Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:25 pm
Butters quietly making changes as new owner of Saukville company
Gary Butters bought an Ozaukee County business in January. Now, half a year later, the company’s new customers are not aware of the ownership change.
But despite the quiet transition, changes are being made at his new company in Saukville — changes that Butters is seeking to make while retaining the strengths of the operation.
"I have some contractual obligations to the old owners," Butters said of the degree of secrecy surrounding the purchase. "There are some delicate relationships, and because the relationships are new, I am not going to reveal to them that I own the company for one year from the date of purchase."
But Butters said that apart from two new customers, the rest of his venture’s customers are aware the company has changed hands.
Butters launched his drive to buy a business when American Roller sold the Union Grove facility where he served as division manager.
His bid for the Union Grove operation came in second, causing him to look elsewhere for an acquisition. He didn’t have to look far.
"I was in a search for about a year and a half," Butters said. "When the business I used to run (American Roller) came on the market — what an opportunity. I know that business very well. But I came up second in a two-horse race. I started a new search in earnest."
Like a prospecting salesman, Butters launched himself on the search for a company with between $3 million and $10 million in revenue, and learned immediately that it’s a buyer’s market.
"I bought a Harris Directory of Manufacturers of Wisconsin and targeted businesses that would be a good match with my skills, wrote to 200 companies and got 40 responses. I visited 25."
Butters closed on the sale of the yet-to-be-named Saukville firm in January. What he got was a company somewhat on autopilot but in need of some attention.
"The prior owner had several businesses, so he set this up as being self-operating to a large degree," Butters said of his newly purchased enterprise. "That appealed to me. It was a strong company to begin with. But it kind of was a little ragged around the edges. That has been one of the really tricky balancing acts — to get things done without getting in the way of people who have been very self-managing professionals."
The manufacturing company Butters bought meets his criteria in terms of revenue and ownership of a proprietary product line.
"I come from a manufacturing background, but manufacturing has been in the doldrums," Butters said. "I did not want to get into something where everything was measured on a dollars-per-pound basis. I wanted something that had proprietary products — not a job shop."
Butters made his first offer on the company in July 2002. Issues that slowed the process included the reticence of the seller to hold paper — lend Butters part of the money necessary to buy the company.
During the sale process, Butters relied on a team that included Greg Larsen, senior vice president of Associated Bank, attorney Tom Myers of Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren, and Karen Gale and Mike Kuhn of Vrakas Blum.
Aug. 8, 2003 Small Business Times, Milwaukee, by Charles Rathmann, SBT reporter