Posted: 4 October 2021

Growth through selective M&A

Growth through selective M&A

Bespoke Heath & Social Care received private equity investment from WestBridge in June 2020. Christina Walsh, chief operating officer, explains how the company is now pursuing an ambitious buy and build strategy.

I have worked in the health and social care sector for over 30 years, having started out as a registered nurse.  Over the intervening years, I have held several different roles in a variety  of specialist areas of the market.

My first experience of working with private equity came in 2007.  It proved invaluable and taught me about the art of the possible and, crucially, that private equity firms are not the enemy.

When I joined Bespoke, my remit was very clear: support the management team as the company transitioned to a PE-backed business and identify growth opportunities that would benefit all stakeholders, whether they be employees, clients or investors.

Ours is a caring sector so associations with money and profit are often perceived negatively. I firmly believe the two are not mutually exclusive.  In fact, if you have a well-managed company providing an excellent service, the money automatically follows – it’s a virtuous circle whereby profit is simply the outcome of excellence.  Besides, profit enables improvement and expansion.

Bespoke has always enjoyed solid organic growth but the market in which it operates is highly fragmented so we knew there would be compelling opportunities to pursue a focussed acquisition strategy.  Before pursuing this, we needed to ensure we had a suitable corporate structure in place to accommodate growth.

This led to the creation of an umbrella company called Acuity Care Group under which we will position companies with niche specialisms in the health and social care sector.  These will retain their own names along with the brand equity, loyalty and trust they have amassed over the years.

Such a group structure means individual companies remain autonomous but also enables group companies to benefit from economies of scale, share best practice and have a consistent approach to compliance, recruitment and so forth.

We made our first acquisition in January 2021, just six months after receiving investment from WestBridge.

We chose carefully.  Our acquisition of Team Healthcare provided us with a foothold in a new geographic area and enabled us to expand our service offering to include expertise in acquired brain injury and neurological disorders.  There were clear synergies and bringing it into our fold was like adding a piece to a jigsaw. 

True to plan, we are already investigating our next acquisition but are mindful in our approach. It is essential that any company we acquire provides a service that complements our overall offering and has unexploited growth potential.

This is where WestBridge has proved to be an invaluable partner. They provide so much more than financial support.  As well as being a sounding board, they offer practical help and advice about a whole range of things involved in the management of a growth business.

If you are considering private equity investment, choose your partner well.  Make sure they have relevant experience in the sector in which you operate as this will make life much easier and eradicate the need to explain the intricacies of your sector.  Ensure that you are on the same page, strategically, from the outset and pursuing the same goal. Chemistry is also essential.  And if you do set out on a path of acquisition, do your homework first – is your target company a good fit, do they plug your service or geographic gaps.  If not, remember, just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

We’re looking forward to exploring further opportunities in the future.

WestBridge partners with management and typically invests between £10m-£25m in established, profitable and fast-growing UK SMEs with enterprise values of up to £50m. We are always keen to hear from ambitious management teams seeking acquisition funding, support for a management buyout or development capital. Our WestBridge value creation methodology seeks to partner with management to optimise business growth and outcomes for all shareholders. To hear more about our investment criteria or discuss the suitability of a company, do get in touch.

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