I am delighted to be leading MISSION during this exciting period for our business. Founded as a cooperative of like-minded entrepreneurs, over the last ten years MISSION has built an impressive track record. We have grown revenue and profit each year, winning prestigious and progressively bigger business from across our growing, blue-chip Client base and acquired new Agencies with fantastic reputations, strengthening our standing in our sector even further.
2019 has seen us continue to build on this strong momentum to deliver our 9th consecutive year of growth, despite a difficult trading backdrop during which Brexit uncertainty continued to hamper Client decision making and restrict budgets. Over the course of the year we also took stock of the progress that we have achieved to date, refining our growth plans as we look forward to 2020 and beyond.
As a group of collaborative specialists, we are no longer purely a marketing communications group, selling our marketing wares. Instead we are a business partner to a broad portfolio of UK and international brands with a range of creative skills to help solve business challenges. In recognition of this, in September 2019 we announced the re-naming of our Group to The MISSION Group plc ("MISSION ") supported by a launch of the Group’s vision, values and beliefs to our Clients, staff and the industry. This vision puts MISSION at the heart of both our business model and new business strategy as the alternative group for ambitious brands.
We see huge opportunity to grow our Client-partner relationships through increased collaboration across our Agencies and through the adoption of a more strategic approach to leveraging our global footprint.
I’m delighted that we have already seen early progress here, with an excellent example during the period being our work for leading UK sofa retailer DFS, through an integrated campaign led by krow supported by two other MISSION Agencies.
As we move forwards fostering a cohesive approach, we have refined our business structure to create a more effective service offering. This has included the merger of bigdog and krow into a single integrated Agency, retaining the name krow; the expansion of Story into Leeds and Newcastle, taking on our Robson Brown Agency; and the merger of April Six and RLA into a single Agency to leverage both complementary skillsets and the existing April Six international footprint.
This transition has been smooth and we have been very pleased with the initial feedback from these Agencies. Through this simplified structure we now have an even stronger platform from which we can deliver further organic growth and identify the right acquisition opportunities to expand our capabilities and network both in the UK and overseas.
As we work to develop our vision to be the alternative group for ambitious brands, we are placing increasing focus on the additive value that MISSION can bring to the entrepreneurial Agencies within our network, helping them to unlock new growth opportunities and optimise their business operations. By the close of the year we had successfully completed the onboarding of all of the Agencies in our portfolio onto our shared services platform, giving them access to centralised functions such as Finance, IT and HR. We are also making further investments in our central platform to help underpin better collaboration across our network and expect to see the results of some of these initiatives start to flow through in the new financial year.
We will continue to build on our track record of embracing emerging technologies, providing our Agencies with access to these evolving capabilities through our central innovation hub Fuse. Here we bring together the most curious and creative minds from across our business, collaborating to create new software and hardware products. We have grown many of these incubator ideas into successful commercial products that not only bring value to the MISSION family of Agencies, but which in the case of BroadCare we were able to realise market value at sale. Some exciting new initiatives are in development, a couple of which should be ready for launch in 2020.
There is no doubt that within MISSION we have created unique skills and processes which enhance what we do for our Clients within an ever-changing marketplace. We truly believe we have found an alternative and better way to help our Clients.
Despite a challenging trading environment as a result of the heightened level of political uncertainty, we were delighted to deliver a good full year performance.
Revenue increased 4% to £81.0m (2018: £77.6m), representing our ninth consecutive year of growth. Our profit margin (headline operating profit as a percentage of revenue) again improved, to 13.3% (2018: 12.8%), and headline profit improved by 11% to £10.2m (2018: £9.2m), all from our core business.
9TH consecutive year of growth
Our Agencies performed well, with strong Client retention rates maintained and major new contracts won including Cummins Inc, Docker and Fuji Xerox. The structural refinements to our Agency portfolio were completed over the course of the final quarter of the year and we have been delighted with the smooth integration and the Client and employee feedback to date.
International expansion over the period continued to be Client-led, resulting in expansion into Seattle, Chicago and Beijing. In addition, we have recently opened an office in Munich, the Group’s first opening in Mainland Europe.
We are also pleased with the progress of Mongoose Sports and Mongoose Promotions, our start-ups of three years ago, both of which moved into profit far earlier than we expected and continued to grow through the year.
During the course of the year we were particularly pleased with the progress achieved by Pathfindr, our embryonic asset tracking business, which nearly doubled its turnover to £0.9m (2018: £0.5m) as it expanded the installed base for its tracking devices and grew its customer numbers. The time taken from initial quote and proof of concept to securing invoiced revenue has proven to be different, and longer, than for our Agency businesses, but the prospects for further growth in the coming years remain very strong.
The collaborative nature and entrepreneurial spirit that MISSION fosters is the cornerstone of our culture and we are particularly proud of the focus we place on developing our people, drawing great talent into our business from across the country and offering exciting career paths throughout the Group. Through the introduction of our new Strategic People Plan we have focused on our priority areas of Developing Talent, Supporting Performance, Reward and Recognition, Leadership and Development, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion and Organisational Development.
A particular highlight during 2019 was our new partnership with Creative Access. As part of our focus on promoting diversity within our own business, we recognise that people from BAME backgrounds are under-represented across our industry as a whole. This important initiative is focussed on helping to attract talent from more diverse backgrounds and to actively promote opportunities to join the Group. As part of this programme, senior leaders from across the Group will mentor young people from BAME backgrounds looking to progress in the industry.
With collaboration being a core focus for MISSION, we also launched Ignition, a Group-wide competition led by our Fuse business. This competition encourages new and innovative suggestions for tomorrow’s products and services. The winning entrant receives backing from the Group to develop their idea into proof of concept, prototype and beyond, and the opportunity to participate personally in its commercial success.
At the time of writing, the world is changing rapidly. But as demonstrated by these results, MISSION is a diverse mix of collaborative specialists who work together to deliver real business growth for our Clients. It is exactly this ethos and approach that our Clients will continue to demand, arguably even more so, when the world returns to normality.