The founder and chief exeutive of Welsh broker Moorhouse loves his buzz words, especially the ones he makes up himself. Ellen Bennett talks to a man committed to ‘hypergrowth’, ‘reverse engineering’ and ‘a blended approach’
It must be nice to be Lyndon Wood. The founder and chief executive of Welsh broker Moorhouse doesn’t worry about a thing, and doesn’t have any failings, apart from an aversion to household tasks. Or so he tells Insurance Times, on a flying visit to London from his home in Caerphilly.
Wood made headlines 18 months ago with a well-timed press release sent out in a slow news week in January unveiling a strategy bafflingly called “hypergrowth”. This involved a self-imposed target of taking the broker to £100m GWP by 2010. This was fighting talk: but then came the recession.
Today, in his first interview since the economic landscape made its seismic shift, Wood admits he won’t meet the target – but remains strikingly upbeat with big plans for the business he founded, not to mention another eight he has set up along the way.
Wood has a fairly well-rehearsed story: he’s one of the market’s self-made men. Fell into insurance, couldn’t stand handing half his commission over to an employer, and set up on his own in his frontroom when he was 19. “That was August 1990, the start of the last recession,” he says rapidly, in a staccato Welsh lilt. “In hindsight, would you do it again? It’s a recession, interest rates are 40%, you can’t get an agency for love nor money, 100% of people would go ‘no thanks’.”
Indeed, but he must have done something right because the business is now a respectable size. To the end of 30 September last year turnover was £8.3m with a net profit of £1.1m. So what has been the secret of his success? “Proactiveness,” he answers – a word he uses a lot. “I consult many businesses and the successful ones are successful because they’re proactive.”
So what’s this “hypergrowth” business all about, then? “It’s a phrase I thought of myself,” he says. “I’ve not read it anywhere else.” Apparently, it simply means growing at double the standard rate of other businesses – around 40%. Everything in the business is geared towards growth, through something called “reverse engineering”. Does this relentless focus on growth come at the expense of customer care? “Absolutely not, it’s all part of the growth strategy,” he says. “You have to have a blended approach, otherwise your growth strategy will not fulfil itself.”
It’s obvious that Wood likes business-speak and catchy phrases. So does he subscribe to any particular business philosophy? “My own,” he smiles. “It’s a bit off the wall sometimes, but no different to some good chief execs I’ve seen. I’m impatient, I have a lack of attention span. I want things done now, not tomorrow. I want things done the day before yesterday … the worst trait anyone can have is hanging around on decisions.”
Does that make him difficult to work for? “It takes a certain person to work directly with me,” he acknowledges. “However, those who do work directly with me reap rewards personally, in terms of development. I love taking people out of their comfort zone and keeping things very real. I tell it how it is.”
With this superb self-confidence, it is difficult to get Wood to admit that the recession has knocked his growth plans off course. “Profits went according to plan, premium didn’t,” he says, pointing out that today’s £42m GWP still represents significant growth. “And it’s profit that counts. It’s bizarre that companies quote premium rather than profit.” Why then did he very publicly set himself a premium target? “Because that’s how the market works.”
When pressed, he does admit that he will not add £58m to his premium in the next 12 months – but adds: “If we did make a strategic acquisition, then it would be achievable.”
Moorhouse also has XBroker, an online wholesaler – though Wood famously doesn’t like the word wholesale (“there are just some words I don’t like, and that’s one of them”). It has 3,500 users, and further development planned in the coming months.
There can be no doubt that Moorhouse is a successful regional broker without debt – an attractive proposition for any consolidator.
But Wood has refused plenty of offers to sell – “I haven’t achieved my ambition yet. I don’t know what it is, but I haven’t achieved it” – and has also decided against going down the private equity route. This has left him with time on his hands to start up another eight businesses, from a property company to an online management portal, via a salon and spa. A short attention span, indeed.
Remarkably for someone with this many business variables on his plate, he claims to have no major concerns. “What do I worry about?” he asks incredulously. “I don’t worry about anything.”
But there must be some negatives to offset this relentless optimism and staggering self belief. What are his failings? “I’m no good at cleaning my house,” he laughs. But seriously, what are his failings? “In terms of business, I can’t really spot a big failing,” he says.
In his spare time – which he does have, despite all those businesses – the 38-year-old Wood enjoys mixed martial arts and spending time with his four children.
Over the next 12 months, it’s business as usual with a continued focus on growth. “We’re going to carry on doing what we’re doing, stick with the core, stick with the business,” he says. You have to admire Wood for creating a business from nothing, and for his sheer determination.
He certainly does.