Tom Carroll founded ‘Our IT’ in 2003 to provide businesses with IT support and services; specifically, a B2B initiative delivering an array of technical offerings and applications. Based in the City of London, he grew the company and established it as a highly accredited organisation delivering packaged, high-availability solutions across London and the South-East.
Originally a software developer, Carroll’s early career saw him develop a packaged ERP solution, which, after acquiring funding, he took to market, and successfully installed in over 40 businesses.
“We got a great deal of traction with the application and it enabled me to understand different businesses and what made them tick. Importantly it gave me exposure to a number of different business models and how the successful ones operated,” he says.
After a period of early success, the resources demanded for continuous development and support of multiple sites became apparent, Carroll’s professional career pivoted and Our IT was created.
In its early iteration, Our It provided a raft of technical solutions to a broad market place including ‘e-commerce’, business support and network management. After reviewing and rationalising the business, a number of ancillary initiatives were shelved, allowing the company to focus solely on the provision of IT services to organisations in the financial services and educational space.
The company enjoyed a number of years of growth, ultimately based from their offices in Bevis Marks in the City of London. Tom Carroll said: “We discovered our niche quite early on and capitalised on a very obvious gap in the market. From a very central point in London, we could very easily win new customers and support them from our offices in the City.”
Our IT’s challenge was to maintain its growth and expansion while continuing to create profitable margins. As an owner/operator, Carroll had evolved a successful business model but still felt the need to acquire and integrate businesses, at the same time as continuing to operate a flourishing enterprise.
He says: “I always kept a weather eye on the market and was constantly looking for potential acquisitions, mostly turning over north of a million pounds. I knew the businesses I wanted to acquire but until you do the ‘due diligence’ you don’t really know what you are getting. The flip side of the coin was that I felt we were an attractive acquisition target for the right company although selling was never at the forefront of my list of priorities. I really hadn’t considered making an exit just yet”
The business continued to grow, as did its reputation for delivering premium IT services. The company’s customers included a growing list of insurance brokers, recruitment consultants and educational establishments, all within a defined catchment area.
Tom Carroll continues: “Our customers were increasingly reliant on their IT infrastructures and services to do business. They were constantly demanding higher response times, greater availability and higher levels of technical support- all of which we could offer. Our ability to de-risk their IT support needs meant that we became their de facto IT department. Ultimately they relied on us heavily for their success.”
Advice, planning and preparation
Like many successful businesses, Our IT was the constant target of advisers and brokers looking to provide a raft of services including ‘exit’ advice, business disposal services and M&A consultancy. The company responded to an approach from Evolution Capital and the potential of an acquisition by another company was mooted.
Tom Carroll says: “I was always aware of Evolution Capital’s activities but after meeting them I was impressed by their knowledge of the market place and their obvious connections within it. Until I met them I had not really given a huge deal of thought to selling the company but after some constructive discussions and a thorough follow-up I quickly became convinced of their value to us as an enterprise.”
Evolution Capital invited the company to an event and introduced them to Adept, the established and growing AIM-listed ICT services provider. During the meeting, credentials were established and a potential route forward was discussed. As part of the validation of the process, Evolution provided Our IT with help and support to:
1. Provide some ‘in-depth’ investigation and analysis of Our ITs contracts, infrastructure and financials.
2. Investigate and present ‘Our ITs” budget, management accounts and sales forecast.
3. Oversee and manage the potential acquisition process.
A successful outcome
After a series of meetings with Adept, an acceptable offer was made for Our IT. Much of the preparation work had already been completed by Evolution Capital and the sale was rapidly concluded within four months of the start of formal negotiations.
Tom Carroll concludes by saying: “I was delighted with the outcome of the deal, which was done according to a strictly adhered-to time-scale. Evolution was highly supportive throughout the complete process, helping to smooth away any bumps in the road. They proved to be a very competent business advisor showing some high touch ‘seller’ skills at all the right moments”.