ocean under increasing pressure.
Lawrence has been employed to bring structure and support back into the finance department and help integrate the back end systems of these new acquisitions whilst also improving cash flow and planning alongside rebuilding the team.
Although only just started, Lawrence already has made a strong contribution to the credit control processes, and has started the recruitment of key accounting personnel.
Developing new revenue streams, and business planning – Lawrence Gould
Shoot Gardening is an exciting new gardening business, offering a range of online services to amateur and professional gardeners, including garden design, plant recognition and emailed monthly plant maintenance instructions. Shoot raised £500,000 last year, to rollout these services.
Lawrence has been advising Shoot management on how they might develop their revenue streams and is overseeing the production of financial information, and business plans.
With Lawrence's assistance the company is exploring a range of new revenue streams , and has enhanced the pricing of its existing subscriptions. On the financial information side, Lawrence has developed much improved management reporting and projections.
As a result, the Company's revenue growth has improved, and it's business planning is more robust and comprehensive.
Using property to enhance the business culture / Andrew Morgan
Netnames, the leading and most respected global provider of corporate domain management and online brand protection services, was struggling to operate effectively in tired offices and was suffering from the impact space made on its growth plans.
Andrew Morgan was employed by the CFO to guide him through the process of managing the exit and relocation into new space. Andrew identified that through better use of space and careful location selection, the business could contain its cost base whilst achieving a step-change in quality.
Following an initial feasibility, a brief was approved and a targeted search process was managed. Through careful management of communications, NetNames kept its name from the market and avoided the potentially damaging effects on staff through the search process.
The result was a move to top specification space at Canary Wharf, sized exactly to NetNames' requirements on highly competitive lease terms, and without a long term commitment. Andrew helped bring in specialist resources to oversee and project manage the entire move and fit-out.
NetNames' shareholders plans for disposal were realised within 12 months of relocation.
Managing property to equip the business for change / Andrew Morgan
Essentra is a FTSE 150 leading international supplier of specialist plastic, fibre, foam and packaging products with three Strategic Business Units: Component Solutions, Health & Personal Care Packaging and Filtration Products.
With a diverse portfolio of manufacturing, distribution and sales offices in 35 countries around the world, the senior management team recognised that its limited in-house resource would be unable to respond to its change agenda as well as managing a range of day to day estates activities. Clear focus on delivering savings from surplus sites was required.
The business brought in Andrew Morgan to source specialist support to manage on-going transactions whilst at the same time carrying out a fast-track procurement exercise to bring on board best in class estates and transaction management services.
Andrew prepared a supplier-friendly brief of requirements and undertook a selection and appointment process reporting directly to the Group Property Manager and Head of Tax.