INVESTMENT YEAR
2007
REALISATION YEAR
2014
SECTOR
Healthcare & education
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Supplier and distributor of medical products
The story in brief
  • Williams Medical supplies equipment and pharmaceuticals primarily to doctors surgeries
  • Livingbridge was chosen to fund a management buyout
  • Reduced NHS budgets began to exert pricing pressure
  • We appointed a talented MD from within the business
  • His vision and our backing have helped Williams meet external challenges and deliver considerable growth
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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.

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Williams Medical Supplies timeline

2007 Livingbridge invest
2011 Company undertake customer segmentation review
2012 Hugh Hamer joins as CEO
2014 Livingbridge realise investment

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