BOFA is the world leader in fume extraction technology. It designs, develops and manufactures fume extraction solutions for industries including electronics, laser marking, printing, pharmaceutical, dentistry and beauty.
M&A activity can distract senior management, disrupt company performance, and produce an unwelcome dip in annual figures.
However, BOFA International not only maintained operational equilibrium, but also successfully completed a £23m management buyout (MBO) in July, and has had a strong start to its trading since the transaction, writes John Burbedge.
The Poole-based company achieved this through sensitive management of a well-structured business in which skilled staff are engaged and understand their valued role in maintaining the high standards of a world-leader.
Also the MBO team, led by BOFA’s sales and marketing director and now MD Tony Lockwood, astutely selected proven M&A professionals to assist with the acquisition from retiring founder Dave Cornell. “For me the MBO was a job on top of a job. There were several options we could have chosen to help get this process through, and our choices have proved to be very good partners,“ said Lockwood.
PE equity firm LDC invested in BOFA, with support from regional advisers including HMT, Shoosmiths, Baker Tilly, Blake Morgan, Osborne Clarke and CIL, with senior debt for the transaction provided by the local RBS team, led by Mark Ward.
Pick the right partners and advisers, maintain lines of communication, and work harder at relationships, is Lockwood’s post-MBO advice.
BOFA’s links with the founding Cornell family are retained through Dave’s son Chris continuing to play a key company role in development. R&D is a major strength of BOFA. “We need to keep adding extra value, because that determines our position in an extremely competitive market.“
Another reason for the successful MBO is that BOFA has a very strong commercial platform, plans carefully, progresses steadily, and knows where it is going.
That commercial platform began in 1987 when Cornell set out to create a best-in-class fume extraction product for industrial premises. R&D, innovation and technological advances were in BOFA’s formative DNA, and quality has been underpinned by adherence to international manufacturing standards (CE, UL and CSA certification) and management systems (ISO 9001).
The introduction of COSHH (Control of Substances Hazard to Health) legislation in 1991 saw demand for effective fume extraction grow rapidly, and BOFA’s market became obvious, non-sector specific, and global. It simply needed to patent its innovation, manufacture skilfully, sell widely and stay as a recognised product leader.
It did and still does, not least through its strategic partnering with internationally-linked OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers). Today BOFA products add value and quality worldwide for many OEMs, whether they be soldering printed circuit boards, using production line laser-marking, or frankly any fume-creating activity.
It’s also helped BOFA remain globally competitive, record steady 15% annual turnover gains in recent years and a Queen’s Award for Enterprise in 2012, for export. This helped cement BOFA’s influential ’Made in Britain’ market credentials and boosted its networking opportunities.
Today, BOFA operates from four manufacturing and international sales sites in Poole, a German base, plus a sales, service and distribution facility in Illinois serving USA and South American markets. But, what of BOFA’s future?
The MBO has paved the way for self-funded or PE-backed investments to further growth, product development and possibly acquisitions for BOFA.
Lockwood explained: “The MBO was a crossroads for BOFA.“ The business had grown significantly since 2011, but needed further investment to upgrade company infrastructure plus staff and management skillsets.
“We have a five-year plan to double our overall revenue and within that treble our US business,“ announced new FD James Oliver. “We’ve been ahead of plan since completion.“
To achieve such ambition, BOFA’s sales team will be significantly expanded, process efficiencies investigated, management information reporting improved, BOFA’s competitive positioning enhanced, plus investment in new products. New geographic markets and sectors such as 3D-printing and dentistry are now under the BOFA spotlight.
BOFA’s major operations such as procurement, R&D, HR, logistics, and manufacturing have always been in-house; the company’s products and IP are internationally patented. This enables control of costs, standards and flexibility to meet individual customer service requirements – growing necessities in today’s manufacturing sector.
Equally, BOFA’s high-tech products are designed to be modular and portable enabling users to adapt and scale their fume extraction requirements as their operations change or move location – another modern trend.
Gaining the additional skills and talent to grow the business may be BOFA’s key challenge going forward. It has its own in-house apprenticeships and NVQ training schemes and links with academia, but Lockwood admits recruitment is now high on his post-MBO growth agenda.
- Turnover: £16.1 million
- Staff: 170
- Trading: B2B, 80% international to 100-plus countries
- Southern Manufacturing 100 listing: Number 90
- Head office: Poole, Dorset