In Good Hands

Finding the right buyer for your company can be time-consuming, but the wait was worth it for one Renfrew, Ont., business owner

Written by Frank Condron

Andy Dickson, Former Owner

Custom Printers of Renfrew Ltd.

Delegating the day-to-day control of a business can be a frightening prospect for an entrepreneur. But placing faith in veteran employees allowed Andy Dickson to pursue a new passion, and ultimately put him in a better position to sell.

Dickson acquired Ontario-based Custom Printers of Renfrew Ltd. in 1982 and, with his wife, grew the commercial printing operation from five to 25 staff.

Then, in 2000, with the company “chugging along profitably,” he decided to take a hiatus to get his MBA, leaving staff to handle things. “I had worked with many of them for at least five years, and the person I put in as GM had been with the company longer than I had,” he explains.

In 2003, with his degree completed and his business paying the bills, he and a partner opened a radio station in Renfrew via a new company called My Broadcast Corporation (MBC). By 2010, they had 13 stations across Ontario. Meanwhile, Custom Printers was “on autopilot,” says Dickson. “What it needed was a champion who would take the time to really drive sales and make it grow.”

So, Dickson put out feelers in the printing community for potential buyers. He rejected the first two because “all they wanted was to buy the book of business, sell the equipment and let go of all the staff.”

He eventually met Paul Valdstyn, owner of large-format printer IDP Group. Dickson felt confident in Valdstyn’s plan to keep Custom Printers intact and the sale was completed in April 2012.

Dickson is convinced that trusting his staff to run the company had made all the difference when it came time to sell: “Otherwise, you’re trying to sell a business that only has one real asset, and that asset is walking out the door.”

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