Accelerating growth through private equity

Accelerating growth through private equity

In September 2020, Schill Grounds Management received a controlling investment from Argonne Capital Group. Since then, the company has rapidly grown through multiple acquisitions. While bringing in an outsider to the more than two-decades old business was an adjustment, it’s something founder and CEO Jerry Schill prepared himself for.

“This is something that I really took the time to think through and was very thoughtful about what I wanted to do,” Schill says. “It’s our brand that is the platform that we’ve taken to market over the last 18 months. So, I knew what I was getting into because I took a lot of time to really think through the dynamics.”

He says he spent a lot of time getting to know Argonne Capital and their growth strategy and what they wanted to accomplish. Still, he describes the process as very personal, one that comes with a wide range of emotions.

“You get really excited about the opportunity and the prospect of being able to take this business that you created right here in the Cleveland market and really expanded it nationally, which is what we’re currently doing, to the fear maybe giving up some control,” he says.

Schill had done some acquisitions prior to connecting with Argonne. Those, he says, he’d characterize as small tuck-ins with local companies to acquire employees and a book a business. But with the partnership with Argonne secured, he says the business is able to do much more.

“My original thought process when we started looking at bringing private equity on, my original thesis was to connect Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati, and then be able to backfill with smaller tuck-in-type acquisitions — the average landscaping business nationally right now is under $1 million (and) less than 10 employees,” he says. “It’s highly fragmented, but there’s a lot of great owner/operator run businesses out there.”

He says many of the owner/operators, especially in the regional or local markets, are folks that are aging out and don’t really have a specific exit strategy or a succession plan in place. With Schill’s involvement, he believes it creates an opportunity.

“We have really good relationships and the ability to go in and meet with a lot of these other contractors and really share the story and some of the things that we’re trying to accomplish,” he says. “It’s a really special opportunity for a lot of folks that are looking for an opportunity to retire.”

Schill spoke on the Smart Business Dealmakers Podcast about the company’s deal with Argonne and how it will help accelerate the business’s growth. Hit play to catch the full interview.

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