What an interesting and successful day we had at the BVCA High Growth Conference!

It started early in the morning with a series of roundtable discussions, insightful speeches, panel discussions and networking breaks, and was followed in the evening with the Management Team Awards, a celebratory awards ceremony highlighting excellence in portfolio companies.

The day long agenda at the fourth annual BVCA High Growth Conference was aimed at supporting businesses backed by private equity and venture capital. The event was attended by over 400 senior investee company managers, business owners and investors. They all gathered to hear the latest insights into value creation and business and investment trends by experienced CEOs, Chairmen and investors.


Some of the day’s highlights are presented below:

  • Tim Hames, BVCA Director General, kicked off the conference with a welcome address which highlighted the importance of such events for private equity and venture capital to keep contributing to the UK economy.
  • Philip Hines, Partner of PwC gave an interesting talk on private equity driving growth and impacting trends.
  • Anthony Fletcher, CEO of Graze.com, who along with his team was awarded the Mid-Management Team of the Year Award in last year’s ceremony, gave an excellent speech on the graze.com business model and explained how graze.com has disrupted the food industry by using customer data analytics.
  • Quentin Baer, experienced Chairman, was interviewed by Tim Hames and stressed the importance of setting priorities and adopting a collaborative approach for management teams.
  • Panel discussions raised questions on building businesses nationally and internationally, the benefits of a Family Office Investor and the democratisation of the funding process.
  • Ron Armstrong, Chairman of Investing Zone, discussed the launch of crowdfunding and mentioned that this trend is here to stay.
  • Justin King, former CEO of Sainsbury, concluded the conference with an inspirational keynote address in which he highlighting the significance of culture and constant communication in a business and prompted management teams to create listening organisations that never lose focus of the client’s needs. As he said, “I answered every single customer email while I was at Sainsbury’s.”

Getting Ahead of Plan

Marble Hill Partners’ MD, Sam Smith, had the pleasure of hosting a panel discussion based on our firm’s latest research. Guest speakers included Warwick Nash Operating Director, Phoenix Equity Partners, Philip Soar, Chairman of multiple businesses including Closer Still and Upper Street Events and Justin Stead, CEO Radley &Co and Chairman of Sofa.com.

Over the last year Marble Hill Partners has been undertaking research into the challenges that portfolio companies face in their first 12-24 months post-investment. The panel was presented with some of the findings and they provided insight into how they believe newly invested portfolio companies can avoid potential pitfalls and get ahead of their first year plan. Below are the key areas that were covered during the discussion:

  • Research indicated that more than a third of the businesses we polled were behind plan in their first year post transaction. The panel was not surprised and attributed this to various causes including CEO fatigue post-deal, over-optimistic forecasts pre-deal and shifting priorities in the first 12 months.
  • Investor involvement was indicated as beneficial by our research participants and panel. Justin mentioned that investor support needs to come into the business in the right way while private equity and the management team need to understand the pressures on both sides. The Chairman plays a vital role in keeping this balance.
  • Research found that it took time to recognise and deal with management weaknesses outside of the FD/CFO role. Warwick commented that if the weakness is strategically critical, investors and management will zero in on the issues if not, it could take time to realise there’s a problem.
  • Transitioning to a key performance indicator (KPI) driven business: Portfolio firms struggle to find the balance between implementing good management practice and data overload. The panel once again emphasised the role of the Chairman in keeping the balance between investors and management teams.
  • The panel offered advice to management teams that are planning to undergo a management buy-out. Philip, urged them to set realistic goals and find the right investor with the same values as their company. Warwick, advised management teams not to panic if they are not hitting the numbers in the first year as long as they are making progress in terms of professionalization and the key strategic milestones. Whereas, Justin added that sometimes it all comes down to luck. For example, picking the timing of an investment cycle could be imperative for success.   

Read our research here

Marble Hill Partners was delighted to have supported the High Growth Conference for the second consecutive year. We hope all who attended enjoyed the event and found the panel discussions and speeches as insightful and useful as we did.

Angelica Pothos, Marketing Executive