Business ServicesOur Business Services Practice works in partnership with listed, private and private equity-backed businesses worldwide at Board, CEO, divisional and senior functional leadership levels. The business services sector encompasses a wide range of sub-sectors, all of which offer essential, often day-to-day, services to companies. The market is showing clear growth driven by a tendency for businesses to outsource non-core activities for reasons of lower cost, operational efficiency and rising service levels/service specialisation. Most companies in the sector show a high visibility of often recurring earnings and an ability to diversify in terms of geographic expansion and service offering, adapting as markets change. We have a strong track record and expertise in the following areas:
- BPO and data management
- Facilities & property management
- Distribution, logistics & supply chain services
- Testing, inspection & certification
- Oil & Gas, infrastructure & engineering services
- Professional & IT services
- Waste management
- Rental & vending services
Anastasia BelinskayaSenior Consultant
Anastasia leads Blackwood’s Industrials Practice. She has extensive international experience and advises clients across industrial sectors including high precision engineering, automotive supply chain, manufacturing and capital goods, chemicals, building products and packaging. Prior to joining Blackwood, Anastasia worked at a global executive search firm, focusing on advising private equity backed industrial businesses. Anastasia started her career at UBS where she worked in M&A in London and Moscow, and as COO of the European industrials investment banking team. She read Physics at St Petersburg University.
RoleThe 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).
Search ProcessBlackwood 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.
OutcomeBlackwood 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. Contact team members
RoleThe role was to run a fully autonomous and value critical division requiring strategic vision post an acquisitive period in its life-cycle. We needed to find a hands-on, international divisional CEO with a solid understanding of the TIC and oil & gas sectors. The division had been under-managed for some time, and the right candidate had to demonstrate a clear track record of designing and implementing significant change management programmes in his/her previous roles. This position required a substantial amount of global travel out of its base in the Netherlands, deep contacts in the global oil & gas sector and a willingness to make tough decisions on the spot with imperfect information.
Search ProcessThe challenge with hiring for a PE backed businesses in the TIC sector has always been in finding individuals who, in addition to having the vitally important technical knowledge, have the dynamism and entrepreneurial spirit that sponsors look for in order to drive value. Blackwood conducted extensive referencing to identify individuals that match both these criteria and had to rule out a large number of candidates on the basis of their personal characteristics, rather than knowledge. When we were awarded the search the client already had two candidates live in the process from other sources. Those candidates were in advanced stages of negotiations and we therefore had weeks, rather than months to provide our client with alternatives to what was a possible, but sub-optimal hire. The long list was very quickly narrowed down to one candidate, who we then managed to put in front of our client within a few days from the first approach, despite his incredibly busy schedule.
OutcomeAppointed a former Executive Board Member and Head of a sizeable Energy Division within a global Inspection & Certification business. He had previously been on the Executive Committee of a Norwegian headquartered leading provider of non-destructive testing and certification services. The candidate relocated from Aberdeen to the Netherlands and has completely transformed the business, reducing headcount, eliminating inefficiencies, streamlining group’s activities in the emerging markets and substantially improving the division’s performance. This has had visible positive impact on the group’s results. Contact team members
RoleBlackwood worked closely with the Deputy CEO and Group HR Director to clearly define the atypical Divisional Chairman roles. The company operates multiple brands from 1,700 sites in the UK through four operating divisions with different end markets, each with c. £1 billion revenues. The Divisional Chairmen sit above each of these 4 divisions. The title and structure had only been created recently and this was to be the first appointment of an external candidate into one of these roles. The Divisional Chairman assumes overall responsibility for the division’s P&L, defines the on-going strategy and KPI’s of their division and are the visible leader for the division at group level. However, the MDs who report into the Divisional Chairman have the hands-on operational responsibility and run their business units on a day-to-day basis. It was therefore a key requirement to identify a proven GM who was able to retain some distance from day-to-day operations, manage through influence and coaching, and provide healthy challenge and support to the MDs. This person would have a ‘low ego’ and be comfortable allowing their MDs to take the plaudits when things go well, whilst supporting them through more difficult times.
Search ProcessOur client was a dominant player in the builder’s merchant sector and was keen for us to bring talent and new ideas from outside of the industry. We therefore drew up a list of target companies from analogous industries, such as other B2B distributors/wholesalers and other service businesses that served the building & construction sectors. We focused predominantly on experienced general managers who had already proved themselves in running significant P&L’s and had the right set of behaviours and gravitas to play a more Chairman-type role. The main challenges in the search were finding people with the required cultural and personal fit and to persuade individuals who were either leading businesses as a CEO or reporting to a CEO to take on a position that reported to the Deputy CEO.
OutcomeBlackwood appointed the former Deputy CEO of a FTSE 250 automotive leasing company to lead a newly created division largely encompassing a recent acquisition. He brought innovative thinking and relevant experience from his previous roles as President Europe and President Americas at a leading listed electronic distribution business. Our client also met and hired another candidate as part of our search who they felt was well-suited to the culturally sensitive role of becoming Chairman of the division encompassing their core brand. He was previously CEO of a small listed construction rental business. Contact team members
Isabella works on assignments across all practice areas. Prior to Blackwood, Isabella worked at Hammond Partners focussing on equities and corporate broking appointments. She read History of Art at York University.
