The story of Redhill’s first acquisition

26 Jan 2022 | Author:

Welcome on board, CCG!

2022 is kicking off with a bang for us. Today, the Hong Kong-based Creative Consulting Group (CCG), led by the very capable and experienced Belinda Chan, officially joins our Redhill family. This also marks Redhill’s first-ever acquisition — a huge milestone for us.

This move is very exciting for us because of the sheer potential we’ll be able to unlock. With CCG in our stable, Redhill will now have a much stronger presence in Hong Kong, China and Taiwan. We can do more work for and bring more value to clients in these regions, which are growing very quickly and generating high interest across markets and industries.

The same is true for CCG. They’ll be able to tap into Redhill’s global network for their clients. If there’s a client in Hong Kong looking to expand into other markets, the team can leverage the Redhill platform and work with our local teams to make it happen. This creates a multiplier effect for their clients as we can amplify their goals from Estonia all the way to Australia.

How it happened

In 2017, I wrote an article called “Don’t settle for Boutique”. It was about how we knew, when we started Redhill, that we were never going to settle for just being a ‘small’, ‘boutique’ or ‘startup’ agency.

Even from day one, we wanted to be a global agency with strong Asian roots. We had two main goals:

i) Find opportunities to grow across regions

ii) Invest in strong local talent in all markets we were present in

We began by establishing new offices in different markets. After that, we started looking into acquisitions.

We were first introduced to Belinda and CCG two years ago. We worked together with them on various projects for different clients — including the Relaunch Hong Kong tender in 2020 — and found that there was a lot of synergy between our teams and in our business objectives.

CCG wanted to expand their network, and we wanted a stronger presence in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Both of us also felt that there was a lot of growth potential in these markets that we could leverage together.

So, after many discussions and back-and-forths with bankers and lawyers, here we are today.

A different M&A story

The common merger and acquisition (M&A) practice for most network agencies is to acquire an up-and-coming agency, then take full charge and assimilate it.

When this happens, the culture often becomes monolithic and the agency being acquired loses what made it special. This is especially so when Western-headquartered network agencies acquire Asian entities; there’s often an expectation that the culture and practices should change to follow HQ.

Part of this is because many acquirers look at new agencies as a financial asset first. The initial question is ‘how many millions will it add to our revenue?’ But this is a very finance-first way of approaching an acquisition and ignores the nuances of integration.

Another M&A avenue is earnouts, where the business sellers receive more compensation if the business hits future targets. We also explored this, but ultimately felt it ignored the idea that founders might still want to be involved with the business and watch it grow.

We knew, when we started Redhill, that we were never going to settle for just being a ‘small’, ‘boutique’ or ‘startup’ agency. Even from day one, we wanted to be a global agency with strong Asian roots.

Redhill has always done things differently. Since we started seven years ago, our focus has always been people and culture first. This time was no different.

I didn’t want Redhill to take over and revamp the outstanding work that CCG was already doing in its markets. We knew the value that Belinda and her team would bring. I wanted Belinda herself to continue with CCG and grow the outfit, as well as play an increasingly greater role in Redhill overall.

So, I said to her: “Let’s look for a different way to work together.”

Playing to our strengths

CCG has a very successful track record over the last 20 years because of its great team. We didn’t and don’t want to make any significant changes in that team because it’s what made them successful.

Instead, we’ll work together to ensure that we’re delivering more effective services and products to our clients. Most of the integration will focus on getting the tech infrastructure right — especially with PR moving towards becoming a more tech-based industry — and centralising backoffice functions like finance and human resources. There will also be more streamlined processes for better workflow.

Beyond that, though Redhill has different teams and offices all over the world, we’ve always worked as one organisation. That philosophy will stay the same no matter how many acquisitions we make, now and in the future. We run our business as one unit, and now Belinda and her team are part of it.

Looking towards the future

This is a very exciting next chapter for Redhill. The first acquisition is always special, but it’s by no means the last. We’re already in similar talks with three other agencies, so watch this space. There’s no shortage of opportunities for everyone at Redhill.

It might seem ambitious, but I’ve always believed in thinking big. There should be no self-limitation on how fast and where we can grow. I often tell my team, “If you shoot for the stars, even if you fall and land on the top of a coconut tree, that’s a good place to be too.”

Asia is the largest market in the world and there’s still enormous capacity for growth. As Asians, we know better than anyone how deeply personal reputation can be. We understand it and now we have the skills to manage, build and nurture it. There is strength in unity. We can do so much more and grow faster together by joining forces.

Our goals are global, but our hearts are still Asian, with firm roots in Singapore. We’ll always have that Asian culture and character in the way we operate and deal with clients. That won’t change — no matter how fast we grow or how far we go.

TOPIC(S) : Business Redhill