Blackwood’s client is one of the UK’s leading business process outsourcing (“BPO”) companies. It is focused on the public sector with over 2,000 employees and annual revenues of c. £100m. The company was backed by a US private equity (PE) firm that first invested in 2003, but that had subsequently injected more equity into the business on a number of occasions due to underperformance. The PE client was looking for a CEO to lead the company through a turnaround and exit.
The candidate needed to take a strong hands-on role in returning the newly restructured business to a cash generative position, transform the culture of the company to a service focused, external customer delivery oriented business and then work towards a successful exit of the business for the investors. This person was tasked with both driving operational improvement and being strong on relationship management (which was very important in a sector defined by high-value, long-term contracts and where their reputation was poor).
Blackwood worked closely with both the PE sponsor and Chairman of the business to clearly define what competencies were needed and what had not been right about previous incumbents (this was to be the fourth CEO since the MBO). We formalised these into an agreed candidate competencies grid which was used by all throughout the process to compare candidates.
We sourced candidates from three industry pools: 1. BPO, 2. broader outsourced services, 3. PE deals in the business services sector. Candidates who were/had worked for competitors of our client tended to have negative views on the business and we had to work hard to engage people in the process.
Blackwood appointed a divisional MD of a FTSE 100 outsourcing business who was responsible for an international division of c. £400m revenues. He had previously been an Executive Director for another FTSE 100 company and had a strong background in BPO. The client welcomed the fact that we had managed to attract someone with such a good reputation and relevant experience.
Post joining, we conducted a search for a new CFO and appointed a candidate with both BPO and PE experience. A successful turnaround and exit for the PE sponsor was achieved within 18 months of the CEO joining. The CEO and CFO have been retained by the new PE owner.