Kicking off this months’ Game Changers section is Paul Norris, Group Managing Director of the Ethos Group of companies, one of the largest independent, privately owned and fastest growing Unified Communications businesses in the UK.
Ethos’ core business originally derived from delivering Managed Print Services to medium to large organisations in the UK and Europe, but over the last twenty five years, the company has expanded to provide its customers with a fully wrapped end-to-end service across their entire communications infrastructure, including managed print, telephony, production print, mobile, contact centre and networking and cloud services. Ethos’ latest acquisition of London Graphic Systems (LGS) substantially enhances the organisation’s creative arts and digital asset management capabilities.
Since the last time we spoke, you have been very busy acquiring three new businesses in as many months. Are you able to tell me a little bit about each company and what they do?
Copiertec are a 30 year old and very successful managed print business operating throughout the UK from branches in West London and Manchester.
Supplies Direct are a Peterborough-based offices supplies business which commenced trading in 1987 and have some 650 customers throughout the East Midlands and East Anglia. Collectively, Walters Limited and Supplies Direct make the Group the largest independent supplier in the area and provide the capability and infrastructure to establish a large presence in Cambridge.
Based in Covent Garden in London, LGS are a very successful graphic arts and content management specialist with several hundred customers based predominantly in Central London including extensive long-term relationships with many of the largest advertising and media companies in the UK as well as large public bodies.
As with the acquisition of Walters, each of the businesses will continue to operate under its own branding and identity as part of the wider Ethos Group – why was this important?
Each organisation has developed a reputation as leaders within their respective fields and, as such, have extensive long-term relationships with their customers. Therefore, it made sense to retain each organisation’s brand identity and increase the portfolio offering to their clients. Where an existing culture exists in a business, whilst we will certainly improve it where we can, we prefer to support that business in doing what it does best.
You assist clients from start-ups to public sector organisations and multinational corporations – how will the acquisitions help with this?
More choice for all clients. Because we are independent we can advise on and fulfil bespoke requirements from an extensive portfolio of best of breed partners. Our customers receive unbiased advice and a truly bespoke experience.
For example, LGS brings considerable high level specialist skills to the Group as well as true 24/7 support and expands our technical delivery capability enormously. Whereas Walters and Supplies Direct provides extensive experience in business supplies and office interiors and Ethos has always had an exceptional MPS and UC offering. It’s a very advanced and comprehensive offering.
Aside from the acquisitions, what have been the company’s major achievements recently?
Having won National Comms Awards last year and a host of other awards since, we have had some major business wins recently on both the telecoms and print side of the business securing large contracts in, pretty much, every sector and to an increasingly wider geographical area, we already look after clients throughout Europe and in the USA, Australia, Canada, Hong-Kong, India, Japan, South Africa and Singapore. The business is of the size now that there is always something impressive happening.
Looking long term, where do you see areas of growth across the Ethos Group?
Organically we’ll invest further in staff and technology to ensure we sell more of our products and services to more of our existing and new clients, and through further strategic acquisition, which from next year, we will also commence in the telecoms business.
The print business alone has an EBITDA of over £6m, that’s already proportionately the highest in its industry, we’ll add £2m to that next year, and I see similar growth in the other business units, we’ll also be expanding the group into additional IT services, so I see growth in all areas. Exciting times.