Fab Fours CEO Greg Higgs says in 2019, he got a little over his skis building the metal fabricated bumper and accessory business organically. So, he put in a call to Warn Industries, a company that manufacture aftermarket winches in the aftermarket. Before a deal could be made, Fab Fours' bookings. But at the beginning of 2020, Warn had a separate acquisition that Higgs says made sense based on synergies and conversations began again.
"I was interested, but the value wasn't quite there," Higgs says. "Then COVID hit, and nobody talked to anybody."
As a consumer goods company making luxury items for trucks and jeeps, the pandemic years were "wild." It was long lead times, insatiable appetite by the consumer and rapid growth despite some supply chain cost issues. While rolling through that, Higgs says he hit a crossroads.
"Two things: One, I realized I hadn't taken much off the table — aka zero dollars in 17 years," he says. "And when COVID hit, that was a real eye opener. I didn't have a business now; it was all future value. So, I was prepared to either start taking money out of the business or look at an exit. And the taking money out of the business didn't feel right to me because I’m more of an inventor, tinker, marketer, not a 'manage the P&L guy.'"
Warn still made sense because, he says, it's like a bigger version of Fab Fours — it's where his company would be organically in 15 years from now.
"We've been making bumpers for them for years so to me it was, hey, this is a bigger sandbox and I might end up with a bigger role, and we're just going to do even cooler things faster," he says. "They can get me into commercial and military and international without me having to do it the slow, old-fashioned way and I’ll take chips."
In late 2021, Warn bought the business, negotiating a four-year earnout with Higgs.
"They retained a piece of that and had some goals around gross margin that seemed like a super low hurdle," he says. "Now that costs continue to go up triple digits, it ain't looking nearly as easy, but that is the plan — stay for the four years or beyond. Ultimately, as long as I’m having a great time and we're doing cool stuff and inventing parts that the consumers love, I have no reason to step away from it."
Higgs spoke at last year's Charlotte Smart Business Dealmakers Conference about his company's sale to Warn Industries and his post-deal plans. Hit play to catch the full conversation.