Vision COO Mark Smyth, explains why growth through acquisition is pivotal to the firm’s five-year business plan
With consolidation in the market a recurring theme, Vision’s growth strategy includes three key components – retaining existing clients, winning new business and acquisitions. The company has just completed the acquisition of CFS (Copier and Facsimile Systems), a Bristol-based provider of managed print and other business technologies, a move that will strengthen its market position in the South West. CFS has partnerships with Ricoh, Canon, OKI and Laserfische. It has been trading for over 20 years and has a well-established client base, in and around the Bristol area.
This is the second business Vision has acquired to date and there are, according to Smyth, more to come.
“This acquisition is part of a much bigger and wider strategy, we are in talks with a number of other businesses and are looking to close several more deals in the next six months,” he said, adding: “We are always interested in talking to organisations looking to sell.”
A sensible approach
Smyth said that Vision’s approach is sensible: “We’re looking for sustainable growth. That will come from a combination of acquisitive and natural organic growth. In terms of acquisitions, the deals we are interested in pursuing are strategic in terms of geography. Internally we talk about ‘the right fit acquisition for Vision’. For us, the right fit is a business with an existing vendor relationship, or one where geographically we don’t have a presence, and just generally, if we feel it is the right fit for our business, then we will pursue it.”
Smyth points out that Vision is not setting out to become a ‘super dealer’. “We’re being sensible about it, we’re looking to achieve modest, sensible growth through acquisition and we believe we’ve got the right approach – one that is practical and logical for us.”
He added: “For any reseller looking to sell their business, our approach is very honest and ethical. We are very upfront about what we will do with the business – of course we are going to make changes and integrate it into our business – that’s the only way it works for us. We don’t dress it up any other way, it’s a very sincere and honest approach – that’s the only way we do business.”
A local presence
Although Vision already serves customers nationwide, it sees the acquisition of regional businesses as key to not only building a bigger customer base, but to also boost its sales and service presence through a wider network of local offices.
“There are a number of areas where we would benefit from having a stronger physical presence,” Smyth said, adding: “In particular we want to strengthen our presence in Bristol and the West Country – which of course made CFS the right fit for us. We are committed to having an office in Bristol and the acquisition gives us an opportunity to have a presence there.”
He continued: “The South East in particular is an obvious area for us to look at because that’s where we are probably at our strongest. We are also looking to increase our exposure in the North, Cambridgeshire and East Anglia as well.”
The integration of CFS into Vision’s business has delivered a real value-add. “We have benefited from additional technical and professional services resource, as well as the opportunity to further expand our production print division – CFS has a number of production print clients,” he explained.
Production print is a growing part of Vision’s business. It appointed a head of production print some years back and provides (predominantly Ricoh) production print systems to clients nationwide. Smyth said: “Production print is still very specialist and therefore you need specialist people to support the products and manage the clients that have high-end presses as part of a CRD or specialist printing service. With CFS, we’ve acquired some experienced engineers and support staff which will deliver greater customer value.”
Vision is three years into a five-year plan that will see it double in size by 2020. “We are on target and this year (FY18) is set to be a fairly strong year for growth,” Smyth said.
“We’re not using private equity or venture capitalists,” he explained. “I feel proud that we’ve managed to get our business in a financially healthy state and that we’re in a position to achieve that modest but sensible growth we’re targeting over the next few years,” he concluded.