Steve Rigby thinks big. Over the past ten years he has helped to create more than £500 million in value for his family business Rigby Group – one of the UK’s top ten private companies – Steve now wants to help build the UK.
Rigby Group it is now a second generation family business. “My father, although not well known, was one of the top 50 businessmen of his generation,” says Steve. “It leaves big strides,” but as Steve admits, it has advantages: “I have the beauty of experience, which comes from my father’s successes and mistakes, combined with my own 35 years of effort and a financial security that allows some bold decisions.”
Steve is already doing enough. Among other things, he is a member of the Board of Family Business UK, a national judge this year for EY Entrepreneur of the Year, chairman of the Rigby Foundation and a long-term supporter of Place2Bemost recently as Chair of the charity’s development board.
These public efforts are part of Steve’s efforts to drive more long-term thinking. A recent outcry in the world of politics involved a topic he is particularly passionate about: family businesses. As he wrote about The times: “only 12 UK companies in the global 500, compared to 78 in Germany, 32 in France and 20 in Italy. The Rigby Group is one of fewer than 500 organizations with more than 250 employees who have moved to second generation”.
It calls for business support programs to help others who want to pass their businesses on to the next generation. He was also involved in the calls to make all spending permanent (which was subsequently done in the recent Autumn Statement) and to increase the eligibility limit for the Business Investment Scheme to companies with 499 employees.
More broadly it wants to answer some big questions, such as: What is the ideal form of our economy? What business mix do we want? What is the role of public markets? How do we encourage entrepreneurship? What is the role of venture capital? Where are our universities and IP? Are we embracing capitalism as a country?
In terms of business conditions, Rigby sees profound technological change on the horizon and believes the UK must be ready to deliver. “Traditional capital investment models are changing,” he says, pointing to more customer-centric, user-focused technologies. “Artificial intelligence will only accelerate this technology shift, with knowledge workers the most affected.”
This is both an opportunity and a risk. Innovation is waiting to be facilitated, but those who fail to invest in it will be left behind, while those who do will lead. Rigby wants the UK to be in the latter group of nations. This is why he advocates for UK pension funds to actively invest in start-ups and new technologies. That’s why he wants to see more government help for British innovators in their ambitions to go global. and that is why he wants private companies to be given more space to operate because they are in a better position to put long-term thinking into practice.
Who can blame him for wanting and expecting a more bullish investment environment? In 2021, a single Canadian pension fund invested more in one UK private company than the entire UK pensions industry invested in all UK private companies.
As you might expect, Steve is confident that Rigby Group will remain a leader in private equity technology investment. “We intend to remain a private mega cap company,” says Steve. “At the heart is SCC – our £3.5bn IT services business with 7,500 colleagues across five countries. We will also continue our private investment activity, which is creating the next UK tech titans. We will support all of this with our philanthropy and external affairs efforts, ensuring that we share our success and experience.”
When asked about his advice for younger entrepreneurs, he says that capital and time are the most important commodities: “The better the idea, the more you can access capital and cheat time. Be clear about your product market fit, overall addressable market and your differentiation. Apply your talent and your time equally, but preserve yourself and your integrity.’ He believes that setting a clear vision is key: “Don’t be afraid to break the norm, and while the compassion of colleagues should be considered, leadership is about making bold decisions, breaking new ground and charting a clear course.”
Ultimately though, when asked about his greatest achievement: “Family should always be the answer. Why all this without legacy and continuity?’