Tim Sullivan, president and chief executive officer of REV Group Inc., recently gave the keynote address at BizTimes Media’s annual M&A Forum at The Pfister Hotel in downtown Milwaukee. Sullivan has made 21 acquisitions during his career, four of which were in the past 12 months. He guided South Milwaukee-based Bucyrus International Inc. through its $7.6 billion sale to Caterpillar Inc. in 2011.
- “Do not overpay. That’s a tough one. You see it, you see what the end game could be, you see what the integration could be and you say, ‘Oh, it’s just another $5 million, it’s just another $10 million.’”
- “We don’t get rid of anybody (when REV acquires a company). Everyone always looks at the ‘human synergies.’ Those will sort themselves out with time. If you’re trying to justify an acquisition with human synergies, you’re making a huge mistake.”
- “When we sold Bucyrus, I remember (MMAC president) Tim Sheehy said, ‘I’m one of the happiest guys in Milwaukee right now. I bought a bunch of your stock. I just made a ton of money. This is really great.’ Then he said, ‘This is also a very sad day. This is the third corporate headquarters that has left Milwaukee in 10 days.’ That haunted me, and so when I was running Gardner Denver, I brought (the headquarters to Milwaukee). And we’ll be two years in Milwaukee come June with REV. I talked to Sheehy and he said, ‘Well that’s good, you got two. We’re looking for the hat trick.’”
- “Move expeditiously. We close deals in 60 to 90 days. We have a saying, ‘Excellent is the enemy of good.’”
- “We’ve got 78 employees here in Milwaukee now and that’s going to grow. Eventually we’ll bring manufacturing to Wisconsin. We manufacture everywhere else, why not here?”
- “The one thing that we had at Bucyrus that I missed was hyper-growth – growth at a breakneck speed. I don’t know how to explain it, it’s like this constant feeling of anxiety. I’d show up for work every day at the controls of a runaway train. That’s what Bucyrus was.”