Video is exclusive to members, sign up now to enjoy this and many other features.


Cofounder and Former Commercial Director at The Access Group

IP Interview
Published on April 8, 2020

Why is this interview interesting?

  • How Access Group improved the sales function of the acquired assets
  • Synergies throughout the cost base in software M&A
Executive Bio

Chris Tossell

Cofounder and Former Commercial Director at The Access Group

Chris was a co-founder of Access Group, a UK-based enterprise software company, in 1991. Chris left in 1995 and returned in 2005 during a management buyout to lead M&A with a private equity sponsor. He led over 18 acquisitions during 2005-11 and helped the business grow in 2005 from £25m revenue to over £240m in 2019. Access is owned by TA Associates and Hg Capital and is valued over £1bn in 2019.

Interview Transcript

Looking post-acquisition, and you mentioned that one of the key drivers of success and scaling the acquisitions was the sales unit. Some businesses tend to stay pretty small, because they don’t like to scale the sales unit. Can you elaborate on the impact that sales had on some of these acquisitions?

One of the fundamental numbers in our acquisition, would be the cross-sell opportunity. One of the things that we were always looking for in an acquisition is, how much of their software can we sell into our user base, which was massive? And how much of our software could we sell into their user base? When we were working out what we were willing to pay in the valuation, we would be looking at that cross-sell opportunity.

We would impress that upon the target because if they’d said they were going to do 1.5 million and we said, well maybe you could do 1.8 million, we’d say, we’re going to bring a sales team of 70 people to sell your product. What you’re going to do, is you’re going to present to our sales people, at the next sales meeting, and show them everything you’ve got. Then we’re going to dedicate a pre-sales person to that product and we’re going to dedicate a sales person to that product, who will be a specialist and they will be called in. All our account managers, in Access, all carried a target to sell other products and they would visit the key customers and they’d say, look, we’ve got this new product; it’s an absence tracking. I think it would benefit you to see it. That cross-sell would be a very important part and, again, it helps because they can then see that, well, that earn-out’s pretty easy to make, isn’t it? Suddenly, I’ve gone from two sales people to 60.

You’ve already mentioned the synergies that you typically achieve, in these types of businesses. The admin role, the marketing role, the finance division. Anything else that you would see? Clearly, there is cost synergies and revenue synergies that you have already mentioned.

Further down the track, you do get consolidated offices. We bought 18 businesses and I think we ended up with 12 offices, by the end of the four years. That’s gradually come down now, with relocation, but sensitive relocation. As far as I’m aware, nobody has lost their job, unless they said, I don’t want to travel more than 20 miles to an office. There are synergies, ultimately, and they do come through. If you go with private equity, our journey was 2011 to 2015. The second journey was 2015 to 2019. During that time, you’re trying to boost your percentage EBITDA. We were achieving 17, 18 million, on 60. By the time you get to 250 million, you’re trying to break that 100 million, 125. So getting to more like 48%, 49% EBITDA. To do that, you do have to do some restructuring, as well. Hopefully, without losing employees because you need them. They are the life-blood of the business, anybody who is any good.

Sign up to test our content quality with a free sample of 50+ interviews

Copyright Notice

This document may not be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means including resale of any part, unauthorised distribution to a third party or other electronic methods, without the prior written permission of IP 1 Ltd.

IP 1 Ltd, trading as In Practise (herein referred to as "IP") is a company registered in England and Wales and is not a registered investment advisor or broker-dealer, and is not licensed nor qualified to provide investment advice.

In Practise reserves all copyright, intellectual and other property rights in the Content. The information published in this transcript (“Content”) is for information purposes only and should not be used as the sole basis for making any investment decision. Information provided by IP is to be used as an educational tool and nothing in this Content shall be construed as an offer, recommendation or solicitation regarding any financial product, service or management of investments or securities.

© 2024 IP 1 Ltd. All rights reserved.