Peoples currently serves polymers; automotive and chemicals, including hazardous materials; industrial; and consumer goods. It also recently got into food.
“That was a conscientious decision knowing that the customers and products we were handling were somewhat susceptible to the economic cycles,” he says.
Food and food-related goods generally are countercyclical or noncyclical, because in good times or bad, people eat.
“As a result, that helped us to smooth out some of the exposure and manage that exposure,” Sibila says.
Geography also comes into play with Peoples preferring to acquire companies that are within its existing network or contiguous to it. The company is in the Midwest and Southeast, covering Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, the Carolinas and recently, Florida.
Each deal not only makes Peoples fiscally stronger, but it also contributes to the strength of its management and deal teams. In that sense, the company’s COO and Executive Vice President, Bill Hanlon, serves a unique role in Peoples’ acquisitions. He helps with deals, but he’s also an example to acquired companies of what making a deal with Peoples is about.
“I like to have him along because I can say, ‘Look, he was in your shoes seven years ago and had a lot of the same questions,’” Sibila says.
Knowing the people brought in through an acquisition are going to be a little nervous — not knowing what’s going to happen to their jobs — Sibila brings Hanlon along, who was the president of Terminal Warehouse and came to Peoples as part of the acquisition, to calm the waters. The display is meant to show that Peoples’ intent is to try to integrate the existing staff and provide resources.
“Our goal is to try to improve upon them,” Sibila says. “For example, the company we’re acquiring, if their vacation policy is a little more liberal, we’ll follow that policy until it integrates into ours. Or, if our policies are a little more liberal — maybe we have eight holidays — we give that to them upfront so at least we can show that they are already better off than where they were yesterday.”
Peoples also offers acquired employees a chance to join its profit-sharing plan and employee stock ownership plan, and works to understand what concerns or issues might exist in the acquired company.
“If there is new equipment that they might need, we try and get that in there as quickly as possible so they start to see we were willing to make the investment,” he says.
It’s a calculated way to create a sense of belonging — that Peoples is looking out for their best interests and that they are now a part of Peoples’ team.