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29 Dec 2023

Consolidated TIC Market Backed by Inflexion

Simon Parrington

Simon founded Celnor in 2023, before which he was the Group CEO at Cawood Scientific, a fast-growing testing business primarily focused on agriculture. During his three-year tenure, he led seven acquisitions and introduced a significant modernisation programme. Cawood was sold to US-based conglomerate EBI in late 2021, with Simon staying for a year post-completion to lead its integration. Simon spent much of his earlier career as Managing Director and majority shareholder of SOYL, a market-leading agri-tech business which pioneered the digitisation of testing and inspection for agricultural soils.

Synergy in Strategy: The Celnor-Inflexion Alliance

During 2023 I realised there was an opportunity in the TICC sector for a group focused on entrepreneurialism, and I knew a network of businesses who would be keen to join me in this journey. I wanted to partner with an investor that understood the sector and would support this approach to building a group. I was aware of Inflexion’s expertise in the sector. They have an excellent track record of helping businesses grow, with a strong understanding of the markets they serve. A former colleague also highly recommended them to me, so combined this made it clear they were a good fit. They are a large team who are very well connected and bring a broad skillset and wealth of experience to the table.

In the highly competitive realm of TICC, it's the visionaries who sculpt the landscape of tomorrow. Simon Parrington, the enterprising force behind Celnor, has embarked on a mission to consolidate a highly fragmented TICC market. With Inflexion's robust backing, Celnor is carving a niche across Life Sciences, Environmental, and Industrial Services. A career distinguished by strategic acquisitions and pioneering digital innovations positions Parrington as a beacon of progress in the TICC sector. This exclusive interview sheds light on the strategic compass guiding Celnor through the complex seas of TICC M&A, reveals Parrington's dedication to fostering an entrepreneurial culture, and shares his strategic foresight for navigating future industry tides.

Celnor's Market Niche: Crafting Excellence in TIC

Celnor is quickly becoming a broad-based testing and inspection business, both geographically and in the range of services. Our businesses cover environmental, safety and compliance and built environment services, but we also have new acquisitions joining us imminently in the life sciences sector.

In my career, I have found there is always need for a good home for entrepreneurial businesses. Many founders can lead a business to a certain point, but when they reach a larger scale, they need the support, encouragement and investment of a larger business. It can sometimes become a balancing act between continuing their growth and maintaining their individual culture and autonomy. This can often put them off the idea of joining bigger groups. There are many companies out there trying to provide support, but often there is too much sacrifice expected. With my background of building, growing, and running a number of businesses in different ownership structures, I am able to empathise with acquisitions and create an environment where they and their teams can flourish and maintain their independence whilst also benefitting from additional support.

The Celnor Acquisition Ethos: Beyond the Numbers

At any one time, we will be talking to several businesses in a variety of markets, locations and service offerings. Our priority is fit: are we like minded? Do we feel that the management team shares our vision and values and has a desire to grow the business. If the answer is yes, we are more likely to work well together and deliver the best possible service for customers and colleagues.

Celnor's Selective Eye: The Art of Choosing Partners

We look at companies of all shapes and sizes, but the most important thing to us is that they have excellent standards of quality and provide the best possible customer service. Our other priority is to look at the management team or the succession plan. It is vital to ensure there will be a continuity of strong leadership in the business. Ideally if we are buying a company, the management team will want to continue within it. I have bought many small and medium sized businesses in my career. I am not expecting perfection, but certainly a good succession plan is a non-negotiable if the current management team do not anticipate staying on board.

Simon's Leadership Philosophy: Empowerment Over Bureaucracy

The member companies within the group maintain a good level of autonomy. Our role is to support them when needed, but we consider that the management team inside the business are the ones best placed to run it. Celnor provides capital and centralised services such as HR, marketing and procurement. My leadership style is to enable them to run their businesses but ensure high standards on safety, quality control, and corporate values. I believe that it is completely possible to be part of a group like Celnor without removing the independence that allows its leaders to keep the business at its best. I do not believe in adding layers of bureaucracy to successful businesses, wasting the time of its leaders or slowing down decision-making.

Celnor's Blueprint for Adaptation: Navigating the TIC Evolution

All our businesses have a growth plan, which we work out together with the business’ leadership within a few months of joining Celnor. The plan is based on an analysis of emerging trends within the company’s particular market. We use the growth plan to build out a medium-term strategy, enabling us to support desired goals. Quite often that process is about matching future customer needs with innovative technologies that can support those needs.

The Long View: Simon's Aspirations for Celnor

We want to continue to be an attractive long-term home for entrepreneurial businesses in the sector, where they feel they can belong. Our aim is to harness the benefits of a bigger business whilst maintaining the agility and customer service of a smaller business.

Facing the Future: Celnor's Anticipated Industry Challenges

What we are seeing is a continued focus by governing bodies on regulatory standards. Organisations are having to pay even greater attention to their ESG strategies as quite often their commitments are underpinned by data provided by the TICC industry. It is important for our TICC group to maintain its agility as the market evolves, and to be able adapt to the challenges change can bring. We are well placed to benefit from this.

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