Inc Direct targets growth with big-name hire

Inc Direct has beefed up its executive board with a former Williams Lea boss joining as managing director as the marcomms specialist sets its sights on organic growth and eyes potential acquisitions.

Ex-Williams Lea managing director EMEA Paul Cooke joined the £7m-turnover company last month. He replaces Alan Hynes, who, after four years as managing director, has stepped up to group financial director to support chief executive Noel Warner in his M&A hunt and bed in future acquisitions.

“We want accelerate our growth even more, so we needed a real heavyweight MD to enable me time to focus on acquisitions and new business, someone to really knock us into shape and prepare us for that growth,” said Warner.

He added that while the company spoke to a number of strong candidates, Cooke’s decade at Williams Lea, combined with his client-side experience as a category director at Prudential before that, ultimately made it a very easy decision.

“We know that we’re no Williams Lea in scale, but the challenges are the same: we want to grow, we want to maintain and grow existing clients, win new ones, we want to add value wherever we can – and he loved the idea of being part of something where he could really make a difference.”

Cooke will report to Warner. As well as a broader strategic role he will be focused on developing Inc’s internal systems to ensure it is ready for growth, help develop Inc’s key clients and prospects and look at ways to broaden its offering.

Cooke said: “Noel and the board have built a fantastic business which is supported by a wonderful culture and client base. Being asked to lead Inc Direct to the next level is very exciting.”

With Cooke focused on organic growth, Warner will be able to refocus his M&A efforts.
He said that he had been looking at potential acquisitions for around four years, but had “never quite found the right business”.

“We want to find a complementary business that adds value to what we do and our clients and potential clients. Unsurprisingly digital [marketing] is a big thing and something we’re starting to develop, but it’s something we would like to accelerate, perhaps through acquisition.”

Inc last hit the acquisition trail in 2012, when it bought a majority stake in London-based creative agency Wand.

“Conversations with clients often increasingly involve their online desires rather than just, if you like, offline. So in all intents and purposes we’re looking to become media neutral and offer digital print as well as all the other digital media channels.”

Earlier this year the 65-staff company revamped its digital print battery with an HP Indigo 7800, which joined an existing fleet of Xerox iGens.

“We had a slight change of strategy in terms of colour, we’ve been with Xerox since the beginning really and we thought let’s try a new technology and cast our net wider and run dual technology. I don’t think there are many people in our space that run both iGen and Indigo technologies,” said Warner.

“So we can use the technologies in a complementary way as some applications are better suited to one or the other and clients have welcomed the agnostic approach.”