Our Portfolio at Work

Platinum Equity portfolio companies employ more than 100,000 people around the world in a broad range of industries. We work closely with management teams to drive transformative programs that create real value for our companies and the customers and communities they serve.

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A Call to Action: Motivating Students, Assisting Essential Workers

How Platinum Equity supports Elevate Textiles’ sustainability initiatives and product innovation

Company executive: Platinum investment boosts Elevate’s efforts to ‘remain at the forefront of innovation in the denim world’

SOURCE: Platinum Equity

Why a former Netflix executive joined the Deluxe leadership team

Chief strategy officer Anna Lee seeks to ‘Showcase’ the company’s ability to help content distributors reach all audiences

SOURCE: Platinum Equity

How Tom Gores cultivated the Detroit Pistons’ push for diversity and inclusion

Under Platinum Equity founder’s stewardship, the Detroit Pistons are one of the few NBA teams led by Black men in top two roles

SOURCE: Platinum Equity

Husky’s manufacturing acumen showcases multi-purpose (and sustainable) PET solutions

Canadian manufacturer helps bottled water company ‘achieve whatever goal we want to achieve’

SOURCE: Platinum Equity

Jostens launches new digital tool to help students chronical lasting memories in age of COVID

Yearbook Plus is going to give ‘students a chance to tell their own story in this historic year’

SOURCE: Jostens

How PCI brought needed tech solution to market in Singapore’s COVID-19 fight

Company cites unprecedented speed to market in developing tech for needed contact tracing

SOURCE: Platinum Equity

With B-hyve tech and Platinum Equity support, Orbit is ‘changing the way the world waters’

B-hyve smart controller tech gets high marks for quality at an affordable price

SOURCE: Platinum Equity

How Valpak, Platinum Equity help small businesses remain relevant during COVID-19 crisis

Want to know how Valpak helps small business? Ask this owner of a Cleveland-area restaurant

SOURCE: Platinum Equity

Platinum Equity CEO Tom Gores Discusses Transformation of Securus Technologies With Former FCC Commissioners

Tom Gores responded to former FCC Commissioners with an update on how portfolio company Securus Technologies is supporting incarcerated individuals and their families during the COVID-19 pandemic.

SOURCE: Platinum Equity

United Site Services has opportunity to redefine what is ‘essential’

In Q&A with Platinum Equity, USS CEO looks to future, offers praise for service technicians providing essential services at essential job sites during COVID-19 crisis

SOURCE: Platinum Equity

Jostens answers Platinum Equity’s call to action with free virtual commencement centers

The COVID-19 crisis has cast doubt on traditional ceremonies, but Jostens responds to give graduating seniors the celebration they deserve

SOURCE: Platinum Equity

BlueCrest ready to assist rise of vote-by-mail capability as country goes through crucial election year

COVID-19 pandemic exposes need for increased access to vote-by-mail technology that protects citizens exercising constitutional rights

SOURCE: BlueCrest

Winc aims to ‘deliver deep industry expertise’ in response to COVID-19 crisis

OfficeMax’s New Zealand owner brings aboard veteran CEO to guide company through company’s transformation

SOURCE: ARN

Securus Technologies helping incarcerated communities stay connected in an unprecedented crisis

COVID-19 response illustrates one way the company is driving business transformation and industry reform to make products more accountable, affordable and accessible

SOURCE: Securus Technologies

USS assisting Seattle’s effort to protect the vulnerable during COVID-19 crisis

Portable sanitation company teams up with King County (Wash.) to protect those unable to adhere to social distancing guidelines

SOURCE: Building Design + Construction

Elevate Textiles Brands A&E, Burlington Participate In The Gerber PPE Task Force

Company joins industry-wide effort that combines resources and expertise to increase production of personal protective equipment

SOURCE: Textile World

LifeScan helps production of personal protective equipment during Covid-19 crisis

Scottish company’s assistance critical in the production of protective visors for healthcare workers

SOURCE: The Inverness Courier

Jostens plant in South Carolina makes facemasks in response to COVID-19 crisis

Graduation gear not needed? School memorabilia manufacturer pivots to providing for essential workers.

SOURCE: WSPA-TV

USS sanitation techs work to mitigate the spread of the highly infectious coronavirus

Portable sanitation company updates protocols to routine service process to protect essential workers

SOURCE: USS

Video Features

Video poster for Husky Sets a Path to a Sustainable Future

Husky Sets a Path to a Sustainable Future

With B-hyve tech and Platinum Equity support, Orbit is ‘changing the way the world waters’

With B-hyve tech and Platinum Equity support, Orbit is ‘changing the way the world waters’

Our Portfolio At Work: Companies lend worldwide support to COVID-19 fight

Our Portfolio At Work: Companies lend worldwide support to COVID-19 fight

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Video poster for How Valpak, Platinum Equity help small businesses remain relevant during COVID-19 crisis

How Valpak, Platinum Equity help small businesses remain relevant during COVID-19 crisis

Video poster for Our Portfolio at Work: United Site Services CEO says COVID-19 highlights ‘essential nature of services’

Our Portfolio at Work: United Site Services CEO says COVID-19 highlights ‘essential nature of services’

Video poster for How Graduation Is Changing During the Coronavirus

How Graduation Is Changing During the Coronavirus

Platinum Equity Responds to COVID-19

Platinum Equity is mobilized on concurrent paths: Mitigate the impact of the crisis on existing investments by aggressively deploying the firm’s operations playbook across its portfolio, and pursue new investments with alacrity while adjusting to new market realities.

Learn More

Platinum Equity in the News

Platinum Equity, other firms ready for worst, look for best during COVID-19 crisis

Like most businesses, private equity firms have been forced to rethink strategies - nearly overnight - to survive and thrive during uncertain times

SOURCE: LA Business Journal

Platinum Equity, other large firms poised to weather COVID-19 crisis

Platinum announced $10B fundraising effort only weeks before expected downturn in the wake of global pandemic

SOURCE: Pitchbook

Platinum Equity's Portfolio1

Operating Companies

~40

Aggregate Employees

130k+

Aggregate Annual Revenue

$33B+
 
 
 
Joining the United Nations Global Compact, a worldwide initiative with 10 sustainability principles.

The construction of a wastewater treatment facility in Mexico that will save  140 million gallons of water per year.

Addressing climate change and setting a goal to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

The announcements are just a few of the many initiatives Elevate Textiles has delivered or promised in its mission to provide environmentally friendly products to socially conscious consumers. From how cotton is cultivated to water usage to responsible manufacturing, executives at the company, which is based in North Carolina, believe sustainable practices make good business sense.

“We're trying to stay in step and maybe even anticipate where our customers are going so that they see us and trust us,” Elevate chief sustainability officer Jimmy Summers said. “Really, it's about trust. It's not as much about the price and trying to get the lowest price for fabric or for threads, although certainly our customers don't want to overpay. But they also trust that when they buy from us, they know that things have been done ethically and sustainably.”

Platinum Equity acquired International Textile Group in 2016, later adding American & Efird to rebrand the combined businesses as Elevate Textiles in 2019. Elevate is the parent company of American & Efird, Burlington, Cone Denim, Gütermann and Safety Components. The company manufactures a wide range of fabrics and threads across many industries, which include fashion, work apparel and footwear.

Probably the most familiar products are blue jeans, which are manufactured with denim fabric produced by Cone Denim mills. Levi Strauss, Wrangler, J. Crew and other familiar brands are among Cone Denim clients.

