As a company, Visma wants to achieve sustainable growth, which we are willing to buy other IT suppliers for. Since it designated the Benelux as a strategic growth market in 2018, the company more than 40 IT parties from our market. Why is Visma taking over so many companies, and what is the vision behind it? We talked about it with Benelux Area Director John Reynders and Benelux M&A Manager Marijn van Baar.
When we look at Visma’s business strategy, it’s basically about “a mix that facilitates growth in a very sustainable way,” Reynders explains. In particular, the Scandinavian software company is acquiring “healthy, growing cloud companies that deliver mission-critical software”. Then it supports innovation speed, customer satisfaction, security and new market opportunities to accelerate organic growth. If Visma software is turned off in an organization, the organization will no longer function simply to emphasize its critical nature.
Visma has built up a solid market position in the Benelux with this type of software. “It has enabled us to grow 20 percent very sustainably and consistently for 21 years in a row. Very stable, both in economic progress and bad times,” says Reynders about the course, which is set at a higher level.
The Visma family leads the way
Reynders also sees that the market sees Visma as a party that makes ongoing acquisitions. He points out that it is mainly about building a Visma family, where growth is promoted. “We want to turn the flywheel for value creation. Many people immediately think of shareholders, but the first target group that comes to mind is the employee. What happens when you become a member of the Visma family is that you become part of the larger group. It offers many development opportunities for people. On the one hand, because the group one can learn from is growing. Then you join Visma as a club with several hundred employees, you suddenly have 15,000 colleagues at your disposal, of which 5,000 are co-developers. In addition, there are career opportunities to look further within Visma. ”
The second facet that Reynders takes into account is value creation for customers. This means that a lot of attention is paid to making an acquired software vendor stronger, accelerating innovation and strengthening security. In addition, Visma is looking at whether products can be combined and, if necessary, building integrations with other solutions within the portfolio. “Only then will the shareholders come. They see that it is a good investment, “Reynders refers to the previous acquisition benefits.
What requirements must the software solution meet?
Benelux M&A Manager Marijn van Baar adds that Visma is looking at a number of characteristics for taking over IT suppliers. “What matters is that you can maintain your position as an independent company and that you can manage independence. It requires a certain scale. So we are looking for companies that have passed the start-up phase in the basics. Scale, however, is not a tough requirement. For example, it may happen that an existing Visma company, due to a strategic fit, comes up with the idea of talking to a particular club that is in a start-up phase. If they take good care of us and are open to it, it is an opportunity. ”
What Visma emphasizes in potential acquisitions is to demonstrate that a company achieves sustainable growth. “It’s with modern technology, so cloud companies. And they have the security in order. At these companies, the employees are completely on board and enthusiastic about their company, ”explains Van Baar.
In addition, Visma searches as much as possible for technology related to local knowledge, legislation and rules and complexity. “We do hyperlocation. It puts us in a different position than the global players who want to roll out their products across hundreds of countries and who can do a bit of everything,” says Reynders.
The profile of the ideal acquisition target can also lead to the acquisition taking place after a few years. “Mergers and acquisitions do not happen overnight, timing is important, from both sides. The structure of the company must also be good. It can only take a few years before we get together. There are examples of companies that we have been in dialogue with for ten years. When the moment was the right one, we were very happy that we found each other, “explains Van Baar. The timing must therefore be right, also because Visma intends to continue with a potential acquisition target. “We are not a tent that buys, optimizes and resells. That’s why we talk so much about the Visma family. Once you are a family, you remain a family.”
Finding your way in the family
When a takeover actually takes place, Visma makes it a point to welcome the new ‘family member’. Visma organizes itself around the new company, and not the other way around. First, Visma will talk to the founders and the C level to determine the key challenges and opportunities that need support. Within Visma, about five people are being sought who can best support these challenges and opportunities. “They form the first ring around the new Visma company and are committed to investing time and energy in further growth,” says Reynders.
Reynders describes the second ring as Visma hubs. “We have tech hubs, growth hubs and business hubs. They are small cells with the ninjas in that domain. So in tech hubs are people who know everything about artificial intelligence, machine learning and modern software development technology. We have 21 tech hubs fully available “We have the same in growth and business. If an organization grows out of its business system, for example, there is expertise to help,” Reynders explains.
A third support option is to offer the entire network of Visma companies. There are now 170. Visma encourages the exchange of knowledge and facilitates networking. “That way, companies can learn from each other and find new business opportunities,” says Reynders.
Autonomy and entrepreneurship
After falling under the Visma umbrella, companies will have great freedom of choice in continuing their existence, the two gentlemen emphasize. The starting point is always autonomy and entrepreneurship, says Reynders. “We add the Visma magic to it to increase a company’s health and value delivery. There are situations where Visma companies decide to do business together, but nothing is imposed from the top. So we are not saying that party-a and party-b should go together. These decisions are made jointly by the entrepreneurs. ”
Area Director Benelux adds that there is also freedom of choice in rebranding. “Many companies already have a nice strong brand that they are loyal to. But a company can get ‘a company in Visma’ after the name or Visma comes before the name. Another step is to call the company Visma completely. ”
The choice of branding can help a lot, Reynders says. An example that he mentions is Yuki, which was acquired in 2020. Initially, Yuki wanted to keep its own name completely, but after market research, it turned out that the company realizes more sales talks by being called Visma Yuki. According to Reynders, the Visma brand can give a boost, among other things, due to the name recognition of the sports team Team Jumbo-Visma. Area Director Benelux in particular sees companies with internationalization ambitions benefiting from adding the Visma brand to the name. “For example, companies that essentially operate in the Belgian market but want to expand to the Netherlands. Such parties have seen an 80 percent increase in the number of customers inviting them. ”
Extension of experience from Scandinavia to the Netherlands and Belgium
Visma has now let more than 100 companies take this path internationally. First in Scandinavia, but since 2018, Benelux has been actively added. The company started this step from Scandinavia, but quickly came to the conclusion that local presence is important to accelerate. It is difficult for the M&A department to handle several markets at the same time, partly because the local network is difficult to establish and maintain. That’s why Reynders and Van Baar came to Visma in 2019.
Reynders and Van Baar noticed when they started that the Visma brand was less well known. In the early years, they had to tell their story much more often than they do now. Companies are already often familiar with Visma. “There were in-depth investments, starting with Team Jumbo-Visma, which has been very valuable. It made Visma more interesting as a party for entrepreneurs. Not only as a great software club to join, but also as an aid in attracting new employees. We are in a sector where it is difficult to find good people. If the entrepreneurs join Visma and the brand is there, the influx of new people will grow, ”says Reynders.
Van Baar also points out that the formula of putting entrepreneurs and people first is a unique proposal. From his background, he saw various parties in the market that fully focus on integration and use venture capitalists. This creates a different dynamic for employees, customers and market access.
Acquisitions are in DNA
The men therefore see differences in relation to their starting period at Visma. The growth strategy and steps of recent years have even led to the recent acquisition of Teamleader. This party is the largest local work management provider in the Benelux. “We are extremely proud of the latest addition to the family. Team Leader has all the terms and conditions we discussed earlier. It is super modern technology and a fantastic brand in the Belgian and Dutch market. It really is a very enthusiastic organization. The management with Jeroen de Wit as CEO and his management team is solid and eager to continue. They are entering the next decade with the company and are also on the business-critical software, ”said Reynders.
For us, the Teamleader acquisition has shown that the bar is set high for growth through acquisitions. We are therefore excited about what Visma will do in the future, because the company is certainly not ready yet.
also read: Visma takes over the Belgian Team Leader