Pioneering Medical Device Firm Device Eyes Further Growth
The chief executive of a Welsh business behind a range of inflatable medical devices designed to safely lift patients and older people has opened up about the global company’s growth trajectory and future plans.
Founded in 1981, Mangar’s devices include inflatable bath lifts and inflatable cushions, often used in ambulances. With an ageing population and more older people living independently in their own homes, the products were increasingly being prescribed by occupational therapists and the company was also selling to ambulance trusts.
In 2014, there was a management buyout and YFM Equity Partners, a specialist in supporting regional SMEs, backed the business.
While the company had been relatively successful, its potential had not been fully realised, chief executive Simon Claridge said.
“I was recruited five years ago as part of the move to make the company more commercially focussed rather than being led by product development. I have a track record in pharma and medical devices, but my background is very much on the sales side so I was brought on board to work alongside the new chair, James Buckley, who also has strong sector knowledge, and introduce a more professional and sales-focussed approach.
“For example, we introduced a CRM system and implemented proper targeting to identify key sales opportunities by researching demand for products and potential markets. We also developed our market proposition by identifying our highest value products and focussing on these – our ‘Elk’ inflatable lifting cushions are now part of the standard equipment in every ambulance in the UK. Our product technology is unique and patented, and, while it looks simple, it is actually complex and very effective.”
He added: “As a management team, we had to stand back and look at each part of the business, identifying where we could sell products and changing to a commercially-led business – even now, our marketing director manages R&D and products are developed products in line with customers’ needs and market demand.
“While there were fledgling sales in Germany and the US, we realised that focussing on selling greater volumes of our existing products in new territories was a huge opportunity. Mangar now sells worldwide, across Europe, the US and Australia – all ambulances in Victoria are equipped with the Elk inflatable cushion, and we’re currently targeting New South Wales.”
Ian Waterfield, partner at YFM and board member at Mangar for four years, said: “With its strong product innovation and operating in the growing area of mobility at home, we could see that the business had huge potential, and there was a real opportunity to improve its sales and marketing operation. One of the first problems we identified was the small pool of talent available locally in the town of Presteigne in Powys, so a sales and marketing office was opened in the more central location of Telford and the team was expanded.
“When working with SMEs, we see ourselves as an ‘enabler’. We don’t want to micro-manage, but rather ensure that the right senior people are in place in the business to make the change happen. At Mangar, having James and Simon at the helm meant we knew the business had the necessary skills to implement the strategy of moving from being a manufacturer into a more sales-focussed operation and expanding into global markets.”
In 2018, just four years after YFM’s investment, Mangar was bought by Winncare Group, an international manufacturer and supplier of medical devices for the elderly. The European group recognised not only the strength of the British company’s market proposition, but also that its products would complement Winncare’s range which includes medical mattresses and beds, and provide an established route to the UK market. YFM achieved a 2.7x return on the deal.
Simon Claridge said: “The sale to Winncare was a huge success for all concerned. As well as achieving a good return for YFM, its investors and the Mangar management team, it also took the business to the next level. Since the sale, we’ve continued to see double digit growth and, despite the challenges of social care cost cutting in the UK last year, the business has continued to prosper. Pushing geographical expansion to support our international rollout proposition proved to be a vital move.
“The introduction of private equity finance enabled investment in improving our sales and finance structure, creating a business someone wanted to buy. We were fortunate that YFM are happy to invest anywhere in the UK, and we benefitted from having their experience on the board to share business thought and bring their commercial acumen into play.”
Having doubled revenue over the last five years, prospects still look good for Mangar, despite the disruption of the Covid outbreak. With many occupational therapists no longer able to visit non-emergency cases at home, less inflatable lifts are being prescribed in the short-term, but the need for the products continues.
In fact, Mangar has supported the Nightingale Hospitals with its devices and this, together with its ongoing strategy, enabled the company to achieve record months in April and May 2020. Further growth is expected as the business builds on its global position.