Growth and sustainability were always part of Platinum’s operations plan, and the firm – along with the management team - analyzed investments that made the most sense.

That has led to sustainability funding.

“Platinum has been very supportive – and I’m not saying this because they’re my boss,” Cone Denim president Steve Maggard said. “They have been truly supportive of approving projects that are enabling us to get to and remain at the forefront of innovation in the denim world.”
 
Offering sustainable solutions
 
For the consumer, price and comfort are main factors when it comes to shopping for blue jeans. But industry leaders note a new concern growing over the last decade.

Consumers want to know sustainability practices. Simply put, owning a pair of jeans can consume a lot of water.

In 2009, Levi Strauss estimated that a pair of blue jeans consumes 919 gallons of water during its life cycle when you consider the process of growing cotton, washing it, dyeing it blue and consumer washing habits.

“There wasn't a major focus on water reduction or energy efficiency or things of that nature years ago,” Maggard said. “It was more you were trying to save money. If you were trying to save water, it was trying to reduce cost. It really wasn't to tell a sustainable story.

“But that's really changed. More customers are asking about sustainability. Right now, I would say that 90% of our new developments have a sustainable aspect of some type, whether it be water reduction, sustainable fibers, sustainable dyes, or a sustainable manufacturing process.”

The awareness forces companies to seek partners who offer sustainable solutions.

Take J. Crew’s Madewell jeans brand, which was created more than a decade ago to target younger consumers, according to J. Crew Group senior vice president and head of sustainability Liz Hershfield.

Last fall, Cone announced the self-clean jean, which is designed to promote fewer washing machine cycles. The fabric is chemically designed to kill odor-causing bacteria,

“There's a lot of emphasis right now on water savings,” Maggard said. "You don't really need to wash your clothing as often as we do, especially in the U.S. What we're trying to do is for those people who are very water conscious, we want to offer them a garment that's not going to start smelling due to body odor or perspiration.”

It’s that kind of innovation that supports brands like Madewell.

“It's important that we work with suppliers and mills that offer sustainable fibers which (Elevate) does,” Hershfield said. “I think just across the board, the focus on the environment is really in alignment with our goals.”
 
Profound shift
 
Several persons interviewed for this story mentioned a catastrophe in Bangladesh on April 23, 2013.

The Dhaka garment factory collapse killed more than 1,000 and injured more than 2,000. Many well-known brands were manufactured at the factory, and much of the outcry was focused on unsafe working conditions, according to Tricia Carey, director of global business development for the Lenzing Group, a fiber manufacturer that’s an Elevate vendor.

“The companies that were producing in Bangladesh, they couldn't run away because that's not responsible,” Carey said. “You can't be a part of creating this problem and then run away from it.

The tragedy speaks to the social responsibility of industry. Then, there is the consideration of waste, a byproduct of the era of fast fashion. The industry also must consider a large carbon footprint.

That is why Elevate takes a thoughtful approach to the entire life cycle of its products, which includes how cotton is grown.

“We do not actually grow or gin any cotton ourselves,” Maggard said. “But what we do is we assure that the people we're doing business with are operating in a responsible, environmentally friendly and sustainable way.”

One example is Cone using Lenzing Group technology to recycle cotton apparel.

Elevate also has an innovation hub that seeks sustainable solutions.

“In the future, we're probably going to be talking about waterless dyeing or foam dyeing, which uses bubbles or air to carry dyes instead of water,” Maggard said. 

Just one of the many areas of innovation and sustainability that Platinum supports.

“Those are investments that Platinum has approved and they've been very supportive on our efforts,” Maggard said.
To deliver content to screens large and small, content creators and distributors rely on Deluxe, a leading media services company.
 
The company also plays a role in many other downstream efforts for entertainment companies, including the assistance of awards campaigns.
 
Called Showcase, the cloud-based platform is used to promote highly acclaimed awards-eligible content. Also used for live-streaming events, the platform launched in May when streaming and studio clients such as HBO and other major streaming platforms chose to use the service to host virtual screenings and press events for awards campaigns since COVID-19 protocols discouraged traditional in-person campaign methods.
 
Showcase furthers the Deluxe mission to provide cutting-edge and secure ways for media companies to reach audiences on any screen, in any format, in any language, anywhere in the world. The continued growth of the Showcase platform is a primary focus for Anna Lee, who was hired in October for the newly created role of chief strategy officer. 
 
“We are evolving the Showcase platform to be more experiential as well as more robust to accommodate a larger number of users,” Lee said recently. “We are exploring other industries such as music streaming, the festival and concert space, and gaming as tangential vehicles for our platform capabilities.”
 
Platinum Equity purchased Deluxe Entertainment’s distribution business in July, as part of a flurry of 2020 buy-side activity by Platinum’s small cap team. Founded as a film processing lab in 1915 as part of Fox Film Corporation, Deluxe today provides distribution solutions to the world’s leading content production studios and distributors. The company has approximately 3,400 employees globally with hubs worldwide.
 
Lee spent 12 years at Netflix, a Deluxe client. She joined Netflix in 2008 as vice president, supply chain development, and would eventually oversee areas of content acquisition, global screenings and talent relations. During that time, she saw Netflix grow into one of the largest media companies in the world that fundamentally changed the way the consumers enjoy entertainment. 
 
Lee joined Deluxe during the pandemic, which was inflicting economic losses to certain sectors of the media and entertainment landscape, like movie theaters. The impact was mitigated to some extent since Deluxe also provides services to over-the-top (OTT) clients like Netflix, which provides viewers access to movies or TV shows by sending the media directly through the Internet. Those clients saw viewership gains as consumers adhered to stay-at-home orders.
 
Platinum’s investment thesis anticipates an eventual return to normalcy with audiences flocking back to movie theaters. But the investment also looks to the future with an ever-growing lineup of content options across multiple platforms, which creates opportunities for growth. Lee was recruited to Deluxe as part of a strategy to reshape the management team under the leadership of Cyril Drabinsky, who left the company in 2016 and agreed to return as CEO under Platinum’s ownership.
 
Lee spoke with Platinum Equity recently on the challenging landscape. She expressed confidence that with technology solutions like Showcase, Deluxe is well positioned for future growth.
 
(Answered edited for clarity and length). 
 
Platinum: Why Deluxe right now? 

Lee:  While at Netflix, I would find myself in meetings with Deluxe contemplating the various opportunities for growth that would conceivably take the company to the next level. As an example, based on my experience with filmmakers and showrunners, I felt there was a need for a tailor-made localization program for content partners to level up their game in attracting and retaining talent.
 
(Media localization is the process to translate audiovisual content for all global markets. Think subtitles and dubbing). 

Lee: Additionally, the Deluxe brand has a veneer to it because of its legacy in the film industry and exceptional work as a post-production and finishing house. From authoring, mastering, localization and distribution, Deluxe really owns every facet of the supply chain. I think this era of streaming services and emerging distribution models has really advanced to an exciting level and I feel like I could play a role in proliferating these competencies out into the marketplace and developing new opportunities and expanding existing ones. 
 
Platinum: What is OTT?

Lee: It’s an acronym that stands for over-the-top which is a means of bypassing existing cable bundles or MVPDs (such as Comcast) to deliver and consume content over the Internet.
(MVPD stands for multichannel video programming distributor)

Platinum:  What do you bring to Deluxe? Why are you here? 
 
