10 high-flyers on AIM
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Introducing cat litter to the UK market, pioneering online entertainment centres and putting caravan parks back on the map are just some examples of AIM’s most successful companies.
Introducing cat litter to the UK market, pioneering online entertainment centres and putting caravan parks back on the map are just some examples of AIM’s most successful companies. Business XL meets the personalities behind them.
Entrepreneur: Mike McGoun
Route to success: Responding rapidly to changing market conditions
‘Instead of asking clients to spend lots of money on expensive new software systems we helped them get as much from their existing infrastructure as possible’
Legal sector-focused IT business Tikit has won many admirers during its four-year tenure on AIM, robustly growing both profits and revenues in an often-difficult period for companies of its type.
While many IT and software consultancies struggled in 2001 and 2002, Tikit continued to make progress – a fact chairman Mike McGoun attributes to the decisiveness of his management team.
‘Our only bad year in relative terms was 2002,’ recalls McGoun, whose initial involvement with the company was as a business angel to seven of his former employees who first formed the venture. ‘But we took rapid action, cut costs by ten per cent and changed our focus.’
This change in emphasis appears to have been particularly significant. ‘Instead of asking clients to spend lots of money on expensive new software systems we worked as consultants, trying to help them get as much from their existing infrastructure as possible,’ says McGoun. ‘Then when conditions improved [and customers began spending once more] they naturally turned to us.’
Having now established itself as the leading provider of software and services to the UK’s top 100 law firms, McGoun and his team are looking to gradually branch out internationally and into the accounting sector.
Entrepreneur: Rob Loosemore
Route to success: Achieving growth in a profitable but stagnant business
‘Fundamentally, the business was always a very strong asset… the challenge for us was to find a way of growing it’
Electronic point-of-sale software supplier Torex Retail enjoyed one of the most spectacular AIM debuts of 2004, its shares surging 70 per cent in just 12 months – a performance that owes much to the insight and experience of executive chairman Rob Loosemore.
Between 1996 and 2000 Loosemore filled various senior management positions at erstwhile parent company Torex (a provider of software and IT services to the healthcare and retail sectors) and though he eventually left to pursue other interests, he retained a keen interest in the group.
When Torex merged with fellow healthcare IT group iSoft in late 2003 he reasoned that ‘it was obvious retail was going to be non-core’ and put together an accelerated IPO package, with the backing of various institutions.
To Loosemore the next step was clear. ‘Fundamentally, the business was always a very strong asset. It has a strong customer base, solid recurring revenue streams and a strong, established management team. But there was no investment in growth and the challenge was to find a way of changing this.’
Significant investment in sales and marketing was therefore Loosemore’s priority and, having seen pre-tax profits more than double to £7.5 million in the year to December, his strategy already appears to be paying significant dividends.
Entrepreneur: Tony Rafferty
Route to success: Having conviction in an idea first trialled at university
‘We stick to what we say. Everything we do now as a business was outlined in our prospectus four and half years ago’
Whilst studying electronic engineering at Sheffield University, Tony Rafferty became ‘side-tracked’ into student politics, principally arranging gigs for fellow students. Rafferty’s degree suffered as a result and, having failed his course, he tried his hand at nightclub promotion – running events and designing and ordering swathes of promotional flyers.
It was around this time that he first forged the concept for Printing.com. ‘I was on the bus when it first dawned on me that it would be far cheaper to produce a load of leaflets together,’ Rafferty reminisces. ‘I borrowed £3,000 from my dad and set up the limited company in 1992.’
Progress has been steady ever since, with the company opening the first of a series of printing shops in 1998 [the idea being to send every job to a central print hub], floating on OFEX in 2000 and graduating to AIM last August.
‘We’re quite flattered to be described as steady,’ Rafferty now claims. ‘We focused first on our stores and everything we do today as a business was outlined in our prospectus four and half years ago.’
Now generating annual profits of around £1 million from roughly £10 million of turnover and operating burgeoning high-street, online and franchising businesses, the easygoing Rafferty feels vindicated in his decision to keep faith with the original plan. After all, he managed to pay his dad back long ago.