Justin Cottrell founded FMP Global “from his garage” in 2005 after having spent nearly 10 years in the HR and payroll industry and spotting an opportunity in an underserved market – big companies needing payroll and HR support to open smaller international offices. From the business’s first hires being Justin’s brother and wife, it gained momentum through organic growth, then transformed exponentially following Tenzing’s investment in August 2016.
The subsequent sale of FMP Global to IRIS Software Group in August 2019 generated a 5.4x return, leading to it being named the Small Buyout Exit of the Year at the Unquote British Private Equity Awards 2020. Justin, also a licensed pilot, officially exited the business in November 2020. He is now considering his next venture post-FMP.
Analysing several offers for the business that came in from 2013 made Justin realise the importance of the right path, and the right partner. A sale in 2014 to Bond International Software highlighted the challenges of this avenue for a still dedicated and enthusiastic Founder and CEO like Justin. A lack of strategic alignment led to Justin swiftly buying back the HR and both domestic and international payroll business from Bond, which was then dissolved.
Encountering Tenzing Co-Founder and Managing Partner Christian Hamilton in his previous role made an impression on Justin, who sought Christian out when he was ready to reevaluate where next to go – even securing his contact details from a competitor.
“Tenzing are much more human and do everything with a level of humanity. They’re also very shrewd and clever. We’ve always been aligned.”
The tables had officially turned – and it was now onwards and upwards for Justin.
“I went from a situation where I had no equity in my company, back to owning a significant percentage of it, which was quite cool,” he recalls. “We worked our socks off for six months putting the deal together.”
This even involved returning to the UK from a trip to Canada just for a day to make an important presentation – but it all paid off in the end.
That first purchase offer in 2013 got Justin thinking about what accelerated growth could look like – “I began to think we needed to acquire or be acquired”, he reflects. Tenzing as an investment partner made this ambition a reality – putting Justin through his paces as a CEO.
Tenzing also helped build FMP Global’s M&A capability, evidenced by the three acquisitions it made. These include the customer contract book of PKF Cooper Parry, a domestic payroll bureau, MCN Associates, serving US businesses, and a North American payroll bureau, broadening FMP Global’s international reach.
“Without a doubt Tenzing have been able to see the bigger opportunity here. They’ve opened up a more detailed mindset of what drives a business, and the perspective that you might not be able to control the wind, but you can control the sails,” Justin remarks.
Tenzing’s value creation strategy also emphasised supporting management in re-engineering FMP Global’s marketing plan to fuel growth, with a specific focus on lead generation from Tenzing’s Entrepreneurs Panel.
From September 2018, Justin began considering his exit from the business, with the feeling he’d “optimised everything” he could, and the time to move on was fast approaching – culminating in his official exit in November 2020.
“We started this business from the garage and worked out of it for five years. But this business changed people’s lives. And everyone at Tenzing made a difference,” Justin comments.
“I hope this isn’t my last big venture. I want to make this a foundation for me. It’s changed how I look at things.”