Grow a business, sell it to a private equity firm, and sometimes an owner doesn’t love what happens next.
“I’d seen it happen in my previous life,” said Jud Pins, president of Creative Surfaces Inc. “We sold to private equity, and it was a disaster.”
Still, Creative Surfaces – which his parents, Ted and Bev, founded in 1988 and then transitioned to Pins’ ownership, was growing rapidly.
A manufacturer, distributor and installer of commercial casework, countertops and signage, the highly integrated company is a main provider nationally of signage and casework for the gaming, automotive, hospitality and fitness industries.
Creative Surfaces serves as a one-stop shop for its customers because it’s equipped to fulfill the needs of ongoing, multiscope projects that require the processing of wood, metal fabrication and electrical work. Clients include everyone from fast-growing Gold’s Gym to some of the largest Las Vegas casinos.
There also are storefronts in Sioux Falls: Cambria Gallery, which includes a full working kitchen and complete slabs of Cambria stone, and Creative Surfaces Countertops & Tile, a showroom for all counter material displays and in-home consultation.
“I wanted a different model of ownership,” Pins said. “As sole proprietor, you kind of just get tired of continually funding growth. All your chips are on the table every year.”
A fit came in the form of Toronto-based Lynx Equity Capital, which also has a U.S. division.
“They really should change their name because they’re not a traditional model of private equity,” Pins said. “I talked to several of the other owners Lynx had acquired, and they agreed they’re different.”
Instead of a traditional private equity approach of acquiring companies with the intent to resell them, Lynx buys primarily family-owned businesses and holds them.
“They have 55 companies, and they’ve only sold one, and they sold it to the previous owner who wanted it back,” said Pins, who continues to run the company with what he calls minimal involvement from Lynx.
“It is a pleasure to welcome Creative Surfaces Inc. to the ever-growing Lynx Family,” Andrea Natarelli, vice president of mergers and acquisitions at Lynx, said in a statement.
“This acquisition not only provides us with a foothold in a new geography, South Dakota, but it also further strengthens Lynx’s presence in the signage and cabinetry space. Over the years, Jud has built a strong organization with experienced management that competes in multiple industries, including the gaming sector across 15-plus states.”
In the first few months since the deal closed, there have been multiple benefits, Pins said, including allowing Creative Surfaces to streamline some internal administrative functions and synergies it has found with other Lynx companies.
“Flooring is a big deal for our clients in the fitness industry, and we get asked about it, and now we’re able to partner with a flooring company,” he said. “It’s the same with signage. They have a big exterior signage company that does exterior signs for Planet Fitness, for example. We don’t get into exterior works because we don’t have the manpower, so we’ve already shared contacts.”
There are 140 employees, mostly in Sioux Falls.
“I’ve been around this country, and this is the best workforce in the country,” Pins said. “It’s better in Sioux Falls than anywhere I’ve seen.”
Supporting continued workforce development is one reason Creative Surfaces is a longtime investor in Forward Sioux Falls.
“Trying to find people in a place with the lowest unemployment rate in the country isn’t easy,” Pins said. “But as a state and community, we’ve had some great successes lately. I think we have the best workforce we’ve ever had. We picked up quite a few people lately, and we’re seeing record numbers in terms of output.”
The story of Creative Surfaces is a classic Sioux Falls tale of success, said Bob Mundt, president and CEO of the Sioux Falls Development Foundation.
“Sioux Falls is built on family businesses like Creative Surfaces,” he said. “We’re thrilled the company found such a good fit in ownership to continue its growth that it includes local leadership and an ongoing commitment to doing business in Sioux Falls.”
Going forward, people spending more time in their homes bodes well for the company’s Cambria Gallery business, and its continued industry diversification supports more business-to-business activity.
“We’re also seeing with talk of interest rates coming down there’s multifamily activity that wasn’t here previously, so we’re seeing some opportunities to put shovels in the ground,” Pins said.
The Sioux Falls facility will be growing along with the company. While there was a recent 25,000-square-foot addition, “we thought it would last five years, and it didn’t last two,” Pins said. “So we’re looking at an addition because our casework, or custom cabinetry, division is growing so rapidly and possibly another facility in the southeast. The good thing is business is phenomenal. We can’t build fast enough.”
Forward Sioux Falls is a joint venture between the Greater Sioux Falls Chamber of Commerce and the Sioux Falls Development Foundation and is widely respected as the premier economic driver for the Sioux Falls region. To learn more and connect, click here.