October saw Walkers Transport complete a multi-million pound MBO funded by Private Equity firm, Total Capital Partners. Utilising its single-source funding model, Total Capital provided £13.5 million of equity and debt to fund the deal, and has taken a 60% equity stake in Walkers.
But what made a highly selective investor choose a Northern logistics Company as one of its key investments of 2017/18, and what does it mean for the business?
Richard Simpson, CEO commented “In my mind, the scope for business growth is phenomenal and Walkers represented a near perfect investment opportunity. It’s a very well-run business, built on solid foundations over many years and we have plenty of scope to improve. I think there is an opportunity in our industry to raise the bar from a customer service and customer experience standpoint. Customers nowadays look to us as a transport enabler not just as a pallet delivery business. To this end we strive to be a route to market and strategic stock inventory partner. Everything we do is geared towards bringing our customers the quality and reliability they deserve. Perhaps it was this approach that stood out for the investors.”
Previously UK Vice-President of Shred-It, Simpson has had experience of a number of Private Equity deals during his career, including accelerating Shred-It’s UK revenue growth from £1m to c£40m and increasing the branch footprint from 3 to 20 locations in a 15 year period.
Walkers, Simpson adds, is on track for a similar high growth trajectory, “We’re currently approaching £30 million turnover, but the ambition is to double the size over the next 3-5 years. I’m confident that with the backing of Total Capital Partners, it’s a figure we’ll reach. We’re determined to drive forward to deliver countless benefits to our existing and potential customers. Let’s not forget the limitless opportunities this will create for our near to 300 strong workforce.”
So, what sort of investment opportunities could be in the pipeline for Walkers?
Simpson comments, “Well, acquisitions for one. The backing we have following the MBO means there’s scope for acquisitions elsewhere in the UK. That said, the main focus must be on organic growth, we have a good story to tell and the feedback we get is that it resonates with the customers. Growth is a great thing, it brings all kinds of other opportunities into reality. By continuing to grow we will automatically create opportunities for staff, opportunities for our current customers and opportunities for our new customers.”
The headcount at Walkers has grown steadily in 2017, along with a number of new senior appointments such as new group heads in Sales and Human Resources, as well as Health and Safety.
Since the MBO, the Walkers Sales team is set to double in size. Our sales investment is going to grow significantly, which is brilliant for the Leeds and Manchester regions. From Sales and Marketing to Customer Support – and of course, the drivers themselves. We recognise we have the capacity to offer more.
In order to deliver this we’re rolling out a series of development programmes for our existing staff members, with leadership and development training at the forefront of our investment in people. Moreover, we’ve recently had our first ‘graduate’ from our Walkers Driver Training Programme. We already work closely with training providers including Cube Learning and Development and Rochdale Training, and we plan to recruit more apprentices in 2018. Yet, I feel we are very much at the beginning of that journey”
So, what is it that sets Walkers apart? “Good question, Walkers is a people business. We have some highly talented people with a great attitude, increasingly focused on customer needs, exacting service standards and consistency. It’s as simple as that. We are not interested in being ‘just another transport Company’. Simpson added. “We’re looking to set a new standard in transport and logistics.
If you asked me “are we there yet?”, my reply would be “of course not,” but that only strengthens our resolve to improve. Our aim is to be better today than we were yesterday and better tomorrow than we are today. As long as we keep learning we will be fine. Of course, we’ll continue to invest in the best kit and the best people available to achieve our goals. Our attitude is that it’s not enough to deliver pallets on time, it’s about how we interact with, and represent, our customers.
Not only that, we’re also committed to creating a more diverse haulage industry. In 2017, four of our critical appointments were female and whilst this was by no means deliberate, it just so happened that they were the stand out candidates for each of the roles. I think it’s extremely important to increase the profile of women in logistics, it’s traditionally a very male dominated industry which, I’m sure, creates biases that should not exist. Talent and attitude is everything and we (Walkers) cannot afford to exclude 50% of the population in our search for the best talent. It’s an attitude that the rest of the company and I share and it’s really important to us.
It’s an exciting time for Walkers, and indeed the Leeds, Birstall and Manchester hubs they currently work from. With a letter from The Financial Times confirming that they’ve been identified as a candidate for the FT1000 – Europe’s Fastest Growing Companies, time will tell if Walkers make the final cut. Regardless, the message is clear, times are a’changing in the UK haulage industry, and it is Walkers intention to lead the way.
Source: Uk Haulier