Rob Cottingham

Rob Cottingham
Chief Executive, CBC Insurance Ltd

I had been in my new role, as CEO of CBC UK Limited (a Lloyd’s insurance broker) for barely six months when I received a call from the then majority shareholder telling me that he wanted to sell the business without delay, along with several other companies which he owned.

Despite my protestations, the sale process took off at a rapid rate. A third party agent was appointed, a business profile was hastily put together and I was paraded around to various potential suitors. I had two choices – to cooperate or to resign from my position.

At that time, the business was not profitable. It had been run for several years prior to my appointment as a “lifestyle” business by the previous management team. I could see that it had potential, which is why I had agreed to take over the helm. Unfortunately, the various bidding buyers could also see this potential and this was reflected in the offers which followed.

The bidders were narrowed down to two final candidates, neither of whom I wanted to work for; both were insistent that the management team remained intact. I felt cornered and helpless.

Two candidates inevitably became one successful winner and the due diligence process began. I continued to cooperate and whilst I felt it was inevitable, I was not fully resigned to defeat. I continued to harbour the desire to buy the business myself but was advised by several people in the know that it would be impossible to raise that sort of money in a short space of time.

One Saturday morning, whilst sitting in my garden, I decided to call the one person that I thought might help, Andrew Wallas. I had worked with Andrew several years previously but hadn’t seen or spoken to him for over ten years.

Andrew answered the call and I summarised the situation. He told me to relax, said that it would be possible to buy the business and formulated an action plan there and then as to how this could be achieved. He was the first and only person who I had spoken to regarding my conundrum who said what I wanted to hear.

From then on in, whilst the third party sale process continued, our management buyout journey began in earnest. In short measure, Andrew was appointed to negotiate with the CBC majority owner on the management’s behalf. Within a matter of weeks he obtained agreement in principal from a private equity company to lend us the monies required to take ownership of the business at a very attractive price.

CBC has been owned by the management and staff since February 2017 and during that time we have successfully transformed the business from what it was then into a fast growing, profitable, innovative and enjoyable business. This would not and could not have happened without Andrew’s involvement and the transformation is directly linked to the Alchemy which he has introduced to the business.

From the outset, the senior management team created an intention for the business – To employ quality people, act with integrity, innovation and excellence, whilst having fun and creating monetary value. Whenever we follow the component parts of this intention, we succeed. Conversely, in areas where we fall short, we generally discover that we have strayed from the intention.

The success can be measured on a financial level – in three years the business has gone from making a loss in 2016 to projecting an EBITDA of £2.5m in 2020.

It can also be measured on a human level – the culture in the office has changed beyond recognition. People enjoy working at CBC and new people want to join CBC.

For me personally, I can say hand on heart that Andrew’s unique and transformational approach to business works 100% effectively. CBC is testament to this and continues to thrive accordingly.

I strongly urge you to make that call…