Lee: I bring a different dimension of problem solving and creative thinking. I graduated from the (Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania) where I really focused on the analytics, financials and the elements of empirical data and metrics that are critical components of any business. However, my first job after I graduated was in New York where I took an entry-level position at the Warner Music Group. It was during a period when the recording industry was at its peak. There I learned about the importance of talent relations and artist management … how to be strategic and nuanced in negotiating.

Lee: When you put those elements together – the analytical with the creative problem solving, I think that’s when something exciting can happen. There are mature businesses within Deluxe but there are also evolving ones. How do we leverage that? How do we seek opportunities in areas that may seem saturated or competitively challenging? For me, finding creative solutions to these problems means thinking and going beyond the normal course of action.

Platinum: Explain the potential of Showcase. 

Lee: There is a hugely identifiable market for virtual live events that has been kicked into high gear because of the pandemic. From awards screenings to premieres, live concerts to film festivals, the need to view content by audiences is an inherent part of our industry. How can we be a part of that if this virtual screening scenario continues?

Lee: That's an area I've kind of got a radar on - both looking at the landscape of opportunity in other markets as well as determining what our competitors are bringing to the table. If you look at the gaming industry, why can’t localization efforts be transferable from movie and TV content to games? We know that they're going to need subtitles and dubbing on some of these big games as they expand into other international territories. A big game is like a blockbuster Marvel film with the potential to reach a global audience. Having conversations with these other ancillary businesses that are not necessarily linear to what Deluxe is doing right now is just really broadening the scope of possibility.

Platinum: Good segue. I was talking to (Platinum managing director) Dan Krasner this summer and he used the term mission-critical to describe Deluxe. Explain why Deluxe is mission-critical to content creators and ultimately consumers. 
 
Lee: The studios are in a bit of a dilemma in figuring out how to monetize their content through streaming when they are accustomed to traditional distribution models. They’re correcting for that given the plethora of emerging streaming services that have since launched such as HBO Max and Disney+. The overarching challenge for the studios is how to take the legacy parts of the business, the theatrical side, the linear network side, and how to package that? I think that's where Deluxe becomes a very interesting solution, because we can service every aspect of the supply chain.
 
Lee: For example, if Warner is planning a worldwide theatrical release, Deluxe can handle the creation of that digital cinema package. We can handle the localization (subtitling and dubbing) if it's going to be an international release, and we can handle the distribution to as many theaters as are going to be open. The current pandemic has created challenges with theater closures, but as theatrical exhibition returns to its pre-COVID state, Deluxe will continue to be the industry leader in the cinema space.

Lee: Ultimately if the title debuts on HBO Max on the same date with the theatrical release, Deluxe is uniquely positioned to also handle the asset creation for the platform and re-purpose any localization already serviced for the theatrical release. Running the gamut across file creation, localization and everything in between is a multi-faceted competency that we need to be much more verbal about. 

Platinum: In other words, business is not dependent on movie houses being open? 
 
Lee: That's right. We're able to handle any type of format or distribution endpoint whether it goes out theatrically, whether it gets delivered to Netflix or whether it goes to a pay video on demand provider. The ability to have that level of nimbleness across a broad range of functionalities is a highly unique proposition that allows us to stand above and beyond the competition.

Platinum: A week does not go by without a report about the level of hurt that movie theaters are going through domestically but speak to international markets.  

Lee: It’s been a difficult and challenging year for the domestic box office and exhibition space. Internationally it's been a different story. In Japan, for example, they have 100% theater occupancy, where people are sitting next to each other. They recently put a movie out in the theaters in Tokyo that played 40 times a day and ended up being one of the biggest box office successes ever. In China, over the span of six days, the box office jumped to $1.2 billion with the title Detective Chinatown 3 setting global records for the biggest opening day ever in a single market. Hopefully this behavior is indicative of other markets, certainly overseas, but domestically as well. 

Platinum: Since localization is a core part of the business, where do you see growth?

Lee: As subscription platforms continue to expand globally, the need for subtitles and dubs for English language content will continue to grow. The market for non-English original content is also growing. Netflix announced plans to invest $400 million in Indian content for local original productions while Disney+ recently announced its slate of upcoming non-English originals. Deluxe is extremely proficient in localizing content in over 60 languages. We have a pool of over 6,000 translators worldwide and can scale to service very high-volume jobs.

Platinum: What is the next frontier when it comes to streaming? 

Lee: Streaming will continue to evolve not just in the volume and caliber of content but also in the audio and video fidelity. With people investing more in ultra-high-definition smart TVs, the ability to stream in 4K will be more meaningful as well as with emerging audio technology.

Lee: There's going to be a growing popularity and escalation of local content that's not necessarily in English. Netflix had a wildly popular original series called Money Heist, but Money Heist is a Spanish-language title known as La Casa de Papel, which caught fire in the U.S. Once it was translated to English, it became a real sensation for the platform and garnered over 65 million viewers worldwide. I think we're going to see a real globalization of content. It's going to be a great time for consumers. 

Platinum: Have you been there long enough to get a sense of Platinum’s influence?

Lee: My sense of Platinum is that the company is extremely savvy and strategic, looking at companies that may be undervalued but have great potential for growth I think that they're very engaged in this acquisition of Deluxe, which I think is an amazing testament to their commitment. Most times companies will acquire a company and then disappear. I think the level of involvement, of interest, of curiosity, of finding ways to grow and do this in a collaborative way has been very impressive and rewarding to me. 
It is an annual occurrence in NBA markets.

Shortly after the draft, a news conference is held to introduce the young prospects to local media.

The front office’s top talent evaluator and the head coach explain the reasoning behind the selections and why this collection of talent will ultimately lead to winning games.

That was the scene on Nov. 27 when the Detroit Pistons presented their 2020 draft class - rookies Killian Hayes, Isaiah Washington, Saddiq Bey and Saben Lee.

General manager Troy Weaver said the four men, “embody everything we want for the Pistons going forward.”

Head coach Dwane Casey said all four players, “will be special for our program going forward.”

Typical words.

It was who delivered the words that was unusual: Two Black executives sitting atop the front office organizational ladder.

When looking at credentials, it is easy to see why the two men were hired by the Pistons. Weaver is considered one of the top talent evaluators in the league. Casey is a former Coach of the Year who developed the young core that ultimately carried the Toronto Raptors to the 2019 NBA title.

But when surveying the NBA landscape, their pairing is not typical as the Pistons are one of just four franchises in the league with Black men in the two top roles. There are 30 NBA teams with a workforce of players that was more than 80 percent Black for the 2019-20 season.

It did not occur by happenstance: Pistons owner Tom Gores and the rest of the ownership team have prioritized diversity and inclusion as key tenets in the organization. Their objective is twofold: Find the most talented and capable people for the job, and do so by searching in the most diverse possible pool of candidates.

“As a team, we always want to cultivate diversity. We understand the importance of it,”  Gores said at Weaver’s introduction in the summer. “But as much as it’s a priority, Troy and Dwane are the best men period in the world for these jobs.”

Road to diversity

When the season begins on Dec. 23 against the Minnesota Timberwolves, nine months will have passed since the Pistons competed in a game that counted. The Pistons were the among the bottom eight teams who did not qualify for the Orlando “bubble” when the season resumed over the summer.

There are many new Pistons faces. Only four players remain from the team that finished 20-46 and near the bottom of Eastern Conference standings. The roster reconstruction is a testament to the vision of Weaver, who is seeking to bring skilled and tough-minded players to the franchise that has reached the postseason only twice in the last decade.

