One lesson Milton Kuyers, CEO of Faustel Inc. and Kuyers LLC, has learned through the 65 acquisitions he's personally been a part of throughout his career is that if you don't grow, your business will die.
Speaking at the Milwaukee Smart Business Dealmakers Conference, he says for most of those 65 acquisitions, he and his team did their own due diligence. As a result of that, they learned what they ought to look for.
"And the first thing that we look for are people within the companies that we bought who we believe can carry it on for us," Kuyers says.
Particularly with distressed companies, he says they have found that almost always there are people within those organizations who know what has to happen in order to be able to turn the company around.
"We have learned to be great listeners and facilitate listening to the people who are in the organization as to what they believe should happen, and how quickly it could happen," he says. "We have used that strategy on nearly every one of the turnarounds that we dealt with and it has been very, very successful because a person who is asked for the first time in 15 years what they think should happen in their department or within the company go home and say, Mama, you can't believe for the first time in the 15 years that I worked for ABC Company somebody asked me and they listened to me and they gave me credit when they adopted something that I suggested. And so, we look for people who are going to be excited about looking forward, even in a tough economy."
He says when they have acquired a company and somebody wants to stay on, they allowed them to stay on as long as they chose to — they've never had anybody who left before they indicated that they wanted to leave. But, he says, he has a little different motivation.
"We grow in order to create greater profitability for this purpose: We want to create individual growth in our employees," Kuyers says. "We want them to even go and take new job opportunities if we don't have a place for them and they indicate that they want to go out and do the same thing, perhaps that I did at the beginning of my career."
Kuyers says for a time, he chose not to bring any of his four children into the businesses that he was involved with.
"I had seen families destroy family businesses," he says. "And worse than that, I had seen some family businesses destroy a family. And I wanted no part of that."
Eventually, however, he changed his mind, on the advice of a friend, and went into business with three of them or their spouses. But, he made sure to set some boundaries.
"When we get together as a family, which we often do, I indicate that there's going to be no business discussion when we get together as a family because I saw some terrible examples of that, too," he says. "We get together and talk about business (at) specific times. But we don't talk about it any other time, other than I hope that my kids or an in-law will call me when they have some difficulty going on in their company rather than letting it go and say, I didn't want to tell dad anything."