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The acquisition expedition Featured

6:57am EDT June 29, 2005

Over the past 28 years, Gerald Stephens, secretary/treasurer of Worens Group Inc./Corporate Image Works, and his partner, Stafford Worely, have bought nearly 20 businesses.

"Our companies range from agricultural to promotional," Stephens says. "We sell things from the back end of tractors to bobbleheads."

Worens Group operates four divisions, each with its own product line, focusing on the agricultural market. In the early 1980s, Stephens and Worely moved production offshore, a difficult move but essential for long-term survival. After three years of revising all facets of Worens Group, sales are up 20 percent and profits have increased 10-fold.

The partners also acquired the struggling Corporate Image Works. So how does Stephens decide which companies to acquire? First, he considers if he can bring something to that business that's meaningful, and he looks at the customer base to see how reliable it is. And if he doesn't think he can turn a company around within 36 months, he doesn't buy it.

"How long do you want to work at something before you make a brand-new dollar? Some people will work five years, some people will work seven years," he says. "But if we can do it in three years, we'll take a strong look at it, and we've been very successful from that standpoint."

Stephens credits his success to the saying, "Live the plan."

"I've never gone out and intentionally forecasted a loss for a company. We generally forecast good profits, good cash flows and good earnings. If it's good enough for that, it's good enough to live, and we live that plan," he says.

HOW TO REACH: Worens Group Inc./Corporate Image Works, (330) 562-9330 or www.corporateimageworks.com