CitNOW was founded in 2008, and third generation car dealer Alistair Horsburgh joined the business in 2011 as Sales Director. He was introduced by an ex-colleague who worked at a local Jaguar dealership, who had purchased the product in 2010 and was using it in his sales department. Spurred by the potential to positively change the industry he’s so passionate about, Alistair was appointed CEO in 2013. He describes himself as a salesman and “rough diamond” over a “stereotypical CEO”.
After eight months of conversations with a number of private equity firms, as well as considering a trade sale, private equity – and Tenzing – won out.
“I didn’t want to just sell what we created to a big organisation. Our company culture is very important to me and building on the foundations of the previous 10 years with the same passion and enthusiasm may not have been possible in a large corporate hierarchy,” recalls Alistair. “We knew we could continue to grow the business, however the challenge was how to grow it in the same spirit and focus.”
It all came down to a “human touch”, Alistair affirms. “We chose Tenzing because we felt they could give us the kind of human touch we wanted.”
“With some of the other private equity firms we spoke to, we were concerned we’d be working with a different board member after the deal was signed,” he adds.
Being part of a “profitable success story, rather than just a success story” has been a big driver for Alistair in pursuing scale with an investment partner like Tenzing.
“There’s this sense of satisfaction that you can achieve the status of market leader, that you’ve got the best products in the marketplace, that we’re the only people in the world that do what we do, and nobody else is coming close to us,” Alistair remarks.
“I’m really proud of how we’ve cured some really big pain points in an industry that has suffered from the stereotype of a lack of trust, transparency, and integrity. We’ve managed to overlay a product that’s easy to use for a dealership and helps them to overcome some of the negative perceptions of the industry.”
Alistair acknowledges it’s been a “learning curve”.
“They talk about professionalising your business and, of course, to most entrepreneurial people, it’s a challenge to change your decision making process from following your gut, to following the data. But the reality is, that’s the journey you go on, when you work with private equity for the first time,” he explains.
It’s a journey that is paying off both financially and in Alistair’s development as a business leader, he adds: “A big milestone in any business is hitting your numbers, Tenzing have helped us to stay focused on delivering what we set out to do.”
“The difference Tenzing has bought us is putting good corporate governance in place to build on a platform that was solid.”
CitNOW is also leaning on Tenzing for its acquisition and growth strategy, with Alistair valuing the open lines of communication with the Tenzing team. In December 2020, Tenzing helped CitNOW complete its acquisition of showroom software firm Dealerweb.