National Auto Care (NAC) is the latest company in the industry to make the move from private ownership to being wholly owned by an investment company. Earlier this month, NAC announced that it had been acquired by Trivest Partners.
P&A Magazine sat down with Christina Schrank, President of NAC, to find out more on how the deal was structured and what this means for NAC’s future. In the short term, she noted, it’s “business as usual.” The daily operations, she said, will remain unchanged, with the day-to-day running of the company remaining in the hands of NAC’s current management team.
Trivest owns companies in a wide range of markets, although this is the first time it has entered into the automotive industry. Schrank noted that before they went through with the deal, they spoke to some of the other companies in Trivest’s portfolio, and found that they were the type of owner who didn’t want to be involved in the daily operations. “They don’t want to come in and run it,” Schrank said.
What they do provide is advice and resources to grow the company. In time, they will then sell NAC to another firm when they feel it’s profitable. The general time frame is probably 5-7 years, Schrank noted, but if NAC does exceptionally well, they could be sold in as few as two years. Or, she pointed out, Trivest has held on to some companies in its portfolio for 12 years or more. They aren’t looking to simply cash out quickly, but rather, she said, to be a partner and take NAC to places it just didn’t have the resources to obtain previously. Trivest now owns 100% of the stock, however, so when and to whom they sell is now up to them. “At the end of the day it’s their choice as to what happens and when,” Schrank said. “There are a number of options. They will look at any and all offers at that time [they’re ready to sell] and do what’s best for the company.”
In the longer term, she said, there are a few advantages NAC now has. “Key to me is that we now have the ability to take a little more risk, or do things that might cost a little more,” Schrank said. She went on to note that, under private ownership, NAC had to be conservative. They had to make decisions about investments of their time and money based on what they believed would provide a fairly quick return – they couldn’t afford to have their capital tied up in one project for an extended period of time. Now, she said, Trivest plans to give them the resources they need to achieve their goals. This, she hopes, will mean rapid growth for NAC moving forward.
Even given the benefits, NAC wasn’t originally looking to sell. Trivest found them because someone presented the company to them, and they then courted the NAC ownership – Pete Biscardi and Bill Speaks, who had bought the company from its founder, Paul Aselin, in 2009. Biscardi and Speaks will remain on the Board of Directors, but, Schrank noted, they had already begun pulling back – she was named president last year to take over the responsibility of daily operations from Biscardi and Speaks. “Part of moving me into my position is that they both want to spend more time away, but at the same time they aren’t looking to jump ship,” she said. “They’ll stay on for at least two years, and potentially longer, and be there as a resource for the company, as well as to potentially peruse more strategic partnerships.”
Biscardi, she said, is thinking more like a marketer than an owner already, looking for ways to expand NAC’s reach. “We had been talking for several months that they wanted to spend more time away, Schrank noted. “At the time, we didn’t know about Trivest, or had conversations about selling the company. One doesn’t have anything to do with the other, but it was a good transition to happen prior to the sale.”
In the next 12 months, Schrank sees several key growth areas. First and foremost, she wants to expand. She sees the company expanding its product lines, and offering a wider range of options. Service contracts will always be one of their most important products, she noted, but GAP, for example, is one of the first products she would like to see NAC add to their lineup. She also sees them reinforcing some of the territories where they don’t have strong agency partners today, and adding sales people in those markets to help expand the portfolio overall.
“We’re very excited about it – this is a tremendous opportunity,” Schrank said. “We have a great team and a great story to tell; this will allow us to get a little more aggressive and compete with some of the big boys. We haven’t scratched the surface, so this will give us what we need to kick-start 2013.”