Q&A: Can Getronics break out of its niche?

Mark Cook Getronics
Getronics UK&I CEO Mark Cook.

What was the logic behind Aurelius Group buying Getronics?

Aurelius believes that the Getronics business was relatively unleveraged in terms of its potential. We have 4,000 staff in 13 countries, and they believe that with focus, care and attention we can drive much better growth. Remember that Getronics was owned by a telco – KPN. Did it get the love it wanted? But there weren’t any structural problems. It certainly wasn’t a basket case: it was profitable.

What were the early stages like after the acquisition?

Often you get this disruptive period where nothing happens. But we had an M&A team of CEOs and CFOs who worked on the deal behind the scenes for nine months, which gave us the time to establish some quick wins. What could we do very quickly? We had a plan for what we could do in three months, 12 months, then the next three to five years. The management team was empowered very quickly and I’m pleased to be a part of that.

And what is the strategy exactly?

The strategy ultimately is to float the business in an IPO. There isn’t a plan just to do a load of cost cutting and sell it. We are going to grow it organically and through acquisitions. Where we want to be in three years is to be making in excess of a billion euros. We think we have the right ICT capability in the right areas to do that.

In recent times I’ve thought of Getronics really as specialising in workspace management solutions. But is there still as much demand for that sort of thing with trends like BYOD [bring your own device] becoming increasingly popular and PCs becoming less and less central to many people’s working lives?

The way I think about it there’s Getronics’ traditional services. Getronics is 120 years old [the history of Getronics dates back to 1887, when Groeneveld, Van der Pol & Co’s Elektronische Fabriek NV established a technical installation company for public utilities and the ship-building industry in the Netherlands]. Workspace management still accounts for 40- to 50% of our revenue. 50 years ago when we were owned by Wang or Olivetti we were managing typewriters and the like. Today people are bringing tablets and smartphones into the environment.

I see four key areas driving good growth. There’s online – cloud and SaaS. There’s applications, where we have made recent acquisitions, and we have a partnership with Samsung as a global services provider for managed print services. Then there’s communications, particularly unified communications.

Tell me a bit more about your SaaS offerings?

Before the acquisition KPN had some SaaS solutions, and as we went through the divestiture we looked at what we could do ourselves. We have offerings around VCE and Vblock [VCE, formed by Cisco and EMC with investments from VMware and Intel, is a provider of converged cloud infrastructure systems]. We also did a global deal with [business process management firm] Cordys in a development partnership. We also built some IP that is an orchestration layer over and above what Vblock can do. We’ve been testing that in the UK and we’re rolling it out elsewhere.

You recently issued a press release talking about growth plans….

There had been some uncertainty in IT services, with things like 2e2 going into administration. I wanted to reinforce how Getronics is seen, particularly in some geographies. The message was that we’re not just a bit-player, that we want to grow the UK business. I have a team working on [M&A] transactions today. We’re going to grow our critical mass. We’re actually working on deals that can close quite quickly, because we have a large cash fund.

What would you say is your USP versus services rivals?

Our USP is our size. It might suit some customers more than others but we can move very fast. We can react and make decisions very quickly , yet at the same time if you need to work in 50 countries then we can do that through our partnerships. The Getronics Workplace Alliance gives us capabilities in 50 countries.

Are you finding it easy to hire and retain good people?

Last year we hired 120 in the UK. Getting experienced people working really well with the younger recruits, and vice versa, is something we’ve been working on since I restructured the team after the divestiture, and I’m pleased with progress there.

 

 

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