FEATURE10 July 2019

Q&A with Quentin Ashby, chief executive, Join the Dots

Europe M&A News North America UK

Following the news that it has been acquired by InSites Consulting, Research Live caught up with Join the Dots chief executive Quentin Ashby, to find out more about the deal.

Quentin ashby crop

What was the background to the deal? How long have you been looking for a buyer?
We weren’t looking for a buyer. We were on a trajectory to grow the business, but we’d spent six months with InSites and in that time we realised they were a great company. We knew them already and had a lot of respect for them, so when they approached us we were not looking to sell the business – obviously you have long term strategies – but not at this moment in time.

They’re one of the few agencies that if they had approached us we would take them seriously. The more we spoke to them, the more we realised our strategies aligned and that it would be a good thing to get the businesses together.

Why now? Was there anything particular about the market conditions at the moment?
No, not the market conditions – the two strategies aligned and both businesses are on a global trajectory. InSites are ahead of us on that so we’ve accelerated our ability to serve our clients globally.

The importance of technology within the industry is increasing, and the two businesses combining gives us more fire power in that area. We’re both people businesses; we’ve been able to combine two really strong teams of researchers, technical people and support staff together.

It made a lot of sense. Parts of our offer will enhance what InSites Consulting can do; parts of the InSites Consulting offer will enhance what we can do.

InSites is looking to become the ‘market leader’ in online communities, but what does it bring to the table for Join the Dots?
There’s a number of things. The InSites Consulting global moderator network was something that really impressed us. We run communities across the globe, but getting a network of moderators you can rely on is a big challenge and InSites have got that nailed.

And the recent acquisition of eÿeka was part of the offer that we’re excited about.

Also, the costs of maintaining and making sure you’ve got a fantastic community platform is an ongoing challenge; we were looking at the next generation of our community platform, and The Square, the InSites Consulting platform, is a really strong piece of kit. So, there were lots of things that attracted us.

You and others have taken on new roles. Is that at a global level?
Over time I’ll be taking on a global role as head of consulting services at InSites, but we’re in a transitional phase so I’ll be transitioning from my current role. We’ve got a clear job in hand of making sure to service our clients, so first and foremost that’s objective number one.

What’s been the reaction from clients?
I can only talk for the clients that have spoken to me – everyone has been enthusiastic and said it’s a great fit. I’m not looking to speak for all our clients as I’ve not spoken to them all but we’ve not had any negative reaction so far. 

How long do you foresee the transitional period lasting?
It will be intense for a period of time. We recognise that to integrate two significant businesses will take a while. We’re estimating a two-year transitional period until we’re fully integrated. But there are some [areas where] we’ll deliver enhancements in a much shorter period of time.

Will the joint branding [Join the Dots | InSites Consulting in the UK, US and Singapore markets] stay? Will the Join the Dots brand eventually be subsumed by InSites?
We’re going to have a review of that over the next six months to a year and come to a conclusion at that point. But for the time being, we’re Join the Dots | InSites Consulting. 

What’s your biggest priority over the next year?
We need to sit down and review that – the number one priority is making sure our clients get the benefits of the businesses coming together and that we enhance our joint offer in a way that meets client needs. 

Obviously, making sure that we have a strong cultural integration of the two businesses and that our people are working well together is another key priority, but I’ve no doubts about that whatsoever. 

What other areas are you looking to invest in?
InSites Consulting wants to become a one-stop shop for clients so we’re not reliant on third parties and have a full range of solutions within the business. That’s great people and technology, our consumer platform, how we source consumers, the tech that enables us to talk to consumers – that’s where our focus is going to be.

How much do you anticipate you’ll be working with eÿeka and the other companies InSites has acquired recently [Columinate in South Africa and Direction First in Australia]?
The philosophy and approach of InSites is that all these businesses are going to be integrated. We’re not just a group of businesses, we’re going to become one fully integrated business. In time, eÿeka will be available to everybody who works with InSites Consulting, and Columinate and Direction First, just like Join the Dots, are going to become part of the InSites Consulting team.