Long term relationships
With 80 businesses backed in its 20-year history, Inflexion knows that winning management teams over is about strong relationships as well as thoughtful strategies for growing the business. Successful partnerships mean many business leaders return to work with us again through the Inflexion Network, but as Inflexion has grown its track record, businesses are returning to work with the firm again. Aspen Pumps CEO Adrian Thompson speaks about the firm’s growth.
How does a company based in Eastbourne become a big global success?
Aspen has been on an exciting journey since three engineers set the business up in 1992 to create a better product for air conditioning installers. Today we are a leading niche player in a $100 billion global air conditioning industry supplying condensate pumps to wholesalers. We have expanded into five market-leading brands, which is a great selling point for our customers. We therefore need to have strong relationships with them, and so it’s a traditional industry in that sense.
What have been some of the highlights of Aspen Pumps’ growth journey?
In 2007 Aspen recognised an opportunity to accelerate its growth and so partnered with Inflexion Private Equity. They invited me to join as part of that investment, given my experience in the industry, and they also sourced an experienced chairman to lead the business. Aspen employed 50 people at the time. I remember that Inflexion’s founders asked me what I’d do with the business, and I said focus on more sales.
Between then and 2015, the company grew impressively organically and acquisitively, ultimately tripling EBITDA. We increased our international sales distribution from 50 to 100 countries and expanded into China and India where pump sales achieved in excess of a four-fold increase. Inflexion’s in-country experts Rohit Hegde and Xuan Ye were invaluable in those markets. After this period of exceptional growth, it was time to think about a new partner, but we remained in close contact with Inflexion.
Today we are leading the markets in which we specialise for mini pumps, commanding 30-40% of the market in Europe, over 60% in the UK, over 40% in Australia, 70% in South America and 35-40% in the US.
Where does the business go from here?
Over 75% of our sales are international but we will look to expand that, with the US a key focus over the next two to three years as it has over 200 million air conditioning units installed per year and further pent-up demand for our products. We now have a site there with a sales team so are looking forward to growing that market. In addition to the US focus, we have identified some add-on opportunities, and may even look to a transformational acquisition, but the real focus for us over the coming years will be organic growth.
Why did you choose to work with Inflexion again?
The relationship with a private equity company is incredibly important. All private equity partners promise you the world at the outset, but Inflexion have proved it before and shown how it can work with us. It’s not just about the cash with them but about the support: We’ve already identified addon opportunities and we know their in-country experts will again be very useful in growing our business further in those markets.
It’s like we’ve never been away – Inflexion kept a real good eye on the business after the 2015 sale so when we were looking for an exit last year, they were already front of mind for us and worked very hard to put themselves in a very good position to do the deal. There is a strong bond between the management team and Inflexion so we are very pleased to be working with them again. They’ve managed to keep their culture despite their growth; it’s still the inflexion I knew.