Buyout team builds for growth

A Burnley-based business bought out by its senior management team earlier this year has revealed plans for growth as it emerges from the pandemic.

RAM Services, a specialist structural repair and refurbishment contractor, has a strong order book and pipeline of work.

Established in 1980, the company provides a range of services to the power and water supply and distribution sector, the wider civil engineering industry and to a range of public sector organisations.

It operates primarily in the North West of England but also works all over the UK and sometimes overseas.

The buyout deal, for an undisclosed sum, saw its shareholders retire and exit the business with Paul Haworth, contracts director, and James Best, business development manager, taking full control.

WNJ carried out financial due diligence for the buyout team. The MBO was completed in March this year, after being delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Lancashire-based businessman Paul Lansom facilitated the funding to the deal and guided and advised the management team throughout the process, assisted by WNJ and solicitor David Southern of Vincents.

He said: “The deal took 12 months longer than it should because of Covid-19 but we managed to get it moving again and over the line and everyone involved was pleased with the eventual outcome.

“It is a really strong business with two new directors, and going forward, following a period of consolidation, the management team has some ambitious plans for growth.

“The company has a good reputation for quality and it is this quality ethos that permeates through all tiers of the operation. The future is looking really positive.”

He added: “WNJ did an excellent job during the MBO process and the business will be appointing them as auditors moving forward.”

Continuing to bloom!

The Smith family’s business has been a growing concern for more than 80 years but the last 16 months has been one of the most challenging periods in its history.

Peter H Smith supplies flowers and plants, sourced from near, and far to florists and supermarkets in the North of England.

The company, one of the largest independent wholesalers of its kind in the UK, has had to overcome the double impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit on its operations.

Led by husband-and-wife team Nick and Diane, it has overcome those challenges and is emerging from the pandemic strongly and with confidence in the future.

Nick says: “We are a proud, third generation British family company. We believe in the business and we believe in what we are doing.”

Peter H Smith can trace its origins back to a market garden in Tarleton, which was started by Nick’s grandfather.

His father Michael then developed this into the current wholesale business on the original Preston Market and it has grown and expanded into state-of-the-art premises in Ashton-on-Ribble.

Today the wholesaler supplies flowers and plants from across the world, as well as nearer home in the UK. Every day it receives colourful blooms from places as far away as Africa, and South America.

A team of workers creates bouquets destined for sale in well-known supermarkets and stores and the business operates its own fleet of delivery vehicles.

Nick recalls the immediate impact of the first lockdown on the business. From being a 24-hour well-oiled operation with 48 staff, the company found itself closing the doors to its premises and sending everyone home.

Only Nick, Diane and one member of staff remained as a ‘click and collect’ service was set up. As the pandemic continued the business also increased its online sales presence.

Nick says: “We did whatever we could. It has been difficult, and we’ve received no financial support. Sales disappeared but the bills didn’t.”

The company has slowly brought its workers back and Diane says sales are now at pre-Covid levels.

Brexit has been another challenge. The cost of flowers has risen as a result of the UK leaving the single market. However, Nick says that it has worked closely with importers to minimise the impact of extra paperwork on the operation.

Nick and Diane are looking ahead to the easing of all restrictions and the return of events such as weddings and corporate gatherings, which will provide a major boost for their sector.

Nick says: “Our staff have been really supportive and have stuck by us. We’ve had to change the way we work, and they have responded really well to those changes. It has been a real learning curve for all of us.”

There has been investment in a new computer system as the company looks to the future.

Nick says he is also grateful for the advice and support received from WNJ during the pandemic.

He says: “We’ve a long relationship with WNJ and they have been there for us throughout the pandemic. As well as their valuable advice, when needed they are also a friendly ear on the end of the phone!”

Peter H Smith is based on Chain Caul Way, near Preston’s docklands. For more information on its services call 01772 333000 or email sales@peterhsmith.com

New growth and faces at Pure AV

Pure AV is an audio visual integration company that delivers agile workplace and communication solutions to businesses, universities and healthcare institutions.

It has been a busy start to 2021 for the Preston headquartered company and it recently announced a series of new appointments to meet the increased demand for its services.

The roles include three account managers, introduced to work with new and existing customers in the south of England. A system designer, as well as new logistics, service and finance positions.

