IN THE introduction, we said Electro-Flow Controls ranked among those companies that quietly go about their business and are self-financed. It turns out that, so far, this firm has kept away from takeovers too.
Wheeler: “We’ve made no acquisitions, had no third-party investments or anything at all like that. This is the same wholly owned company that I started up in 1988, and Ted became a part-owner a few years later.”
So why not go take someone over, especially since the company is apparently prospering, with three to four very good years worth of financial fat built up?
“We sometimes think of doing this. But we don’t want to bite off something that we can’t chew.”
As things stand, Wheeler and Littlechild have total control of the company, they don’t carry debt, they have a strong balance sheet, and are chary about letting the moneymen in to play.
“It is fair to say that we have discussed things with people but, by the same token, we got here partly as a result of being bloody-minded and independent,” said Wheeler.
“We might not fit with the committee environment where you have non-execs from a third-party financier on our board.”
That said, Wheeler indicated that he recognised the need for the founders of a company to recognise their personal limitations and that, if a firm is really going to take off and become a large company at some point down the line, it may need an almost “complete change of management style”.
“Meantime, the company is now 21. We’re having our best year yet and have the best order book ever.”