Bridges backs growth business Just Ask to drive better outcomes for housing association residents
- Just Ask is a facilities management business that works exclusively with Housing Associations, employing nearly 450 people and serving over 50,000 homes
- It is currently growing at about 40% per annum and has a market-leading reputation for outstanding customer service, social value and community engagement
- Bridges has taken a majority stake, backing the existing management team – which will be augmented by a new Non-Executive Chairman and Finance Director
- The focus will be on driving growth to create jobs and improve the living environment for housing association residents
Bridges Fund Management, the specialist sustainable and impact investor, has invested £9m to take a majority stake in Just Ask, a facilities management business.
Just Ask works exclusively with housing associations, mainly in the South-East of England, providing a range of services such as cleaning and general grounds maintenance. Under the leadership of Andrew Shiel and Peter Ticehurst, it has grown from a small family business into a company employing nearly 450 people and serving over 50,000 homes. In the last three years, it has increased revenues at a compounded annual growth rate of over 40%. This off-market investment represents the first time the business has taken on external funding, as it looks to support its next phase of growth.
The introduction of the Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012 has increasingly encouraged Housing Associations to consider social value for their residents when procuring third-party services. Residents of housing associations are statistically more likely to have physical or emotional wellbeing issues than the UK average, and less likely to be in employment or training. Just Ask believes that by engaging with residents via community projects and improving their local environment, it can make a tangible difference to their quality of life – while also creating additional employment and apprenticeship opportunities.
Since its foundation in 2002, Bridges has backed and grown a number of businesses that look to provide better-quality, better-value services for underserved populations – notably The Gym Group, a low-cost health and fitness chain (now listed on the London Stock Exchange); The Vet, which provides lower-cost veterinary services; and the Hub Pharmacy, which focuses on providing healthcare services via community pharmacies.
With Bridges’ support, the Just Ask team believes it can accelerate the company’s growth by working with more Housing Associations customers, most likely across a wider geographic area – while maintaining and further enhancing the company’s focus on social value. To this end, Bridges has worked with management to create a new incentivisation structure that rewards both the financial and the social value the team creates.
Bridges has recruited a Non-Executive Chairman and Finance Director to augment the existing management team. Jonathan Simpson-Dent, the new Chair, was most recently Chief Commercial Officer of Cardtronics, an operator of 220,000 ATMs with $1.3bn in global sales. He is also very familiar with the facilities management and Housing Association markets: he chairs Bromford Housing Association and was previously CEO of Evander Group, a property services provider. Paul Giuffredi, who joins as FD, was most recently at Baker Ross, a successful family-run e-commerce business with sales of over £20m; he also has a wealth of experience working with private equity-backed SMEs.
Andrew Shiel, Managing Director and Co-Founder at Just Ask, said:
“We felt Bridges was the ideal partner to support us through the next phase of our growth. It was very quickly clear that the team understood our business, share our values and approach, and have a similar vision of what Just Ask can achieve.”
Jonathan Simpson-Dent, Non-Executive Chairman at Just Ask, said:
“There is a big opportunity for Just Ask not only to continue its impressive growth, but also to position itself as a real exemplar in the sector – by improving quality of life for Housing Association residents, and offering employment and training opportunities for people who might otherwise struggle to find them.”
James Hurrell, Investment Director at Bridges, said:
“Just Ask really stood out within this market because of its specialist Housing Association focus, its track record of growth and its reputation as a best-in-class quality operator. This is a great example of a business where helping to tackle a big social challenge – in this case, creating jobs and improving wellbeing outcomes for an underserved population – can also drive strong commercial growth.”
Bridges: PwC (financial and commercial), Eversheds (legal)
Just Ask management: Hollis Gore Associates (corporate finance), Penningtons Manches (legal)
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