When The Rogers Co. completed its acquisition of Las Vegas-based Expo Services and Products Inc. last November, it was the culmination of a courtship that began more than two years ago. After the first round of negotiations didn’t work out, Rogers Co. President Rick Busby focused on cultivating a relationship with his counterpart at Expo Services, Jeffrey Wolff.
“I gave him some business, and he provided services for us,” Busby says. “We did some storage of components there for our clients, and he did some fabrication work for us. We stayed close. Sure enough, two years later after working with them during that time, he calls me and says, ‘Hey Rick, I think I’m willing to talk now.’”
Rogers Co.’s core business is trade shows, designing and manufacturing branded environments for exhibits, corporate events, lobbies, show rooms and retail environments. Since 1972, it has been owned by Mayfield-based Nesco Inc., and the acquisition of Expo Services significantly expands Rogers Co.’s manufacturing and storage capabilities, both in Las Vegas and on the West Coast.
“When you think about trade shows, there are several major markets in the United States,” Busby says. “Las Vegas is No. 1.”
In this Dealmakers feature, we spoke with Busby about the market factors that drove the deal with Expo Services and the importance of strategic alignment when making a deal.
What’s the best option?
Rogers Co. was eager to establish a presence in the Western half of the U.S. The question he needed to answer was whether this could best be achieved through acquisition or expansion.
“What would that financial investment be, versus acquiring a company where you have something that’s already a proven entity?” Busby says. “We determined that an acquisition would be a more efficient outlay of our money. We’re acquiring a business that has a proven track record and its own employees. If we’re doing it on our own, we’d have to go find all these employees, and Las Vegas is not the easiest market to hire people in. We felt it was a much more fluid and efficient financial investment versus starting something on our own.”
The one potential challenge that comes into play when you make an acquisition is cultural integration.
“We have our culture, and they have their culture,” Busby says. “No two cultures are ever identical. Whatever you do, you don’t want to go in and try to turn the culture upside down tomorrow. You have to do what makes sense and wade into the water.”
Certain functions, such as financial management and HR, may need to be addressed more quickly. But in general, you should approach a deal with patience, Busby says.
“I met with every single employee individually to talk about it,” Busby says. “I gave them presentations on who Rogers is and what we could ultimately be doing for them to drive more business and make it an even more secure place to work. I go out there on a regular basis to talk to the team and work with them and talk about our strategic direction.”
Have a clear goal
Rogers Co. had a key objective it sought to accomplish through the acquisition of Expo Services — expansion into the Western U.S. He says you need to be clear about why you’re pursuing a deal, and while that seems obvious, you can easily by swept away by the allure of making a deal.
“If you’re looking to make a deal, it needs to make sense and be a component of your core strategies as a company,” Busby says. “Sometimes companies may be sitting on a little bit of money, or they get emotionally attracted to something that may not be a good strategic fit. If it’s not part of your long-term strategic objectives, then I don’t think it is a wise decision out of the gate.”
Busby can now offer clients who frequently participate in trade shows on the West Coast the ability to store materials closer to the event.
“Now we have a Vegas facility with 50,000 square feet,” Busby says. “We can build something here, then ship it and store it there. As a customer, I’ve saved you thousands and thousands of dollars of just transportation costs. We could even conceivably build it in Las Vegas and take all the transportation costs out of it.”
This likely won’t be the last deal as Rogers Co. continues to plot its future.
“We continue to actively look at good opportunities,” Busby says.