This month Simon Banks talks to Nigel Jackson, Managing Director of Swift Fire & Security and Director of Marlowe PLC.
Swift was recently purchased by Marlowe PLC and you’ve remained as Managing Director and a major shareholder. How important was it for you to find the right buyer for the company and how did Marlowe meet your criteria?
It is vital to find the right buyer: someone with a shared vision and the financial muscle to make that vision a reality. When Marlowe first approached me I spent many sleepless nights wondering if this was the right opportunity, not only for me, but for everyone at Swift. I firmly believe that it is our team that makes Swift the successful business it is. Over the last 35 years we have built this business together and I could not have allowed the transaction to proceed if it had jeopardised the future careers of my team. Thankfully Marlowe provided assurances that as the Platform Business within their emerging Fire & Security Division, the merger not only secured the future growth of Swift Fire & Security but also provided my team members with fantastic opportunities for career progression across all areas of the business. Marlowe is committed to becoming a market leader in our industry and has embraced Swift’s long held values of Customer Care and Innovation. Now, with every acquisition we complete, we are one step closer to achieving our goals. I could not be more satisfied with the outcome.
Swift and CSL have been working together for nearly 21 years. How important have relationships like this been during Swift’s journey?
Building, securing, nurturing and developing relationships is vital in all areas of business and I consider Swift’s Supply Chain a significant factor in our success. Our long standing relationship with CSL exemplifies an important aspect of the Swift Mission Statement: ‘Partnering’. CSL have been integral to our success in many ways, including the award of several national, multi-sites, maintenance and monitoring contracts. The award of these contracts hinged on Swift’s ability to offer a quality monitoring solution at a cost effective price, which CSL has supported us in delivering time after time. You can see by looking at our shared history and growth that we have grown together not only because of our shared ethos of World Class Customer Service and the application of the latest innovative technologies but because you and I and more importantly our team members have developed long standing, personal and professional relationships. I’m sure that these relationships and our partnership will continue long after both of us retire!
How important has the growth of your signalling estate been in your overall company growth?
The growth of our signalling estate has been fundamental to our success. Since I became Managing Director, I have focussed on expanding our recurring revenue contract base due to the value they offer compared to one off high risk project revenues. Our Sales Team have been successful in securing both national and regional maintenance and monitoring contracts – all of which benefit from these recurring revenues. The key to our success is that we can offer our customers a multi-discipline fire and security maintenance solution. In 2015, following the growth of our signalling estate and many years of outsourcing our monitoring, we took the decision to purchase a custom built NSI Gold, CAT II Approved Alarm Receiving Centre (ARC), formerly owned by Romec. Re-christened Swift Connect, the ARC is fully functional, keeping the national estates of retailers, banks, local and central government bodies, secure, night and day.
After leading Swift by yourself for so many years, what has it been like to work with the Marlowe Board?
When I first decided to sell Swift Fire & Security I did wonder how I would deal with interacting with a boss after 34 years of being in charge! Working with and as a part of the Marlowe Board has been really enlightening for me. Each of my fellow Board Members are financial experts with particular business specialisms - including the former CFO of ADT - and each has experience of successfully buying, growing and developing businesses. None of us are shy about voicing our opinions or challenging each other and we all back up our opinions with facts which will always win out. I’m learning from the Marlowe Directors every single day and they are quick learners when it comes to understanding the very unique industry in which we operate. While giving up an element of control is difficult, it has been refreshing for me not to be the last stop in a long chain with hundreds of jobs and livelihoods ultimately resting on my decisions. I’m glad that in Marlowe I have found a Board that I can trust to share that responsibility with, securing the future of the business we have all worked so hard to build for 34 years.
Speaking of the future, what’s next for Swift and Marlowe?
Growth! I know it sounds trite but when I first established Swift with the other founding Directors in 1982, I quietly nurtured the ambition that Swift Fire & Security would not only aspire to, but one day rise to the top of the fire and security industry’s Premier League. As a lifelong Bolton Wanderers fan I’m sure you can imagine that I am ever the optimist! Whilst I’m not quite so sure about the future of my football team, with Marlowe’s backing I’m no longer just hopeful, but confident, that Swift Fire & Security will soon rise to the top of the Premier League.
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