Being acquired by a larger company doesn’t always mean that you’ll lose your identity. Quite the opposite …

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With 1,700 employees and 20 branches throughout the Netherlands, Hoppenbrouwers Techniek can certainly call itself a ‘larger acquirer’. But that doesn’t mean that the installation services companies that join Hoppenbrouwers lose their identity. “Quite the opposite,” explains Bas Ceelen, Director of Integration: “We want the companies that we acquire to keep operating with full autonomy while also being connected with the other branches. It’s mainly about enabling the independent Hoppenbrouwers locations to benefit from the collective through increased purchasing or greater brand awareness, for instance.”

A family business made up of colleagues

As Director of Integration, Bas Ceelen can fully focus on Hoppenbrouwers Techniek’s expansion. “Growth is in our DNA. While we want to keep developing as an organisation, we are and remain a family business.” But Mr Ceelen also wants to emphasise that Hoppenbrouwers is anything but a ‘standard corporation’: “That is definitely not how we want to be seen. In recent years, we have expanded from a medium-sized company to a large one through a combination of acquisitions and organic growth. Yet, the companies we acquire that have, say, 40 to 100 employees certainly do not just become one of the crowd.”

At the end of the day, at Hoppenbrouwers it’s also the substance that matters, says Mr Ceelen: “As a group of experts, we are all each other’s colleagues. We don’t use private equity parties or investors since the company is completely owned by the family. And that’s how it feels – like one big family.”

10% organic growth, 10% acquisitions

Hoppenbrouwers’ growth strategy follows the premise of joint stability. Together, the installation services companies can withstand crises. Together, they strengthen their positioning in different markets, segments and regions. And behind this growth is a sound plan drawn up by Hoppenbrouwers: “We want Hoppenbrouwers to have national coverage by 2030 – and we are already well on our way to reaching this goal. Each year, we aim to achieve 10% organic growth and 10% growth through acquisitions. We stick to our strategy and are selective with regard to the parties we acquire.”

Each year, around 60 companies put themselves forwards for acquisition by Hoppenbrouwers. From this group, just three or four are selected to be acquired. “We continue to be selective; we don’t want growth for the sake of growth. A deal has to bring real added value to both parties, for instance in terms of knowledge or employee recruitment. And both companies must be a match in terms of culture and family values.”

No overnight successes, but a valuable growth process

One of the parties that has joined Hoppenbrouwers in the last year is the installation services company, Kievit Warmte B.V. from Middelharnis in the Netherlands. The owner, Cees Kievit, sees a number of advantages to an acquisition but does also emphasise that it’s not a case of overnight success and is more of a growth process: “Even though I was well prepared for the integration and the phases that we would go through, I still definitely underestimated what the integration would entail. It’s a huge transition for employees – not just in terms of their work but also emotionally. It takes a few months for employees to start to see the benefits of the acquisition and the chances and development opportunities that it can bring.”

It isn’t just Mr Kievit’s employees that are starting to reap the benefits of the acquisition – he has also been able to return to the work that he enjoys the most. “In the early days, I started out as an entrepreneur because I wanted to be hands-on with customers. Over the years, Kievit Warmte grew to such an extent that I had to deal with more and more issues that accompanied growth, such as HR, legal affairs and finance. It’s been a year since we came together and those matters are being well taken care of, so I can focus once more on the things that energise me: the technical side of things and our customers.”

Expansion with Dealsuite?

Although parties put themselves forwards for acquisition to Hoppenbrouwers more or less spontaneously, it is still incredibly important to be seen as a reliable acquiring party in this market. According to Mr Ceelen, a platform like Dealsuite can help here: “We are becoming increasingly well known among sales brokers, which helps enormously. In this sense, at this moment in time, we don’t really need to actively look for parties that we want to acquire.”

Hoppenbrouwers has been using Dealsuite for a year: “Of course, it will be incredibly interesting to see what else Dealsuite can bring us – particularly in terms of aspects that are innovative within the M&A market. To start off with, the threshold is somewhat lower when interested parties can register directly via the platform. When they first reach out to us, we can quickly get the ball rolling and over a cup of coffee we can see whether the cultures, desires and ideas of the two organisations are a fit. In cases where that conversation is a success, we are very happy to continue and we can strike a deal that is optimal for both parties. A deal that allows each party to ‘remain themselves’ as we all continue to grow together.”

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