The potential reconstruction was top of mind when the ownership group initiated a discussion in May with Pistons vice chairman Arn Tellem, special adviser Ed Stefanski and Casey regarding expansion and reorganization of the front office team.

Gores, the founder and CEO of Platinum Equity, pushed back on an initial list of potential candidates, which was weighted toward assistants with the potential to grow into the top job. He asked for a new list identifying candidates ready to assume a top leadership position, and he underscored the importance of a diverse pool of candidates.

“We're always going to look for the best possible person,” Pistons alternate governor and Platinum Equity partner Mark Barnhill said. “But we also want to make sure that we include minority candidates who can rise to the top of that discussion, rather than limiting the search to a pool of usual candidates that may lack diversity.”

The process led to three finalists, led by Weaver – who was eventually hired. The Pistons did not reveal the other candidates on the list, but reportedly the top three candidates were African American.

“I think that was one of the most important elements of the discussion in the spring,” Barnhill said. “All of us – Tom, me, Arn, Ed, Dwane – agreed that we're not going to make diversity a secondary component, but rather a primary component as we grow and expand and advance our executive team.”

Weaver’s credentials are well known, and it was widely considered a matter of time before he landed a GM job. During his tenure with the Thunder, the franchise drafted standouts such as Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Reggie Jackson, Steven Adams and others. That talent has been foundational in building a consistent winner.

“I witnessed firsthand how hard he works at it,” Tellem said.  “His research into each player, how much he delves into not only their basketball ability, but their mental makeup, their work ethic, their commitment.

“In that regard, Troy has always separated himself from everyone else.”

Casey’s credentials are also established. Although he was fired by the Raptors after their playoff exit in 2018, peers named him Coach of the Year for the 2017-2018 campaign. He has a great reputation for player development and is considered one of the top coaches in the league. He led the Pistons to the playoffs in his first season, but injuries wreaked havoc on his second season.

Off the court, Casey has emerged as a community leader in Detroit. As social justice issues jumped to the fore of the league’s – and the nation’s – consciousness this summer, he joined players in peaceful marches in downtown Detroit and received an award from the Detroit nonprofit Focus: Hope for his relief efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Casey is one of nine head coaches of color currently in the 30-team NBA.
 
Getting the best people
 
Diversity on Pistons’ executive team did not start with the hiring of Casey nor stop with the hiring of Weaver.

Tasked with growing the front office talent base, Weaver hired Britta Brown, an African-American woman, as senior director of basketball administration, overseeing team operations, logistics and day-to-day management of the basketball operations department.

He also hired Michael Lindo as director of player and family engagement and Harold Ellis as a pro personnel evaluator. Both are Black men. Jhonika Hawkins, a Black woman, was promoted to director of executive operations.

Brown, Lindo and Hawkins were the primary organizers of the Pistons’ recent minicamp where a bubble was implemented to follow COVID-19 protocols to keep players and coaches safe during the pandemic.

All three are young and there is hope they will rise further in NBA circles.

Brown, who left an athletic administration role with Eastern Michigan, is grateful.

“I have to thank Tom, Arn and Troy for having the vision to give this black female a chance to be in this executive role,” Brown said.

That was the plan.

“Every executive we’ve hired is highly qualified, highly capable and performing at the top of their field,” Barnhill said. “In many cases, they were just waiting for the chance to step up to the next level.

“That chance germinates at the point you start looking for candidates, not the point you’re choosing from a list of finalists,” Barnhill said. “So you need to make diversity a primary component at the beginning of the process, not the end. That’s what we’re trying to do here.”
 
The brief conversation made cinematic history.

In The Graduate, a young Dustin Hoffman plays Benjamin Braddock, who gets career advice from a family friend shortly after college graduation.

Mr. McGuire: Plastics.

Benjamin: Exactly how do you mean?

Mr. McGuire: There's a great future in plastics. Think about it. Will you think about it?

Benjamin: Yes, I will.

Mr. Maguire: OK. Enough said. That's a deal.

Husky Injection Molding Systems CEO John Galt, who joined the company in 1985, chuckles slightly after mentioning the scene when asked about the negative perceptions surrounding plastics.

He recalled a time when plastic was viewed as a manufacturing dream as it surpassed traditional materials like glass or metal because of the ease it can be molded into multiple forms.

But the perception changed. A seminal moment came in 2004 when noted marine biologist Richard C. Thompson coined the term “microplastics” for a study published in the academic journal Science Magazine. The term refers to the tiny specs of plastic that pollute the environment.

But the strengths of plastics remain. One form (polyethylene terephthalate) is preferred for many containers like beverage bottles and most Husky clients use it.

It is light, sturdy and can be made at low cost. It forever improved consumer safety and the shelf life of food and beverages.

Medical grade PET, which takes form in personal protective equipment, ventilators and other applications, has been at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19. A recent study estimates the global market reach of medical plastics to reach $28 billion.

Consumer goods companies are attracted to the material for what it can provide and for future uses like the branding of iconic packages.

And according to Ice River Springs sustainability manager Crystal Howe, Husky’s manufacturing know-how leads to sustainable solutions. The Canadian family-run company set a goal to manage its own recycling process and manufacture its bottles from 100%, recycled, post-consumer packaging a decade ago.

It was a goal that Husky, a leading manufacturer in plastics production, made possible.

“Husky's been with us since the very beginning,” Howe told Platinum Equity. “Before we even looked at recycled content and our bottle, Husky was helping us with light weighting, reducing our plastic consumption.

“When we made that decision to move to a 100% recycled bottle, Husky stuck with us when everybody else said: ‘This is not possible. It's not going to happen.’”
 
‘Many applications’
 
Husky, based just outside of Toronto, is a major supplier of injection molding equipment and services to the plastics industry with PET as its main form of plastic which is 100% recyclable. The company’s knowledge is used to manufacture a wide range of products such as bottles and caps for beverages, containers for food, medical components and consumer electronic parts.

The criticism of plastics is well documented. U.S. jurisdictions have instituted bans or fees on various types of plastics like bags or carryout containers which are often manufactured with plastics that are not easily recyclable.

When Platinum was considering the investment before the 2018 acquisition, the negative perception was mentioned as the first risk in the deal thesis. It was helpful that 85% of Husky’s business comes from recyclable plastics.

Husky provides a supplier the ability to make a sturdy, but light receptacle. After recycling, it can be remolded, sort of like Play-Doh.

“It gets reused, reshaped and you have fresh new bottle,” Husky vice president of innovation and sustainability Joachim Niewels said.

A complete ban of plastics is not practical since it is a vital component in electronics, automobiles, food and beverage, medicine and many other applications.

“There's so many applications you take for granted,” Niewels said. “When you get out of bed, you brush your teeth. When you get in your car and put on your seatbelt.

“Everything helps you to use less energy because the cars would be much heavier if they were made of steel. You would have a lot of things that were not as convenient and as safe. I think people forget how much individual packaging helps protect health.”

In response to the criticism, Husky made the internal decision recently to put a focus on sustainability to educate the market on the aspects of PET relative to other substances and market the company’s role and future opportunities.

They include:
  • Modifying tooling and equipment to allow products to be produced using less plastic.
  • Increasing the use of post-consumer material, a major part of the sustainability mission.
  • Introduce packaging that will not require labeling because product information (with colors and shapes) will be introduced during the production process.

“We realized that new product development couldn’t just focus on making new parts,” Galt said. “We had to increasingly look at our manufacturing solutions from the perspective of the parts’ full lifecycle.

