Ed Heale, the CEO of PE-backed CSL Dualcom, talks to Rachel Bridge at Drax about pace, focus and the importance of finding something that you love doing
It took Ed Heale a while to work out what he wanted to do in life. After studying biology at university he started out in investment banking, largely because his family worked in the industry.
But he soon realised it wasn’t the career for him and so left to help turn around and sell a financial market data business that his father had started. He says: “That was my first grounding in proper business - making hard decisions that affect people’s livelihoods.”
The business was successfully sold and Ed moved into consulting. But he realised that he actually preferred building businesses to simply offering advice, so he joined two start-up businesses before joining BT, where he worked on BT Sports and then helped set up BT Ventures.
He says: “I haven’t had a career, I have had a series of jobs while I have been looking for something that I like doing and feels like a more natural fit.”
By now, however, his accumulated experiences had enabled him to identify his true niche in life – helping businesses to grow. He realised that while entrepreneurs love taking businesses through the initial start-up phase, he loved taking businesses through the subsequent scale up and growth phase.
He says: “Entrepreneurs are very good at taking businesses from stage nought to one. I’m not good at that part, I’m better at taking them from stage one to two. If a business is already up and running, I can take it and build it and grow it. That is the bit I’m more comfortable with.”
So in 2015 he joined CSL DualCom, which provides critical connectivity services for intruder, telehealth and fire alarms, coming in initially as CCO while the business was backed by Bowmark Capital. He took over the MD role and then in 2016 was appointed CEO to lead the exit process from Bowmark and the subsequent investment by Norland Capital.
He is clearly doing something right. Since he has been at the helm he and his team have doubled the EBITDA and turnover of the business in the space of two and a half years.
He says: “I absolutely love it. Having done the work to show that this is where we are going to go and this is how we are going to get there, it becomes very motivating for the whole company to then see the business getting closer to that target every week, month, quarter, year.”
Now in the third year of the PE investment cycle, Ed is also well aware of the importance of knowing how to deal with the relentless pace and intensity of the process.
He says: “You could work 24 hours a day because there is always work to do, but you have to create your own time because you are no good to anyone if you start getting tired and stressed. You will lose perspective and start making bad decisions. It is important to find a balance.”
It is a message that he makes sure everyone in the business understands.
He says: “It’s a conversation I’ve had with the team - this isn’t a 9 to 5 job, the job is done when it is done, whether you work late one night or a couple of hours at the weekend, because there is an opportunity to make money here that you wouldn’t otherwise get. But what I don’t expect them to do is work themselves into the ground so that they go off sick for three months. Ultimately everyone has got to take responsibility not only for their jobs, but also for their health.”
Ed says the secret to successfully growing a business, particularly one which is PE-backed, is to stay absolutely focused on what is important.
He says: “There are distractions all over the place, and there are a lot of things you could do, but that is never really the issue - it is about what you should do.”
Drax sector lead: Ruby Sheera
Partner, Technology and Tech-enabled businesses
Tel: 0203 949 9555