Peter Voss, a CPA with degrees in physics and economics, had a varied career in audit and industry before deciding he wanted to own and operate his own business. As CFO of a public company in Waterloo, he was doing M&As, scouting out high-tech companies, rightsizing, and integrating them into existing operations. “I spent a lot of time helping others become successful, and I wanted to do the same for myself.”
In 2011, Voss found and acquired 25-year-old Markham-based Shimco, a manufacturer of precision-machined parts for a range of industries that had been stalled with no growth for the previous decade. “It was owned by a divorced couple looking to retire. He had his set of customers and she had hers. There were very poor controls in place with respect to visibility of what was being done, a poor ERP system, and a scheduling system that was more organized chaos than anything else, with 400 work orders on the floor at one time,” says Voss. “At that time, 60% of their business was focused on the aerospace industry and the rest was everything else. They were trying to be all things to all people and would disrupt scheduled production to serve walk-in customers. There was no concept around priority. The result: the business had stagnated for about 10 years. The owners were just riding it out.”
Still, Voss saw big potential. Shimco could begin generating predictable revenues by becoming more strategic and building its aerospace client base by focusing on tier one and OEMs in the sector. He spent the first month observing and absorbing how things worked in different departments, learning the flow of work, and getting to know the people. He also dug into the financials, identifying where money was being spent and implementing controls, including levels of authorization that spelled out who could spend what.
“I wanted to make the company process dependent, people independent, and that’s still what we do. We’ve become more automated to become more efficient. We’ve improved procedures and training to prevent mistakes and helped build accountability into how we operate.”
Perhaps most importantly, he focused on culture, moving away from the command-and-control management system to an environment supported by five key values: safety, honesty, integrity, respect, and cooperation. “These are the five values we live by. I implemented quarterly bonuses to recognize people who were contributing, going above and beyond, showing the values of the company. The people we hire today have to fit into that value system.”
The impact of Voss’s strategy: Ninety-four percent of his company’s client base is now from the aerospace sector, sales have doubled in the past four years, and Shimco is in growth mode. Voss will be travelling to India to attend a trade show and to scout out potential locations for a second plant.