Climbing into a cab at Crewe station, I ask for 20:20 Mobile Group. I get a blank look and, so, try again. “Caudwell’s,” I say. Now we’re moving.
It’s been a year since private equity firm Doughty Hanson forked out £347 million for the old John Caudwell distribution empire, now known as the 20:20 Mobile Group. The company’s identity, however, is still strongly linked to Caudwell.
Despite the lack of fanfare, there have been changes behind the scenes. Dextra Airtime sales director Angie Simpson and financial director Steve Marsh say the business has been restructured. There has been a fundamental change in focus, they say.
Not big on branding
“There won’t be a strong marketing campaign to say, ‘our new identity is the 20:20 Mobile Group’,” explains Marsh. “It’s not in our nature to make a big fuss about it. The branding side of things is always going to be second to actually running the business. But we recognise we need to make clear that we’re not just this giant part of the old Caudwell organisation.”
Simpson and Marsh admit there are some negative connotations to the company’s attachment to the Caudwell name, but insist his legacy is a formidable platform on which to move the group forward. “John [Caudwell] built a fantastic empire which has so many positives,” says Marsh.
Simpson adds: “Nobody could deny the Caudwell Group was built into an absolute success story. It is still the number one distributor in the UK. We will maintain that, but with more value-added structures and a customer service element.”
Under Caudwell’s stewardship, there was a highly competitive relationship between the airtime division Dextra Solutions, the handset business 20:20 Logistics and the accessories unit Dextra Accessories. These days, it is more about working together. The changes under Doughty Hanson should hardly be considered a major overhaul, suggests Simpson, but there has been a streamlining of processes, resulting in a more integrated relationship between its composite parts.
“In the past, 20:20 and Dextra were run as very separate businesses. John’s intention was to retain a competitive edge between the group businesses so that each did the best it could in its own arena,” says Simpson.
“As the market has matured, we have realised we actually get more from working together – it’s more fluid for customers. So this year we’ve seen a lot more activity between the two companies. Since the takeover, we have worked on the elements of the business that weren’t good for long-term strategy, such as running the businesses in isolation. Rather than each of us rowing different boats, the whole group works more closely now, as one entity.”
At the same time, Simpson points to the vast differences between the market sectors 20:20’s distribution units operate in. “We work in very different markets, although there are areas we do touch each other on, in certain dealer communities and with the likes of Tesco,” she explains.
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