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www.techairfirststep.com
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The Tech Air Acquisition Process:
Tried, True, and Tailored to the Situation

For a business owner who was thinking about succession planning and making a change for the future, Tech Air provided the right solution at the right time in just the right way. 
Clark Kelly
  Avery (“Whip”) Seaman
Corp Brothers
 Providence, Rhode Island
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When your company is rooted in the 1890s, you get a sense that it might carry on for many generations forward, even if it faces transitions.

That’s what Avery “Whip” Seaman had always believed. His company, Corp Brothers, started in 1893 as a bicycle manufacturer. When automobiles became popular around 1910, the company tried to manufacture auto tires, later jumping into the brazing business, then becoming a welding company that supplied job shops. Seaman’s father bought the company in 1954. When his Dad retired, Whip bought the business and ran it. Whip’s two sons had worked in the business summers during college, and he always thought they would follow the family line.

Around 2009, Seaman began consulting advisors about succession planning. His idea was to carry on for another decade, then turn things over to his general manager, then the pair of long-timers would train Whip’s sons for next-generation business owner careers.

But the best laid plans…came face to face with reality. One of Whip’s advisors asked him an essential question: had he ever directly asked his sons about their true interest in running the company? (He hadn’t.) And as it turned out, neither son wanted to carry the business forward as a career.

At about the same time, Tech Air launched their acquisition strategy. Having known Myles Dempsey for some time, Seaman took the opportunity to listen to a Tech Air presentation and liked what he heard. A formal business evaluation was conducted, a proposal was developed, an offer was made and both firms agreed to move ahead.
The best laid plans…came face to face with reality. One of Whip’s advisors asked him an essential question: had he ever directly asked his sons about their true interest in running the company?
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Soon after, Whip got a call from another acquisition firm asking if he’d like to get an evaluation from them. However, he made the decision to sell his company outright to Tech Air for several reasons.

First, Tech Air’s holdings presented no overlapping territory - and that meant there’d be no head-on competition, thus creating “a safety net for our employees, whom I love dearly,” Whip said. The other factor was that Tech Air offered Seaman the ability to roll some of the purchase price into an ownership position in the new company, an attractive option, he said. It meant that, as the new company grew, Seaman would get “a second bite at the apple,” with more to gain down the road, he surmised.

Additionally, Seaman negotiated a position on the board of directors of the company, and he also signed a three-year employment agreement. The company name was retained, although the firm was reshaped into an LLC. He continued to run Corp Brothers for that time and helped the firm put four more acquisitions together. When that period came to an end, Tech Air offered Seaman a consulting agreement, but he turned that down because he didn’t want to have work commitments conflict with his personal schedule.
I had no thought of selling the business. But when I did sell, I was happy with the sale, and I did it on my time, my terms, and it wasn’t a distress situation, so I feel very happy about that.
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Now, Seaman goes into the office two to three times a week for a few hours and puts his institutional knowledge to good use helping Tech Air on special projects.

 In its fifth year, the new iteration of the company is breaking $100 million, just shy of its initial goals, but with plenty of room for growth to come, Seaman adds. At some point in the future, he believes that growth may lead to further opportunity if it sells to a major or goes public.

One of the things that resonated with Whip about entering into an acquisition, he says, was that he heard “speech after speech about succession planning, saying ‘don’t wait until you get forced to do something.’” When he began investigating a succession plan, ‘I had no thought of selling the business. But when I did sell, I was happy with the sale, and I did it on my time, my terms, and it wasn’t a distress situation, so I feel very happy about that.”
 
Myles
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Change is challenging, he admits, and he advised his employees that they’d be fine if they could react positively to anticipated changes in the company. Although one branch of the company eventually closed and those personnel numbers declined, everyone who left went on to retirement or to other career paths, he said.

 Other acquisition companies run like a machine, Seaman says. ‘It’s almost a cookie cutter process and there’s not a lot of flexibility in it, unless you’re a very, very big company. The Tech Air option, particularly with an ownership stake and staying on if you want, is certainly a viable opportunity.”
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About Tech Air
Tech Air is a leading packager and distributor of industrial, medical and specialty gases, welding equipment and supplies headquartered in Danbury, Connecticut. Since embarking on its present growth strategy in 2011, Tech Air has successfully completed 17 acquisitions and now operates from 31 locations across the continental U.S. and employs more than 300 people.

 

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If you would like more information or want to take the first step towards acquisition, contact Myles Dempsey for a confidential, no-obligation evaluation at (203) 731-8981 or myles@techair.com