New markets

In the world of showbusiness it’s often said that artists haven’t truly made it until they’ve cracked America – and the same could be said for business.

The United States is the world’s largest economy and the number one export market for UK companies, so it’s a natural target for firms chasing growth.

Wrexham-headquartered Moneypenny has first-hand experience of chasing the American dream.

The company was founded in 2000 by siblings Rachel Clacher and Ed Reeves and provides outsourced telephone answering, live chat and digital communication services to around 21,000 businesses across the UK and US.

According to chief commercial officer Mark Finlay, its American adventure began seven years ago.

“We went into the US market organically at the end of 2014 and set up an office in Charleston, South Carolina,” he recalls. “At the time the business didn’t have a lot of experience of making acquisitions.

“Our culture is very important to us and we felt that was the best way to grow in a new market. By buying another business how can you replicate that culture across the other side of the Atlantic?

“On reflection we could have done it differently, gone in through acquisition and tried to have done it faster. The hardest thing about growing in the US market is getting the right people.”

Acquisitions

Moneypenny acquired two US firms, VoiceNation and Ninja Number, to strengthen its position and effectively consolidated them into one business.

“That was quite a transformational acquisition because we originally had about 50 people in the US and the target company had 150 – so overnight we effectively quadrupled the size of the business,” says Finlay.

“The acquired business has continued to grow very well. If you add into the mix the pandemic and the travel ban it’s been difficult to try and influence on the ground. Having said that the acquired business has continued to perform very well throughout COVID and we’re in a strong place with our US growth strategy.”

Nailing your investment strategy

In 2018 Moneypenny took private equity investment from ECI Partner in a move that reportedly valued the business at over £100m.

“It changed the dynamic in our professionalism and decision-making processes,” says Finlay. “When Ed (Reeves) and Rachel (Clacher) owned the business completely, decisions were more based on entrepreneurial intuition and ‘does it feel right?’

“Now we ask the question and build a business case and present it to the board. There’s a lot more rigour to those decision-making processes.

“The business has pretty much grown 15% a year since inception. Supported by our acquisition strategy, it’s accelerated in the last five years to 27%.

“That approach to growth hasn’t changed because of the private equity investment. It’s just a case of demonstrating why you should do something.”

What is Finlay’s top tip for growth? “Have absolute focus on your strategy and don’t divert from that. It’s easy to chase growth and you can be guilty of trying to do too much.”