Mottie Kessler: Building a Giant Quietly

As featured in Business Insider 2015

Mottie Kessler isn’t a loud entrepreneur, but his calm and measured delivery is underpinned by sharp focus and vision. Over a decade, chemicals conglomerate 2M has made its ascent, bringing together seven companies as part of a buy-and-build strategy. The group now has a £110m turnover, selling into 75 countries. And it all started with a phone call.

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Mottie Kessler, Chairman, CEO and Founder of 2M Holdings

“Petroferm acquired Banner Chemicals in 1999 and after five years decided they wanted to get out of chemical distribution,” he says. “They called me and asked if I knew anyone who wanted to buy the business. I thought it was an opportunity to build something independent.”

At the time, Kessler, a former chemicals engineer, was working for the American industrial gas company Praxair, but saw a gap in the market to apply strategy and management practice from big companies into smaller, privately owned businesses, without losing their dynamism.

Banner Chemicals, a supplier of solvents based in Runcorn, was the first deal and 2M was born in 2004. Kessler co-founded the company with Ieuan Thomas and borrowed money from RBS to get up and running. The plan was to build a series of internationally branded chemicals distribution and service companies, building on expertise and the potential for exports.

Then came a knock on the door. The London Development Agency (LDA) wanted Banner’s storage site in East London as part of the Olympic Park development and gave him a year to find another site. It was tempting to cash out on the deal, pay down the debt and walk away, but Kessler hadn’t even got started. “I didn’t leave a public company, to risk my own money in a 100-year-old business, just to close it down,” he says.

He relocated Banner’s facility to Middlesbrough, acquired MP Storage and invested £5m on the site. The deal with the LDA was done and the money used to pay down the original debt. The show could go on.

“People remembered it as the place they’d get shouted at. I said ‘I’m not shouting, that’s not the culture here.’”

In 2007, the deal to buy Surfachem, based in Leeds, came across Kessler’s desk and took the business into household cleaning and personal care. This time it was Yorkshire Bank that stepped up to the plate.

img-02Kessler says: “Both companies were doing well. Our strategy is not turnaround; it’s to identify a good business and make it excellent.” This is the holy grail of buy-and-build, but it’s not always achieved because of difficulties integrating cultures, making efficiencies and enough profit.

In 2M, the businesses remain standalone, but speak to each other and share expertise. Kessler likens it to “a large army with smaller commander units”. He says: “We have small dedicated groups operating as profit centres. They manage their relationships with suppliers and will have sales teams focused on their industry.

“The common denominator is the infrastructure behind that: manufacturing, laboratories and sharing of product know-how. This enables these businesses to operate on a daily basis without the interference of the 2M board.”

This is important to Kessler, who is trying to move to a model whereby decision-making is delegated. An open culture is important, he says, to enable people to speak out and identify where improvements could have been made. The transparency also allows business directors to see how other areas are performing and provide feedback.

“Before I acquired it, Banner Chemicals was centrally run, autocratic, with less freedom of decision-making,” he says. “When we converted the old chairman’s room into a boardroom, people used to feel uncomfortable because they remembered it as the place they would get shouted at and told where they were going wrong. I said: ‘I’m not shouting, that’s not the culture here.’”

Kessler adds: “There is no way you can grow your business without empowering people. You have to give them the tools; it’s about working with the people that are there and helping them. Of all the companies we have acquired, two people have left.”

“The expectation is to list 25 per cent of the company on AIM and use the proceeds to support acquisitions.”

The other side of this coin is technology, which enables what he calls the flow of information around the business. “On a practical basis you can call me more of a business development manager,” he says. “While everyone is focusing on their area, I see my role as helping to shape the strategy, and looking around the world to see where we can grow. There is an ongoing inflow of information. It takes me less than five minutes in the morning and the evening to know how the business is performing and if there are any alarm signs.”

This way of doing business looks to be working. 2M has since acquired a packed chlorine business from Ineos and Leicester-based chemicals supplier Stowlin Croftshaw. The group also owns West Sample Right, based in West Yorkshire.

EBITDA is north of £7m and is continually reinvested. While 60 per cent of the growth has come from acquisitions, 40 per cent has been organic.

mk-feature-smallIn his own, measured way, Kessler is “quite pleased” with the group’s performance. He’s bought out his business partner in 2012, with the backing of Investec, and owns more than 90 per cent of the shares.

The company has extended its international footprint considerably, with people on the ground in three continents, and he’s got his eye on 12 companies at the moment. This will likely result in two or three deals in as many years, before he plans to float the company. Like I said, he’s focused.

“The expectation is to list 25 per cent of the company on AIM on day one and use the proceeds to support acquisitions already targeted,” he says. “Within five years, we’ll reduce the holding from 75 per cent to 25 per cent.” And here comes the big ambition: “There is no reason why £110m won’t be a £1bn.”

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About 2M Holdings

As featured in Chemicals North West 2015

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MP Storage & Blending facility in Middlesbrough with onsite Laboratory

2M Holdings was founded by Mottie Kessler in 2004, the present Chairman and CEO, with a long term objective to grow an international chemicals distribution portfolio based on excellent companies with strong brands. 

