For the occasion, we interviewed Fiorenzo Tagliabue, founder and Group CEO of SEC Newgate and Tom Parker, founder and Executive Chairman of former Cambre Associates (now SEC Newgate EU) and Deputy Group CEO of SEC Newgate to discuss that day and talk about what has happened over the past decade
Q. Fiorenzo, why did you decide to start an international expansion process and why begin specifically in Brussels?
FT: SEC was, at the time, a flourishing agency in Italy, but after 20 years we had reached our tipping point. We wanted to further expand, but it was clear to me that it would have been difficult to chase organic growth in the country. At the same time, some of our customers (both Italian and international) were urging us to support them with issues at EU level. Those were the two factors that prompted me to try to conclude a first deal in Brussels.
Q. Tom, why did you decide to integrate an Italian company 10 years ago?
TP: We were approached to sell on a number of occasions, including by some of the biggest players in our sector. However, until we were approached by SEC we never felt persuaded by the fit that was being proposed to be part of a bigger group. Listening to Fiorenzo and his vision, we understood that our business in Brussels would play a central role in its ambitious growth plans and mission to create a leading global firm with its heart in Europe. We identified with a firm that shared our ambition, had very similar professional experience and common values of professionalism.
Q. After signing the deal, did you imagine that in just a decade the Group would have expanded that much?
FT: Never. It was clear since the beginning that Cambre was the right agency and Tom the kind of entrepreneur that could support me and the group (we didn’t call it that way at that time) in its expansion, but I would have never imagined achieving the footprint we have today. As Horace wrote “well begun is half done” (a saying we frequently use in Italy). I think this first deal was an excellent beginning that boosted many others that formed the framework of the Group as we all know it today.
TP: We always had the aspiration to be a global player but it is fair to say that none of us could have expected how much we have grown in the past decade. Fortunately, with an experienced leadership team and the right business partners we have been able to seize the opportunities that have come our way. This has led to a proverbial snowball of success, which has put us in the strong position we find ourselves today and from which we intend to develop even further in the coming years.
Q. What are the achievements you are most proud of?
FT: I should say that one of the most important achievements is that Tom is still in the Group, now as Executive Chairman of SEC Newgate EU (which he founded) and deputy Group CEO of SEC Newgate Group. 10 years ago Feriel Saouli was also a member of Cambre team and has grown together with the agency to become its current CEO. I’m really proud that they’re such an important part of the present and the future of the Group. We all know this is a people business and we have to allow space for our talent to expand and realize their full potential.
TP: Although by far not the largest, I am tremendously proud of the role the Brussels office has played as a catalyst for new ideas and new business within the Group. That being said, the fact that the Group has grown to become a leading player in Europe, Australia, Asia and the Americas (with ambitions well beyond) is a massive achievement and is also something I am very proud to have been a central part of.
Q. The acquisition of Cambre Associates (now SEC Newgate EU) marked the beginning of a fast-paced internationalization process for the Group. What are the lessons learned over these 10 years?
FT: The key learning is to always focus on people and take care of them. The acquisition approach of the SEC Newgate Group is quite peculiar and different to other big Groups: we privilege agencies whose CEO has a distinctive entrepreneurial spirit, who is willing to remain in the lead long after the deal and who cares about their agencies and the people who work there. Those are the CEOs who are spurred on to keep growing their businesses, leveraging all the advantages of being part of an international group.
Secondly, what I have learnt is that you need to have a clear plan. With clear ideas, a solid strategy and a good narrative one can obtain almost anything in business.
Q. What are the lessons learned over these 10 years of being part of a growing international Group?
TP: Have a vision, expect knock backs – so be tenacious, and empower your people to realize their full potential by creating an environment that encourages new ideas and accepts failure, in order become wiser and better.
Q. What’s in the pipeline for the next 10 years?
FT: In the next 10 years, I see the SEC Newgate Group becoming the world leader in corporate communications and public affairs Also, I want the Group to be in the TOP 10 of global rankings and see a team of younger professionals sharing a strong commitment to the future of the Group and a similar vision for our business. On a personal note, in 10 years I’d like to see myself retired.