Mark Turner and Hugh Hamer, managing director at Williams Medical Supplies, talk about how Livingbridge helped the company create a customer-first proposition and an omni-channel sales platform, discussing what this meant for the future of the business.
Mark: We were looking for a business to work within in primary care where we saw a very fragmented customer base and not a lot of competition. Williams provides pretty much everything you would find in a doctor's surgery, apart from the doctors and nurses themselves, so everything from the bed you would lie on, the stethoscope that's used right through to the drugs that get provided when you're ill. And through our network found out one of the three founders, Vince Kerr, was keen to buy the business from the other two founders who were retiring at that stage. So it was a fantastic find.
Hugh: Some of the changes the business saw when Livingbridge had bought into the business was actually how professionalized the business and how it actually supported the business in thinking about, "How do we drive growth in this business? How do we extract real value?"
Mark: And what Hugh wanted to do was to turn the business to being product-led to being customer-led. And it was quite, quite a stand-out strategy within this market at the time. We gave Hugh the freedom and the space to unlock this strategy. And then once the strategy started to work, I think it was backing that team, helping Hugh hire one or two additional members to his team, and we augmented that team around Hugh with what was, in the end we felt, was a very, very strong management team.
Hugh: Shortly after the investment actually by Livingbridge, there was a change of government. That put pressure on funding into the healthcare, which all put pressure on pricing.
Mark: There were certain goods that GP surgery really needed. And we worked very, very hard into the supply chain to get the manufacturers of those products to lower their prices to reflect the funding pressure that the GPs were expecting. So it was very, very important that the GPs felt that they were getting value for money on those products that they needed every day urgently on time.
The next stage really was around getting the technology solution to enable this business to sell in an omnichannel way. So this business went from having no IT department or 1 or 2 people into a team of 10 and ensuring that we had the range of products and services that the customer wanted. We've reached the point on the investment that Williams was becoming really quite well-known within the industry.
It was taking market share at an increasing rate. And the business started to get approaches. And we discussed this as the board. DCC were very, very keen to extend their primary care capability in the UK. They identified Williams as the stand-out asset. Hugh was very keen to continue to run the business and work with DCC. And we were delighted to sell the business to him.
Hugh: Post the exit from Livingbridge, we've been able to build on the building blocks they've put in place while Livingbridge held the business. We've really been able to continue to grow organically with the structure and the structure that was in place. We've actually got the ability to do some acquisitions, as well as organic growth, which is a really interesting place to be now.