Shaun Stimpson left a nearly 20-year career in wealth management to launch North Iron Holdings. The purpose of North Iron was to be a vehicle to acquire an industrial distribution company. After an 18-month search, he bought Mitten Fluidpower Corporation in Syracuse, New York, a now runs it as CEO.

Mitten Fluidpower had three owners, a father and two sons. When Stimpson reached out to them, they said that they were looking for three things. First, they were looking for the right steward because they really care about their employees and what happened to them after they sold it. Two, they wanted the right price. And then the third thing was their commitment post close — they didn't want to continue with the business too long after close.

But the family ultimately was most concerned about what happened to the business after closing.

"They wanted to know what was my plan?" Stimpson says. "Was I going to keep the business in Syracuse? Was I going to keep the name? Was I going to downsize the business after buying it, as far as letting employees go? And so, the fact that I was keeping it in Syracuse, keeping the name, keeping all the employees, and that I was going to invest in the business to make it bigger, those were all attractive pieces to this family."

Stimpson says he made this acquisition largely to be an operator.

"I didn't do it to be a private equity investor," he says. "I wanted to be in control of my own destiny. So, I'm now running this business. And luckily, I have a very solid leadership team that I inherited. My focus day to day is on strategy at a 10,000-foot view. And then the leadership team that's here is in charge of the execution."

When he was cold-calling owners looking for an opportunity, he says the first question he asked an owner was if they got hit by a bus, who would run the business?

"The majority said, Well, if I got hit by a bus, the business would probably die. But the ones that that I pursued either said, My general manager could step in and easily run the business, or he or she is running it now. Or they would say, similar to what the owner of Mitten Fluidpower said was, not one person could run the business but these three people could, collectively," Stimpson says. "And so those are the businesses that I was interested in because obviously there's a technical aspect to this business, as far as designing and building some of the systems that we're selling to customers. And so, I needed to make sure that the technical expertise existed beyond the owner, which it did with Mitten Fluidpower."

Stimpson spoke on the Smart Business Dealmakers Podcast about his move from wealth management to CEO, the acquisition, life as an operator, building a board and his plans for growth.