After rejecting several offers, Des Spillings and Martin Povey at Acorn realised they needed to rethink. The market was quickly consolidating and their position as an independent distributor was increasingly exposed. In order to grow, develop and become an even more important player in the UK market, they needed resources and expertise they could not provide by themselves.
Nine months after the first meeting the deal was done. In December 2015 Axel Johnson International had the privilege of managing their “creation”. “We’ve never been afraid to invest time and money in our business, I think Axel Johnson International valued that. And conversely, we liked the feel of their business, like being family-owned for example,” says Des Spillings. “The culture felt similar to what we had tried to develop, and those things were crucial. We were about to ‘give away our baby’ and that’s why we needed to trust them as much as we trust ourselves. We also didn’t want to change or move into product areas where we weren’t comfortable.”
We trust each other. That’s it, I guess
Being careful about the choice of buyer is vital when you have around 100 dedicated personnel to answer to. The reaction of the team at Acorn was one of surprise since no one knew about the deal. But the fact that Des and Martin wanted to stay and run the company as before gave the employees great peace of mind. Some of the results of the buyout were more structure, a long-awaited code of conduct for suppliers and a sustainability programme.
But the biggest change for the business operation was a valuable, desirable distribution agreement with Timken, one of the world’s leading suppliers of bearings and power transmission products. Timken was one of the very few brands that could make a real difference to their sales since it’s a premium brand and offers a range of products that they previously didn’t have access to. Acorn had had conversations with the supplier over the last 20 years, but they never saw a need for Acorn. Until now.
“To be fair, I was quite surprised how quick we turned this deal around. Nomo’s and Axel Johnson International’s relationship with this important supplier had been built up over many years, and their trust opened Timken’s eyes for what Acorn could offer as key UK technical distributor,” Des says.
During 2017 the “Acorn brothers” will refocus to grow the company in an entrepreneurial way. “We will continue to work hard and enjoy it,” Martin says.