The My Ambition series, developed in partnership with leading mid-market private equity firm LDC, shares the personal stories behind successful businesses, uncovering how business leaders realised their ambitions and what these exceptional leaders have learned on their journey to success.
There is something addictive about finding organisations that have yet to achieve their full potential, working out how to help them to grow, and then executing a plan to make it happen. Richard Tredwin, serial business builder, has certainly got the bug.
“I love helping businesses to grow,” he explains. “It’s about investing in people, product and growth – and listening to customers – and then you can see great results.” In 2017, he saw the potential in SRL Traffic Systems, which provides equipment-as-a-service solutions such as traffic and pedestrian lights, variable message signs and other temporary intelligent transport system technologies, to become a truly national provider.
Tredwin came across the business while he was working at another firm in a similar sector. “SRL had been going for 20 years and had grown fantastically under the existing shareholders. To really take it to the next level, though, it needed to diversify its products and services, overhaul its systems and procedures, focus on customers’ needs – while investing in SRL’s back office, innovation and technical teams. All of which required significant investment,” he says. “This became my ambition and the heart of our plans.”
“SRL had a longstanding, invested and trusted management team, who understood the market and customer requirements. So we suggested attracting new investment and moved forwards to deliver a management buyout with the shareholders’ support.”
Tredwin needed an investor who saw the same potential in SRL as he did. He spoke to a number of private equity specialists, but one stood out. “LDC was engaged and respectful of the business from day one,” he says. “When you partner with a private equity investor, you have to ask: is there chemistry between you? Can you pick up the phone when things go wrong? LDC offered patient capital and I knew the team would support the business and help us to make the most of the opportunities out there. They have never wavered.”
With a £24m capital injection in September 2019, Tredwin was ready to push on, but then the world went into lockdown. “Having just completed the transaction, the business was structured to deliver a growth plan. We had a strategy in place and we were bringing in new faces. Then the pandemic hit, and I started thinking, ‘Do I need to reverse everything we set out to do?’ That was an enormous shock to the system. Working with our investor, we decided to pause for breath rather than go into reverse. We took stock for a few weeks and then we became key workers, and everything went back to normal again. With the efforts of the directors, management team and our employees, we continued with our plans and invested heavily in our products, people, services and depot network,” says Tredwin.
Tredwin went on to double SRL’s hire fleet to 160 specialist vehicles, develop its manufacturing capability to increase production to 13,000 products and invested in new product development. SRL’s new innovations include intelligent traffic lights that read the queues of cars and change dynamically. The business more than doubled revenues to £37m in just over two years. Under Tredwin’s stewardship, the company has become a truly national player, with 30 depots across the UK.
With the support of a private equity partner, Tredwin was able to strengthen his management team, too. “We brought in a new finance director, COO and CIO, and we created new product and technical teams,” he says. “I was also able to bring 27 people from management into the equity, which makes me very proud. That’s been the highlight of my career.”
Following SRL’s growth, in December 2021, the business attracted investment from 3i Infrastructure plc to support the next stage of its growth journey. Alongside this, Tredwin has stepped into a non-executive chair position. “It’s been a fantastic journey for all of us,” he says.
Leading mid-market private equity firm LDC is sharing inspirational stories from across its network to mark more than 40 years of backing ambitious business leaders across the UK. Read more about Richard Tredwin's story here.