Mitchell Grindley directs Plaskolite through a string of acquisitions

Experience pays off

The company also considers how the acquisition will fit into its culture. Even with its growth, Plaskolite is holding as tightly as it can to its family culture. This can be attractive to the acquisitions, such as Covestro, it brings into the fold.

The Dunn family established Plaskolite in 1950. While the family sold its controlling interest in 2015 to Charlesbank Capital Partners, it’s not uncommon to see the nonagenarian founder, Donald Dunn, in the office. Plaskolite’s new headquarters also has a lot of space dedicated to the history of the family and the company.

“We really, really try hard to keep that culture a family feeling. We are not naïve to think that it’s going to last forever, but we do work hard at that,” Grindley says.

That’s why as Plaskolite builds a staff for its newly enlarged company, it’s proceeding cautiously.

“Yes, we’re spread thin right now, but with a family culture, you want to make sure whomever you’re hiring fits,” he says.

The culture is bolstered by the fact that while Grindley became president and CEO three years ago, he and the three top managers who run the business as a team have been together for decades. Grindley was in charge of sales and marketing for nearly 30 years and he’s been part of the executive board since the late 1980s.

“We have good teams, good bench strength and we don’t get too far out of our comfort zone,” Grindley says.

The leadership team has been through acquisitions before — they’ve seen it and done it. Yes, it’s more work, he says, but it’s manageable because of their experience.

It’s still difficult, though, to integrate the technology and accounting systems of those acquisitions, which is why it’s critical to have a strong chief financial officer and IT leader.

“We have both and they’ve seen the movie before, so there’s not a lot that surprises them. But they have to be very, very strong and we are lucky to have that,” Grindley says.

But as much experience as you have, there will always be surprises, both good and bad.

“In almost every one of them you find the diamond in the rough — you find something that you didn’t see going into the business,” he says.

For example, in the late 1990s, Plaskolite purchased a mirror manufacturer, which had a coating line just sitting in the back corner. A TV manufacturer came to Plaskolite and asked it to develop a coating for big screen TVs. Grindley says the company ended up using the coating line.

“That TV business was worth millions of dollars. And we had no idea what we were going to do with that coating line. We thought we were just going to put it in the back corner again, but it was an asset that we used very successfully,” he says.

A diamond in the rough isn’t always a product. It can be on the human resources side, too.

“There’s always a few people who are very, very strong who can teach you things that you do not know. You have to be open minded to that,” Grindley says.

On the other hand, when an acquisition requires more work than you expected, experience again helps you make the necessary adjustments, he says. It may take you longer to get to your end game, which is to make your stockholders or company stronger, but you can still get there.