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    Mediaweek with Simon Ryan: Labelium sale, M&As, brand building, competition

    The Mediaweek Heavy Hitters podcast has welcomed back a guest we had in the studio 12 months ago, Simon Ryan.

    Quite a lot has happened in those 12 months to the RyanCap founder and his start-up.

    Below are some of the highlights from the podcast. Listen to the full unedited interview with Mediaweek editor-in-chief James Manning here.

    Recapping RyanCap

    When Simon Ryan was last in the Mediaweek Studios, he recalled how he launched the RyanCap business in 2020, amidst Covid. Ryan is ex-Dentsu, having run its business in Australia. Between departing Dentsu and starting RyanCap, he did some consulting work and took “gardening leave”.

    As he told Mediaweek 12 months ago, the idea for RyanCap was to fill what he saw as gaps in the market.

    Mediaweek with Simon Ryan: Labelium sale, M&As, brand building, competition

    RyanCap businesses now part of the Labelium portfolio

    Podcast highlights: Launching RyanCap

    “We launched [three businesses inside RyanCap] Ryvalmedia, Foxcatcher and Tightrope in 2020. Those businesses will be four years old come July 2024.

    “Retrospectively, the timing to launch the business was spot on. There was Covid, which I won’t mention again during this podcast, because we’re all a bit sick of that.

    “There was a work-from-home mentality. The global businesses were reducing their costs and venturing into a very uncertain economic position at a macro level. I thought it was a good opportunity to launch a media, tech and data, and consultancy business that would then be able to grow market share across Australia.

    “Since then, we’ve built and scaled businesses in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. We have over 100 staff in isolation in RyanCap.”

    Selling RyanCap to Labelium

    “First of all, I just want to say how great Labelium are. They have been and continue to be outstanding together with their backers. And they really saw Australia as a growth opportunity for them.

    “They were already here in Sydney. We have now moved in together in that city in a really good office.

    “They were on the acquisition trial, which I didn’t know. But I had an incoming phone call pretty much after our last podcast.

    “It was a very interesting time for our business in that we were considering to grow, scale higher, win new clients. And grow geographically across the three states that we’ve chosen to grow in across Australia.

    “The incoming call [from Labelium] asked, would you be interested in having a chat? Obviously, those chats then moved through a number of different conversations with a number of different people.

    “At that point in time, we had no intention of selling the business because it was scaling. The free running cashflow was very good. EBITDA was strong, client happiness and culture happiness were extremely good.

    “Myself and the two other shareholders had a look at Labelium like they had a look at us and we decided to continue the conversation. A part of our original plan was either to keep the business as it was and just keep running it. Or eventually, bring in another shareholder.

    “We decided as a shareholder group that we would commit to Labelium. It’s a very, very good business to be associated with. They’re not scaled in Australia, so they gave us an opportunity to scale together.”

    See also: RyanCap acquired by France-based Labelium Group

    Simon Ryan with Mediaweek’s James Manning

    RyanCap road map didn’t change

    “Our plan hasn’t changed. It’s really important that our staff, our clients and anyone who’s associated with the business from an external perspective realise that our plan has not changed. We’re still growing.

    “We wrote a five-year midterm plan. I’m in the midst of writing that for the next three to four years and we’ll look at acquisitions.

    “We’ll look at further geographic growth, hiring high-performing talent and scaling the business together.”

    Client portfolio

    “We’ve moved into retail, automotive, financial, health. There are a couple of other areas that we’re working on at the moment from a pitch perspective, which I won’t talk about right now. The good news is that we’ll be active in approximately 14 or 15 of the top 20 categories by the end of this calendar year.”

    Original RyanCap shareholders

    Have they been paid back? “Absolutely. When we started the business, I was obviously the sole shareholder. As we continued along, two other shareholders joined who currently work in the business.

    “I won’t name them, but it won’t be too hard to guess who they are. They’re doing a great job. The three shareholders in the existing RyanCap business were all active in the business and still are active in the business.”

    Ryancap - Simon Ryan and Jean Kerboul

    Simon Ryan with Labelium’s Jean Kerboul in 2023

    Simon Ryan not going anywhere

    “The other two RyanCap shareholders are a bit younger than me. They’re in their 40s. I’m turning 50 in May.

    “We want to continue to work. I made it very clear to Labelium and the backers that we all wanted to continue to work regardless of the acquisition.”

    Helping clients build brands

    “The common desire is to treat your clients well, and your staff, and build brands in the market. If you look at a number of the big international agencies, they’re probably not doing the acquisitions that they used to, and that’s okay. That’s a cycle of business.

    “They work through their own machinations as when they can afford and when they can’t afford. If you look at successful businesses, they’re really driven by organic growth.”

    Could the name change?

    “Not while I’m there. [Labelium] loves the brands. They love the fact that the brands give them the opportunity to grow.

    “Eventually, obviously, the focus should always be the brands and the client-facing brands, which is where our focus will be. [Ryvalmedia, Foxcatcher and Tightrope]

    “Eventually, like most M&As, they eventually change names and roll them into the name that acquired the business. Or they keep them going depending upon the success and the heritage that they have in the market.”

    Potential for acquisitions

    Is it a time when people might be more open to discussions about joining forces with a better-resourced partner? “Yeah. I’m not speaking on behalf of anyone in particular. I do know of many agencies that are for sale, and it’s pretty obvious they are for sale. And that’s okay.

    “It’s not necessarily a reflection on a business, whether it’s for sale or not for sale. If you look at some of the businesses that are for sale, they’re doing everything right.”

    Agency competition

    “Clearly, I’ve got friends in the industry. And some people are probably threatened by me too, and they shouldn’t be. We’re all in there together to try and drive outcomes for our clients.

    “Obviously, I’m probably a little bit more aggressive on the competitive side of things to drive outcomes for the business and our new owners. That will be my absolute focus. There are a number of agencies that I talk to either from a potential M&A perspective or from a purely friendship perspective.

    “Having worked in the industry for 25-odd years now, you gather a lot of friends along the way. I’m proud to have those people as friends. But at the same time, it’s a competitive environment and we must pitch to win. We must drive client outcomes and we must deliver outcomes for our business.

    “We’re as competitive as a number of the large international advertising agency groups.”

    Other good agencies?

    Are there any colleagues or friends in similar-sized businesses that you think are doing a pretty good job? “Absolutely. Yeah. But I won’t mention them.

    “There’d be two or three independent agencies like RyanCap that are doing exceptionally well.”

    For much more from Simon Ryan, including a commentary on the market and his outlook, listen to the complete unedited Heavy Hitters podcast here.

    The post Mediaweek with Simon Ryan: Labelium sale, M&As, brand building, competition appeared first on Mediaweek.

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