Inflexion has been supporting family-run businesses for 20 years, meaning we understand their unique dynamics. We have helped many such businesses to address succession, support international expansion and acquisitive growth, and implement digital enhancement.
Succession planning: CTC Aviation
Some businesses can benefit from assistance with succession planning, to ensure family businesses remain happily and successfully in the family. Inflexion helped CTC Aviation to do just this. CTC Aviation was set up by Chris Clarke in 1995 and grew into a business with £7m of profits. In 2012, Chris was looking to realise some value but retain a share and some involvement. His son Rob, then COO, wanted to remain fully involved. The company also needed funding to grow further.
The business partnered with Inflexion, and together created a plan which allowed Chris to transition leadership of the business to the core management team, headed by Rob. Chris retained a stake but stepped back a bit, and the business was able to grow further.
Part of the partnership saw £10m invested by Inflexion to finance new flight simulators in the UK and new Crew Training Centres in the UK and US, facilitating new client wins and growing cadet numbers by 90%. Three years later, in 2015, the business was sold to a Canadian trade buyer, with Rob still at the helm.
More than money: Autofutura
Capital is a crucial part of successful businesses – as is the talent and people driving them. Family-run businesses are often acutely attuned to the importance of people. Founder of Autofutura Kim Sandom explains the importance of people in family-run businesses and why finding a backer with the right chemistry for his son and granddaughter was crucial.
Founded in 2002, Southampton based Autofutura is a specialist global provider of automotive data management software. The firm works with automotive finance providers, fleet operators and motor manufacturers including JLR, Fiat, Chrysler, Volkswagen and Vauxhall.
Seeking to accelerate the firm’s growth, Kim worked with advisers to find a supportive backer. “It wasn’t all about the money for me. It was important to partner with someone who could get on with my son and granddaughter who are still working within the business.” In fact, Kim hadn’t been convinced the firm’s future was with private equity, however his son expressed his comfort with the Inflexion team, helping to cement the partnership.
In April 2019 the firm partnered with Inflexion, which is helping to expand Autofutura’s technology and product offering. The Inflexion network has also been valuable, not only in appointing an experienced chairman but also with its in-country expert in India arranging a trip encompassing 15 business development meetings.
Acquisitive growth: Huws Gray
Family-run businesses can go on to become market leaders with the right support, as Terry Owen of Huws Gray is learning.
Huws Gray was established in 1990 on Anglesey, Wales, as a builders merchants on a 1.5 acre site with £200,000 of start-up capital. The firm was founded by Terry Owen and John Llewlyn Jones who grew the business acquisitively to five branches by 2000, at which time another company with five branches was available and so Huws Gray doubled its number of sites. By 2017, Huws Gray had grown to 62 branches, mostly in the North of England.
Realising the business could benefit from some succession planning and with an eye on the ultimate exit, the firm spurned an offer from a national builders merchants and instead sought an investor to help take it to the next level. Management chose Inflexion from a list of 30 investors, citing the backer’s understanding of the business, the advantages of an experienced minority investor, and the comfort given by the individuals they met.
Since partnering in April 2018, Huws Gray has completed the transformational acquisition of Ridgeons in the South of England, which doubled the size of Huws Gray overnight and provided a foothold for the business to expand geographically.
Management remain enormously enthusiastic about acquisitive growth, with Terry saying:
The only boundary for us is the shoreline of the UK, so the opportunity is fantastic.
The Institute for Family Business (IFB) aims to help family businesses remain successful for generations to come, believing family businesses are the backbone of our economy and communities. Inflexion is delighted to be a partner of the Institute for Family Business.
“Family business owners have an incredibly long-term outlook. And for some owners, they realise that in order for the business’s development to keep pace with that of the family, they will have to look beyond organic growth of their original business. Partnering with an experienced investor who can provide more than just funding can be transformational for a family business. Acquisitions are one route that can provide families with the opportunity to build their portfolio, their reach, and their ambition to secure their long-term success. Expanding and replicating their business in international markets can be another. Taking on board a partner who can bring experience in these areas can be truly invaluable in maximising success and avoiding any pitfalls.”
Elizabeth Bagger, Director General, Institute for Family Business