How Evolution Capital prepared ACS Group for sale
ACS Group was launched in 1999 as IT specialists for small businesses and educational establishments in South Yorkshire. The company was founded by two brothers, Mike and Kevin McEwen in Doncaster, on the back of a £5,000 loan from the Halifax Building Society.
Today, they are the proud owners of a thriving local business with over 250 customers and a retention rate of over 95% – an envious target for any business providing IT support.
Like many successful business owners, the McEwen brothers always kept a weather eye on the mergers and acquisitions market. When they were approached by Evolution Capital in 2016, the brothers decided the time was right to prepare ACS for a potential sale.
Mike McEwen, co-owner of ACS Group, said: “Whilst we were very comfortable with the growth of our business and what we needed to do to continue our success, we were not quite so sure about presenting ACS Group to the outside world. After a couple of meetings with Evolution Capital, it became very clear that we required some high-level expertise. The team was very knowledgeable and provided us with invaluable advice.”
Advice, planning and preparation
Evolution Capital kick-started the process with a full strategic review. The exercise culminated in the delivery of a 30-page document providing a detailed appraisal of the business, current valuation and importantly the necessary recommendations for ACS Group to achieve its optimum outcome.
The review was conducted over a six month period and involved a multi-disciplined approach. During this time Evolution Capital provided experts to address many of the different challenges that ACS Group needed to tackle, in order to become an attractive proposition for an acquirer. Particular focus was given to the company’s transactions, operations and financial processes. Detailed analysis and recommendations were then provided in each area, including:
- Making customer contracts more valuable
- Removing all unnecessary costs
- Streamlining the operations
- Ensuring that a proper structure was in place to the benefit of any future acquirer.
Mike McEwen continued: “The team at Evolution Capital took us out of our comfort zone and questioned our existing processes and methodologies. It highlighted what we needed to do to exit the business at the right price.”
Unlocking hidden value
Following the review, ACS Group set about implementing Evolution Capital’s specific recommendations in a number of areas including cost management, team restructuring and sales process. This soon produced some very tangible benefits:
- An increased focus on new business created additional value
- Existing clients were re-signed on long-term contracts enhancing the predictability of sales forecasts
- Reorganising the company’s assets resulted in an increased EBITDA
- Removing unnecessary support and infrastructure costs gave the company a higher valuation multiple.
Kevin McEwen added: “The impact was dramatic. We thought we had a robust sales process but after we implemented the recommendations our sales force went from 12 to six people. Yet, the smaller team generated much more revenue. The result was that we accelerated our bottom line profit significantly.”
A successful outcome
All the recommendations in the strategic review were implemented, successfully enabling ACS to pursue its desired exit strategy of a trade sale at a much-improved valuation than had originally been expected. A detailed Investment Memorandum was prepared by Evolution Capital and suitable buyers were approached.
Mike McEwen said: “We are absolutely delighted with the results of our partnership with Evolution Capital. Not only has the team proved its comprehensive knowledge of our marketplace but its expertise, demonstrated in guiding us toward our goals, has been exemplary. Its proposals and advice have been exactly what we needed.”