IDS Security & Fire recently celebrated expansion and an upswing in contract wins following an MBO led by two women directors who took the plunge and bought the company they worked for. PSI caught up with Julie Halton and Jennifer Horan to find out more about the takeover and what it’s like being the boss…
Julie Halton and Jennifer Horan had been working for IDS Security & Fire for twenty years and ten years respectively, when the business was put up for sale due to the impending retirement of the previous owner. Rather than let the company, founded in 1991, be taken over, Julie and Jennifer mounted a successful management buy-out last year.
Now the duo of directors are celebrating business expansion with major private and public sector contracts in Wales and across the UK. This has led to job creation and a move to a new HQ on the Cardiff Business Park, Llanishen.
Julie Halton, Managing Director, who was previously finance director, said: “In many ways ours is the classic story of employees believing in their company so much that they buy it for themselves. We are both mums and had brought up our children whilst working at IDS and we did not fancy the prospect of the company worked in for so many years being taken over by someone else. We were so pleased that that the buy-out went ahead so smoothly, and we have not looked back ever since, recently securing a major £700,000 contract amongst many others.”
Jennifer Horan, Operations Director of IDS Security & Fire said: “It was a major leap forward for us to take over the reins of the company but the challenge has been made much easier due to the back-up of an extremely loyal and dedicated engineering and sales team behind us.”
PSI spoke exclusively to Julie and Jennifer to find out how it feels to own the company they once worked for.
Did you ever think you would be the owners of a company?
I don’t think either of us ever anticipated being company owners. We’d both worked our way up into senior management roles and though we had no intention of ever leaving, I think we both thought we’d gone as far as we could go within the company.
When the opportunity arose, it took some time for us to think it through and consider our options, but we were running things in our roles anyway, so it made sense. It has been such a rewarding process, and I think it goes to show that opportunities will always come, and you have to go for them, even if you don’t always plan for them.
At what stage did you decide to buy the business – why not wait and see who bought it?
The option was always open to us, right from the day our MD decided to sell the company. He broached the idea with us, and was very supportive of us taking it over. He made it very easy. I suppose it is not common for females to be taking on companies in the fire and security industry, but we knew the staff and hoped they would be 100 per cent behind us.
What advice would you give to any security industry employees about buying a business?
I would say to have confidence that you can do it, and it helps if you have a good team to support you. Experience in the industry is also key; you need to have a good grasp of the service industry you’re working in, and an understanding of your market and stakeholders.
The fire and security industry is very competitive, but we have done it by prioritising key areas. We have a particular focus on delivering quality and operating with integrity – putting our clients and customers first and naturally ensuring our installations comply with standards and meet customer requirements.
Ultimately we are protecting and safeguarding businesses and premises, so for us it’s not just about doing a good job, but offering a whole service.
Any plans for taking over any other security companies?
There are no plans to take over any other companies at this stage, as right now we are excited about what the future holds for IDS and further developing its potential. We are focused on driving and expanding the business and looking after our staff and clients. I am happy that post-MBO we are experiencing tremendous growth and our expansion makes us very busy, taking on more staff and gaining new contracts.