“We feel our job is to place ourselves in the role of our customer and solve the problems most valuable to them.”
 
The path to sustainability
 
Luckily for Ice River Springs, water bottles are ready for recycling the moment a consumer drains the last drop.

It still took a commitment from the company founded by Howe’s parents.

It led to the creation of a system where Ice River Springs sells material onto the market, purchases materials back from that market and restarts the cycle.

The company started creating recycled resin and formed Blue Mountain Plastics Recycling, a plastics facility for self-manufactured bottle-to-bottle recycling. The company collects 85% of PET recycled material from Ontario’s recycling efforts. Consumers can place recyclables in blue boxes located throughout the province.

Husky provides injection equipment, which helps Ice River Springs make the bottle molds.

“I think that Husky is a good partner to have because I know that they are constantly looking for better ways to do things,” Howe said. “They can do so many different test runs, and they're always looking to take care of their customers. We have an open discussion channel. We can share information and we can help each other out to achieve whatever goal we want to achieve.”

Husky officials look across the Atlantic Ocean at European countries that generate about almost 100% recovery of materials, according to Galt. And when told that PET is recyclable, perceptions are adjusted. A company-initiated third-party survey conducted earlier this year in Ontario found 82% of participants would prefer to recycle PET rather than seeing an outright ban.

“If we continue to pollute, we will draw a greater attention to the problem and we will find ourselves legislated out of a business,” Galt said. “It's an issue on the forefront of consumer minds so actively getting involved in solving the problem makes sense.

“I think the problem can be solved and we're the company to solve it.”
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The Singapore government made a significant announcement last month.

To bring widespread contact tracing to the city-state in southeast Asia, TraceTogether tokens, which use Bluetooth technology, were distributed nationwide.

The goal is to achieve 60-70% population adoption of the TraceTogether program, which comprises a smartphone app and the token, by the end of the year as the country moves slowly to ease measures aimed to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

PCI Private Limited, an electronics manufacturing service provider based in Singapore, is one of two bidders who were awarded contracts by Singapore’s Government Technology Agency (GovTech) to design and manufacture batches of tokens, with the company providing the initial 300,000 tokens distributed to vulnerable seniors in late June.

Company officials say It was an unprecedented display of speed to market.

They credit two driving factors.

The entire world is desperately seeking answers in the COVID-19 fight and the company was energized to contribute.

In PCI’s case, Platinum Equity’s call to action to all its portfolio companies and senior leadership’s guidance in response to the pandemic ignited a flurry of ingenuity, according to one company official.

“I think we were very energized to speed things up and move things along as fast as it can because time was of the essence, because the infection rates kept going up,” PCI director of advanced engineering Chi Wei Yap said. “How leadership helped is they gave us resources. They arranged daily meetings and daily calls to make sure there were no bottlenecks because the delivery schedule of the product is very tight and it's supposed to be delivered in such a short period of time – much shorter than anything PCI has ever done in the past.”
 

“The utmost priority at that time was to make sure that the company had enough liquidity to tide through the very unpredictable downturn of the economy,” PCI CEO Teo Eng Lin said. "The operation team of P.E. initiated this very strong mandate at that time, making sure the company instituted swift action to manage costs and be very attentive to details and move quickly to make sure that cost containment actions are being implemented with the objective to preserve cash.”


Catalyst for innovation
 
With government-imposed shutdowns beginning to negatively impact the global economy, Platinum announced the firm’s top priorities:
  • Protect the well-being of employees and their families.
  • Ensure the continuity of business.
  • Mitigate the impact of the crisis on the firm’s portfolio companies.
  • Pursue new opportunities in the market.
The operations team directed portfolio companies to preserve liquidity, reduce costs and prepare for an extended downturn.

Platinum acquired PCI in April 2019.

“The utmost priority at that time was to make sure that the company had enough liquidity to tide through the very unpredictable downturn of the economy,” PCI CEO Teo Eng Lin said. "The operation team of P.E. initiated this very strong mandate at that time, making sure the company instituted swift action to manage costs and be very attentive to details and move quickly to make sure that cost containment actions are being implemented with the objective to preserve cash.”

The fourth priority to pursue opportunities loomed large for PCI.

GovTech developed the Bluetooth protocol for the TraceTogether smartphone app which was first rolled out nationwide in March 2020. The agency needed to quickly design and manufacture a portable device to expand TraceTogether coverage to provide another option for those who don’t own a cellphone.

By co-designing with GovTech and producing a product in eight weeks, PCI won the initial bid to produce 300,000 tokens.

“They had the mobile app, they had the back-end operation, but they did not have the hardware,” PCI senior vice president Thomas Handojo said. “That is where PCI became a perfect match for that because we are a manufacturer, we are a hardware provider.”

How it works
TraceTogether tokens work by exchanging Bluetooth signals with other tokens or mobile phones running the app nearby. Records of such encounters are stored locally on each user’s device for up to 25 days.

The user will be contacted by the government’s contact tracing team for the data download only if they are confirmed to be infected with COVID-19. This allows the government to trace people in close contact with COVID-19 patients very rapidly. The battery life of the device lasts six to nine months, and the token does not require charging.

It works without an Internet connection and user data is encrypted and cannot be remotely extracted from the token.

PCI’s experience in creating solutions for Internet of Things technology was vital. But the process still needed execution, something that will serve the company well in the future.

“PCI is a stronger company because we learned how to cope with expediting material to speed up the development and the production process,” Chi said. “We learned how to engineer and turn things around very quickly and which suppliers would be able to support us quicker than other competitors.

“We learned how to manage all the various variations, which I don't think in such a short time that PCI has ever done.”
 
In April, the New York Times published a product review of 13 different smart sprinkler controllers, timely information with the country seeing a surge in do-it-yourself projects related to stay-at-home orders because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The controllers are designed to help customers from underground irrigation systems by monitoring local weather and soil conditions, improving landscapes and conserving water.

The Times gave the B-hyve smart indoor sprinkler controller top honors when it comes to value.

“(It) is the least expensive smart controller you can buy and yet offers many of the features of our top picks, including smart scheduling, a nice app, and an innovative, slim design,” the author wrote.

“We are supplementing what Mother Nature does with rainfall,” Orbit CEO Stuart Eyring told Platinum Equity recently. “We’re letting Mother Nature do everything she can do to water and we make up for the rest of it.


It sells for $64 on Amazon; two competitors with favorable reviews in the Times piece sell for $140 or more.

Offering high quality technology at an attractive price point was a top priority when Orbit started developing the B-hyve technology a few years ago.

The tech allows homeowners and contractors to bring solutions to tending lawns and gardens while also conserving water at an affordable price, something the media has noticed the past few years, particularly at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

“We are supplementing what Mother Nature does with rainfall,” Orbit CEO Stuart Eyring told Platinum Equity recently. “We’re letting Mother Nature do everything she can do to water and we make up for the rest of it.

“We’re changing the way the world waters.”

Based in Salt Lake City, Orbit is a leading provider of irrigation systems and related products for the residential home improvement markets. In business for nearly 50 years, Orbit has developed a global distribution network with products available in more than 40 countries.

Orbit’s longstanding brand coupled with its leading B-hyve smart technology platform made it an attractive investment when the family-owned company was sold to Platinum last year.  

And as the company nears the introduction of its newest product, the B-hyve XR, the potential for growth is readily apparent.

