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.
“As an entrepreneur, there are always 200 things you could be doing, but probably only two or three things that matter. Our investor helped to give us that focus and gave us the confidence to take bold steps forward.”
In 2013, Mark Goddard was at a crossroads. He was CEO of Property Software Group (PSG) at the time of the credit crunch. Its parent company was looking to raise capital and concentrate on its core operations. Goddard knew he had two options: effect a management buyout, or sit and wait for the parent company to agree to a disposal strategy. He wanted to create his own path for the business and, with the help of a private equity backer, chose the first route. PSG is now the UK's largest supplier of software, technology and design solutions to the property industry.
“I was a firm believer in our business model and our software,” he says of the decision. “I had also seen an explosion in software-as-a-service (SaaS) models across other industries. I knew that it was only a matter of time before the property industry caught up.” Goddard decided to buy the business and pioneer its SaaS model, shaking up the industry. This bold move required the right kind of investment and support to really capitalise on an emerging opportunity.
Goddard and his management team chose to partner with private equity investor LDC, completing a £17.8m buyout in 2014. With the investor’s backing, along with his team, he focused on a two-fold strategy – a technology migration to the new SaaS model and an ambitious M&A programme, buying up smaller rivals and complementary technologies.
“On day one of our new partnership, we discussed what we needed to do to create value,” says Goddard. “These objectives were key. Value creation was a new phrase for us at that point, but we really grew to love it. As an entrepreneur, there are always 200 things you could be doing, but probably only two or three things that matter. Our investor helped to give us that focus and gave us the confidence to take bold steps forward.”
As part of the buyout, Goddard decided to incentivise key members of the team by giving them equity in the business. This decision was fundamental to the company’s success, he says. “Giving more of our employees a share in the business was an important part of the buying-in process. That allowed us to move really fast, as our staff were committed and all aligned behind a common goal and benefit.”
Moving to SaaS may have been a calculated risk, but it paid off. “Our investor was able to put me in touch with leaders at their other portfolio companies that had already been on a similar journey. We learned a lot from these interactions, meaning we could execute our plans much faster than normal,” says Goddard.
His vision for the business was realised in just two years. By 2016, more than 50% of the estate agents on PSG’s books had been moved over to the new SaaS platform and the company had completed eight acquisitions. Its revenues had climbed to £16m.
When Goddard and his team completed their management buyout, PSG had 180 staff and an operating profit of £2m. Just two years later, it employed 250 and operating profit hit £5.5m. It wasn’t long until Zoopla took an interest in PSG’s disruptive approach.
By the time Zoopla acquired the business in 2016, the company’s valuation had increased four-fold to hit £75m. He left the business in 2018 after nine years at the helm, and now draws on his experiences to support several companies as a non–executive chairman.
Leading mid-market private equity firm LDC is sharing inspirational stories from across its network to mark 40 years of backing ambitious business leaders across the UK. Find out more about Goddard’s story, here.