The Specialist Group continues to grow

Sil Hoeve, Chief Executive Officer, about the acquisition of Litecad by technical secondment provider The Specialist Group that further strengthens the market leader’s position

On March 1, The Specialist Group (TSG) acquired industry peer Litecad. With Sil Hoeve as Chief Executive Officer, TSG, like Litecad, provides technical specialists in sectors such as energy, chemicals, infrastructure, renewable energy and life sciences. TSG is owned by funds managed by Oaktree Capital Management, a global investment manager with $163 billion in assets under management.

With the acquisition of Litecad, TSG increases the number of technical specialists to nearly 2,800 and thus its impact on the realization of renewable energy specifically in the northeastern part of the Netherlands. The acquisition is indicative of the strong growth TSG is experiencing and a result of the increased demand for senior technical staff to enable the energy transition.

We speak with Sil Hoeve, Chief Executive Officer of The Specialist Group about the background and rationale for the acquisition and TSG’s continued future plans.

Sil Hoeve looks into the camera smiling.

Why this acquisition?

“Our ambition is to become the market leader and the most reliable partner in Western Europe in supplying highly trained technical staff for the energy transition and sustainability. In the Netherlands and Belgium we already are, despite the highly fragmented market with many niche players. Litecad is a strong and established brand in the Northern Netherlands with approximately 150 employees. With the acquisition, we are better able to serve certain niches and help existing and new customers.” 

Where do TSG and its brands and Litecad reinforce each other?

“Especially operationally, I think the brands within The Specialist Group can strengthen each other. In our joint customer base, the requirements are quite different. It was nice to see that STAR was able to provide personnel for a project at Litecad within a week of the acquisition. So Litecad is now stronger because it can also draw from the pool of the other brands within the group. 

In the region we are strongly represented with the brands Or-Quest, STAR and now also Litecad. With these three brands and roughly 500 technical specialists, we can collaborate effectively by combining training programs, for example. These are an essential part of the career paths for our specialists. STAR and Litecad both have their own Academy. By combining them at points, we are able to offer more training opportunities in the Northern Netherlands while learning from each other how to constantly improve the quality of the training programs.”

How did the negotiations go? 

“Arjan Poppema, director at Litecad and I were pretty quick to figure out how to leverage each other’s strengths. But also how Litecad can maintain its strong and unique culture. The secondment market is pre-eminently a people business where motivation is essential. Maintaining the strong elements of the culture is key to getting the most out of the business. 

We also came to an agreement fairly quickly about the financial side of the story. We were able to fund the acquisition from our own resources. Then came the legal process, which takes a long time. But if the relationship is good and you talk to each other often, you build trust and you can also solve difficult matters together in an informal way.” 

What is TSG’s growth strategy? 

“As mentioned, we want to become the market leader in Western Europe for supplying higher technical specialists to companies working on energy transition and sustainability. Acquisitions are very important in this respect. We want to strengthen organic growth with strategic acquisitions. This can also be abroad, such as recently in Austria with the acquisition of Stadlmann Tec. In this search, we are looking not only at the energy sector but also at other technical sectors such as infra, life science, automotive and defense.

In Germany, we are currently doubling sales every year. But there, too, we would like to accelerate that process with acquisitions. To become a true European player, you have to have local knowledge. These growth ambitions could mean that we will eventually become bigger abroad than in the Netherlands. In Germany and Scandinavia in particular, I see a lot of room for growth because of the great need for personnel for the energy transition. In addition, I see opportunities in Southern and Eastern Europe. Although Western Europe is currently our focus, I do not rule out expanding in those regions in the future as well.”

Are more acquisitions in the pipeline?

“We are actively looking and it is expected that we will make more acquisitions, also internationally. However, we remain critical. The companies we are looking for must stand for quality and have a high level of ambition. No less important to me is that they must fit in with us in terms of culture, manners and compliance. Our aim is to grow into a platform of brands that clients can rely on and where specialists can trust us to continuously offer beautiful, challenging and innovative projects.”

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