The new appointments follow a period of sustained growth and increased demand for Pure AV’s services as organisations, particularly in the healthcare and the corporate sector, turn to the company to keep their staff connected and productive during the pandemic.

Announcing the additons to the team, Pure AV managing director Peter Sutton reflected on the organisation’s experience of 2020 and outlined his determination to put the company at the forefront as the country enters the first phases of recovery from the pandemic.

He said: “We are fortunate to have exited 2020 in a strong position. A situation enabled in part by the diversity of the sectors we operate in and several long-term projects that have been able to continue throughout lockdown.

“We have also seen new customers approach us to help them equip their people and offices with video conferencing and collaboration technology to enable safe, socially distanced operation”.

The move to more flexible ways of working is a trend that Pure AV expects to continue beyond the pandemic: its recent expansion, part of the strategy to ready the business to respond.

Looking ahead, Peter believes that now is the time to act. He said: “We have looked at demand and adjusted our structure. Before Covid-19, we were already stretching to accommodate an increasingly wide geographic spread of customers, including international projects.

“With the investment in people and structural changes we have made, I am confident that we have the right partnerships and people, with the right enthusiasm and determination to make this work”.

Pure AV has been working with WNJ for just over two years. A partnership that started when the company reached the threshold for audited accounts.

Peter said: “The team at WNJ are responsive and friendly. The payroll, auditing and tax services they provide are efficient. We are pleased to have their support as we continue to move the business forward”.

For more details about Pure AV and its work visit https://www.pureav.co.uk/

Logistics business drives forward

Fenn Logistics Limited provides transport and supply-chain services for key clients involved in the food and ambient sectors right across the UK.

During the pandemic it has been hard at work delivering vital food supplies up and down the country.

Despite the many challenges this year has thrown up, including the impact Covid-19 has had on many retailers, it has continued to move forward as a business.

Current owner and managing director Gary Major, of Major Logistics Limited (MLL), acquired the business with support and advice from WNJ in 2014 and during the last six years the company has overcome many tough challenges.

It has also grown its fleet from nine vehicles to 22 over that time.

Headquartered near Burton-on-Trent, Fenn never stands still. Its fleet will soon be enhanced further with the introduction of a new Volvo FH4 Limited Edition and it will use that to further promote its credentials across its market sector.

The business also changed its trading name in 2019 from RG Fenn, which has a history stretching back around three decades, to Fenn Logistics.

The new identity has been a limited company in its own right for 20 years and the switch was made to five the business a more appropriate brand name for the long-term.

Under its previous name and before the 2014 acquisition, the company had been moderately successful in garnering a number of clients, some of whom are still with the business in its current form.

Gary says: “The business has grown significantly since MLL acquired it and despite this awful year for everyone we have continued to go from strength-to-strength.

“WNJ have been the accountants for Fenn for the whole of its life and have supported MLL through may trials and tribulations as it has sought to grow organically. The relationship is a good one and based on mutual trust.”

To find out more about the business visit www.rgfenn.com

To discuss how WNJ can support your business please contact me on 01772 430000

Showing care and support

A family-owned business providing crisis and respite care for children and young people with complex needs is embarking on the next stage of its growth journey.

Preston-based Real Care Support has purchased its first residential unit and is currently developing it into a therapeutic residential home.

It has also applied to registration authority Ofsted as it looks to offer the therapeutic residential children’s home alongside its current services.

The business, founded by Gary Meehan, currently works with local authorities, secure units, youth offending teams and social work departments providing services which meet each client and young person’s individual needs.

As well as crisis and respite care the company, which now employs more than 60 staff, provides a number of other services, including secure and welfare transport.

WNJ has provided support and business advice to Gary and his team throughout the company’s development, from its very early days. The business was started by Gary just over two years ago.

Gary, whose family has a background in teaching and social work, says he founded Real Care Support after selling a previous business, because he was wanted to work in a sector that he had a passion for.

He says: “We did a lot of research and found specialisations in the market and we’ve developed them. We’re very excited about the next stage in the business.

“We’re looking to create something that isn’t just a children’s home, but offers therapies to help those young people living there.

“It is about making a real difference, that is really important to everyone in the business.”

The plan is for more growth, once it receives Ofsted registration. That registration and the business’ first residential unit will also lead to more jobs.

