James Brown and Anthony “Tony” Augustine were introduced by a mutual friend in the fall of 2013. Augustine was frustrated with the lackluster growth of his Somerset companies — Augustine Die & Mold Inc. and Augustine Plastics Inc. Brown was consulting for business owners after moving on from a 20-plus year career in private equity.
Brown started working for Augustine one day a week, and then two days a week.
“I went to three days a week, and I brought it to his attention: This is not going to get less expensive. It’s going to get more expensive. That’s when he started saying, ‘Why don’t you just come work for me.’” Brown says.
After six months of negotiation to get Brown a piece of ownership and craft a plan to triple the business, the two reached an agreement. Brown joined both companies in 2015, as the president and CEO. Augustine, owner and chairman, could now focus on providing technical expertise.
In 2016, profits improved, but in 2017 both revenue and profit grew sharply. Profits went up about 600 percent and the headcount increased by more than 35 percent. That trend looks to continue this year, with Augustine Die & Mold on pace to see revenue grow in excess of 500 percent and Augustine Plastics looking at around 75 percent growth.
Lay the groundwork
The growth started with a short-term plan. Brown says there was no way to get to the next level until the systems, processes and management were built out.
“Tony was frustrated with all of the challenges and demands that were resting on his shoulders solely. We combined our efforts. I said, ‘Look, for the next 24 months, we’re going to focus on all these issues. We’re going to begin hiring managers. We’re going to begin expanding our systems and processes.’ And that’s exactly what we did,” he says.
Ultimately, Brown and Augustine invested more than $2.5 million in infrastructure improvements and upgrades.
Brown also met with the top 20 customers from both companies, as well as former customers.
“Most manufacturing organizations struggle with their identity, what they do really well and why people will choose them over somebody else,” he says.
By evaluating the customers and what both companies did well, it increased the sales focus and clarity. This filter could then be applied to every new opportunity.
“When we line up with those parameters, our success ratio of onboarding new customers is extremely high,” Brown says.
He also made sure the management team was engaged in the process.