SALT LAKE CITY – Stuart Eyring has worked at Orbit Irrigation Systems for 16 years.
Starting as executive vice president of marketing, he is currently the CEO of the company, which is a leading provider of irrigation systems and related products.
As a long-tenured executive, he had a front row seat when Platinum Equity acquired Orbit and Hydro Rain from the company’s founders in early 2019.
At the time of the announcement, Platinum Partner Jacob Kotzubei said: “With the addition of our financial, operational and M&A resources to support the company’s growth, Orbit is poised to take yet another significant step forward. There are opportunities to deploy operational best practices throughout the organization and leverage the company’s brand to drive additional growth in both core and adjacent markets.”
After two years, Eyring says the company has continued an innovative path since the announcement. Homeowners are familiar with B-hyve, Orbit’s most recognized technology for introducing smart technology to sprinkler systems. Orbit has implemented M&A strategy with the acquisition of the garden business from Bond Manufacturing.
Platinum has also invested heavily in resources, advertising, marketing and the promotion of Orbit, which has been good for business.
Eyring sat down with Platinum Equity recently at the company’s headquarters located a few miles north of Salt Lake City.
He discussed the company’s past, future and Platinum’s impact, which has led to the company’s transformation.
“We’ve seen fantastic growth in revenue, in our margins,” Eyring said. “But I think most importantly what we’ve seen is a transformation from more of an old-school, consumer goods company to really a technology company. We combine a very strong Internet of Things platform with a true omni-channel capability. We believe that is going to dramatically transform value and valuation as we prepare to move the company onto the next phase.”
(Answers have been edited for length and clarity)
PE: What other options were explored before selling to Platinum?
Eyring: We looked at a range of strategic and sponsor alternatives, but Platinum emerged as the clear choice. An important point about when we went to market, tariffs were a big theme. Other sponsors were scared away. They struggled with the question of the tariffs’ impact. As a management team, we clearly addressed it, what we thought the impact of the tariffs would be. And then we had specific plans in place to execute them. Platinum understood those plans, got very comfortable with them. Despite what had been a stumbling block for other private equity groups, other potential sponsors, Platinum was able to move forward and move forward very quickly and confidently.
PE: Expand on what was particularly difficult with tariffs.
Eyring: The U.S. had imposed tariffs and was imposing them at an increasing rate and pace, specifically about China. And that was creating potential downside impact for the business as evaluated by other private equity groups. That isn’t the way that Platinum perceived it. Platinum looked at management’s plan to address the tariffs, what we’d already done, what we planned to do. That was key because early on Platinum was comfortable and confident in the management team. And that has been consistent now in our relationship throughout. Once Platinum got comfortable with that, they executed very quickly.
PE: Platinum had needed experience in that area?
Eyring: The type of resources that Platinum’s brought to the table has been the very highest level, the type that billion-dollar entities would expect to get.
PE: What has worked well under Platinum ops?
Eyring: Platinum brings an elite level, world-class deal team. And then that deal team is supported by a full-function operations team. Platinum managing director Jason LaDuke and vice-president John Kalka, the ops lead, have decades of experience that they brought to the table and brought to our business. They understand manufacturing and Internet of Things.
PE: We have talked about how water usage is a major problem that Orbit addresses. Why is the B-hyve tech so important as we look at these vital issues facing our planet?
Eyring: The most vital resource issue in the world today is freshwater availability. B-hyve addresses that specifically with weather-sense technology. B-hyve can detect weather patterns anywhere in the world. It looks forward and then it supplements mother nature’s rainfall with irrigation.
PE: What comes next?
Eyring: B-hyve is responding to the trends in ESG, specifically about water. And so what we’ll do with B-hyve as we move forward is continuing to make B-hyve more precise, so that water efficiency gets higher and higher. And that we continue to improve on plant health and crop yield as we move forward with B-hyve technology.
PE: How has Platinum support helped innovation efforts?
Eyring: Platinum has strengthened our core portfolio. That was very important to me as a CEO to have a partner that looked at the core business and said that’s a great business. How can we make it even better? Platinum has helped us to build on the core technology B-hyve and Internet of Things technology.
Eyring: It’s transformational from an ESG standpoint, but it’s also transformational from a business standpoint. It allows us to connect to our customers not just daily, but hourly. We have entirely new connections with customers that we never had before. The other important area of emphasis was on building out our omni-channel capability.
PE: Expand on omni-channel.
Eyring: Omni-channel is not a question of brick and mortar or digital. It is the integration of those two. For Home Depot, Lowe’s, Walmart, the omni-channel strategy is very important for them. And what omni-channel strategy entails is taking your brick-and-mortar operation and having that continue to service the customers that are shopping in that channel, but then also responding to those customers who increasingly are shopping online. And to have that experience all work together. Not just from a purchase experience, but also from a customer service experience.