Curt Serviss was a principal and manager of the Helena branch of Olympus Environmental Inc., a Washington state-based environmental engineering consulting firm. But in 1998, Serviss and fellow principals Alan Stine and Michael Backe had to make some hard decisions. They sensed that the Olympus Environmental owner would soon shift his focus to markets closer to the company's western Washington headquarters, a move that would likely result in staff cuts in the less-visible branches. Rather than see a lot of good people lose their jobs, Curt, Alan and Michael decided to buy Olympus Environmental’s three Montana and Idaho offices and create a new company: Olympus Technical Services Inc.
"As principles and branch managers, we were familiar with how the offices operated," Curt explains. "It was the nitty-gritty of putting a company together that was new to us. We needed help with accounting, financing, legal issues, and insurance. We also wanted to establish an employee-ownership incentive program that would reward people who contributed to the company's growth."
The engineers discovered that it would take a host of consultants to provide all the business start-up skills and services they needed. But one resource stood out from the rest—SCORE. "We didn't want to deal with five or six different specialists," Curt says. "SCORE was the most comprehensive resource available. The more we learned about them, the more we felt they were the resource we were looking for."
As their business plan neared completion the prospective owners selected five financial institutions to work with. "Nobody turned us down," Curt says proudly. "Everybody complemented us on the plan's thoroughness and conservative projections. As a result, we were able to secure a very competitive operations funding package."
The purchase became official on January 1, 1999. Today, Olympus Technical Services provides a wide range of environmental design, remediation and response services to the Rocky Mountain area. The company's first 12 months exceeded even the most optimistic expectations with sales topping $1.7 million. Olympus Technical Services also recently implemented its employee stock ownership program, giving each of the 16 full-time employees a stake in the company's success and future.
Curt says, “The advantage of SCORE is that it is a single entity that can draw on a lot of resources. Bob Russell could get input on any aspect of business that we needed. Having a single point of contact was a tremendous advantage because we had to take care of our ongoing management responsibilities while working on the purchase plans.”
Curt found the ideal mentor in Bob Russell, whose background in corporate finance and operations included experience on Wall Street and the management of several small businesses. With the help of Charles "Chick" Rollings, chairman of SCORE's Helena chapter, Russell helped Curt, Alan and Michael critique their acquisition and management strategy.
"Bob pulled no punches," Curt says of Bob, who provided "thought-provoking discussion" on financing, credit, purchase price/asset allocation, ownership/management issues, capital structure, employee ownership, and employee incentives. Russell and Rollings also reviewed the overall business plan and provided valuable input on the cash flow analysis, profit and loss statement, and balance sheet.
"Working with SCORE was a great decision," Curt says. "We bounced a lot of ideas off Bob and Chick, and received lots of good advice in return. We would not be where we are today without the support and guidance provided by SCORE."