Gary set up his first company, Abacus Recruitment, when he was just 21. It specialised in the fast-growing accountancy market and grew over ten years into a company employing more than 400 staff and contractors. When he took the decision to float, he could only dream about the success the business might achieve. A 10 bagger – the stock market equivalent of Nirvana, where investors receive a return of ten times of the initial purchase price, plus dividends along the way. The company was the fastest growing company on AIM by share price growth, two years in a row, before being sold to Carlisle holdings.
It became clear that specialisation was the way to go – in this case the recruitment of temporary and permanent accountancy staff. Gary comments, “There’s power in building something that’s an inch wide and a mile deep, and when you have proved that something is working, that’s the time to bet heavily and go for scale.”
Next, the team. Abacus incentivised the team to work like crazy, set clear goals and got everyone focused and running in the same direction. If you give key people ownership, they’ll really value what they own. And it’s always essential to invest in your people. There can be a reluctance to train people in case they leave, but the question to ask yourself is, what happens if you don’t train them, and they don’t leave?
We wrote our own software package called The Abacus Screen Test, which tested the skill and accuracy of inputted data which was a hard-to-copy differentiator that our competitors didn’t have access to.
Once the building blocks were in place, the team went for it. There was a pace, momentum and focus about everything and they ensured they never got distracted. The senior team kept their eye on the prize, kept delivering results, and the share price went up. Abacus floated at 16p and within four years, cashed out at £2. Importantly, the team were happy, and we were immensely proud of what we achieved.