So how does the Forth Way work in the real world? Here’s how. Take a look at what we do and see how we make a real difference to our clients’ businesses.
Since 2008, you may have noticed it’s been quite difficult to raise money. So try raising £200million+ globally to invest in the UK. That was the challenge that faced the three blokes who walked into MC2 in 2011. The one thing they had in their favour was a track record. Grant Berry, Andy Ball and Dan Wright had created a return of 1000% on investors’ money during their decade at LDC, but that was during the good times.
They needed a story that they could take to the world’s most astute institutional investors and convince them to buy into a first-time private equity fund of a size bigger than anything that had been attempted since Lehman Brothers collapsed. Even if they managed to get the money, they needed to then convince business owners to give them equity in their businesses over much more mature competitors.
We didn’t need a huge analysis of the macro-environment. Grant came to us because he knew that we know the market. We act for most of the key players like Deloitte, Equistone and Palatine. A knowledge that means we understand how important a clear point of difference was in this market.
The team had great Northern attributes – a straightforward approach, plain-talking, no-nonsense. And the more we probed, the more the team’s passion for the North came through. They knew the region - the people, the places, the businesses and the heritage. They related to the North and felt they could build trust more easily with Northern management teams because of the similarity in approach. They lived here, they grew up here and were part of the fabric of the area. In many different ways, they were already invested in the North.
Once this inspiration came out, it became the brand essence from which we built the brand, the story and the offer. An essence that would resonate through everything that the business did from that point on.
NorthEdge was the name chosen to communicate this essence. The line “Invested in the North” was brought to life in everything we did. It was decided that the fund would ONLY invest in the North. This was unique in the private equity community. It would HQ here, have credit committee here, recruit only from here, buy offices here, use advisors from here and invest only in businesses within the North.
Management teams could trust NorthEdge more because it wasn’t a case of dealing with a faceless investment company from the city, but people like them who they could see and visit. And the professional community were more likely to refer introductions to NorthEdge, knowing they would reciprocate because they only used firms from the North. In many ways, it was a virtuous circle.
From early on, we carried out a key influencer campaign involving people like Sir Howard Bernstein. All supported the story. And all communications were based on this simple, but clear point of difference. Plus, video was used rather than traditional, hyperbole-heavy brochures. This allowed our Northern team to explain the offer in plain English so people could easily identify with them.
Communications were rolled out as one-to-one briefings. Media relations were discreet and exclusive. Key publications like the FT were used for the investor community. But rather than the national business press, exclusives were given to regional press in Newcastle, Leeds and Manchester. This ensured that it wasn’t seen as a showy fund. In fact, it was complimented for being down-to-earth.