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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”