“I became involved with the business 10 years ago, as Group Financial Director. Our current Chairman and founder, started Acorn with his business partner in 1984. They were working in a different company but felt they could offer a much better service, so set up on their own and never looked back”, says Jonathan Coiley, Managing Director of Acorn.
“We’re a mechanical and electrical services maintenance business operating in London and the South East. We maintain heating systems, lifts, air-conditioning and a whole range of building services in commercial offices as well as in large private houses, schools and universities. Over the years we’ve added in water treatment and energy management.”
Timing isn’t everything
“It wasn’t exactly perfect timing when I joined the business. The recession had just hit. This meant that many of our clients were repairing rather than replacing their equipment. Then there was the proliferation of ‘procurement specialists’: aiming to drive cost savings for their clients. Driving down the price of services is not really in the long-term interests of anyone in our industry.
The industry was also going through a change, from routine-based work to a more predictive approach. Driven by technology that allows you to ‘see’ issues before they arise and act accordingly.
All of this has meant a change in culture across our industry.”
“What makes us stand out from competitors?”
“The main areas I think we stand out in are employee welfare and in building long-term trusted relationships with our customers.
We also ‘self-deliver’ where many of our competitors sub-contract. This gives us direct control over the quality of service we provide. And we’re good at hiring from different sectors. This has given us a knowledgeable mix of people with a diverse and complimentary skill set.”
“Every day do something that will inch you towards a better tomorrow”
“I know it’s the buzzword of the moment, but sustainability is one of our main drivers. We’re dedicated to reducing cost and environmental impact through the complete delivery of our services. We work closely with our clients, employees, suppliers and subcontractors to achieve a sustainable future in everything we do. In June 2014, we were extremely delighted to be awarded with The Planet Mark accreditation. This is an international recognition of the highest sustainability standards. Since the award we’ve seen immense benefits to our business and our sustainability journey. And the business has grown 40% over the last 2 years.
As a business, we want to be acknowledged as the leading independent building services maintenance provider in London and the South East. We also want to extend our geography beyond the South East and expand the services we provide.
Many of our competitors have been bought by bigger providers. But we’re big enough to self-deliver and manage bigger contracts while still being able to react quickly, offer high quality services, and care for clients. Many large national providers cannot compete in these areas and their services have become commoditised.
In fact, clients are coming back to us because of this.”
Don’t force pieces that don’t fit
“When I joined the company, the financing we have with IGF was already in place as part of a previous MBO 15 years ago. We’ve always made a profit but continually needed finance for various structural and investment reasons.
We’ve benchmarked funding over the years but have always been happy to stay with IGF. They’re very easy to work with. Very understanding, and it’s always worked very well for us.
We know there will always be more changes to come, as we continue to develop, but we will always have a relationship with IGF”