In 1990, traffic and transportation industry veteran Marsha Anderson Bomar had a vision of a transportation and civil engineering company, as well as how to grow it. By 2002, her concept – Street Smarts – boasted 45 employees in Duluth. “It was obvious that the concept was here to stay, so we sought to create a structure and environment that would allow the company to thrive,” recalled Bomar. “A major part of our strategic plan – beyond building a sound financial model – was that in no more than 10 years, I would no longer be President and CEO of the company. We made that announcement to employees and began to plan for the transition, which included estimating the value of the company.” Over time, those 45 employees grew to 120 and one office grew to four – the original in Georgia, with others in Virginia, Texas and Florida. Street Smarts’ books also grew – to the tune of $17-18 million per year. As they went about the business of doing business, Bomar and a core group of team members never lost sight of how the next phase might appear. Some staff members made a pitch to buy Bomar out, but that plan was not deemed financially sound – for the company or for its employees. “Plan B” involved a collective decision to look at an outside sale. Having been in the transportation industry since 1972, Bomar had cultivated a large national network. She looked first to her extensive contact list in order to develop a short list of just six companies to contact about the possibility of an acquisition. “Money was not the most important thing,” explained Bomar. “What was important to me were the opportunities an acquisition would bring to my staff and what my company might look like following the transition. The first two companies were eliminated right away because they didn’t value my people, and the next two were knocked out of the running because they wanted to splice up everything that we’d built. So there were just two companies on the final list, and it became apparent that Stantec was the natural choice.” In 2010, Stantec, Inc. was an international company that boasted 9,000 total employees, 700 of whom were in transportation. Bomar was particularly attracted to the fact that there were lots of opportunities for growth for her staff. While considering the acquisition, she spoke with Stantec employees to understand the consistency between what they say and what was true with regard to the corporate culture. Due to an overwhelmingly positive response, Bomar felt that Street Smarts and Stantec would prove a good cultural match. After spending months doing her due diligence, the deal was closed in October 2010. Bomar now serves as a Senior Principal in Stantec’s Transportation Sector. A few words of advice from Marsha Anderson Bomar to firms considering a similar transition: Know What Is Important to You: This could be money, relationships at the other company or the growth of your people – have a clear vision and stick to it. Broaden Your Circle: Networking is an excellent tool for expanding your circle of influence, and it also helps you determine where you fit in. Maximize Your Value: Get financials as strong and clear as you can. Circle the Wagons: Pick a handful of people who are critical to your success – keep them informed and make sure they’re onboard with the transition. Bring an Educated Set of “Eyes” into the Process: People in smaller organizations may not be as well-versed in the process and larger organizations could take advantage of that fact. An attorney or CPA experienced in these matters could be of great help. Be Discerning About Who You Bring to the Table: It’s true what they say about “one bad apple.”
Published by American Council of Engineering Companies of Georgia. View All Articles.
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