Someone to watch over me

In March 1999, David Crawford was at a crossroads. Crawford Consulting Inc., the Canton-based firm he launched in 1987, was doing $7 million in annual sales as a leading provider of Web-enabled information systems and consulting services for courts and justice agencies.

He was anticipating a 65-70 percent growth spurt, and needed to invest in additional software development. But he’d outgrown his capital structure.

To gain the No. 1 market position in courts systems, Crawford knew that merging with a larger organization was his answer. But he didn’t know where to begin. Instinctively, he turned to his business banker, Susan Whitehouse-Steiner of KeyBank in Canton.

Steiner was well aware of Crawford’s needs, because she’d assisted him with everything from lending to cash management since 1995. To help him reach his goals, she introduced him to Ernie Vallorz, managing director at Key Business Advisory Services (KBAS) in Cleveland.

Vallorz explains that the merger and acquisition arena is a hot market today, but smaller businesses have greater needs in such a process. So Key launched KBAS in January 1999 to help transition smaller firms to third parties.

We do it as a relationship, not a transaction,” Vallorz says.

Vallorz walked Crawford through the entire M&A process, first by defining his objectives. As a niche market player specializing in software for courts, Crawford wanted a parent company in his industry that could meet his capital requirements and bring greater market access to all levels of government. He also had personal considerations, and objectives for his staff of 50 (which has since surpassed 100).

Vallorz solicited potential buyers and arranged presentation meetings between Crawford and interested parties, including Virginia-based MAXIMUS. Crawford was intrigued. As one of America’s largest government service companies, MAXIMUS is a leading provider of consulting and program management services. What it lacked was the software Crawford could provide to offer customers a turnkey solution. It was a perfect match, says Crawford.

Crawford says Vallorz served as his advocate and led the entire purchase process — from the letter of intent to the purchase agreement and due diligence.

“He had a tremendous understanding of our business and he took care of the details so I could focus on running my business,” says Crawford.

Crawford Consulting became a subsidiary of MAXIMUS on March 20, and Crawford says the union will enable him to achieve a 30 percent annual compounded growth rate over the next several years. MAXIMUS will fund Crawford’s long-term growth, but Key will continue to take care of his routine banking operations, he says.

Having run the purchase agreement by his own accountants, Akron-based Brockman Coats Gedelian & Co., and lawyers Thompson Hine & Flory LLP in Cleveland, Crawford says it was clear that Vallorz negotiated the best terms on his behalf.

“All my objectives were met and Ernie did a great job for me,” he says. “Without Key, it wouldn’t have gotten to this point.”

How to reach: Crawford Consulting, (330) 497-0033; KeyBank Canton, (330) 430-7608; Key Business Advisory, Services (216) 689-4467