BUSINESS GROWTH: HME, Inc.
Growth and expansion are part of the company culture at HME, Inc. Jon Haas, president of HME, had previously undergone expansion of the company by opening a new division, HME Metal Sales, that offers made-to-order metal products. In addition, Haas created Peak to Peak Engineered Railings, a start-up business that specializes in fabrication of metal railings.
However, Haas isn’t one to sit back and get comfortable with the status quo.
“Growth is looking at an opportunity and seizing it,” Haas said. “You never succeed on an opportunity you don’t take.”
Opportunity came knocking last year when the Topeka Foundry & Iron Works, one of the oldest businesses in the capital city, approached HME about buying the 140-year-old company.
Haas says the decision to purchase the Topeka Foundry was based on numerous factors, but in many ways it made more sense than starting a new business. Because the Topeka Foundry already had an existing workforce, operating equipment, customer base and cash flow, most of the costs associated with a start-up business were avoided.
“When you buy an existing company, you save money by not only buying used equipment,” Haas said, “but also because it is already operational and personnel already know how to use it.”
For HME, adding the Topeka Foundry under its umbrella means the addition of a machine shop whose main customer is Goodyear, a structural shop similar to HME but on a smaller scale, and a door and hardware shop that provides frames and hardware for metal doors. This acquisition allows HME to diversify into more areas within its core steel industry, without adding much to administrative costs.
“I saw this as an opportunity to purchase a company with an existing workforce of skilled technicians who can continue on the tradition of building products that stand through time,” Haas said. “It’s something to be proud of.”
As with any type of growth, sometimes businesses can experience growing pains. Haas admits that it hasn’t all been smooth sailing. While the acquisition brought two metal fabrication companies together, a difference in corporate culture and human resources policies such as vacation accrual, health insurance and retirement benefits created a chasm that had to be bridged. Even matters as simple as software updates and equipment maintenance have created some bumps along the way. Haas recommends any company considering expansion through acquisition do its due diligence to understand all of the underlying benefits and pitfalls.
Even after wading through some murky waters of acquisition, Haas says he will likely look at acquisition opportunities in the future because he wants to see industry grow in Topeka. Haas believes that, as a community, we need to build longstanding products.
“I want to build things,” Haas said. “Topeka needs manufacturing, and I hope to help the industry grow.”