In June, investors led by private equity firm Hellman & Friedman completed their $1.8 billion takeover of Kronos, removing it from the Nasdaq stock exchange. Two days later, Kronos announced it had acquired European HR software firm Captor. That deal is part of a major push abroad by the Chelmsford, Massachusetts-based firm. In September 2006, it launched operations in China, and earlier this year, Kronos said it set up shop in India.
The geographic expansion comes as the firm has been trying to grow beyond its roots as a time-and-attendance software specialist. Last year it bought Unicru, which focuses on recruiting and selection tools geared primarily toward hourly workers.
And that talent acquisition business is doing quite well, says Kronos chief executive Aron Ain. He estimates it will grow 10 percent to 20 percent this year from a base of somewhere between $40 million and $45 million.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if they do better than that,” says Christa Degnan-Manning, an analyst at research firm AMR Research. AMR pegs the talent acquisition and recruiting market overall to grow 21 percent this year to $849 million, in part because of concerns about a possible talent war.
Kronos was founded in 1977 by Aron Ain’s brother, Mark Ain. It has dominated the market for workforce management software, a category that includes time-and-attendance tools and scheduling applications. Kronos also wants to be the first software company that concentrates exclusively on HR applications to reach $1 billion in revenue. It hit $578 million for the year ended September 30 and forecasts at least $650 million in revenue this fiscal year.
Traditionally, Kronos has focused on clients in English-speaking countries. The Captor deal helps Kronos better serve global organizations, Ain says. Captor offers workforce management applications and says it has 2,000 customers in countries including Belgium, France and the Netherlands.
Degnan-Manning says going private makes sense for Kronos because it allows the company to invest in new technology and new markets without getting dinged for poor short-term financial results. She sees Hellman & Friedman not only bankrolling a long-term expansion plan but offering sound management advice as Kronos works to integrate new pieces such as Unicru and Captor. Kronos is “sort of the big gorilla that has an even bigger gorilla supporting them in their expansion,” she says.
Paul Hamerman, an analyst with Forrester Research, says Kronos’ biggest challenge is moving beyond its traditional focus on hourly workers to serve the salaried workforce as well. He says the private equity deal frees Kronos from the rigors of U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission regulations and Sarbanes-Oxley compliance. It also provides the Ain brothers an “exit strategy,” he says.
But Aron Ain says neither he nor Mark Ain—now Kronos’ executive chairman—plans to leave the company. Indeed, Aron Ain seems to enjoy life as CEO of a non-publicly traded firm. “I certainly am not going to miss the Sarbanes-Oxley stuff,” he says.