Entrepreneurship is not just about starting a new business. Sometimes, it can be about taking over a company you already work in and taking it on a new journey.
Management buyouts (MBO) are one way to unlock untapped skills and expertise within a company to help fulfil commercial potential. For Vikki Byrne and Lydia Owen, their management buyout of OSP Healthcare has been an exciting challenge.
Here, the business partners tell the story of OSP Healthcare and what motivated them to lead the company into a new era.
Tell us about OSP Healthcare.
Lydia: We're an independent, creative medical communications agency, with a design studio, digital team and production crew all under one roof.
Founded in Cardiff in 1993, OSP has operated in the healthcare, life sciences, pharmaceutical, medical devices and biotech sectors and has delivered creative projects for some of the best-known brands in the world.
We develop and produce award-winning tools, events and experiences to help health-focused companies and organisations stimulate conversation, provide information and encourage education. Our client services span branding, campaigns, copywriting, design, digital, eLearning, events, exhibitions, experiential, film and animation, and presentations.
We're now based in Chepstow. Vikki and I have led our seven-strong team since 2015, when we undertook the management buyout and acquired the company, and its parent company, On Screen Productions, from the founding owners. It was a huge step but a really exciting one for us both.
Our career background is in the media, so we have lots of experience and expertise.
I started my career in journalism and joined OSP's Production Team in 2008 to manage the company's exhibition projects and bolster the in-house copywriting team. Since then, I've crafted copy for some of the world's biggest names in healthcare and pharmaceuticals. Nothing leaves OSP's HQ without my stamp of approval!
Vikki is our creative director and has a background in digital design (way before that was even a 'thing'). She's an ex-BBC designer and has led our team of creatives for the last 12 years, developing multi-channel projects that deliver clear and impactful messages for our global client base. She's a self-confessed creative, through and through, and is never afraid to challenge the 'norm'.
We both work closely with our business manager, Lisa Rennison, to run and grow the company – and we have big plans for the future.
Since we took over OSP, we've continued to win business from existing clients, while fostering new relationships with new companies and partner agencies. We've pivoted our offering to promote our in-house design and copywriting skills, and we now deliver a range of projects for several UK-based and global pharmaceutical and non-healthcare brands that we had never worked with before the MBO.
It's been a fantastic experience, equally fulfilling and rewarding.
What are your proudest moments in business so far?
Lydia: I'm hoping there will be more proud moments to come but my proudest moment is when I found out we'd won our first big exhibition client after spending 18 months focused on trying to win work in this service area.
I was on my way to a meeting and can remember exactly where I was standing in Cardiff city centre when the client called me to tell me we'd won the contract to deliver the first of many exhibition projects for him. As soon as that call ended, I rang the office — hardly able to speak — and our business manager gathered everyone around the phone so that I could deliver the good news. I can remember being close to tears listening to how excited everyone was that all of our collective work had come to fruition. It really is a team effort at OSP.
Vikki: I'm proud of our company and, more importantly, our team most days! Both Lydia and I feel incredibly lucky to have such a loyal, committed, diligent and creative bunch of people working alongside us. Most of our projects require the skills of each team member individually, and it's when we work together as a team that I think we produce our most impressive work.
I'm also proud of the fact that we're a small boutique agency based in Wales regularly commissioned to deliver creative projects for huge companies from all over the world. We have recently been working on company-wide presentations for C-suite execs at Johnson & Johnson. Working for people at this level within a company of that size makes us proud. When they thank us for our work, we get an even bigger boost!
If you were starting again, what would you do differently?
Lydia: Given our chance again, I think we should have employed a couple of experienced, senior staff as soon as we'd undertaken the MBO and tasked these members of the team with offering our clients director level advice. This would have given Vikki and I the breathing space to consider the strategic direction of the business, as we've been consumed with managing projects on a day-to-day basis. This is something we're still actively looking to resolve.
In the early days, we lost out on a big project because a competitor came in at a significantly lower budget than we did. In hindsight, we should have been more flexible on price as winning that contract would have guaranteed us a long pipeline of work. This would have taken the financial pressure off and would have also allowed us to upsell other services to that same client — generating even more sales.
Vikki: Even though we're marketing specialists, it's much easier for us to offer advice to clients than it is for us to look inwards at our marketing efforts — client work always takes precedence. The majority of our work comes from word of mouth recommendations and, while this is positive, I think we could have done more to advertise our services through On Screen Productions, the non-medical part of our business when we took over.
Also, I would have invested more time at the outset nurturing relationships with those who hold the purse strings within the procurement departments of our biggest clients. We've learned that you can have a brilliant relationship with a global marketing director but still find it challenging to expand your offering within a large company.
How has support from Business Wales AGP helped your business?
We became a member of Business Wales AGP in 2015 and were assigned Joff Pope as our relationship manager.
We've found Joff's support and advice invaluable over the last five years and count him as one of our trusted advisors, often calling on him for guidance with business decisions.
Two of our team members have been on a Business Wales social media marketing course in 2019.
We've also attended a workshop on team management, and have taken part in several Business Wales AGP organised webinars related to business management post-lockdown.
What advice and guidance would you give other businesses starting out?
● Surround yourself with experts. We have a few trusted advisors (including our AGP Relationship Manager) whose background and experience, both within our industry and outside of it, means that they serve as great sounding boards when we find ourselves facing challenges we're unsure how to tackle.
● Hire for attitude, train for skill. There are ways and means of training and upskilling your team to ensure they can excel in their roles, but the one thing you can't teach is attitude.
● Don't procrastinate: I've learned (through bitter experience) that when I procrastinate things tend not to pan out well. So I try not to put off until tomorrow what I can do today.
● Be aware of Imposter Syndrome. This is something we both suffer with, and we're aware that self-doubt can debilitate you if you let it take hold. Remember, confidence is vital. We need to remind ourselves of the value we provide, both individually and as part of a team. Own your accomplishments, but...
● Don't pretend you know something you don't. I've found that it's always better to say, 'I'll get back to you', or admit that something isn't your specialism than try – and fail – to bluster your way through a situation!
● Develop a set of marketing materials you're proud of. Of course, we're bound to say this, but I genuinely believe that if you have pre-approved sales materials for every service you offer you will save time in the long run — and present a far more polished brand to your stakeholders.
For more information on OSP Healthcare, visit here.