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How a fast-growing landscaping firm blossomed into a successful exit

TCL Group

Planting a seed

When Simon Cashmore acquired a small landscape services business in 2007, he had no previous experience of working with gardens, parks or public spaces. But the opportunity to grow an interesting, regional business had caught his attention.

“TCL was partly owned by the guy who had founded it in the eighties,” explains Simon. “He had grown a good, small services business, and I thought I could replicate what he had done regionally over a broader geography.”

The firm’s activities include gardens, estate management, winter maintenance, outdoor sports facilities and playgrounds.

Home support

After an introduction by BGF, Stuart Black, ex-chief executive of housing maintenance firm Mears Group, was appointed non-executive chair.

BGF Talent Network  

From small to medium

In the following years, Simon and his team grew the business from £5 million turnover to around £25 million. But this was not without its challenges. “The recession hit us quite hard,” he says. “When we bought the business it was 96% aligned to the PLC housebuilding sector which was significantly impacted by the financial crisis.”

Despite the imperfect circumstances, the business emerged stronger than before and, in 2013, Simon met with BGF to discuss how it could help the business get to the next level.

“I was quite taken by the BGF story,” says Simon. “I met with BGF investor Mark Freer, who I got on well with, and I liked what BGF was set up to do – help businesses like ours go from the S to the M of SME.”

BGF's investment helped TCL to...

Pay back a family office investor and the bank.

Make seven acquisitions.

Access new customers and add new services to the offering.

 

Exit through the playgrounds

In 2014, BGF invested an initial £10 million into TCL. At first, the focus was to pay back a family office investor and repay bank loans but, soon, attention turned towards growth.

“We made seven acquisitions with BGF,” says Simon. “We bought businesses to extend our geography, access new customers and add new services to our offering. We branched into children’s playground installation, for example, which has proven to be a lucrative and interesting market.”

Beyond the cash injection, Simon was keen to use BGF’s capabilities in as many ways as possible. “BGF’s extended team specialists gave us access to services we wouldn’t have been able to afford as a small business,” he says. “We worked with its IT team to look at transforming our tech capabilities and we also worked with BGF on our brand.”

In five years, the business grew from £25 million turnover to more than £70 million. Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization rose from £2.5 million to over £8 million. Towards the end of 2018, idverde, a green services business based in France, made an offer for TCL and in October 2019 the two companies were brought together, with BGF exiting its investment.

BGF’s extended team specialists gave us access to services we wouldn’t have been able to afford as a small business.

 

Simon Cashmore, executive chairman of TCL Group

£16m

Invested by BGF in total. BGF exited its investment in 2019 when TCL Group was acquired by idverde.

Across the Channel

“We’ve created a UK market leader by bringing these two companies together,” says Simon. “There will be an initial shot in the arm in terms of cost synergy – improving the profitability of the combined entity. Longer term, we’ll be able to provide an even more broad range of services to clients and take our UK-only services across the Channel to mainland Europe for the first time.”

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