Azzurri Communications: Martin St Quinton
Serial entrepreneur Martin Quinton's latest venture
Martin St Quinton and venture capital house 3i first got together back in 2000 after St Quinton decided to leave his previous company to start something new.
Neither side knew exactly what sort of company they would start but they knew that a mixture of St Quinton and 3i would be a great partnership. St Quinton commissioned some research and discovered that the hottest sector at the time was telecommunications aggregation. Peter Gardner, 3i's head of communications agreed, so it was all systems go.
The fruit of their labours, Azzurri, is now growing so fast it's sometimes hard to credit just how many companies it's acquired – 11 so far. Its fast growth is down to the unique partnership serial acquirer St Quinton has forged with 3i and the confidence it has in his eye for a good idea. In his 20-odd years in business, St Quinton has acquired in excess of 60 companies, was named Ernst & Young Communications and Technology Entrepreneur of the Year, took his last company from a turnover of £20m to over £1bn in just eight years, and had time to make his management Team of the Year in the PWC Techtrack 100.
St Quinton could have joined his family's company but instead he chose to set up his own off-shoot of the business. In 1980 he started The Saint Group, a private office equipment com- pany, but frustrated by lack of capital he took the decision to sell to a company with deeper pockets, Danka PLC, in 1993. From then until 1999 he was CEO of Danka's International Operations. During this six-year period he acquired over 50 companies in 30 different countries, and increased turnover exponentially.
Aspire to acquire
Four years down the line, St Quinton has spearheaded no less than 11 mergers and acquisitions, creating an IT and telecoms reseller and consultancy company with a combined revenue of £75m and over 500 staff. St Quinton also has clients from small businesses through to FTSE 100 companies and the public sector.
However, St Quinton doesn't believe acquiring companies guarantees success. Each potential company is researched in detail and if he thinks the deal is not 100% right then he walks away. He also makes sure that before he buys, he compiles a expansive document – which is usually larger than the due diligence document – that details exactly how the company will be assimilated. The main problems with acquisitions according to St Quinton are the people, both owners and staff. “Almost 90% of the problems are human not technical and are HR related, and you can't always solve the people issues,” he says. As a result, St Quinton was in no rush to integrate his acquisitions, he waited until Azzurri had hit a £50m turnover. Even then he tended to concentrate more on the integration of the people rather than products and services.
St Quinton also had a few other ideas that set Azzurri apart from the competition. Each one of his directors has to take responsibility for one of their premium Platinum clients, so the FD and IT directors find themselves learning all about what the customers want and need on a weekly basis. It's this connection with its grass roots that St Quinton believes keeps the company successful.
If you want to hear more about how St Quinton acquired 60 companies successfully, then book your place on at our Growth Strategies conference. For more details see page 12 or visit www.growingbusiness.co.uk/ growthstrategies.