Gary says: “We’ve had some great help and advice from WNJ since day one, they have been with us throughout the journey.”

To find out more about Real Care Support and its services visit: realcaresupport.com

To discuss how WNJ can support your business please contact me on 01772 430000

New hair brand is launched

A natural hair product inspired by a three-year-old girl and developed and manufactured in the North West of England has been officially launched onto the global market.

FYC (For Your Curls) is a natural hair product range specially designed for mixed race and curly hair and is looking to take a slice of a haircare market worth £1.72bn in the UK alone.

Rob Binns, co-founder of the Preston-based business, began working on the range with his business partners Bradley Lincoln and Mike Peters after failing to find the right kind of hair product for his three year-old-daughter Lydia.

Rob is also managing director of Cotton Court in Preston. WNJ advised him during the creation of the business centre and continues to provide ongoing support for the growing venture.

Speaking about his latest business, Rob said: “We’ve got a little girl aged three with frizzy, curly hair and we couldn’t find any products that worked for her that didn’t contain harsh chemicals. So, together with Brad and Mike, we set about creating them.

“Having seen first-hand what a ‘problem’ curly hair can be, there are so many textures, so many differences and so many options, we wanted to develop a product range to help ‘curlies’ live with and love their hair. Lydia certainly loves it!”

He added: “We are really excited about FYC’s potential. We feel we’ve found a genuine gap in the market, a hair care product that is natural and meets a real need.

“The sales potential for FYC is massive and not just in the UK. Our aim is to build and develop a strong British brand that can make a real impact.

“We’ve got ambitious marketing and sales development plans and a strong and enthused team around us. We’ve set ourselves ambitious but very realistic targets for growth.”

FYC is vegan and made from naturally derived ingredients including shea butter, organic aloe vera, olive oil and argan oil. It contains no silicones, sulphates or parabens. It is also gender neutral.

It has taken 24 months from the initial concept to the launch of the brand.

FYC has based its manufacturing and sales operations in Lancashire. An online sales platform has been created, working with Preston-based e-commerce specialists EKM.

The products are being made by a specialised, award-winning contract manufacturer in the region.

An appetite for innovation

A fast-growing family business that specialises in plant-based protein foods has tripled its turnover since its move into new purpose-built manufacturing premises.

Award-winning NutreeLife made the move from Preston to the Dakota Business Park in Burscough this summer – investing £1.5m in new equipment.

Its two, new, state of the art manufacturing facilities, totalling approximately 24,000 square feet, will enable major future growth. And the move is already paying off with annual turnover set to increase from £1.4m last year to £4m.

NutreeLife, which has a 45-strong workforce, makes high quality protein bars, snacks and burger mixes that are high in protein and low in sugars. Its clients include a number of major UK brands.

With support from WNJ, the business has also been able to invest heavily in the Research and Development work that is central to its success.

WNJ has advised NutreeLife on its successful applications for R&D tax relief, which supports businesses in all sectors working on innovative projects in science and technology.

It can be claimed by a range of companies that seek to research or develop an advance in their field. It can even be claimed on unsuccessful projects.

Chief executive Patrick Mroczak said: “We offer bespoke products for our clients and R&D and product development sit at the heart of everything we do.

“We have our own lab in house and the success of the company has been built on continual innovation. The tax relief we’ve received has helped us greatly in pushing forward that ambitious R&D programme.”

He added: “The investment in our new manufacturing facilities is also a major statement of intent. We needed the extra space to gear up our operation. We’re also investing in our people as we look to continue our growth journey.”

NutreeLife won the prestigious Be Inspired in Business Award (BIBA) for best new business last year.

The company was created to “make great nutrition accessible for all” and its founders Patrick and managing director Adam Hodgkinson have years of experience and dedication in the food, nutrition and beverage industry.

They set out to establish NutreeLife after recognising a gap in the market for a vegan and ‘free-from’ range of protein supplements.

Patrick said: “These are really exciting times both for the business and the industry. We are operating in a really growing sector which has massive potential.

“Our relationship with WNJ is very much a partnership. They are there to help and guide us, whatever issues arise, and have supported us right from day one.

“The professional advice we have received from them has played a big part in helping us to get where we are today and they continue to work with us on our future growth plans.

