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Company name
Tickford Powertrain Test
Location
Newport Pagnell, UK
Founded
1820s
Business activity
Vehicle engine testing company
Reason for sale
Growth of the business
Sold
2013
Acquirer
Intertek Testing & Certification
Tony Braddon Headshot

Tony Braddon - Tickford Powertrain Test

Always planned to sell

In 2012, Tony Braddon and four other shareholders of Tickford Powertrain Test approached BCMS looking to sell. The five of them acquired the company through a management buyout in 2006, and the plan was always to sell it when the time was right. They also wanted to release some capital and ensure long-term security for the staff. Tony explains: “We had reached a point where we needed a fresh impetus in the business rather than tinkering with organic changes. We wanted the business to undergo a step change, so identifying a partner who understood the investment model and had strategy plans in mind was important.”

Tony heard about BCMS through a mailshot advertising a masterclass in the area. The Financial Director (FD) received one too, so they decided to go along. “We were impressed by what we heard. It helped that the room was full and the people we sat closest to chatted and they were entrepreneurial and similar to us, with reasonably successful businesses looking at their options to move forward.” Tony and the FD passed over BCMS’ details to their accountant, who researched the sector and BCMS came top of the list with many of the people he spoke to.

“I guess we all go into these things with rose-coloured specs on, thinking it would be a bit of a breeze."

Boardroom talk and confidentiality

The sale process itself was a little more challenging. Tony said: “I guess we all go into these things with rose-coloured specs on, thinking it would be a bit of a breeze. Some of the meetings we had with BCMS were sometimes a little uncomfortable. But, looking back, it was absolutely the right thing to do, because it was asking us some of the awkward questions we would undoubtedly be asked by potential acquirers.

“It is a very different type of meeting when you are talking to an acquirer. It almost feels like you are singing for your supper.”

“During the dry run meetings [the role-play training BCMS provides for all clients], there were certainly moments where there were pregnant pauses between the directors, where we had to figure out not only how we were going to handle questions but who was going to handle them. It is a very different type of meeting when you are talking to an acquirer.  It almost feels like you are singing for your supper.

“We are fundamentally a group of engineers and what we like is process. We like to understand what’s going on at any given time."

Confidentiality was very important to the shareholders from the beginning. Tony explains: “The industry, despite containing large, blue-chip OEM customers, is small, and rife with gossip. We wanted to keep it off the table with our competitors and under wraps with our customers.

The shareholders found the BCMS research process reassuring, “At the end of the day, our view was that we were paying you for research but you were happy for us to review and to add or remove names. It was very interactive; a collaboration.”

Even though everything was kept confidential and the sales process did not get in the way of the daily running of the business, Tony explains: “To put that into context, there are five directors. So, for a company of 60 people we were able to leave two directors to look after the operational stuff, leaving three of us, the FD, Operations Director and myself to take care of the sale discussions.”

Staying on with the business

Market response was encouraging, with 47 companies choosing to sign the NDA, and nine meetings. Intertek Group proved the best fit. Tony adds: “We were asked some quite challenging questions about what we actually wanted to do. In the end we decided it depends on what the price is. Where we got to with Intertek was common ground. Two of the directors decided to retire but one of those did a five-month handover and the other did a three-month handover. The FD, Operations Director, Technical Director have all stayed on with the business.

“There have been times where I’ve wanted to pull out my hair, but there have also been times where I feel strongly it’s most definitely the right thing for the business and the right thing for me. The things that Intertek have brought to the table is exactly what we needed. They have a very open mind on how the business operates and they have clearly bought the power and ability to invest. The thing they have done in the first year is signing off a multimillion-pound investment in the business in the next 12 months, which is exactly what the business needed. If you look at our existing business model and Intertek’s model, they are exactly the same. All of the staff were retained, and the headcount has grown.”

Teething issues

Although the outcome has been positive, there have been a few teething problems. Tony explains: “Having always been a small organisation, decisions were always made by the five directors and acted upon immediately. Now we are part of an organisation where things are considered. It’s a slightly more difficult transition. In terms of the level of investment going into the facility and the window of opportunity that has opened up, it really is the right move for the company.  At this moment in time, I feel that the company is in a really good place and it has a long-term future.”

 

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Company name
Tickford Powertrain Test
Location
Newport Pagnell, UK
Founded
1820s
Business activity
Vehicle engine testing company
Reason for sale
Growth of the business
Sold
2013
Acquirer
Intertek Testing & Certification
Tickford Acquired by Intertek