Ben: Habit is New Zealand’s largest provider of physio and occupational therapy and return to work programs. We run five commercial health clubs. From the time that somebody leaves the hospital right to when they are back at employment, we’ll work with them with every step along the way. We were ready to take the next step with our growth. We went through a process with PwC to look at a whole lot of different partners. Livingbridge was different. They communicated a way that they would work with us. It wasn’t simply giving us money and then us going off and doing our own thing, and it really appealed.
Will: Habit, at the time we invested, already had a private equity partner. That private equity partner had come to a time when they were looking to realise their investment. What really attracted Habit to us was the fact the team that was already there was ready to go again, and had a very clear view of what their growth pathway would look like. It’s a business model that we understood, being a service-led sector where quality of care was paramount to achieving a high-quality business outcome. We were immediately attracted to the philosophy they had, and also the New Zealand rehabilitation market is an extremely interesting place to invest.
Ben: The Growth Acceleration Team was really one of the most appealing things for us when we were considering Livingbridge. We travelled to London and met with the Growth Acceleration team. That was one of our highlights around what they were going to be able to help us with.
Will: They’ve been able to engage with Habit in a number of areas, particularly around upgrading their website, accelerating Habit’s customer acquisition capability, and most importantly, working on Habit with quite a detailed project to upgrade their business’ data insight capability, which will facilitate the best decision making operationally possible.
Ben: Our M&A plan is very, very active at the moment. We’ve recently restructured the business to add some more depth within the exec team, adding a CFO and COO role. We’re actively looking to grow into the physio market in New Zealand with an infill strategy, and we’re also looking to pick up a few other businesses of a larger scale, which will add to our depth of service.
Will: Three months after we got involved, Habit was able to acquire Southern Rehabilitation, the equivalent player to them in the South Island, in terms of being the leading and large-scale provider of rehabilitation and occupational health, giving the business nationwide coverage. We’ve not only assisted in providing additional funding to help support those acquisitions post our original investment, but we’ve also helped the team think through those opportunities. In particular, in relation to Australia, we’ve helped to identify and map out the players that we think would be the most attractive for Habit to partner with.
Ben: A lot of people do ask me what it’s like working with Livingbridge, and it’s pretty easy for me to answer. It’s definitely enjoyable. Looking back on the last three years of having a different private equity firm, had we have been partnered with Livingbridge at that time, I think we would’ve achieved a little bit more.
Will: Habit’s already achieved an enormous amount since we invested, but there are still a number of things which they have in front of them.
Ben: By the end of this year, we expect to have really saturated our New Zealand options or acquisition opportunities. We’ve then set our sights to Australia, and will get the growth happening over there too.