An experienced business leader, advisor and owner, Nick Harding has over 40 years of experience in developing fast growing, small to medium sized businesses with a specialty in the IT and audio visual sector.
He has a strong background in strategic business planning, coaching and mentoring company management boards, starting up companies and growing businesses fast through strategic marketing campaigns.
Proficient in the roles of General Manager, Operations, Business Advisor, or Non-Exec Director, Nick has founded several successful companies involved in the wholesale distribution of technology products.
Nick has started a number of companies, both in the UK and North America. His greatest accomplishment in business is the founding and running the UK’s biggest PC trade distributor, Frontline Distribution. Founded in 1983, it grew exponentially from a start-up to revenues of about £70m in 7 years without the need to raise external capital, and then grew it to £200m revenues and £10m profit before finally exiting. It is now part of the TechData Group, and remains the largest distributor of PC products in the country.
Mentoring and Team Building
The essence of every SME is the quality of the top management team, and Nick has experienced countless situations where the teams have been built, balanced and mentored so that they remain focussed on the company’s key strategic goals. He is currently working with several clients in an advisory capacity, including EFM itself. He is also working with two other IT clients who want to accelerate growth in revenues and profit with a view to exit in a few years.
For many owners the ultimate goal is to sell their business: – Nick has sold 5 businesses over the years – to trade buyers or MBO’s. Positioning the company years in advance is crucial to achieve the best result, and understanding that very often there will need to be a management transition period. As examples – he sold a US subsidiary to management, which is now one of the most successful AV distributors in its territory. Back in 1995 he also sold Frontline on a high earnings multiple to a German public company, which ultimately sold to TechData.
Background: The client is in a growing sector of Professional Services, with a unique business model, but had reached a plateau. It was breaking even at best. The two founders were by their own admission becoming too comfortable and not pushing boundaries.
Challenge: The challenge here is that the founders wanted to plan a route towards exit and to do that they recognised that the business needed to demonstrate growing scale and profitability.
Solutions: I was asked to join the Board as an advisor based on my extensive experience in growing peoples businesses. This has resulted in:
• A general challenge to the status quo.
• Clear definition of board roles with full accountability.
• A comprehensive review, and then overhaul, of the charging model.
• Board meetings were focused away from operations towards longer term strategic goals.
• Greater emphasis was placed on marketing, and more central resource, with clear job definitions.
• Joint ventures were introduced as a vehicle for growing into new geographies and markets.
• Developing a structured 3 year plan to communicate throughout the organisation and to monitor performance.
• Making the Board more prepared to take risk in order to grow, but maintaining awareness of fall back strategies.
• Widening of the senior team in preparation for an eventual exit.
Benefits: After two and a half years the client has grown an annualised revenue by over 100%, and has turned from break even into a good profit. The client is much better known in its target markets, is on a sustainable growth path and is already less dependent on its founders. The founders now feel ready to pursue a number of options – including either continuing on the organic growth path, or to make an exit.
The directors have always found having an independent director a great benefit in keeping a focus on personal and business goals and aims. After the loss of an independent director to ill health, the directors took sometime looking at options before getting to know Nick and inviting him to join the team. Like many businesses we were growing and moving forward, however since joining us he has kept us disciplined and focused and constantly helped us challenge the norm, as well as getting us to push boundaries to keep the business moving forward at the right pace. The regular discipline of board meetings to focus on important things, planning ahead and widening the team have all been positive towards driving the future success of the company. We would recommend working with Nick, to any SME that is serious about strategic growth.Read More