Teddi Ritchie liked her job and she liked the company she worked for. She never dreamed that one day she would own it. But when the owners of Semiconductor Circuits Inc. (SCI) planned to close down the electronics manufacturing plant where she had worked for 21 years, Teddi set out to do just that. "I had two choices," she recalls. "I could either look for gainful employment elsewhere, or go through the system and try to buy the company. We had good people, good products, and our customers liked us. If there was ever a place worth saving, this was it."
“I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life asking ‘what if.’ I believed in myself and in the ability of my fellow employees to make this dream succeed. But I couldn’t have done it without the help of Shep Bartlett and SCORE.” says Teddi Richie.
Making the leap from materials manager to business owner would not be easy. Teddi's experience was in purchasing, not finance, and preparing a business plan for such a huge purchase would require extensive information and up-front analysis. However, Teddi knew her company well. Although she would have to keep her plans confidential, she was eager to give it a try. But time was of the essence. SCI's current owners couldn't wait forever, and Teddi still had her "day job" to think about.
For several weeks, Teddi worked well into the wee hours of the morning developing the business plan that would ultimately save SCI. The formidable task became increasingly frustrating because many of her resources didn't always provide the right answers. About three-quarters of the way through, Teddi realized that she needed to talk to somebody. The question was: who? That’s when Teddi reached out to SCORE.
The first bank Teddi approached was intrigued by her plan, but suggested that she explore getting assistance from the state. Teddi eventually received a bank loan and state-backed financing from a local economic development authority. The deal was closed on a Friday in December 1998. The following Monday, Teddi walked into Semiconductor Circuits as the new owner and CEO.
Teddi's first steps were to make some long-overdue policy changes. She implemented flexible work schedules and production incentive programs, and encouraged more employee involvement in setting operations and management goals. These and other moves resulted in a more engaged workforce and a healthier balance sheet. SCI was projected to make $2.5 million during Ritchie's first year of ownership. After the first nine months, the company was on track to earn $4.2 million, with the promise of even better times to come. Semiconductor Circuits also added five new employees to its payroll in the month's following Ritchie's purchase.
"We're achieving these wonderful results because we're focusing on the business," Teddi explains. "The previous owner had pretty much given up on us because we amounted to only 1 percent of a billion-dollar company. By being more flexible, our employees are motivated to do their best work, which allows us to produce a better product. Now, our old owners are one of our customers."
While scanning the Internet for help, Teddi discovered the U.S. Small Business Administration's (SBA) Web site, which in turn led her to SCORE's homepage. She contacted the local chapter and within a few days received a call from Shep Bartlett, a former owner of a furniture business. Shep met Teddi at the local library and reviewed the still-evolving business plan. "Shep was just the person I'd been looking for," Teddi says. "He understood my objectives and answered all my questions, making sure I understood each topic before we moved on to the next area. With his help, I was ready to present my business plan to the banks."
Teddi doesn't plan to rest on her laurels. She still meets regularly with Shep to discuss business opportunities and ways to keep SCI growing. "He's a great advisor and a wonderful person," she says.