2m-advert-small2M Holdings includes a portfolio of branded companies of chemical distribution and related chemical services of sample management, storage and blending.

2M Holdings has customers worldwide and is headquartered in the UK and with subsidiaries in: China, Benelux, Ireland, Poland, Scandinavia and Brazil.

2M Holdings’ business focus is on automotive, precision cleaning, coating, emission reduction AdBlue, oil-field & refineries, flavours & fragrances and surfactants for: personal-care, household & industrial hygiene cleaning and pharmaceuticals.

2M Holdings Companies produce AdBlue, SamSol Products, Packed Chlorine (cylinders and drums) and TRIKLONE™ & PERKLONE™ (Chlorinated Solvents).

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Banner Chemicals win Health, Safety and Environment Award

As featured in FECC Newletter March/April 2015

Stephen James, MD of Witt Obrien’s Ltd, the sponsors of the Health & Safety Award and David Dalton, Group Compliance Director for Banner Chemicals and its parent company, 2M Holdings Ltd

Stephen James, MD of Witt Obrien’s Ltd, the sponsors of the Health & Safety Award and David Dalton, Group Compliance Director for Banner Chemicals and its parent company, 2M Holdings Ltd

Banner Chemicals, one of 2M’s subsidiaries, has won the Health, Safety & Environment Award by Chemicals Northwest.

The award is for Banner Chemicals’ special initiative in ensuring safer packaging practices along the supply chain, in accordance with the ADR regulations for appropriate ullage space, preventing leakage during transit or storage. The initiative goes further than regulatory requirements, by extending the principles to chemicals that are not classified as hazardous. This extension is in line with 2M Group’s mission to improve the public perception of the Chemical Industry.

Banner Chemicals’ initiative has included writing guidelines for the Solvent Industry Association (SIA), to ensure smaller businesses also have access to Best Practice information with examples of commonly used solvents in different drum sizes.

David Dalton, Group Compliance Director for Banner Chemicals and its parent company, 2M Holdings Ltd, said:

Chemicals-North-West and SIA“We are all ambassadors for the Chemical Industry and take Health and Safety very seriously – it is our responsibility to share our expertise where we can and we work extensively with the SIA and other organisations to do that.”

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Mottie Kessler Chemical Boss Scoops International Accolade

As featured in Runcorn Weekly News 2015

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The boss of a chemical distribution firm based in Runcorn has been named the North West’s Global Director Of The Year at an awards bash held by the Institute Of Directors (IOD).

Mottie Kessler, chairman and chief executive of 2M Holdings was presented with the gong by Paul Stowers, of UK Trade And Industry, and Colin Murray, sport broadcaster, at Manchester’s Midlands Hotel.

Mr Kessler founded the international branded chemical distribution company, based on Tudor Road, in 2004, and has been at the centre of building a portfolio of five branded firms across seven international locations and exporting to 65 countries.

He will now proceed to the national IOD contest to be held in London later this year.

iod-awards-mediumMore than 250 businesspeople from the North West gathered at the event, with a total of 13 awards presented on the night across a range of categories to highlight the strength of the region’s science, technology, media and infrastructure sectors.

Mike Perls, IOD North West chairman, said: “This year’s winners reflect the strength of the North West’s key industries including science, technology, telecoms and infrastructure as well as the fast-growing content community.

“They have all proven themselves to be innovative directors who are the driving force behind their organisations and their inspirational success stories under-line the positive impact that business leaders have on the region’s economy.”

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2M Holdings certified members of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil

As featured in FECC Newsletter February 2015

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As part of our dedication to ensuring a sustainable supply chain, 2M Holdings are proud to be certified by the RSPO Supply Chain Certification System for “Purchasing, Storage, Distribution and Processing of Certified Palm Oil and Palm Oil derived Oleochemicals”.

RSPO certified products will be available across the group, with Surfachem UK, a major player in the cosmetic and personal care market and a subsidiary of 2M, leading the way.

Fakhara Jones, Technical Director of Surfachem, said: “The RSPO Certification is a significant achievement for us. We are working closely with our principal suppliers and customers’ technical and innovation teams to offer sustainable and ethical products as alternative sources of supply wherever possible”.

The cosmetics and personal care industry, in particular, are increasingly recognising the importance of using and promoting sustainable palm oil. Palm oil is widely used in the personal care industry, but cultivating palm oil can have severe effects on rainforests, climate change, livelihood of the local people and the habitat of orang-utans and other wildlife. Public interest to see improvement and change in this area has grown significantly over the years.

Mottie Kessler, CEO and Chairman of 2M said: “We have always been dedicated to selling, distributing and blending ethical products which contribute to environmental sustainability. We are proud to be members of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil.”

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Mottie Kessler Finalist: IoD Director of the Year: Science & Innovation and Global

We are delighted that Mottie Kessler, the Chairman and CEO of 2M Holdings, is a finalist in the IoD Director of the Year awards for both the Science & Innovation and the Global Director awards.

The North West Director of the Year Awards celebrates the best of the best across British businesses and directors at the forefront of leadership excellence.

