Taking Charge as a Young Gun

Buying a business is never easy—especially when you’re only 29. But Jeremy Matosky of Trudell Consulting Engineers did it, thanks to the help of his mentor and a great friend

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“When John and I were negotiating the deal with Dick, I would prepare a binder showing what I thought the company as worth, and Dick would do the same. We went back and forth like that for years. Finally, I brought in an accountant who basically said, ‘This is all Jeremy can pay for the company.’ He helped me convince Dick that our approach was the one that would work the best. Dick agreed, and that was it.”

When Jeremy Matosky interviewed with Trudell Consulting Engineers in 1999, he thought he was looking for a job. Instead, owner Dick Trudell suggested that he buy the company. “I was 29 and just four years out of college, and I couldn’t imagine buying and running a business at that point in my life,” Matosky says. As improbable as the idea was, when he looks back, Matosky can see that Trudell had a great vision. Profile caught up with Matosky, who today serves as the company’s president, to explore how his relationship with Trudell and his business partner, John Pitrowiski, have helped him take on a successful company.

Dick knew what he was doing. He started the company in 1975, and by the time I was hired, he had nine employees. But I think he was looking to bring in some new blood. At the same time, he was beginning to think about an ownership transition. I fulfilled both requirements.

I accepted an engineering position and began learning the ropes. I knew that buying the business would take a lot of work. I had to get my professional engineer’s license, learn how to run a business, and convince clients and staff that a younger person could be respected as much as Dick.

I also had to figure out a way to buy a company valued at more than $1 million. Ultimately, I teamed up with another Trudell engineer, John Pitrowiski, who had been with the firm since 1983 and also had aspirations to buy the firm. Together, we began
planning a buyout, which I never could have done alone. Dick was a great mentor, and John was one of the best partners a guy could ever ask for. His ability to drive sales complemented my growing skills on the operations side.

In 2004, there was a setback. John decided not to be a part of the buyout due to personal issues. I realized I needed help, so I hired an accountant to determine the company’s valuation and develop an acquisition plan. Ultimately, I formed my own company to buy Trudell’s assets, using expected revenues as a basis for the purchase price. I went to the bank and leveraged everything I had, but I still didn’t have enough. So, Dick was generous enough to supplement it with a loan of his own, and we were off to the races.

For the first three years after the deal closed, everything went great. Dick stayed on as a senior engineer, and John agreed to be my vice president and de facto partner in all respects, both of which were absolutely essential to a smooth transition. Together, we invested in better servers, computer equipment, and software, which helped the company perform well from 2005 through 2007.

In 2008, however, the housing-market meltdown hit the engineering business hard. Sales didn’t falter too much, but collections did. The business survived, I think, because of the money we invested in technology and dedicated employees, many of whom had been with the company since its earliest days. Today, the company has more than recovered, with 23 employees and an estimated 2012 revenue of $2.5 million (versus 16 employees and $1.7 million of revenue in 2005). I’ve been blessed by the opportunity Dick gave me.

In 2011, I was brave enough to try it again. I bought a small engineering firm, Engineered Solutions. The company had a contract to do a significant amount of work for the rapid expansions occurring at Vermont’s Jay Peak Ski Resort but didn’t have the capacity, so president Jeff Padgett decided he’d merge with a local firm and phoned me. The influx of Padgett and his staff has been a tremendous asset to Trudell. It has allowed us to improve our image and the way we do business, and Jay Peak Ski Resort work now makes up around 25 percent of our business.

Fortunately, this deal went smoother than the first. My first deal took me five years; the second one took five months. It was all possible because of the opportunity and knowledge Dick gave me. I could not have done this without him, and am so grateful for what he did for me.