Prioritising purpose and agility in growth

A panel of female leaders from Inflexion portfolio companies recently shared their insights on growing businesses, agreeing that a clear purpose and willingness to ask questions are key to success.

Acquisitions can turbocharge the growth of a business. But it is important to be clear on the purpose of M&A in the evolution of your company and to make sure the timing is right. Deirdre Burns, former chair of Medivet, has led a multitude of businesses through various M&A strategies. Inflexion backed the veterinary chain in 2016 and helped the business double its number of sites to 350 while also expanding into Germany and Spain.

“You don’t just jump on M&A, you have to be really clear on the purpose of acquisitions in your evolution. It could be an EBITDA play, a revenue play, it could be a confidence play to show prospective buyers you have M&A credentials, or it could be for diversification. It’s important to think early on in an investment period what the reason is and then time it accordingly as well,” Deirdre explains. She adds the importance of making an honest assessment on whether your core business can stand up to M&A – if parts are lacking, you need to make sure they are up to scratch. “Acquisitions take up a lot of space and time, and if your business isn’t ready for that you need to be honest about that. The execution is just as important as the strategy – your reputation depends on it,” she continues.

It is also important to be agile with large acquisitions, which can be time-consuming and take different forms than initially expected. “One person’s majority is another person’s minority. You don’t have to own it all and own it today, you must stay open,” Deirdre stressed.

Continuously evaluate and don’t be afraid to ask for help

It is already a herculean task to get a data-led strategy in place, align the various stakeholders and make sure you have the right teams in place to execute. But to ensure you are moving in the right direction, you must keep measuring progress and make adjustments, according to Lilia Santos, CFO of premium skincare brand Medik8, whose advice is to “measure, measure, measure”.

“You must have data-backed progress checks to ensure you are on track, that the strategy is still the right one, and that you have the right skills and technology in place to progress. And keep doing this continuously,” Lilia explains.

Being open about not knowing everything can lead to valuable insights, so when things aren’t going to plan, it’s important to seek guidance and mentorship by reaching out to your networks and investment backers for support and advice. Nikki Whitfield, CEO of Upperton Pharma Solutions, sometimes found herself unable to answer a question as a CEO coming from a science background. “I was hesitant to say I didn’t know what to do when it came to building out a commercial team, but as soon as I said it, I felt so much better. Also, if it is taking me days to figure something out, it might be better for me to find an expert and draw on their expertise. I’ve drawn a lot from the fabulous directors I’ve worked with before.”

Inflexion has always had a diverse and inclusive workforce, aiming to attract, develop, retain, and promote the best possible talent from a range of backgrounds and experience. The firm is proud to have over 40% of employees female and 20% from ethnic minority backgrounds. We believe this draws out broader thinking and inspires livelier discussion. We are similarly committed to promoting D&I across our portfolio and ensuring our wider network is diverse, with 38% of employees across the portfolio female.