The acquisition of Abatemaster by Plumb Line Capital is a deal that came about essentially through relationships. Plumb Line's Founder Matt Lindberg says he had a relationship with a local adviser who was representing Abatemaster, which is how they learned of the deal. And the person they would court for the CEO position, Jeff Chilton, was someone who Lindberg knew through mutual acquaintances.
It was owned by a husband and wife and operates in the environmental services sector, which is an industry Lindberg says Plumb Line really liked to participate in. And the company had very strong relationships in North Carolina.
But getting the deal done was not without challenges. Lindberg says that being accustomed to going into situations that involve family-owned businesses, he has learned to approach it with eyes wide open so the company could be transitioned into one that could scale. That means thinking about aspects such as technology systems and professionalization of a team, moving from cash-based accounting to accrual, and switching to GAAP-audited financials. He says they brought in a CFO partner and installed ERP and CRM systems, and looks closer at how the company makes purchasing decisions on capital equipment or leasing or purchasing as the business grows.
"A lot of decisions that are made more off of an owner's gut feel, which we validated in our due diligence and was very much the way, we want to make data-driven decisions going forward — what are the margins of that project, what type of business have we done in the past with those customers?" Lindberg says. "So, I think the approach of a family-founder business, we're uniquely positioned to partner with those business owners because we understand the business has been built to a certain point but in order to really scale it, we need a leader like Jeff who has the experience in doing things like that."
Now, in partnership with Chilton, the focus is on positioning the business to grow throughout North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and elsewhere and building the team.
"It turned out that it was a good match from a relationship standpoint," Chilton says. "My background matched what he was looking for and I was ready to get away from retail. I just didn't see a lot of opportunity left at retail unless you were going to be dealing directly with Amazon, so the timing was excellent."
But also, culturally and personally, the two got along and it matched what both were looking to achieve.
"The sector is very attractive," Chilton says. "Our company is situated in a great spot both geographically and from a business standpoint. I really like the opportunity and just the timing was excellent"
Lindberg and Chilton spoke at the Charlotte Smart Business Dealmakers Conference about the acquisition of Abatemaster and the importance of relationships in the deal and after. Hit play to catch the full interview.