“B-hyve continues to empower homeowners through high quality irrigation technology at attractive prices,” Platinum Equity senior associate Derek Green said. “It sits at the intersection of sustainability through water conservation, the expanding role of smart technology within the home, and a continued emphasis on outdoor living”.
 
‘Founded on a value proposition’
 
Orbit teased the B-hyve XR at the CES in January before COVID-19 started dominating news alerts.

Several tech websites wrote positive reviews.

While it resembles a traditional indoor timer, it has a weather resistant design that can be mounted either indoors or outdoors. 

It can control up to 16 zones – an upgrade from 12 zones with previous tech - so it will be able to handle larger residential properties. It also includes three hexagonal screens on the face of the timer that provide current information about the weather, zone information, manual watering and more.

It contains both 2.4 Ghz and 5.0 Ghz radios to make connecting with home networks easier and more dependable.  It also includes a 900 Mhz radio that will allow future connectivity with other B-Hyve battery-operated devices in the yard.

Pricing starts at $149 and is scheduled to be available this fall.

“We’re a company that’s been founded on a value proposition that makes watering accessible to people who don’t want to pay a contractor or can’t afford a contractor,” Orbit executive vice president Mitch Lord said. “Value is ingrained in the Orbit brand and ease of use is a vital part of that. We want to make it easy enough for anyone to do it.

“You don’t need to pay a professional to come in and do it for you.”

Sunset Magazine, a lifestyle publication focused mainly on the western U.S., wrote: “Orbit’s … new B-hyve XR is a powerful new addition to the connected garden game. … It also has easier setup and installation than past models, simpler controls, and has a stylish new exterior.”

Orbit prides itself on offering solutions ranging from the low-tech garden hose connected to a faucet to the high-tech B-hyve capable of measuring weather data and adjusting output for rainfall totals.

But the tech has other utility. States and municipalities offer rebates to consumers who purchase tech that promotes water conversation. B-hyve technology can lead up to a 50 percent reduction in water usage, according to Orbit officials.

Orbit also announced the B-hyve smart flood sensor at CES. It’s designed to warn homeowners to flood hazards, notifying consumers of the presence of water next to a hot water heater or toilet. It can be placed outdoors and works with B-hyve controllers.

There is potential with large scale commercial and agriculture uses. Orbit recently purchased Bond Manufacturing's garden business which extends Orbit’s product and account portfolios.

Such exploration is encouraged by Platinum.

“Platinum has helped us to sharpen our focus so that we ensure that B-hyve elevates our entire Orbit lineup and with also with Platinum’s support, making sure we have broader customers and a broader portfolio of products,” Eyring said.

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The state of Ohio allowed restaurants to resume dine-in services on May 21.

But when reached shortly after Gov. Mike DeWine’s executive order allowing eateries to resume limited operations after being forced to close in March in an effort to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, restaurant owner Frank Fusco had yet to resume seating diners.

He took his time, making sure he could adhere to regulations created to provide a safe environment for customers eager to consume pizza and pasta at Frankie’s Italian Cuisine, which is located in a Cleveland suburb.

He could afford to be patient. An ongoing takeout operation kept the doors open and has allowed the eatery to more than weather the months without higher margin alcohol services.

The takeout business performed well before COVID-19 and the restaurant was positioned to boost that portion of the bottom line.

Efforts were further enhanced by Valpak, a direct marketing company based in St. Petersburg, Fla., that reaches more than 37 million households with a monthly envelope stuffed with coupons and discounts. The company also provides postcards, social media and online advertising services.

“It was just exposure,” Fusco said. “It helped me get my name out there to bring in more takeout and delivery business to help offset the cost of a closed dining room.

“I got something like 50, 60, 70 percent of the business back and there’s some days where I did 100% of the business that I did when I had a dining room open. Some days have been off the charts fantastic and I got to assume that was a big part of it because all my other media advertising stayed the same or dropped off.

“Valpak was the only thing we increased in marketing.”

The programs introduced by Valpak to help its 40,000-plus local and regional clients were the result of nationwide brainstorming and collaboration from company executives and sales representatives.

“Since Platinum purchased Valpak we have become a cohesive sales team,” Valpak sales director Lynn Yopko wrote in an e-mail. “It is no longer 150 different franchises doing their own thing. (Platinum has) given us the tools, processes, and systems we have needed for some time. …"


Platinum’s role in providing support?

Since the private equity firm purchased Valpak from Cox Target Media in 2017, significant operational changes have been made.

“Since Platinum purchased Valpak we have become a cohesive sales team,” Valpak sales director Lynn Yopko wrote in an e-mail. “It is no longer 150 different franchises doing their own thing. (Platinum has) given us the tools, processes, and systems we have needed for some time. …

“The programs put in place by Valpak Corporate offering our struggling clients and prospects additional areas, larger formats and on-pak visibility have proven to help them recoup lost revenue quickly.”
 
'Talk about brand awareness’
 
Many sectors of the economy have been crushed by social distancing measures enacted by state governments to fight COVID-19.

The requirements have particularly damaged restaurants.

The Independent Restaurant Coalition, a trade group, and the James Beard Foundation released a survey in April that 80% of independent restaurant owners in areas under shutdown orders weren’t sure they would be able to re-open when restrictions were lifted.

Even when allowed to re-open, restaurants will adjust to doing business with COVID-19.

There must be distance between tables, and the threat of an outbreak remains. Five Houston-area restaurants had to re-close recently because workers tested positive for the coronavirus, which causes COVID-19. Some spikes around the country have government leaders considering a second shutdown.

Difficult terrain remains, but just to have a chance in the future, Frankie’s had to navigate the present.

Enter Valpak.
  • The company instituted a “Show Your Love, Shop Local” campaign to support local markets. Before COVID-19, space on the front of monthly envelopes was reserved for national retailers; early in the crisis, Valpak pivoted to putting local businesses in that prime spot which is traditionally not available.
  • Valpak began highlighting how restaurants, forced to offer only carry-out or delivery services, need public support to survive the crisis.
  • Some sales reps offered flexibility for small businesses with interrupted cash flow.
  • In Fusco’s case, Yopko distributed Frankie’s Italian Cuisine’s 20% off coupons to a sixth zone. Typically, offers are distributed to five areas. Valpak gave Fusco an extra zone at no extra cost.
Fusco was able to see the impact of the expanded reach when customers from the added zone brought the coupon in for takeout orders.

Frankie’s also benefitted in May when its logo – along with the 20% off coupon - was placed on the front of the envelope in the Cleveland market. It was a direct benefit from the “Show Your Love, Shop Local” initiative.

“That’s something (Frankie’s) never been able to do since he’s been mailing with me and he’s been extremely thankful and appreciative of what we’ve been able to bring to the table to help him with awareness of what’s happening in his location, give him a little bit more reach for more consumers and also give him some brand recognition in those (new) neighborhoods,” Yopko said.

Yopko, a Valpak veteran of 22 years, has a unique perspective as a sales director and franchise owner.

Since Platinum acquired the business, she’s seen Valpak launch new sales tools and increase its use of technology.

That’s led to better communication. If something works in one market, there’s freedom to move to other areas.

“We’re able to share that with our clients and give them some ease in saying let’s try it,” Yopko said. “Gets them a little more comfortable and not worry they’re inventing something. It already worked somewhere else.”

She said long-time clients like Fusco become friends, which creates a desire to help when tough times strike.

Fusco, who has resumed dine-in service at the restaurant, said he plans to become more aggressive with Valpak advertising in the future after seeing the effectiveness because other forms of messaging were not available in the early days of the crisis.

