The CitNOW Group was founded in 2008, and Geoffrey Page-Morris joined the business in 2016 as Executive Chair before being appointed CEO in June 2021. Geoffrey’s built a successful career for himself in the automotive industry, having spent almost 20 years at the UK car dealership Synter Group before joining CitNOW. Working with some of the most prestigious vehicle brands, including Jaguar Land Rover, Audi, BMW, Lexus and Volkswagen, has given him great visibility of the automotive industry’s challenges. This has confirmed his belief that CitNOW’s solutions can create more honest, open and transparent relationships between car dealerships and customers.
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 Horsburgh, CitNOW’s former CEO, now Chief Revenue Officer. “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.”
The CitNOW Group 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 the CitNOW Group complete its acquisition of showroom software firm Dealerweb. In June 2021, the Group continued to expand its global footprint with the acquisition of two automotive software providers, Reef Business Systems and US-based Quik.
To accelerate the Group’s expansion, Tenzing has supported CitNOW with some updates to its management team. Geoffrey Page-Morris was appointed CEO in June 2021, with Alistair moving to become Chief Revenue Officer. Andrew Vaughan has joined the board as Chair.