“WNJ’s work in the field of R&D and the support available to us has been invaluable as we’ve moved the business forward to where it is today.”

• To discuss how WNJ can help support your business please contact me on 01772 430000.

Hotel distillery plan will raise the bar

Gin is proving a real tonic for a popular Lancashire hotel as it looks to emerge strongly from the coronavirus pandemic and attract visitors from across the UK.

The family-run Whitehall Hotel in Darwen is currently converting its restaurant into a gin distillery and bar as part of its development plans.

Primarily a venue for weddings and events, the popular hotel has been run by Neil and Tracy Bullows since 2003, with WNJ providing support and advice to the couple.

During this latest lockdown, work is continuing to convert its former restaurant area into the distillery, with a bar and seating area, and a space for gin-making classes to take place.

Once completed, the Whitehall will also be able to offer dishes from its ‘ginstronomy’ menu, which will match botanicals with food from regional suppliers.

Paul Sheerin, who owns Defiance Spirits based in Oldham, and who is a friend of Neil’s, is assisting in the plan, which will help expand the drinks brand, which includes a range of gins and rums.

And a special premium London gin is being developed by Paul and Neil as part of the overall project.

The Whitehall has been an institution in the area for more than 50 years, but in common with many other businesses within the hospitality sector, it has been significantly impacted by the pandemic.

The gin project is an example of how businesses are creatively looking to emerge stronger from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Neil says: “The one thing that the Whitehall has always been able to count on is the support of the local community, which was never any more evident during the recent Eat Out to Help Out scheme.

“I thought if we could further build on that business by attracting customers from outside of the area, the Whitehall will stand the test of time.”

“We’re hard at work creating something very special and we believe we’re the only hotel outside London to have its own gin distillery. These are really exciting times for the business.”

A majestic Victorian manor house lovingly transformed into a traditional country house hotel, The Whitehall dates back to 1898.

It enjoys many period features from the sandstone frontage to its panelled sweeping staircase and is perfectly situated for visitors wishing to explore the West Pennine Moors.

Defiance gin, was voted the best in the world at this year’s prestigious San Francisco World Spirits Competition. Up against more than 3,000 entries, Defiance Navy Strength won the ‘Best in Show, Unaged White Spirit’ category.

• To discuss how WNJ can help support your business please contact me on 01772 430000.

Brewery rises to the challenge

A family-run brewery came up with a successful home delivery service during lockdown – with demand for its beers coming from across the country.

Slater’s Ales is based in Stafford but has strong links to the North West. All of the family originally come from Preston and it still has many ties with the area.

Company director Vicki Slater says the business is now looking to invest in its own automated bottling plant as it looks towards the future.

She explains how the brewery had to come up with a new business model when lockdown struck and its hospitality outlets closed their doors.

Vicki says: “Pre-pandemic 95 per cent of our business was supplying pubs, restaurants and on trade customers covering the majority of the England and Wales.

“On March 19 we lost all of that. Overnight we had to come up with a new model for the company.

“We have always had a small online presence and over that weekend we could see the orders start to pick up. From that moment we knew where we had to go to ensure the business not only survived but thrived through the period.”

Every member of staff, including those working in its own bar, was put on furlough.

Vicki and head brewer and managing director Andrew Slater started to push the online options for home delivery on social media.

Vicki says: “The majority of home deliveries were sent out within 48 hours and we started to get orders for nationwide deliveries.”

The brewery used Preston-based InXpress to get its nationwide deliveries out the next day, an approach that ensured repeat customers.

Andrew started to slowly increase brewing capabilities and Slater’s started to brew different beers for bag in box and bottled beers. Its small hand-bottling plant at the brewery was in full flow most weeks.

Looking to the future, Slater’s says it is uncertain how long it will take the pub trade to recover.

In the meantime, it has taken the decision to look at funding options to create its own automated bottling plant to stop reliance on external companies.

It has also joined forces with Virgin Wines and its beers are now listed on the website with new brews are in the pipeline specifically for Virgin customers.

Vicki says: “We have learnt that, like many other businesses that faced a challenging time, change can be for the good and that it can bring its own rewards”.

If you wish to try Slater’s multi award winning ales for yourself the company has a special offer for all WNJ clients.

You can receive 10 per cent off all orders through October. Just use the code WNJ10 at checkout through the website www.slatersales.co.uk