Growing up around her family’s construction company, Andrea Bukacek always had a passion for the business she watched her grandfather and father build.
So, in September 2019, when she took over Racine-based Bukacek Construction Group Inc. as its third-generation owner and CEO, the acquisition was more than just a deal or transaction.
“I saw them take risks to move Bukacek Construction forward,” she said. “… I consider myself fortunate that I have been able to come home with the company that I grew up with.”
Bukacek Construction was founded in 1963 by Andrea’s grandfather, James Bukacek, and was later owned by her father, Nick Bukacek. After 42 years of family ownership, Nick sold the company to his employees in 2001 and retired in 2005.
Andrea Bukacek bought the company last year from the employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) that bought it from her father.
The 2019 acquisition wasn’t the first time Andrea had the opportunity to buy back the family business. A few years prior, senior members of the ESOP were mapping out possible succession plans, knowing they needed to develop the next generation of leadership. Andrea and Nick considered re-joining, but the timing wasn’t right, she said.
“I always regretted not capitalizing on the opportunity, at that time,” she said. “Flash forward a few years later, and the opportunity presented itself again. This time, I knew I had to take it.”
Bukacek shared her business acquisition story as a panelist at the 13th annual BizTimes Media M&A Forum on March 12 at the Milwaukee Marriott Downtown hotel. The panel discussion included insights, perspectives and lessons learned from her and three other business leaders with a variety of experiences buying or selling a business.
One takeaway from Bukacek’s acquisition experience was the central role of the company’s employees during the deal process, and still today.
There was unanimous consent by all ESOP members to sell the company, which Bukacek said, was the “strongest endorsement anyone could have that the transition was the right direction forward,” both for her and the employees.
“The decision was made early on to maintain the current employee base,” she said.[caption id="attachment_499082" align="alignleft" width="300"] Paul Grunau[/caption]
For APi Group chief learning officer Paul Grunau, the way forward for his family’s business was letting go.
He and his wife Jeanie acquired Grunau Company Inc. from the Grunau family in 1999. The Oak Creek-based contracting firm was originally founded in 1920 by Paul’s great-grandfather.
Grunau sold the business to New Brighton, Minnesota-based APi Group in 2006, and stayed on as president for one year before joining APi as chief operating officer. As part of the deal, all 10 people on the Grunau Company’s leadership team signed five-year employment deals.
The decision to sell came at a prosperous time for Grunau Company. As personal guarantors of the business’s debt and bonds, the Grunaus couldn’t keep up with the amount of capital that needed to be borrowed to fund the company’s growth.
“We were going to become an obstacle for the company to grow, and did not want that,” Grunau said. “So, we looked for a partner that would respect the business and brand, and provide resources for us to grow and get better.”
Fourteen years later, the Grunau Company is more successful than it’s ever been, Grunau said. He gets to watch from a distance, remaining involved as an informal advisor and mentor to president Bill Ball and a number of employees.
“I try to be very mindful of giving the current leader space to lead the company,” he said.[caption id="attachment_499085" align="alignleft" width="300"] Ryan Martin[/caption]
The key to a successful buyer-seller relationship, especially when the original owners remain involved with the business, is a shared vision, said Ryan Martin, CEO of Midwest Composite Technologies.
The Hartland-based digital manufacturer was acquired by Chicago-based private equity firm CORE Industrial Partners in 2018.
Up until it was acquired, MCT had been owned and operated by the Keidl family for 34 years. Chris Keidl and Toby Keidl remain involved as leaders, which was always part of the plan.
“The Keidl family wanted to partner with CORE to grow MCT through organic growth and acquisitions,” Martin said. “It was clear that Chris and Toby brought tremendous value to MCT’s next phase of growth, so we engaged them early in the process and made sure they were an instrumental part of the leadership team going forward.”
In the second half of last year, MCT made two acquisitions of its own: ICOMold, an Ohio-based company specializing in injection molding, and Fathom, an Oakland-based firm that combines additive and legacy manufacturing techniques.
Both acquisitions supported the original vision of growing MCT into a national player in additive manufacturing and enhancing the customer experience, said Martin.[caption id="attachment_499086" align="alignleft" width="300"] Sharad Chadha[/caption]
Taking a local business national was also what Sharad Chadha had in mind when he acquired Glendale-based Sprecher Brewing.
After founder Randy Sprecher told Chadha in late June that he planned to retire, Chadha quit his job at Samsung and spent the next seven months working on a deal that he originally thought would take about 60 days.
As CEO, Chadha leads an ownership group of prominent Milwaukee entrepreneurs including Andy Nunemaker, Peter Skanavis, owner of Homeowner Concept Realtors, and brewing industry veteran Jim Kanter, a former MillerCoors executive.
Putting together a credible team helped Chadha secure funding from Wauwatosa-based Silicon Pastures as an angel investor, West Bend-based Commerce State Bank, which funded the debt, and other local investors.
But Chadha also had to be prepared to tell his story and present a realistic plan for the venture.
“(Investors) look at three main things: Are you putting in your own money? Are you going to do it full time? Are your friends and family putting money into it?” he said. “If the answer of those three questions are good, then people will be more likely to listen.”
While the acquisition made headlines when it was announced in late January, Chadha believes the iconic local brand has not reached its full potential for national growth and recognition.
“It is my goal to make Sprecher the craft beverage icon of America,” he said.
Chadha also did his homework before the acquisition was final.
“I met with a lot of customers, networked and spoke with some key distributors and retail customers as well as brokers to ensure there is that potential and that this product has legs and can be taken to the next level,” he said.