Loyals: loyal to their own strategy

Company Name
Loyals B.V.

Website
www.loyals.com

Transaction
Buy-side

Types
Strategic

Sector
Industry & Production

Market
National

“We don’t have to be the biggest, we want to remain the best”

Purebred entrepreneurs Youri Lieberton and Jerry Remmers are always looking for the next opportunity. They felt they had to take a growth step with their company Loyals to truly become a full-service digital agency. To help them with this, they were looking for a (capital) partner. With the help of Marktlink, they found it in the independent private equity player, Sofindev. Building a powerful Loyals Group has just begun.

Loyals from Mijdrecht is a full-service agency for brand building and digital transformation. Over approximately 20 years, the experienced entrepreneurs behind Loyals have expanded the organisation into a leading company with 60 FTEs. Youri: “We have experienced strong growth for years. And the digital agency market is consolidating strongly. As a result, we increasingly sat around the table with parties that showed an interest in taking over our company. This included financial parties and colleagues with their own buy-and-build strategy. But we never found a match. And this was for multiple reasons. For example, we saw the interests were very divided among the parties. Moreover, we think our company is far too good to give up our identity for the sake of someone else.”

Buy-and-build developments

At the beginning of September 2020, the entrepreneurs spoke with Marktlink deal manager Luc Keltjens. “He approached us because we were on an acquisition list,” Youri recalls. “He came to find out how we felt about acquisition. In the end, we never talked about it. Luc quickly asked us: why don’t you develop a buy-and-build strategy yourself. And so we did. We started making plans to make Loyals a Loyals group.”

Follow your strategy

It sounds so simple. “But,” Jerry emphasises, “we have always followed our own strategy. We always think about the bigger picture and the next opportunity. With our ideal customer and his or her needs in mind. We have evolved from a web agency selling websites and applications, to a specialist for total marketing and communication issues. And we eventually developed into a full-service partner for strategy, digital transformation and brand building. We focussed on entrepreneurs from medium and large companies; with a turnover of €20 to €250 million.”

Growth step

In 2019, the entrepreneurs recognised the requirement to make a new growth step. Jerry: “Many companies claim to be full-service. But the question, if you really look critically in the mirror, is whether that is really the case. We realised we were very good at digital transformation, process development, online issues and branding. But in terms of development or performance marketing, we couldn’t really offer a full service. To change that, we had to grow. And that required capital.” The entrepreneurs therefore sold a subsidiary: their “De hostingmakelaar” hosting company. “Hosting is a separate profession in which we did not necessarily want to grow. This sale gave us the capital we needed to invest in acquisitions.

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“Despite the fact that the growth plan and buy-and-build strategy were ‘ready to use’, our minds did not go to private equity straight away”

– Youri Lieberton

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We also looked for opportunities to raise financing for growth.” In that respect, the Marktlink team definitely gave the entrepreneurs direction. Youri: “Despite the fact the growth plan and buy-and-build strategy were ‘ready to use’, our minds did not go to private equity straight away. Marktlink brought us to the table with the right parties. And they are still doing that even today. Now we are building ourselves, we regularly meet with Marktlink, although they are now sometimes representing the other side.”

Freedom and trust

Finally, in August 2021, Youri and Jerry signed the letter of intent for a collaboration with the Belgian private equity party, Sofindev. “Entrepreneurship and partnership were important conditions for us,” says Jerry. “In the short term, we could have made more interesting financial choices, but we would have had less freedom to build our group. We kept the freedom, and we are very grateful. For Sofindev, we were not the first choice, the company had been looking for the best opportunity to enter this market for years. And they also bring a lot of knowledge and expertise with them. This is of great added value.”

3-in-1-deal

Before concluding the deal with Sofindev, the entrepreneurs had already completed an acquisition on their own: of video content agency PPCRN. This was followed by intensive collaboration with Marktlink, and various parties that fit the strategy and DNA of the Loyals Group were approached. There was a click with Magento specialist Stimmt and app builder Gravity, and a deal was eventually reached.

Finally, at the end of October 2021, the deal with Sofindev was signed at the notary office, and the deals with Stimmt and Gravity followed shortly after. Youri: “It was a 3-in-1; an integrated buy-and-build, which presents a few more challenges in terms of contracts and structure. Everything had to be arranged legally, administratively and financially in the proper way for all the parties involved.” The process was not always fun, however, for the men themselves. “There are many phases in an acquisition process. Some give you energy, but most cost energy. The start of such an acquisition process feels fantastic. You sit at the table with great companies and tell them about your brand with pride. Those weeks were really fun. After that it got a little feistier. We are glad we had Marktlink with us; they have the experience with these processes and supported us through every phase.”

Room for entrepreneurship

The new group offers a great basis; with a strong management team and an “overhead” that all companies within the group can use. They act as a recruiter, back office and offer support with finance. The group has one central profit and loss account. Youri: “You can still achieve real synergy if you let each brand work with its own targets and profit and loss account. This also leaves plenty of room for entrepreneurship and self-management. Each brand continues to do what it is good at and invests in its own growth and development, while retaining its own culture and DNA.

As a result we can create strong substantive brands that are good at their core disciplines. Everyone contributes to the greater good in their own way. And as a group we are – increasingly – full-service.”

Jerry adds: “Ultimately, it should be clear that collaboration is positive for everyone, for the brands, and absolutely for our team; the people who work for us. What I think is really cool is that a lot of room has been created for talent development. People stand up, take their role, show us who they are, what they can do and what they want. This also raises the level of our company. It’s how we keep taking steps forward. As a group, we have become better, stronger and more future-proof.”

Construction

At the beginning of 2020, the Loyals management team was already prepared for the company’s growth step. The Loyals Group offers a solid foundation to build on. It also gives entrepreneurs an opportunity to step out of the Loyals operation. Together they work as shareholder and director of Loyals Group. They do this with the aim of ultimately becoming the full-service provider in digital transformation and brand building for the medium and large companies they described previously. Strategy, development, content (production), (performance) marketing and branding are the most important pillars for this. The strategy? Acquiring more companies. Youri: “We want to build a house of brands. We don’t know exactly how many brands we need yet. Time will tell. But we are sticking to our strategy. And to our target audience. We don’t necessarily have to be the biggest, but we do have to remain the best in our market.”

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