Finding a worthy successor for Macom

Macom is now part of a huge construction company and the deal will help the consultancy achieve its international aims. Paul Milligan speaks to its MD Oliver Mack.

In building a respected name for the last 20 years, it was perhaps obvious that AV consultancy Macom would attract the interests of larger companies looking to add an experienced and skilled AV element to their portfolio. Based in Stuttgart, but with six other offices in Germany and one in London too, Macom has been known primarily for AV design and AV engineering. In the last decade it has developed a more consultative approach says managing director Oliver Mack.

“We wanted to go into the business processes of our customers, starting with process analysis, and then translate that into technical solutions, and then technical designs and quality management, so we could get closer to the business of our customers.” Three years ago Macom created a service solution business, where it extended its services to the operational phase of the lifecycle of the systems during the typical construction process. “With the final commissioning you give the key to the user and as a consultant you're out of the game. What we have seen from our customers is an increasing need to look at the professional operation of the systems because the spending in AV and IT equipment has increased a lot in the last few years. AV is becoming a more productive factor in how businesses were being run. For example, if Teams is not running, and the systems are not running, a hybrid organisation can't work productively.”

Image L-R: Peter Junker (associate partner Drees & Sommer), Oliver Mack (MD macom), Gabriele Walker-Rudolf (partner Drees & Sommer), Björn Jensen (founder macom). pic © Drees & Sommer SE.

Macom is 100% owned by two shareholders, Mack and the company’s founder Bjorn Jensen. Having turned down previous interest from real estate and large AV companies, the news came through just before ISE 2023 that Macom was to become a 100% subsidiary of international construction and real estate company Drees & Sommer. For those who don’t know the name, Drees & Sommer currently employs more than 4,500 people at 51 locations worldwide, and in 2021 it generated sales of €575 million. Like Macom, it’s HQ is in Stuttgart.

The decision was a careful but deliberate one and was made for a number of reasons. “We had no financial issues,” says Mack. “We didn't seek an investor, but two points came together. As an entrepreneur your company is like your child. When you start a company it's like the birth of a child, you grow and care for the child, when the child gets older it hopefully has its own children and carries on.” Mack and Jensen are both in their early 50s, and while still fully motivated to run a business, they began to think about an eventual successor for the company. “If you have an accident or you get ill, we need a successor, many entrepreneurs, especially in our industry forget to think about this. A lot of entrepreneurs in Germany are 70 or 75 and still run businesses because they haven’t put someone in place from the next generation. This is a huge risk for a business you’ve helped grow like a child,” says Mack.

This deal was never about money says Mack, and selling to an venture capitalist was never an option. “We have a loyalty to our employees; they trust us 100%, it's like a family, we have to show them we are a trusted partner, and have a vision for each of our employees from a personal perspective. A capital investor is only interested in EBIT optimisation within five to seven years, and then manages the company in a more cost and EBIT-driven attitude. We have always invested in the company, we have a clear vision for the future, we wanted to develop the industry to get more professional and also build a platform for our employees to develop. We have never managed the company as EBIT driven. Therefore a capital investor was never an alternative for us, we were looking for a strategic partner.”

Drees & Sommer had a history of working with Macom on a range of different projects previously. “We were both interested in the digitalisation of buildings and the sustainability of a building’s technical infrastructure, and we had discussed many strategic issues,” says Mack. A deal made sense because the two companies shared the same value-based approach, from the board members right down to the project teams. “It felt good,” adds Mack. “This could be our strategic partner to help us follow our strategy, and our vision, i.e a company with a broader background with access to international markets and other competencies. And on the other end, it could provide us with a strategic successorship regarding the future ownership of the company. So it was a win-win situation.”

So what does this deal, and Drees & Sommer in general, provide Macom with, aside from a succession plan? Capital and reach were two key factors says Mack. “We are still in a growth phase, and growth needs capital. We only have two shareholders, so to ask the bank for €1.5 million euros to expand increases your own personal liability. Drees & Sommer is completely privately owned, and they are completely financed by their own capital. It has 50 locations, all over Europe, in Singapore, the Middle East, and also on the east coast of the US. Three years ago, they started a strategic initiative to grow internationally, and this fits perfectly to also our strategic plans to grow internationally.” Another factor was the sheer scale of Drees & Sommer’s organisation, “It’s active in 16 market sectors, it builds streets, tunnels, airports etc, it’s currently involved in one of the largest construction projects in Germany right now at Frankfurt Airport Terminal 3, they have 350 people managing just that project alone. They have hospitals and healthcare and office projects. Its philosophy is to provide the right spaces for the users. According to its real estate business, no building in the future will be without a digital element, that could be building automation or the services that building provides to its users, whether it's an AV conference or collaboration services, room booking services”

This deal can also help Macom extend its range of competencies says Mack: “We were always focusing on AV and collaborative systems. We have competence in IT security, and in network design but we never promoted it as we always were focusing on our core competence. Our philosophy is
to always have 100% of core competence in-house, not working with subcontractors or freelancers etc. Now we can extend this because Drees & Sommer has around 100 IT consultants looking at building security and IT design.”

above: Oliver Mack


So what will Macom look like in the near future under this new ownership? “In the beginning of this partnership, we’ll focus on future workspace projects because there we can start in a very beginning of the process with a consulting approach which covers workspace consulting, space design, interior design, process consulting with digital consulting, as a 360-degree consulting approach for our clients. And then we can provide the complete lifecycle, developing standards, modular systems, helping them to roll out the standards to operate the systems and also bring additional competencies such as sustainability issues,” says Mack.

Even though it has become part of a much larger organisation, the Macom name will remain visible confirms Mack, “We built up a niche brand reputation, and therefore it would make no sense to change the brand name.”


below:  Macom founder Bjorn Jensen




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