GRAND RAPIDS — Steve Weber’s purchase of Performance Die Cutting and Finishing LLC proves it’s hard to stifle the will of an entrepreneur to be his own boss.
After a 15-year run of owning his own small business, Weber jumped back into the manufacturing sector, where he began his career. Only this time, he wasn’t the one leading the organization. As a result, he quickly felt the itch to become his own boss again and regain the freedom afforded by being an owner.
That opportunity came when Weber learned that Grand Rapids-based Performance Die Cutting’s three owners were planning to sell the business. For Weber, the sale presented a chance for him to use the mix of skills he’d developed over his career in the manufacturing and small business sectors in an entrepreneurial setting.
“I’ve got the manufacturing background and I’ve got the service mentality for taking care of my customers,” Weber told MiBiz. “In this case, my customers are print houses, and who knows where I can take this.”
Performance Die Cutting specializes in cutting cardboard, foam, cloth and other materials, primarily for the printing, craft and packaging industries. The company currently employs eight people, four of whom work on the plant floor as die cutters. Weber said he expects to hire one more die cutter in the next year as he begins to grow the company’s customer base.
While the company is entrenched in the print industry in West Michigan, it primarily relied on word-of-mouth as a marketing channel, Weber said. He hopes to change that in the coming months as he launches a website and spends more time developing a sales force.
In addition, Weber plans to diversify Performance Die Cutting into different industries, primarily in the specialty packaging products sector, although he wasn’t ready to disclose further details.
“We’ll diversify a little bit in the future, get it up to date a little bit,” Weber said. “The opportunity to grow this company is outstanding.”
Weber’s plans to grow the company come during a period of slow expansion for its customers in the printing sector.
Overall, the global printing industry is slated to grow marginally from $785 billion in 2017 to $814.5 billion in 2022, a 3.7-percent increase, according to a report published by Smithers Pira, a U.K.-based market research firm focused on the printing and packaging industry.
A buyers market?
Weber was advised on the deal by Steve Willison of Ada-based law firm Willison Hellman PC.
Calder Capital LLC served as the broker for the sellers in the deal, which was closed in a matter of six months, said Max Friar, managing director of the Grand Rapids-based M&A advisory firm.
After favoring sellers for some time, the West Michigan M&A market stabilized and seems to be favoring buyers more, according to Friar. Rising interest rates, a fluctuating stock market and an increasing number of baby boomers looking to retire are all beginning to drive valuations downward.
“It’s basic economics,” Friar stated. “Money is more expensive and there is more supply coming to market. The result is that buyers are generally becoming choosier and lenders are constraining their ability to pay multiples that we’ve seen in past years. This is not to say the sky is falling. By no means is it a bad time to sell. The economy remains strong and most economists are projecting continued growth through 2019.”
For Performance Die Cutting’s previous owners, who had owned the business since 2007, the decision to sell came as the primary operator of the business, Carl Pease, wanted to transition into retirement.
“We were very pleased to sell the company to Steve,” Pease said in a statement announcing the deal. “He is smart and ambitious, and we feel very confident that he is the best fit to grow the business while taking care of the existing customers.”
Weber noted that Pease has helped in the transition process after the close of the transaction, introducing him to clients and discussing opportunities to grow the company.
Beyond valuations making it more attractive to buy, Friar added that Weber typifies many buyers as an entrepreneur seeking an opportunity to strike out on his own.
“I would say most of the buyers that we work with fit the profile of wanting to ‘be my own boss,’” he said. “That is a huge driver.”
Now that he’s back into a more entrepreneurial role, Weber is ready to dig in and grow Performance Die Cutting for the foreseeable future.
“I think this is a wonderful opportunity,” he said. “It’s going to be a whole lot of work, but I’m not afraid of it. I’m in my early 50s and for the next fifteen years, this is going to be my baby.”
MADE IN MICHIGAN
Grand Rapids-based Performance Die Cutting recently changed hands as Steve Weber acquired the company from its previous owners. The company, which manufactures die cut products for the printing, craft and other industries, presented a ripe target for expansion, Weber said. In the future, Weber hopes to expand the company’s marketing channels and diversify into new product segments. Performance Die Cutting currently employs eight people.