Will Coates, president and CEO of Billy Goat, says he had not been pursuing selling the company, even though he has received numerous requests over the years. That changed when Briggs & Stratton approached them last October.
“We were growing our brand and our culture and our dealer network. We were having so much fun and enjoying what we were doing and the people we were working with that it didn’t cross my mind to sell,” Coates says. “There are things that are very important to us. We take a lot of pride in our brand. We care deeply about our employees and wanted to make sure that anyone who was looking at buying Billy Goat would guarantee the employees jobs. We wanted to stay in the Kansas City metro area and keep the management team intact. Those are high standards to ask of anybody.”
Briggs met those requests and the sale finalized May 20. (Read more about the acquisition details.) Coates says they offer Briggs a healthy company, specialized products to complement its existing lines and an established and loyal customer base. Briggs offers them development and product testing expertise, resource to suppliers and new markets, including international markets — and engines. However, he says they won’t make a change in engines now. “We made it very clear that if we made that decision, we’d lose a bunch of customers,” he says, referring to the loyalty to the current products.
Coates says they now have the resources to significantly expand their lineup. “They will give us the fuel to take the company to the next level. We have a broad range of aeration products and we want to shore that up and make sure they continue to be valuable to dealers and customers. We now have more towable products and may contemplate riding products in the future,” Coates says.
He says Briggs recognizes the strength of the company and its relationship with its customers and dealer network. “Briggs made it very clear that in this acquisition, they were told to work on integration, but don’t screw it up. They know we have a really good company and a really good network,” Coates says.
Coates expects his role to be much the same. “Titles may change and I don’t care. I enjoy working with the people and leading the company. Briggs is a good fit for us from a culture standpoint. We won’t have a culture clash and differences in management styles,” he says.
Billy Goat had been exploring an additional manufacturing facility, but is holding on those plans. “We’re remaining exactly where we are in Lee’s Summit (Mo.) We will work together to figure out what capital improvements can be made to help these facilities. If they’re insufficient, we’ll find something else, but it will still be in the Kansas City area,” he says. “Briggs likes the work ethic of our people and where we’re located. We don’t have any feeling that they are intending to roll us into another facility.”
He says some administration functions will be handled by Briggs at their corporate offices and that’s good for Billy Goat. “That will free up resources internally to focus on our customer and build a better product,” Coates says.