Powerful partnerships: One year on with Astrak

Fast-growing family business Astrak took on private equity funding in April 2022 to allow some shareholders to step back and others to race ahead. Just a year into the Inflexion buyout and the firm is teeing up acquisitions and making  inroads in the US.

A lot can happen in a year, as the team at Astrak are learning on the first anniversary of their private equity journey with Inflexion.

After nearly 20 years of driving a successful business distributing undercarriage and wear parts for the construction equipment sector, some of the family  wanted to take a step back from Astrak. In early 2021 they discussed a re-alignment of shareholders.

The family’s  then-limited familiarity with private equity gave way to firm interest as conversations with Inflexion got underway. Ultimately agreement was reached owing to chemistry as well as Inflexion’s ability to support Astrak’s further growth, particularly international expansion. The buyout in April 2022 enabled three family members to realise their hard work and step back, with the rest of the family keen to drive Astrak further forward.

Speaking about the experience since then, CEO Dick Paterson is entirely positive. “It's been a fantastic journey so far,” he says. He explains Inflexion has been supportive of Astrak’s ambitions and been a sounding board and resource, rather than driving the business as ‘owners’.

This may be down to Inflexion’s collaborative style of guiding instead of steering. , “Where Inflexion have been very helpful is the support. They’re good at challenging us and we work as one team. It’s not an us and them; we have a proposition and discuss it together,” Dick explains.

Part of this was Inflexion’s support for the then-ongoing purchase of Terrapart  at the time of the investment. Dick recalls the Inflexion team were keen for Astrak to progress the purchase and gave them the space to do so.  Astrak was already well versed in acquisitions, having completed two already, but Terrapart was trickier as its systems were dated in comparison to Astrak’s, which had been enhanced. There was also momentum to maintain. “The business was very busy so we had to be careful not to interrupt that by not speeding through with the integration,” Dick recalls.

Going overseas

Already present in multiple European locations, the 2022 acquisition opened Astrak’s eyes to the US market, which formed a substantial part of Terrapart’s business. The specialist range it brought enabled Astrak to spend time with Terrapart’s customers, and Dick soon realised they could become larger customers for Astrak’s other offerings. On the back of this, Astrak employed a sales director in the US in December and a new Astrak office in Austin, Texas. “It shows our interest in that part of the market, and we have used the learnings of that exercise to grab some good people and go it alone in the US,” Dick says.  In addition to the US, Astrak is busy looking at acquisitions globally to support growth in new and existing geographic markets.  Inflexion is also supporting Astrak to strengthen it’s supplier base to support the businesses growth globally. 

Of course growing at pace requires an A-team in the C-suite. Within the first few monthss of signing the deal in 2022, Inflexion introduced an experienced CFO that had worked with Inflexion previously and so slotted in well to a company newly backed by private equity. “The new CFO has worked out brilliantly and brought relevant skillsets we didn’t have,” Dick says, adding that Astrak are now launching a recruitment drive for head of global sales with Inflexion’s support.

The first year together has also seen Astrak firm up its ESG efforts. Already taking good governance seriously, Astrak are now using the Inflexion ESG framework to record progress. “In addition to tracking what we are doing and moving it forward, we’re also embracing new areas to try and move ourselves up a gear over the next 12 months,” Dick explains. An example he cites is being more aware of the importance of diversity. “It doesn’t necessarily change what we do and we’ll still always hire the best person for the role, but we’re raising awareness within the business.”

It seems Astrak’s successful run is set to continue with Inflexion as partners. “They’re very flexible, working together with us to make things happen. Inflexion are happy to be creative to make something work and their input has exceeded my expectations,” Dick concludes.