The Business Investors Group has invested in excess of £28 million since it was formed in September 1997. Below is a testimonial for one of the investments carried out by members of BiG.
Current Thinking Ltd
The original company was started by Tony Smith and Steve Binks in 2001 with the aim of providing quality products into niche audio market-sectors. Both directors had considerable experience of the markets, and realised that it was an opportune time to sell better products than the established suppliers.
The Company started with induction loop amplifiers, which are required to comply with the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA) and are installed in counters accessed by the public who might be hard-of-hearing.
Current Thinking’s product portfolio in the loop amplifier sector has been expanded (see below). The Company has also moved into the voice alarm market, where recorded or spoken messages replace warning bells or klaxons – an area which is subject to UK and European Standards. The Company is now establishing itself as a leader in the supply of quality, specialist-audio products.
The first product group is that governed by the Disabled Discrimination Act, including various induction loop amplifiers, disabled call systems and a range of portable loop amplifiers.
In addition, Current Thinking has developed a second range of new products for the voice alarm sector, with its Audio Logistics range (see http://www.current-thinking.com). Other related products include especially designed fire telephones, and optical fibre networks and couplers.
To achieve its objectives the Company has invested in the latest modern manufacturing technologies. It also provides in-depth training for its skilled staff and for its key customers.
To provide fast adaptation and implementation of its products to suit various application environments, the Company has developed proprietary software systems for control and monitoring. Thus, the same piece of hardware can be quickly and easily adapted to suit different application environments.
In June 2002, Current Thinking was introduced to the Business Investors’ Group (BiG) by the Northeast Business & Innovation Centre (BIC) at Sunderland. The company, which had relocated to BIC premises, was seeking funding to expand its sales and staff by recruiting a sales manager in the south of England, and to upgrade its manufacturing operations.
A period of due diligence resulted in an investment of £100,000 that was contributed by seven BiG members and one of the Company’s customers who joined the consortium. The Company started its newly funded operations in January 2003.
Two BiG non-executive directors were added to the Board, to join Managing Director, Anthony C Smith, and Operations Director, Steve Binks. The non-executive directors bring business development, financial and strategic planning expertise, and substantial general business experience to the Board, to complement the technical and manufacturing skills, and sector expertise of the two executive directors.
The loop amplifier product sales have increased steadily over the past two years, partly in response to the DDA legislation that came into force in October 2004. Sales of these products continue to increase as UK organisations move, albeit somewhat slowly, to comply with the legislation. Similar legislation coming into effect in the rest of Europe has stimulated loop amplifier sales there, too.
Over the 18 months since the BiG investment, the whole voice alarm sector has been depressed, as buildings have been completed but not finally fitted-out. In spite of these less than easy market conditions, Current Thinking has built up market confidence in its voice alarms: it has now established valuable alliances and completed several prestigious installations around the UK. The order book is healthy, and the prospects for 2005 look good.
Financially, the Company is profitable and expects to pay dividends to the Investors this year.
Involvement of BiG
Not only has BiG provided funds that allowed the company to expand at a critical period in its existence, but the collective business experience of the Directors has helped nurse the Company through two lean years to a position where we can look forward to further improving the sales and performance.
The Board always has an eye to exit strategies for the Investors, but further development and expansion of the Company is expected before its full potential value will be realised.
Back in 2011 the business was sold to Coopers Industries for an undisclosed sum.
Anthony C Smith
Current Thinking Ltd