The awards aim to raise awareness of the significant contribution business leaders can make to society and to economic prosperity in our region.

About 2M Holdings Ltd:
2M Holdings was founded by Mottie Kessler in 2004, the present Chairman and CEO, with a long term objective to grow an international chemicals distribution portfolio based on excellent companies with strong brands. We are proud to have been awarded the following:
• Finalist: International Company of the Year , UK Trade and Investment and Insider Magazine, 2014
• EY Entrepreneur of the Year, 2014 Winner for Manufacturing, North, UK (Mottie Kessler), 2014
• 74 in the ICIS Top 100 Chemical Distributors, 2013
• 82 in the HSBC International Track for the UK, 2012

2M Holdings includes a portfolio of 5 branded companies of chemical distribution and related chemical services of sample management, storage and blending.
2M Holdings is a wholly owned private company, head-quartered in the UK and with an international presence in: China, Benelux, Ireland, Poland, Scandinavia and Brazil.
2M Holdings’ business focus is on automotive, precision cleaning, coating, emission reduction AdBlue, oil-field & refineries, flavours & fragrances and surfactants for: personal-care, household & industrial hygiene cleaning and pharmaceuticals.
2M Holdings Companies produce AdBlue, SamSol Products, Packed Chlorine (cylinders and drums) and TRIKLONE™ & PERKLONE™ (Chlorinated Solvents).

For further details see:

www.2m-holdings.com
www.bannerchemicals.com
www.surfachem.com
www.samplerite.com
www.mpstorage.com
www.packedchlorine.com

Colin Boyle – Finalist: Best Finance Director for 2014

We are delighted that Colin Boyle, Finance Director of our group, 2M Holdings Ltd, was short-listed Best Finance Director of A Ltd Company

The Finance Director Awards celebrate the achievements of leading individuals and businesses within the Chester, Liverpool City, North Wales & Warrington regions.

“Since its founding a decade ago, Colin has been an integral part of 2M’s leadership team, helping us grow and flourish from strength to strength” said Mottie Kessler, Chairman and CEO of 2M Holdings Ltd. “As an entrepreneur, my vision has to be rooted in strong financial foundations. Colin keeps those foundations robust and has been crucial to 2M’s success.”

The prestigious Finance Director of the Year awards recognise and celebrate the most outstanding work done by the region’s tireless Financial Directors.
Centred around the Chester, Liverpool city, North Wales & Warrington regions, the awards also pay homage to all that is good about business in the regions, including the companies who have made a real difference to the economy and employment environment.

Banner Chemicals UK acquires Stowlin Ltd

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Solutions for metals surface treatment, cleaning and phosphating

We are delighted to advise you that the shareholders of Stowlin Ltd and of Banner Chemicals Ltd UK have agreed to join forces.

Banner Chemicals Ltd UK will acquire the entire share capital of Stowlin Ltd from Mr Nigel Sullivan. We are pleased that Nigel will continue to lend his support and expertise as consultant to the business.

Stowlin’s customers will enjoy a seamless service as operations, sales and marketing activities will continue as usual from the Leicester based site.

The joint portfolio of Banner Chemicals Ltd UK’s PCS (Precision Cleaning Solutions) Business Unit and Stowlin will provide customers with an enhanced and complete range of solutions for metal surface treatment, cleaning and phosphating.

“I am delighted that Stowlin will be joining Banner Chemicals Ltd UK. Their long history and product expertise will provide a sustainable base and increased offering to our current customers, who will reap the benefits” said Mr Nigel Sullivan MD of Stowlin.

“By joining forces, we are providing our existing and future customers with access to a wider and richer product portfolio”, said Mr Mottie Kessler, Chairman & CEO of 2M Holdings Ltd, the owners of the Banner Chemicals Ltd UK Group of companies. “We are also adding Leicester to the existing Banner Chemicals Ltd UK distribution map, meaning we can reach our customers more quickly and easily, wherever they are.”

Customers for Stowlin products should continue to place orders with Stowlin and Banner Chemical Ltd UK’s PCS customers with Banner Chemicals Ltd UK. Over time, a combined offer will be developed for the benefit of both customers and suppliers.

For further information please contact:

Mr Mottie Kessler – Chairman & CEO – 2M Holdings

+44 (0) 1928 597 000

mkessler@bannerchemicals.com

Banner Chemicals UK Acquires Stowlin for Metals Surface Treatment

As featured in FECC Newsletter December 2014

stowlin_logo_med

Solutions for metals surface treatment, cleaning and phosphating

We are delighted to advise you that the shareholders of Stowlin Ltd and of Banner Chemicals Ltd UK have agreed to join forces. Banner Chemicals Ltd UK will acquire the entire share capital of Stowlin Ltd from Mr Nigel Sullivan. We are pleased that Nigel will continue to lend his support and expertise as consultant to the business. Stowlin’s customers will enjoy a seamless service as operations, sales and marketing activities will continue as usual from the Leicester based site.

The joint portfolio of Banner’s PCS (Precision Cleaning Solutions) Business Unit and Stowlin will provide customers with an enhanced and complete range of solutions for metal surface treatment, cleaning and phosphating.

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