Valpak is in position to help with 20% of the company’s clients coming from the dining and entertainment sectors.

“Talk about brand awareness and getting our name out,” Fusco said. “We’ve been here 50 years … but it was a little more chatter for us.”

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Platinum Equity Chairman and CEO Tom Gores sent the following correspondence today in response to a letter dated May 20, 2020 from former FCC Commissioners Mignon Clyburn, Michael Copps, and Gloria Tristani requesting that Securus Technologies, a Platinum Equity portfolio company, take steps to support incarcerated individuals and their families during the COVID-19 pandemic:


June 5, 2020

Dear Commissioners Clyburn, Copps and Tristani:

Thank you for your May 20 correspondence, and for your continued efforts in support of robust and affordable communications services, particularly in the corrections environment. We are pleased to support those same goals both in concept and in action, as change agents who are transforming Securus Technologies and the industry as a whole.

We agree wholeheartedly that access to reasonably priced telephone service is more important than ever for the country's incarcerated population in the face of restrictions on in-person visitation caused by the coronavirus crisis.

On March 13, the day COVID-19 was declared a national emergency in the United States, Securus began offering free and discounted services to every one of its state and county corrections agency customers.

Since then, the company has provided 16.1 million free phone calls totaling 116.2 million free minutes; 4.5 million free video connections; and 6.6 million free email message stamps to incarcerated individuals (and their families) at more than 731 facilities. In addition to the calls themselves being free, there are no funding or transaction fees associated with them.
 

“All of these actions to support individuals impacted by COVID-19 are part of a broader effort to transform the company and make services more accessible and affordable for incarcerated individuals and their loved ones.” – Tom Gores

The company has also provided additional free calling cards, or "compassion credits," to connect incarcerated individuals who have fallen ill during the pandemic with their loved ones; provided free phone calls between incarcerated individuals and public defenders in certain locations where permitted; and created an inbound email system by providing printers and supplies at 33 locations in California where incarcerated individuals do not have access to individualized email.

Beyond communications connections, Securus also is providing free access to select games and movies on its tablets in facility locations where permitted. So far, more than 500,000 movie rentals and nearly 1 million games have been downloaded or accessed without charge since April.

Further, the company has signed the FCC's Keep Americans Connected Pledge, Chairman Pai's initiative focused on mitigating the pandemic's impact on telecommunications access.

All of these actions to support individuals impacted by COVID-19 are part of a broader effort to transform the company and make services more accessible and affordable for incarcerated individuals and their loved ones.

In January, CEO Dave Abel announced a number of commitments that include lowering the costs of phone calls and other communications products, increasing transparency, and engaging directly with communities impacted by incarceration.

Those transformation efforts haven't come in a vacuum. They were mandated by Platinum Equity after acquiring the business in 2017. I am happy to report that since then, prices for Securus calling services have fallen by more than 30 percent.

To cite just one example: In Washtenaw County, where your letter cites information claiming that a 10-minute call "would cost about $11.62," current rates are actually substantially lower. Under the current contract there, the rates are $0.21 per minute for all calls, or $2.10 for a 10-minute call – even with a substantial commission retained by the corrections agency under its contract.

Well before the COVID crisis, Inmate Calling Service rates at Securus were steadily declining even in the absence of FCC-imposed caps on intrastate rates, falling on average by about 50% since the FCC issued the 2013 Interstate Inmate Rate Order.

All of Securus' rates for interstate calls are at or below the per-minute rates set by the FCC in the 2013 Interstate Rate Order, and its fees are in compliance with those promulgated in the FCC's 2015 Inmate Rate Order. On an intrastate level, Securus' rates are in compliance with the applicable state PUC / PSC rules and regulations.

Platinum Equity appointed CEO Dave Abel to transform Securus; establish a culture of service focused on the needs of incarcerated consumers and their families and not just on corrections agency customers; reduce telecom pricing; and invest in developing new technologies.

Dave and his team are making significant progress on those objectives. With your permission, I'd like to make them available to meet with you and discuss these reforms directly, to listen to your thoughts, and to consider ideas on what we can do better, faster or both.

Thank you again for your long record for public service on these issues, and for your willingness to work with us on these shared objectives.

Best regards,

Tom Gores


For more information about Platinum Equity’s transformation of Securus Technologies: http://transformation.aventiv.com/

The COVID-19 crisis has forced all to rethink the definition of essential workers.

No longer meaning only the areas of public safety, healthcare and transportation, the term has grown to include anything supporting those industries and many others during times of crisis.

For United Site Services, the country’s largest provider of portable sanitation and temporary site services, it’s created an opportunity to tell a story.

USS services were needed to support efforts in Seattle to shelter those unable to self-quarantine to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.

USS services were needed to support the construction of temporary hospitals in the New York City area.

USS services kept major construction projects operating throughout the outbreak.
Yes, services provided by USS service technicians are essential.

“Unlike previous disasters or even slowdowns, this one has really brought to the forefront the essential nature of services that we provide for all of our different types of customers,” USS CEO Asterios Satrazemis said recently. “And so in an uncertain environment, we've had an opportunity to really help our customers understand the importance of hygiene and sanitation in their work sites. And the good news is customers are really jumping onboard.

“We think that this is going to be an important part of how we keep our communities safe by increasing our efforts around hand hygiene and sanitation.”

This is Satrazemis’ second stint with a Platinum Equity portfolio company, having served for two years as CEO of BlueLine Rental, before taking the helm at USS in January 2019. Platinum acquired USS in 2017.

“Unlike previous disasters or even slowdowns, this one has really brought to the forefront the essential nature of services that we provide for all of our different types of customers,” USS CEO Asterios Satrazemis said recently.


The crisis has also forced the business to examine operating procedures.

For USS, it’s led to a laser focus on the best safety and hygiene practices for workers.

For workers in corporate offices, Satrazemis revealed the company is examining the role of virtual work in the future, acknowledging a workplace trend that will likely grow as the country adjusts to living with COVID-19.

Those are among the topics addressed by Satrazemis during a recent interview with Platinum Equity.
 
(Answers have been edited for clarity).
 
Platinum Equity: Has the education of businesses and municipalities created opportunities as the country moves cautiously to reengage the economy?

Asterios Satrazemis: In the past, customers would only have their portable restrooms cleaned once a week. Now we're seeing many customers increasing that to two, three, four, sometimes even five times a week. Secondly, in the past, hand hygiene wasn't as high of a focus. They didn't put a critical eye on that piece of the overall sanitation picture. Now it is absolutely front and center.

PE: How were you able to procure scarce hand sanitizer?

Satrazemis: Who wasn't stockpiling hand sanitizer all over the world? Our provider had to stop providing hand sanitizer to anyone outside of the healthcare industry because there was such a run on it. We were able to work with them and help them understand we are an essential service. If we don't have it, we're potentially allowing people to not practice proper hand hygiene while they continued to work on construction sites or industrial or manufacturing plants throughout the outbreak. We need you to open that supply chain back up for us. And they did. That's why having good partnerships with your suppliers and not always looking to beat them up for the last penny is so important for your core supply base.
 
PE: You had to educate your suppliers that you are an essential service?

Satrazemis: Absolutely right. This is not over, but as we move through this, we're going to make sure that we utilize what we've learned and continue to educate our customer base, our supplier base, and our employees about the essential nature of the service. We're providing sanitation, we're providing hygiene. Once you make that pivot, you have a bit of an ‘a-ha’ moment.

