Before Geoff Kuzio became CEO and owner of Universal Transportation Systems (UTS), he spent most of his career years in large corporate settings, working on the executive level at both PepsiCo and Campbell Soup Company. But now, with Dino Lucarelli’s help, he is headed along a new path.
“It was on my 40th birthday that I decided to make a change and act on a lifelong desire to own and run my own company,” say Geoff, reflecting on his leap from the corporate ladder. Dino was referred to Geoff by a friend who had also bought a company with Dino’s support. They sat down together. They had a good rapport. They decided to work together for the following 18 months, when they closed the sale as a team and Geoff officially bought UTS.
Dino’s Two-Part Role: First, Opportunities
Geoff explains Dino’s role, “It was two-fold. He helped me find opportunities and he guided me through the financial process. He started in a consultative way. He asked me what businesses I was interested in, what size, my risk tolerance, how much I actually had to go out and put down on the business. From there, he helped me build a profile for the type of company that we’d go after. Then, he used his contacts to find opportunities.”
UTS company was not the first they considered. It was actually the third. But with Dino’s help, Geoff was able to decide between what worked and what didn’t.
What Made UTS the Perfect Fit?
“It was the combination of a number of things,” says Geoff. “First, it was the financials. They were strong from the beginning. We knew it could be scaled up and we believed there was growth opportunity here and profitability. Also, it was important for me to be a part of our community. This organization does a lot to help out. We are the largest provider of non-emergency medical transportation in southwest Ohio. We transport about 3,200 of the most vulnerable citizens across nine counties. Special education kids, adults with Medicaid, veterans and others.”
“A good fit is also about finding the right partners. I wanted to make sure that the people who previously owned the business would continue working with us. Any business you buy, it’s important to make sure that it’s a good personality fit with the current management and staff. One thing you can’t do, is walk in and say, ‘Ok, now it’s going to be my way.’ That can be absolute disaster.
Carolyn Burer, the former owner, has maintained her role as president while Geoff takes over. “We share an office so that I can literally sit next to her and learn from her on a daily basis. She’s in contract for at least a year so she can continue to run operations while I get a firm understanding on where we can go strategically in the future.”
Dino’s Two-Part Role: The Process & The Numbers
Once Geoff had decided that UTS was the right way to go, Dino helped him understand how buying a business works and guided him through the process. “While I had a lot of experience in marketing, logistics and sales and finance, he really understood how to put together the deal.”
“Dino really delivered on was a key understanding of the financials behind the business. That’s key because at the end of the day, getting a deal done can become a numbers game. You’re never going to get the support of the bank without being able to dig deep for a solid understanding of the financials.”
“A lot of mid sized companies don’t keep the books in a way that you would at a fortune 200 or fortune 500 company–that’s just the reality. He dug in to provide the thought leadership––and man power to collect all the data,” and analyze it properly. With Dino’s help, Geoff (and his bank) felt as confident as possible about the true value of UTS.
Geoff described Dino’s help after the sale as, “an ongoing relationship–not just a transaction. Dino gave me a healthy perspective on what I should expect. He also helped with the transition team. I brought in a CFO, a new tax account team, new lawyers. He helped me understand what I should do the first 60 to 90 days.” Months after the sale, Geoff and Dino still check in.
Geoff is still transitioning, but with so much choiceful thinking and strategic planning upfront, the business procurement is going as well as possible. “At this point, I’m really getting into understanding this business. There’s still a lot to learn, including fact finding, creating processes that will help us run smoothly and making some tweaks as we go along.”