In this episode of The Manufacturer Podcast Daniel Kirmatzis sat down with Richard Harden, CEO, of Henley based manufacturer Stuart Turner to discuss the company’s remarkable growth in recent years. Founded in 1906, it is internationally recognised for its design and manufacturing of water boosting pumps and systems. Richard joined Stuart Turner as CEO in 2019 from Wilo Group – a European manufacturer of pumps and pump systems. In 2018 he was appointed President of the British Pump Manufacturers Association (BMPA).
Since joining the company, Richard has built upon its acquisitional growth strategy which has seen the company acquire Yorkshire-based Fluid Water Solutions, to expand its Aquaboost product range, Suffolk-based GAH Heating, to consolidate its position as the UK’s market leader for low mains water pressure and flow boosting solutions and, most recently in March 2021, Worcestershire-based pressurisation specialist, Mikrofill Systems which will allow Stuart Turner to offer a wider variety of products and services and provide customers with comprehensive HVAC (Heating, ventilation and air-conditioning) and water supply solutions.
It is a remarkable growth success story and one developed with the guidance of mid-market private equity firm LDC which backed the management buy-out of the company in 2017.
Listen to Stuart Turner’s remarkable growth story now
Below you can read highlights from the interview.
Can you give us some background on Stuart Turner up to when you became CEO in 2019?
Stuart Turner was founded back in 1906, based in the picturesque Oxfordshire town of Henley on Thames and we boast a long history of engineering excellence and British manufacturing. Our purpose-built state of the art manufacturing facility still stands on the same site, where the company has been located since 1917. And that’s where we design and manufacture our comprehensive range of solutions to power water. Our product range spans from single outlet domestic pumps to large water boosting systems for commercial building services and industrial projects. In 2017, we were backed by the private equity house LDC to allow us to further accelerate our growth strategy into the commercial pump sectors and support our international expansion. I joined the business in April 2019. And I’ve been the CEO since.
What is the business’ growth strategy?
Having spent over 25 years myself in the pump industry, primarily focused on commercial building services, the ultimate aim at Stuart Turner is to take our market lead in knowledge and experience that we have in the residential sector across into that commercial building services and industrial sector and continuing to build our export markets. We want to work to become a full solutions provider to power water across multiple applications, not only in the UK, but into those wider export markets.
Image: Production at Stuart Turner Courtesy Stuart Turner
Mid-market private equity firm LDC backed Stuart Turner in 2017. Why did you choose a private equity partner and how have you found working with one?
So LDC were chosen before I had the offer to join the company. However, since joining, I can fully understand why they were chosen. In fact, along with the great potential that I could see at Stuart Turner, the backing by LDC was a key attraction for me to join. The relationship with LDC is a true partnership. They’ve allowed the leadership team to set the strategy and essentially get on and run the business, backing our ambition. They’ve provided follow on funding to allow us to support our continued acquisition and more broadly that provided expertise and sector experience to help us identify and integrate the businesses that we have acquired and really support in our growth objectives. The team at LDC have been a great source of expertise and guidance and have helped to shape our strategy for the future.
Do you have any advice for other SME manufacturers seeking investment?
Quite simple, really, private equity backing can help you move quickly and realise your ambition. If you have a vision, then the right partner can allow you to unlock the potential quickly. My view is, go for it.
With the UK hosting the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow this year how important is sustainability for Stuart Turner?
It’s really high on our agenda and it has been for some time for us now. With all the new solutions and product development that we look at, we have an eye on sustainability. A number of the product ranges that Stuart Turner have in their portfolio are really energy efficient solutions, a number of which don’t consume any energy whatsoever, but can increase the flow and pressure that you may receive in a residential property, for example. But we’re not only focused on our product ranges, but also on how we’re manufacturing and how we’re working on a day-to-day basis.
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