Bridge Industries is a classic middle-market PE investor. Rather than focus on maximizing profits via an exit strategy—stripping pensions, exporting jobs, slashing salaries and trimming the workforce in an effort to make a quick profit—the Chagrin Falls, Ohio, holding company stays true to its respectful approach to the companies it acquires. While generating profit and growth are central to the company’s business model, those goals are achieved in a measured way that preserves the entrepreneurial spirit and corporate cultures of the companies it acquires.
“Entrepreneurial family businesses have a tremendous value linked to their owner-operator history,” says Jeff Berlin, who founded Bridge Industries in 2003 and is a member of ACG Cleveland. He says one of his company’s core beliefs is that it bears a responsibility not just to its internal stakeholders, but to the businesses it pursues.
With that philosophy in place, Berlin has carved out an impressive track record of success over the past decade in the energy sector, no small feat considering the industry’s inherent volatility and a sustained recession that hit oil and gas companies especially hard.
Berlin founded his company after overseeing 11 major acquisitions in his 12 years at Cleveland-based Hawk Corp., a manufacturer of friction products and precision components used in industrial and aerospace industries. He was president and COO for four years—growing the company from $20 million in revenue and just more than 100 employees to $220 million and 1,600 employees in 16 plants around the world. During that span, Hawk purchased its direct competitors as well as those that offered complementary manufacturing services, all in an effort to expand market coverage and diversify its revenue base while driving growth.