Tom Smith is someone you want to know if you are manufacturing ANYTHING. He typically returns 1,000 to 10,000% on his compensation in increased contribution margin. So payback is typically under a month! He is currently Managing Director of Focused Solutions Group, a consultancy dedicated to improving operations at manufacturing and distribution companies.
His experience ranges from R&D and product development to strategic planning and everything in between, across all industries, products, and company sizes. He enjoys mentoring others but also gets into the details when needed. He is responsible for over $500 million in sales for all kinds of products for which he developed the products and initiated/negotiated early sales.
Tom received his BS in Chemical Engineering from NCE/NJIT at night. He first received training at large companies as a Process Engineer at Colloids (now Rhodia, dispersants, defoamers, sizing and surfactants) and a Project Manager at Engelhard (BASF, precious metal based products). His broad industry experience was gained here, as well as his design, contract negotiation and project management skills.
He then became part of a small private equity transaction where he, a partner, and an outside equity investor did a leveraged buyout of CSM Systems, a Nasdaq company based in Brooklyn that made air-handling capital equipment. They bought out the senior management team in the process who together held a majority interest. As per SEC requirements, the buyout team needed to gain approval of the majority of the minority investors in order to proceed. Tom became Executive VP and COO, responsible for building an engineering department (from scratch), developing lines of engineered products and service offerings, and managing production. The company reached the top 100 of the Crain’s 500. The company grew profitably until Tom was bought out by his partner 10 years later. Tom improved productivity and product offerings so much that we tripled sales, lowered prices 20%, increased profit margins 10%, reduced lead times 25%, and improved safety and quality with 30% less total employment than before we started these improvements. Today the company is smaller and specializes primarily in engineering sales and service, but no manufacturing.
During this time, Cheryl (Tom’s wife) and Tom bought a franchise business, Decorating Den Interiors, for Cheryl to operate as the active Interior Decorator, with Tom providing minor accounting support. They continue to operate that business today. Cheryl is quite a successful Interior Decorator and one of the leaders of the over 600 national franchises.
After CSM Systems, Tom started his consulting firm, Focused Solutions Group. As he worked with different clients, he made a private placement Angel investment in another Nasdaq firm, WaterChef, where he helped improve operations and designed and developed a novel water purification system and received a second patent for that. Once the stock restrictions were lifted, Tom sold his shares at a significant profit.
Tom continued to do consulting work for private, public, family-owned, and private-equity-held companies. In hindsight, he made a bad decision in allowing one of his customers to hire him full time. He became VP Finance and Ventures (CFO) of Voltaix, a company making semiconductor gases. It was quite interesting work and the company is now quite successful in part because of that work, but it was always intended to be over when the various projects were over (ISO, ERP.MRP, etc). Tom now feels it was a bad decision because there was no consulting practice business after that.
As he planned his next move, he decided that he should acquire a small business and improve it himself. After evaluating over 50 candidates he acquired ZEB Manufacturing, a company making industrial staples. The previous owner retired. Tom lowered breakeven by over 50% and improved product offerings, productivity, and profitability. However, he was no match for the housing crash resulting in a severe step-change drop in bookings after Lehman Bros failed, and he sold out to a competitor 6 months later. There’s a whole other story there…
So, having kept the consulting firm alive, he has been back doing that, helping all kind of manufacturing and distribution companies improve their operations.