Promising the world
In February 2014, I sat down with the other partners to debate a question: ‘what’s your ambition for the business?’ This is the same question we also ask clients – beyond how many clicks you wants and all that, what is your ultimate ambition?
It was our lawyer who recommended BGF. We met a couple of private equity people and one had a really strong reputation yet they totally failed to get our business or plan. The first people we met from BGF were good listeners and seemed to understand our business very well.
After BGF came in as an investor in 2015, we made several acquisitions. By the time we got to 2017, we were essentially the largest independent digital agency in the UK, in terms of building websites and mobile apps. We were getting onto pitches we hadn’t had a sniff at in 2010, getting cold calls from the biggest brands in the world. In a small world, we had made it.
My partners said: it’s time to have a bigger platform. The other driver was that, at that time, the big guys were trying to stamp us out by buying us or undercutting us. If we were up against a big company for a £100 million contract and we represented £2 million of that contract, they could give that part away for free or squeeze us out. It was the right time to do a deal.
Time to exit
Cognizant, a Nasdaq-listed professional services firm, were the right people at the right time. They had 250,000 staff, while we were at 250. Culturally, it was hugely different. I’d never worked in a corporate environment, and it’s not my world, but it was a good deal.