David Morgan, managing director of Snowdrop Independent Living, based in South Wales, explains how his business has strengthened since the completion of an MBO, despite the challenges of the pandemic, and shares his company’s ambitions to use AI and AR technology to help present its products in a digital age.
In 2019, Snowdrop Independent Living, a mobility dealer based in South Wales, completed a management buyout, supported by £500,000 equity investment from the Development Bank of Wales.
Managing director David Morgan and chairman Kevin Bounds led the MBO alongside four existing staff members and had ambitious plans to grow and strengthen the business with more showrooms, greater social media marketing and the introduction of new technology providing better customer service. Two years on and Morgan explains how these plans are coming to fruition.
David Morgan started his career in engineering management, followed by financial services, which exposed him to a range of sectors, from software and industrial automation to biotech
Fast forward to 2019 and he was looking for a new opportunity, ideally within a business that, in his own words, “does something useful” and helps improve people’s quality of life.
“One of my contacts in private equity who knew Peter O’Shea, the owner of Snowdrop Care and Mobility, suggested we talk. There was already a MBO forming and I decided to get involved after understanding what Snowdrop does,” says Morgan.
Since the buyout, the business has strengthened in terms of management and customer support, and the aim is to continue to reinforce these areas.
Morgan explains: “We now have a senior management team with managers in departments across the company. This structure provides more stability to the business, which allows us to expand quickly when an opportunity presents itself.”
Morgan and his team also made use of the £500,000 in equity to build upon its three showrooms in Haverfordwest, Swansea and Penarth.
Then, in late 2019, Snowdrop added another showroom in Cardiff, then another three in the West Midlands in early 2020, making it seven in total.
Morgan was looking forward to growing his new business further, developing an offering which improves mobility for an ever-increasing ageing population, but he couldn’t have foreseen doing so during a pandemic, just one year into his role as MD.
“Shortly after opening the Midlands stores, the pandemic started taking hold and the first lockdown happened after little more than a month,” says Morgan.
Following several virtual meetings, the management team decided to keep all of its branches open, but with significantly reduced opening hours and staff.
No one could say that having next to no customers visit its stores didn’t have a negative impact on Snowdrop. It did. However, the company adapted by delivering to customers, building its online capacity and developing
safe ways of working for its in-home engineers.
Morgan explains: “We adapted by pooling resources together to support each branch. For example, two branches can support each other opening on alternative days. We improved the quality of our website so our customers can browse products, enquire information and place orders on some products without contacting the local branch.”
Reflecting on the past year, Morgan says: “Looking back, we were able to help customers who had very little limited options. The staff were incredibly supportive and the difficulties actually make our staff even more determined to help customers.
“The pandemic was, and still is, a test of how strong the business we built has become and I am proud of our staff for making it all work. We also used this time to develop the plans for the future of the business.”
The shift in customers’ behaviours and the wants and needs of online content were accelerated by the lockdown. Snowdrop was able to adapt to this by implementing more online interactive tools, such as online chat and a 360 virtual scooter test drive.
Explaining the inspiration behind the launch of the test drive, Morgan says: “Our showrooms focus on providing rich product experience and personalised assessment of needs, based on discussions with the customer.
“During the first lockdown, we started working on translating these experiences into digital formats, and the virtual test drive is the result of this work.”