Eleanor leads Blackwood’s Healthcare Practice. She has advised listed, private equity backed and independent businesses, and has extensive experience in the B2B services and multisite consumer health areas in particular. Prior to joining Blackwood, Eleanor worked in research and editorial at an independent publishing house. She read Theology at Cambridge University.
RoleBlackwood worked closely with the CEO, Managing Director North America and HR Director to clearly define the criteria for this appointment. The individual would need to take responsibility for the P&L and direct team in their area, whilst also having the strategic mindset to work closely with the other US VP and MD North America to define direction for the American business overall. They needed a strong sales and marketing skillset, leading business growth, balanced with an ability to drive operational efficiency. Most crucially they needed to have the clear potential to step up to the MD North America role in a relatively short time frame. To find a US national with experience of working in an international business, interacting with colleagues across many cultures, was imperative.
Search ProcessThe pool of companies within the US rental market was reasonably limited, particularly when taking into account international presence. Thus the search was largely focused on a broader range of industrial service companies where they had a multi-site business model and similar sales process to the end-customer. Given it was a US-centric search, for a US national and focused on the US market it was a reasonably new candidate pool for us. We successfully mapped this market, with extensive pre-referencing, in three weeks and followed this with a two week trip to the US to interview candidates largely along the Eastern Seaboard.
OutcomeBlackwood appointed a former VP South East Region from a leading international rental operator with prior international experience. Shortlisted candidates came from a range of industrial services businesses. The successful candidate was strongly ambitious and something of an ‘overhire’ having run a much larger P&L so Blackwood worked closely with the Group CEO to deliver the right messages and package to attract him. He has subsequently gone on to become MD North America and thus a FTSE 100 Director. Blackwood completed the search in 10 weeks with full referencing throughout the process. Contact team members
Richard leads Blackwood’s Business Services Practice and advises listed, private and private equity-backed businesses across the entirety of business services. He has particular expertise in education, professional services, BPO and specialty distribution. Prior to joining Blackwood, Richard worked at a specialist recruitment company focusing on placing strategy consultants into FTSE 100 corporate strategy functions. He read Geography with International Relations at Plymouth University.
RoleBlackwood worked closely with the CEO and Board of Directors to clearly define the criteria for this appointment. A key requirement was to identify and attract a proven CFO with a track record of transforming the performance of a finance function in a private equity setting. The individual needed to be able to be a commercial business partner to the CEO and build relationships and credibility with the country MDs, many of whom had been integrated into the business through acquisition. Further international M&A experience was anticipated and, as such, the CFO needed to have experience of leading this activity alongside the investor and internal M&A team. It was also noted that the candidate needed to exhibit cultural sensitivity in order to fit into a well-established senior team post the private equity investment. The process was to be managed as a confidential search given sensitivity around the investment.
Search ProcessIt was considered that a relatively small pool of suitable candidates existed with successful experience in a privately held business of requisite scale in EMEA. It was also noted that many candidates with such desired experience would likely be tied into a current project and unable to move, or likely to have potentially moved into a plural career. Whilst this ground was covered, it was always considered likely that the actual candidate would have less current private company experience than desired. Large scale LBOs remain highly attractive to a broad range of candidates, including those in larger listed businesses and this audience proved more receptive to the opportunity to enter a private business than those with previous private equity experience. A constant challenge in the assessment process was to find CFO candidates with a demonstrable track record of interacting with the operational side of the business on a daily basis.
OutcomeBlackwood appointed the former CFO of a leading listed electronic distribution business. The process was completed in 9 weeks from commencement of the assignment and the target company name was only revealed to the finalist three candidates under the terms of a non-disclosure agreement. On resignation the candidate received a counter offer from his previous employer, and Blackwood worked closely between the investor, management team and candidate to manage the effective transition to new role after a notice period. Blackwood completed full referencing throughout the process.
RoleBlackwood worked closely with the CEO to clearly define the criteria for this appointment. This was a newly created role with a particular focus on driving global account strategy and sales numbers over and above the rest of the sales team’s focus on local sales. A push into the US and Asia were important moves for the company going forward. Furthermore, this role was to act as an ambassador for the business raising its profile and brand in a fairly fragmented market. As part of the senior management team, alongside the CEO and CFO, this candidate would also have a major role in deciding and supporting the strategy of the group. Finally, leadership and development of team members was a key part of the role.
Search ProcessWe were looking for a candidate with a demonstrable sales track record and experience of winning new clients in new geographies but also with a depth of understanding of supply chain and logistics. Long-term solution-led contract sales were key. Pools thoroughly researched and referenced included logistics businesses, particularly with a 3PL focus, broader industrial services and automotive and aerospace & defence services companies.
OutcomeThe successful candidate was the Group Business Development Director for a £2 billion revenue international logistics firm who was eager to find a new challenge and attracted by the private equity angle. Blackwood worked closely with the client to assess an internal candidate for the role during the process who they were eager not to lose; upon our advice they were able to create two roles within senior management, placing the internal candidate as Commercial Director and our candidate as Sales & Marketing Director, working well as a team with very complementary skillsets.
Alan is a Partner of Blackwood and works with both listed and private equity backed clients advising on CEO, CFO and Chair appointments and succession planning. He has extensive experience in senior level finance function appointments in particular. Prior to joining Blackwood, Alan worked at Heidrick & Struggles in the CFO Practice and has over 15 years’ search experience. Alan began his career as a consultant in the Oil & Gas industry. He read Economics at Strathclyde University.