G&W and Lynx: Epitomizing Teamwork & Evolution

January 6, 2022

“You have to fly the airplane and build it at the same time,” commented Steve Woodman, President of G&W Commercial Interiors (the “Company” or “G&W”). In a service-based business environment, constant evolution is prevalent. During the Fall of 2021, we had the pleasure of sitting down with Steve to discuss life at G&W four and a half years after its acquisition, the obstacles encountered and the opportunities gained, and how the Company’s legacy remains after becoming part of the Lynx family.

Meeting Lynx

Like many former business owners who are part of the Lynx portfolio, Steve’s goal of selling G&W was related to implementing a succession strategy. Steve approached Lynx after hearing of the successful acquisition of Floor Solutions from Rob Siegenthaler. “I got in contact with him and he said favourable things, so I contacted Lynx as part of a succession strategy,” recalled Steve. Steve explained that the acquisition process was “fast and direct, after the first call that I made in December [2016], we were closed on June 17, 2017.”

Prior to meeting with Lynx, Steve had a clear vision for the Company, which as he described, enabled a “cordial and friendly [initial] discussion” with Lynx. “Much to my liking, the initial negotiations involved unemotional math. Lynx has a formula as to what they’ll pay and how they’ll pay; I love the saying ‘you tell me the price and I’ll tell you the terms’. I think that’s a Brad Nathan-ism and it’s one that makes me chuckle, but it sure makes sense,” explained Steve. This directness, transparency, and honesty set the tone for the partnership between G&W and Lynx.

Business as Usual

One of the most critical promises that the Lynx team makes when engaging in a potential deal with a business owner is to maintain the Company culture and many of the organization’s usual operations. For G&W, this promise was carried out thoughtfully and consistently. Steve shared that on the Lynx team, “Steve (Grosfield), Eric, Mujtaba, and Shelley Barragan (Chief Account Officer for Lynx’s Flooring Portfolio) have asked great questions and I’ve enjoyed my interactions with them; I think we’re a better company and I’m a better leader because of our collaborations. I view them as a board of directors, which I think every company leader should have.”

An important part of G&W’s culture is constant evolution; the Company has been able to grow substantially over the last two decades, including the period since its acquisition. “We’ve continued to evolve pretty significantly over the last five years, and as a result, we’re a larger company that is driven by customers more than ourselves,” commented Steve. “Outside of that, it’s business as usual. I’d say that Lynx hasn’t changed us outside of this context.”

A Culture of Constant Evolution

The analogy of flying an airplane and building it simultaneously is one that rings very true for G&W. The Company was founded in 2000, around the same time as the dotcom bubble burst – which had a strong impact in Seattle. During that time, business offices would be empty and all that was left were “half-full cups of coffee and rotting donuts in the breakroom because someone came in one day and said, ‘you’re all fired, we’re not a real company,’” recalled Steve. Although this initially presented critical challenges, the Company’s focus on their clients in the healthcare and tech industries ultimately created some significant business opportunities for G&W.

“Our clients, particularly the general contractors and healthcare systems, have become increasingly and exponentially sophisticated with significantly higher expectations of us,” explained Steve. “G&W must stay up to date to continue attracting and retaining the best and the brightest talent. We must continue to embrace technology to maximize efficiency and service. We may be an old economy business, but we have jobs of the future. Our customers used to be $250 million local businesses whereas now, some are coming up to $1 billion and are part of a regional or national footprint. These larger businesses are embracing technology, which we must do as well.” Steve also admitted that the Company “is seeing the confrontation between an old-school, old-economy industry that is populated by old-school, old-economy people interfacing with this new reality. This is very challenging.”

The ability to recognize the evolutionary changes in G&W’s industry is incredibly important, as is the way in which the Company has maintained its relevance and success throughout the past two decades. Additionally, like all companies, G&W had to determine how to pivot and succeed amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

Overcoming Obstacles

“Our revenue was hurt in the previous fiscal year and it was very challenging,” commented Steve. “We had a core group of people who really banded together and took care of each other and took care of the active customers. People have changed because of the pandemic but the [Company’s] values haven’t.” The COVID-19 pandemic has been a tragedy experienced by all. From a business perspective, G&W was figuring out how to take care of the customers while also taking care of its people.

A trend that was discussed throughout the last two years was the “Great Resignation,” a phenomenon wherein a record number of employees across many industries were expected to and did resign from their jobs to fulfill their passions, return to school, or take on a new professional role. Although the rate of resignations was low at G&W, a small handful of employees changed their careers over the last year and a half. “During the pandemic, [employees] worked remotely and earned a living and finally said, ‘COVID looks like it’s getting better, I’m going to pursue my dream’ and I wasn’t going to argue with that. Another employee began pursuing her master’s and began to work part-time for us,” recalled Steve. The encouragement exhibited by Steve towards his now former and part-time employees is representative of the growth and evolution strived for by the Company.

Prior to the pandemic, there had already been a few employees working remotely at the Company. As a result, G&W was equipped and prepared to scale that to a larger degree. In fact, as employees began returning to the G&W office, an opportunity to hire remote employees came about. “A lesson learned is that by having the ability to support remote work, we’ve been able to access a talent pool that was not previously available to us. We’ve learned something incredibly valuable, and have a stronger team today because of it,” commented Steve.

Throughout Steve’s career, he recognized that “there’s always a looming disaster. There’s always the next recession. We’ve learned to expect the next disaster, do what we can to prepare for a world full of disasters with economic challenges, and not get emotionally distraught or panic when we’re hit.” This perspective has allowed Steve to be a resilient leader, which has positively affected the culture at G&W.

Looking Forward

Although the pandemic remains prevalent, “from a financial standpoint, we’re having a very strong first half in the current fiscal year,” noted Steve. “Our financial results for the prior fiscal year were also stronger than we expected.” This financial success is a silver lining for G&W and it provides tangible proof of the hard work and commitment exhibited by the Company and its people.

Prior to establishing G&W, Steve was employed at a company that was part of a failed acquisition by a major manufacturer. While painful, this experience equipped Steve with the ability to differentiate between good acquisitions and bad ones. “Looking back with the benefit of hindsight, [the acquisition] was very good for all the stakeholders of G&W,” commented Steve. “Finding a Lynx isn’t easy, in my opinion. A seller should generally feel pretty fortunate to find Lynx if their goal is to stay with the organization, take care of the employees, get their money out in a reasonable amount of time and with a reasonable amount of risk; and if they’re compatible, to hang around. I never for one minute expected to still be working at G&W. Much to my surprise, I am because I enjoy the people at Lynx, the people I work with, and our customers.”

Steve shared that he does not plan to be with the Company in the years to come so his goal is to “ensure that the culture and values remain, the ability to evolve maintains, and that we attract and retain the best people.” G&W has been an excellent example of how a company owned by Lynx can perform and succeed with minimal interference and maximum support. We are honoured to have G&W as part of the Lynx family.