Real-Life Treks

An hourly employee in the General Electric Steam Turbine Manufacturing Facility wanted to acquire a Bass Pro Shop franchise and become a small business owner. Tom Irwin, also an employee of General Electric at that time, was grateful for his own education and professional training and eager to "give back." He agreed to help the man even though he knew the employee had no money. Tom developed a marketing and financial plan and applied for a Small Business Administration loan. When the loan was approved, the man gave Tom his thanks. And for compensation…a rod and reel!

A large advertising agency in Austin, Texas, decided to close the Houston and Dallas offices and bring the creative talent back to headquarters. The people in Dallas hired Tom Irwin to help them form a new agency so they could keep their established clients. He encouraged them to get their clients' commitment to continue doing business and to convince others to become part of the new company. Tom assisted them in finding office space and obtaining bank financing. The new company became one of the largest advertising agencies in the Southwest.

A company that kept sloppy accounting records suddenly realized it would soon be difficult to maintain business and keep employees. The owner wanted to sell his business and to liquidate debt without having to file for bankruptcy. Tom Irwin found a buyer that could integrate the company's clients into its existing client base. He negotiated a performance-based royalty on future business brought forward or acquired. Tom acted as a third-party liquidator, met with individual vendors, and used part of the future royalty payout and "new business for old debt" to reduce creditor debt. Tom helped his client avoid litigation and maintain goodwill with vendors.

A 30-million-dollar service business interested in acquiring a particular company hired Tom to conduct due diligence, negotiate a letter of intent, and seek bank approval. But the bank officer nixed the transaction and told the acquiring company that it couldn't dilute its equity. The company wishing to be acquired then turned around and hired Tom. He located a buyer, arranged the sale, and worked for a year with the acquiring company to establish a new accounting system and new business program, and to resolve vendor debt.

An up-and-coming advertising executive wanted to acquire his own agency so he could implement his ideas for clients who hinted at using his services if he had his own business. On behalf of the account executive at a small ad agency, Tom Irwin located a mature company that needed an exit plan. He and his client convinced management that the young executive would secure new business and continue to grow the company. They also ensured that key employees would remain committed to providing high quality services. Tom persuaded the older agency to sell. He negotiated the letter of intent, conducted due diligence, and drafted the asset purchase and employment contracts. Five years later, the account executive-turned-owner continues to work with Tom and has acquired other companies.

A creative boutique was undercapitalized and lost several accounts because key employees left the company and took existing clients. The company needed to hire new talent and reinvent its client base. Tom Irwin advised the owner to lease refurbished Macintosh equipment, hire a promising computer graphics designer, and develop a cutting-edge laptop presentation. He met with the company's former clients and solicited their opinions about the agency's new business approach. Many clients rehired the creative boutique and referred new accounts. The agency stabilized. Eventually a group bought the company for its cutting-edge capabilities.

A dead-in-the-water service-based company had no leads, no network, and no new-business program. Tom advised this client about what business the company could legitimately compete for and how to develop a database of likely prospects. He also convinced his client to hire a proven professional to represent the company. Within six months, the company acquired more than $800,000 in new business and created a pipeline of future opportunities.

A respected advertising executive in his 60s owned a thriving company, but wanted to retire. He needed an exit strategy. found a company that would pay "fair value" for the agency, integrate the clients into its own base, and assimilate the employees. He negotiated a buyout, performed due diligence, and worked with attorneys to resolve conflicts. Tom arranged an agreement that allowed the advertising executive to work for two more years and then receive a five-year gross income royalty after retirement. The value of the deal was in excess of a million dollars, with $200,000 paid up front.

A mature engineering firm, dependent on selling specialized computer-based solutions, had deteriorating sales and a staff of young engineers who did not regard themselves as "salespeople." When Tom was hired, he facilitated a strategic planning session and helped the company execute steps to grow sales and develop a selling staff. The key was to change perceptions: the staff had to think of themselves not as engineers, but as "engineering consultants." Positive company support motivated the staff to prospect for new business and consult with existing clients. But management did not continue to endorse the plan and soon the old behavior took hold, resulting again in poor sales, dissatisfied clients, and employee resignations. Success only happens when companies are committed to change the way they do business and to follow through.