This is going to be a big year for BigChange. The year we expand overseas. The year we double our turnover. The year acquisitions supercharge our growth.
Taking your business to the next level is never straightforward so I’m sharing my three scale-up strategies to help anyone on the same journey.
1. Strategic acquisitions
Many companies tend to wind down over the holiday season but here at BigChange, we had a busy end to the year. We have made our first acquisitions as a company, buying two complementary businesses that will help us double revenues year on year.
The first, Labyrinth Logistics Consulting, is an award-winning supply chain, logistics and compliance consultancy. We also acquired Trace Systems, a creator of fleet, garage and workshop management software, which will be integrated into the BigChange system to make our platform even richer.
These businesses will give BigChange a strategic edge and neither distracts from our core market. We’re still 100% focused on our platform, but these companies will help us deliver an even better service to our customers.
Acquisitions are a great way to scale faster with very little risk. These companies are both small – employing 10 people between them. That means that integration shouldn’t be too difficult.
I have quite a lot of experience acquiring companies now, which means I know how to manage professional fees a bit better without reducing the quality of the advice. Make sure you know when you need to use a lawyer and accountant and when you don’t. If you’re not careful, doing deals can get crazy expensive.
My other tip for acquisitions is to make sure you have a great right hand man. That meant that I wasn’t too distracted from the core business while the deals were being done, and also sped up the process. It took just three weeks from heads of terms being signed for the deals to be done.
2. Go international
We will open our first international office in Paris in February. We decided to create a European operations hub to both take advantage of the weak pound and mitigate Brexit risk.
We have recruited a French national to help expedite the European expansion. Our new VP for Europe, Frederic Dupeyron, will be our man on the ground. I’ve known him for over 10 years: he bought my previous company, Masternaut, so it’s a wonderful twist that he is now coming to work with me at BigChange. There is no substitute for hiring local talent when expanding overseas: they understand cultural differences and tend to be much better at troubleshooting.
France is just the beginning for us. From this launch pad, we will move into Benelux, Germany and the Netherlands. Later this year, we’ll move into the US and Asia. Australia comes next on the international roadmap. We don’t know what’s going to happen with the UK economy over the next few years so having an international outlook is a good way to hedge.
3. Get the basics right
I launched BigChange in 2013 and the company has grown organically since then, which has enabled us to build up our cash reserves. We’ve had to be patient to get to this point, where we can invest in new acquisitions and international growth. Scaling is expensive: we have invested in new acquisitions and a new international team. When you have cash in the bank, you can move quickly to take advantage of new opportunities.
In 2018, we turned over £11m, and – with these acquisitions – we’re on course to hit £23m in 2019 – more than doubling revenues. Profitability will also double, which proves that our growth model works.
It’s really important that we don’t take our eyes off the ball here in the UK as we grow overseas. That’s why we’re investing in more sales and customer service colleagues right here. BigChange will employ 150 people by the end of this year.
As we grow, we also need to make sure everyone is moving in the same direction. This is why I just had a huddle with the team to explain the deals we’ve done, and ensure that everyone understands the transformation plan for this year. It’s important that everyone keeps doing the basics right, and doesn’t get distracted.
These three pillars make up our 2019 scale-up plan. If executed properly, BigChange should be a much bigger company by this time next year. Wish us luck!
Founder & CEO