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Williams Medical Supplies

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Supplier and distributor of medical products

A thriving local business under threat

Based in Rhymney in the Welsh Valleys, Williams Medical distributes consumables such as disposable gloves, equipment and pharmaceuticals to doctors surgeries. When they chose Livingbridge as their investor to fund a management buyout, the company enjoyed a leading position in a growing market.

Livingbridge had already worked with Williams’ non-executive chairman, and the management team knew they could trust us to do the best for the business. But nobody could have predicted the challenges that were to come when a change of government, and subsequent healthcare budget cuts, threatened the security of the company and the many local people it employed.

 

Funding customer-focus to fuel growth

As a leading player in a buoyant market, Williams was making good profit margins. But when the newly elected government made heavy NHS budget cuts, the medical supplies market was left scrambling for market share and undercutting one another’s prices.

The company needed to radically change its approach, and we had identified a talented manager within the business who we believed could make it happen. Hugh Hamer was responsible for the William’s medical services division at the time, but he had a clear strategy for the survival and growth of the company as a whole. We gave him our full support, moving him into a new role as managing director and backing his strategic plan.

Hugh was convinced that the company’s traditional one-size-fits-all sales and marketing strategy was wrong. He knew that GP practices varied enormously, and that different surgeries or groups of surgeries had vastly different procurement needs and budgets. He believed that Williams needed to become completely customer focused, investing in a bespoke CRM system to identify individual customer segments and tailoring its sales and marketing to suit them.

The second strategic move that Hugh felt passionately about was developing an omni-channel approach. By making it easy for GPs and practice staff to order whenever and however they wanted to – on a personalised web portal or on the phone to the customer services team – Hugh aimed to build loyalty, cross sell services and grow Williams’ market share. This helped support a shift from a product led business to a service led business. Livingbridge was able to draw on its history of growing b2c companies and apply it to this model, which helped transform the business. 

Understanding Williams’ customer segments and designing a sales and marketing programme to fit took a year, and considerable investment in developing their online capability. After careful testing, development and refinement, Hugh’s strategy began to pay off, delivering strong growth in a market that was flat, at best.

By the time we sold Williams Medical to DCC in 2014, the company was worth £45 million and employed 165 people, predominantly in its headquarters in Rhymney.

Hugh Hamer is still managing director at Williams Medical. He says, “Throughout Livingbridge’s involvement they have been very supportive and challenged the business to maximise its potential.  This allowed the business to strengthen its position as the market leader within the UK healthcare industry,  and positioned us well for further growth.” 

 

“Williams Medical was already in good shape. But we supported Hugh in transforming it, in a tough market, into the most dynamic business in the sector. The real talent was right there in the business. We’re proud to have been able to back Hugh’s ideas and watch them take off.”

Mark Turner, Livingbridge

Timeline

2007 

Livingbridge invests to fund the MBO

2011

Company undertake customer segmentation review

2012

Hugh Hamer joins as CEO

2014 

The business was acquired by DCC Plc, a FTSE 250 sales, marketing and distribution business with a leading position in medical device and pharma sales and distribution