Tech Systems goes ESOP route

No private equity or strategic buyer for Tech Systems
Wednesday, October 29, 2014

ATLANTA—Darryl Keeler, CEO of Tech Systems, announced this week that his privately held company will transition to an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP). The process will take a while, but ultimately Tech Systems employees will have full ownership of the systems integration company, a PSA Security owner which is based here.

“When you talk to ESOP experts and look at all of the historical data, you see that these companies tend to be more profitable and retain employees and clients much longer [than other companies],” Keeler said.

With the way the ESOP is structured Keeler will be able to transition into retirement over the next 10 to 15 years, which he said will ensure that the company’s culture and FOCUS support services program continue to thrive.

“I’m going to finance the whole thing myself. This will take a little longer to do, but it will allow the company to continue to grow and prosper,” he said.

While private equity buyers and large national companies have come knocking on Tech Systems’ door “many, many times” over the years, Keeler told Security Systems News that he had no interest in going that route.  

“I’ve always said [the exit strategy I choose] would have to be good for the employees, the clients and for me,” Keeler said. Considering private equity or acquisition offers, “I could always get two out of those three to work, but never all three,” he said.

Keeler said the private equity buyout or strategic buyer acquisition is rarely successful from his point of view. “Typically the guy who’s selling is undercapitalized and doesn’t have a choice. [Once the acquisition is finalized] the entrepreneurial spirit of the company is gone because it’s being run by the numbers,” he said.

His company is “100 percent customer-satisfaction driven. … Most companies try and protect the company at all costs; we protect the client at all costs, and the [profits and] and the rest take care of itself,” he said.

The ESOP will enhance his employees’ sense of ownership, which Keeler said is already embedded in the company culture. “It will also offer another avenue to retirement [savings] with a huge part of it being tax deferred or tax free,” he said.

Will all employees regardless of payscale be able to participate in the ESOP? Keeler says yes. “That’s a key point. Our ESOP will be based more on seniority than on salary,” he said.