PE: What measures have you taken to ensure the health and safety of service techs?

Satrazemis: We put in place our own hygiene protocols. We quickly added a number of different steps to the normal job to ensure that we were giving our team the maximum level of protection. Things like face shields, adding steps around the products that we were using that would kill the virus on contact, requiring people to use disposable gloves after every cleaning, requiring them to wipe down all surfaces that they were touching after every cleaning. Everybody's got face coverings in addition to the face shields. Additionally, we took 1,100 of our teammates (who aren’t directly performing the services) and we had them all start working from home, working virtually.

PE: Has it helped you look at things differently for when this crisis passes?

Satrazemis: We are looking very critically at what the future of work at USS will look like (USS announced recently work-from-home measures will remain in effect until at least the end of the year). All the enhanced safety protocols that we've put in place for our technicians, we don't expect to remove those anytime soon.

PE: Let’s move to the loss of events that were either postponed or lost like Burning Man, the NFL Draft and PGA Tour events. Is there a sense of loss there?

Satrazemis: Events are a subset of our overall revenue, but it's a very visible portion. A job like Burning Man, I don't think there's another company in the U.S. that could help Burning Man come to life. I'm fairly certain there's no other business that has the quantity and quality of people to build that temporary city. They would have to go to multiple vendors to get what they get from us. So yes, our team is disappointed in losing the ability to provide for those tens of thousands of people.

PE: What percentage of your business is from government vs. private industry? Have you seen government contracts increase significantly?

Satrazemis: We have definitely seen an increase, though government is still going to represent a single digit level percentage of our overall revenue.

PE: USS is huge in the U.S., but what about your global footprint?

Satrazemis: That's actually one of the exciting things about the future opportunity for USS. It’s been in business for 20 years and it was built up over those 20 years through many acquisitions. We're still only in 25 states in the U.S. We're not in Canada and we're not overseas. So you can see why Platinum acquired this amazing investment back in 2017. This is a business that has an incredible amount of runaway and we've continued that acquisition activity to grow the business and there's no reason why this isn't going to be at some point the business that's all throughout North America and beyond. We're still early in this journey.

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The dream of a run to the baseball state playoffs ended in districts.

An anticipated final concert with the school band was cancelled.

As co-class president, experiencing detailed planning for a senior prom that will never occur.

Thomas Arend, who remains upbeat despite the setbacks, is succinct when discussing how routine rites of passage have been snatched away over the last few weeks.

“It kind of sucks,” he said.

The North Thurston (Wash.) High School student is just one of many to see the final months of senior year interrupted by school closings. Gov. Jay Enslee announced in early April that schools in the state of Washington would remain closed through the end of the academic year.

Online learning continues and seniors will graduate, but the familiar scene of “Pomp and Circumstance” playing while students walk across stages may not occur in the coming weeks.

Platinum Equity portfolio company Jostens, a trusted memorabilia manufacturer for high school and collegiate markets, is bringing graduation ceremonies to seniors, families and school officials stuck at home.

The company will provide digital tools and content to offer free online virtual commencement centers to assist high schools and colleges celebrate graduates who have seen the expectations of a traditional ceremony dashed by social distancing measures instituted to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, which causes COVID-19.

“What I see is Jostens providing hope,” said Scott Seaman, the executive director for the Association of Washington School Principals. “They’re really providing hope for kids, providing hope for the faculty of schools and they’re providing hope for families.


The goal is to provide some normalcy during these unprecedented times. While lingering dreams of a typical graduation ceremony may be dashed for some, Jostens is helping to make up for the sense of loss for all.

“What I see is Jostens providing hope,” said Scott Seaman, the executive director for the Association of Washington School Principals. “They’re really providing hope for kids, providing hope for the faculty of schools and they’re providing hope for families.

“There will be something. The show will go on. We’re going to have a graduation ceremony one way or another, and Jostens is providing that hope in the system.”
 
Call to action
On the weekend before St. Patrick’s Day, Jostens representatives were gathered for an off-site meeting in South Carolina.

Platinum Equity had earlier issued a call to action across its entire portfolio focused on mitigating the economic impact of the emerging crisis and encouraging its management teams to think creatively about repurposing or redeploying their resources.

Governments were moving to address the growing crisis and governors started issuing stay-at-home orders.

The first reaction among those at the meeting: The potential business fallout.

The next reaction? Anger that students could potentially lose out on routine milestones.

“This is a rite of passage that these kids earned,” said John Bibeault, Jostens vice president and general manager/scholastic division.

Adding to the sense of urgency was the realization the Class of 2020 was born right after 9/11 and has lived through two defining moments in the financial collapse of 2007-8 and the current crisis.

Creative juices started flowing. Contingency planning commenced with an able assist from a company official, who is a military veteran.

In discussions with education officials, there were two main concerns expressed: how to feed children depending on school meals and the infrastructure of distance learning.

Shortly after those initial discussions, Jostens moved to address the second concern by making its video series targeting the mental health of high school students available for free.

The virtual commencement idea came next.

Jostens has developed password protected resource centers for students under the direction of principals, collegiate commencement directors and other school officials. A Jostens representative gives access to a protected area on the company website.

Clients receive step-by-step instructions on how to pull off a virtual ceremony.

If a high school doesn’t have easily accessible livestreaming capability, Jostens sets it up.

Jostens is hoping to partner with celebrities to deliver commencement speeches.

“We’re doing the right thing first … administrators, teachers and students are picking that up,” Bibeault said.
 
Recognizing the Class of 2020
Founded in 1897 and based in Minneapolis, Platinum Equity acquired Jostens in December 2018. The company specializes in custom class jewelry, graduation products, and yearbooks.

Bibeault has 18 years with Jostens and says the company has become more customer-centric since he joined 18 years ago.

“As times have changed, affiliations to school are not necessarily what they once were,” he said. “Traditions change, but when you’re in the jewelry business and the apparel business, when you’re in the printing business, you’re also in the fashion industry.”

The response to COVID-19 is a natural outgrowth. The company is also beginning to produce and distribute non-surgical face masks and disposable gowns to help healthcare concerns. The manufacturing will occur at plants in South Carolina and the Dominican Republic.

“It’s reinvigorated me and it’s reinvigorated our salesforce. I think that’s going to make the difference in getting through this tough time.”
- John Bibeault, Jostens vice president and general manager/scholastic division


Bibeault has participated in delivery events for Jostens.

“Seeing moms cry, seeing dads cry, kids cry,” he said. “They’re completely happy that they’re getting that cap and gown. They’re going to have something to take a picture in, to celebrate in.”

It addressed a need at all economic levels.

“We’ve seen million-dollar homes,” he said. “We’ve gone door-to-door in trailer parks.

“It’s reinvigorated me and it’s reinvigorated our salesforce. I think that’s going to make the difference in getting through this tough time.”

Arend is looking forward to life after this tough time. The Lacey, Wash., student is planning to enroll in Washington State in the fall, following in the footsteps of his parents.

Maybe in a few years, he will go through a traditional college graduation.

But for now, Josten’s virtual commencement is something he is eager to experience.

“It will provide a recognition for all of us and as well as a time for everybody to have a landmark to say, ‘OK, this is when we’re actually done. I remember this day,’” he said.

“I can see people sending texts saying congrats, you have the parents and stuff being live streamed, the kids’ reactions. I think it will be a cool way to recognize our Class of 2020.”

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