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Company name
Action Pumps
Location
Waterlooville, Hampshire
Founded
1983
Business activity
Leading supplier of water pump systems
Annual sales
£7.96m in 2016
Reason for sale
December 2017 (duration 1 year 5 months)
Sold
New work/life balance
Acquirer
Tricel

Kevin Dunford – Action Pumps

Kevin became a business owner more out of necessity than desire. He began working for Action Pumping Services at the tender age of 17, and before long the company was bought out by US-based organisation Rosewood Equipment Corporation. Kevin continued working for the company (renamed Flowtronics) for five years, until Rosewood decided to pull out of the UK, closing the company and making all staff redundant.

Kevin found himself out of a job. Then he was approached by Andrew (Andy) Parks, another Action Pumping Services employee, with an interesting proposition. Why don’t we resurrect Action Pumping services, and start again? And in 2002, at only 24 years old, that’s exactly what Kevin did, becoming a shareholder in the renamed Action Pumps Ltd.

The biggest lesson

Kevin recalls that the most important lesson he learnt early on as a business owner was the delivery of high-quality customer service. As he tells us: “I never wanted to let anyone down, and I still don’t now. It’s about making sure you do what you say you’re going to do. It sounds simple, but in this day and age there are a lot of people that miss that focus.” This ethos helped drive the company to larger and larger successes.

How much is our business worth?

Like many business owners, Andy and Kevin did not start the business with an eventual sale in mind. However eventually, Andy, who was 15+ years Kevin’s senior, decided he wanted to pursue a change of direction. Suddenly, Kevin found himself wondering about the value of the business. “When the opportunity came about, it still didn’t really sink in that the end result would be a sale, but I always thought it would be nice to find out how much it was actually worth.”

“Everyone on the shortlist – I think it was four or five companies – we weren’t aware of any of them.”

Finding a buyer

When Kevin and Andy came to BCMS, they were asked to put together a list of the companies they thought would be interested in their company. “Surprisingly enough, none of them were even close to the final list. Everyone on the shortlist – I think it was four or five companies – we weren’t aware of any of them.”

There was one name amongst the key bidders that Kevin could see offered strong synergies. It turned out that Tricel, a tank manufacturer based in Ireland, already owned some companies that Action Pumps dealt with in the UK. Once Kevin heard this, he could see the opportunities: “We understood the reason for them buying us, which was important. It was also important to us to know that the staff were going to stay.”

A learning curve

You’re probably already aware that a business sale can be challenging. This is Kevin’s take: “The whole sale process was an experience, from the Due Diligence to the potential buyers coming here and us showing them around, and the questions they asked. It’s an experience I’m pleased I’ve been through, because the end result was good, but it’s not one I particularly want to do again! It was very time consuming.”

Fantastic support

Kevin feels that having the right support in place was the reason for the successful sale. “The support we got was fantastic, there’s no doubt about that. Andrew [Sims, BCMS Lead Advisor] was a real godsend to us at times because he’d answer a lot of the questions we didn’t really want to answer. He would go back to Tricel and be able to word the response correctly, and push at the right times, and chase at the right times.

“I think if it had been left to Andy and me to negotiate with Tricel, mistakes would have been made. But having the middle man there who’s been there, done it and sold the T-shirt – he shielded us from making silly mistakes.”

Taking the best deal

Creating a competitive environment can be crucial, and Kevin believes the sale price was influenced by the number of people who had expressed interest at the final stage. “You’re going to be able to drive the price up if you have four or five people at the table. When it’s a single-horse race you’re limited on how you can negotiate.” Although there was a higher competing bid, after much discussion the shareholders decided to go with Tricel: “The final deal for us was the right deal: it had the infrastructure in place. The synergy was there for us with Tricel.”

“It doesn’t matter whether I own the business or not, it’s all about the new challenges that each and every day brings.”

After the deal

Kevin and Andy had a low-key celebration once the deal was completed, going out for a couple of beers. But it was more to celebrate the journey rather than the result. As Kevin says: “It wasn’t really celebrating having sold up, but being at the end of the process, because it had been going on for a long time and it was nice to have a positive result.”

Kevin decided to stay with Action Pumps after the sale and does not see himself starting a new business in the near future: “I’m happy where I am at Tricel at the moment, I’ve got a good team, both internally here at Action Pumps, and externally with Tricel in Ireland. At the moment I’ve got no reason to move on.

“It’s worked out well for me. There’s nothing I would change. I still enjoy what I do, which I think is very important. All the time that I still enjoy it, still enjoy meeting the people, I’m going to continue the way I am. It doesn’t matter whether I own the business or not, it’s all about the new challenges that each and every day brings.”

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Company name
Action Pumps
Location
Waterlooville, Hampshire
Founded
1983
Business activity
Leading supplier of water pump systems
Annual sales
£7.96m in 2016
Reason for sale
December 2017 (duration 1 year 5 months)
Sold
New work/life balance
Acquirer
Tricel
Action Pumps acquired by Tricel