Steve Wells: [00:00:00] This is Steve Wells.
Jeffrey Feldberg: [00:00:01] And I'm Jeffrey Feldberg. Welcome to The Sell My Business Podcast.
Steve Wells: [00:00:06] This podcast is brought to you by Deep Wealth. Are you a business owner who is wondering how to either grow your business, sell it, or both?
Or maybe in today's environment, you're wondering how to make your business pandemic proof. Visit deepwealth.com to find out how you can master the strategies to grow and extract the deep wealth from your business. Visit www.deepwealth.com.
Jeffrey Feldberg: [00:00:26] Welcome to episode 23 of the Sell My Business Podcast. Today's guest is Benjamin Richter, who is the founder and CEO of Bradford Airport logistics and Bradford Swissport Logistics. Bradford is both the US and global leader in secure airports, terminal logistics. The company has earned a reputation for innovation and operational excellence.
Under Benjamin's leadership skills over the past 19 years, Bradford has almost singularly carved out and pioneered the US domestic market space associated with airports, terminal, centralized, receiving and distribution centers. Bradford airport logistics has been awarded more CRDC contracts than any other logistics security organization in the world.
Ben has held numerous leadership positions involving nonprofit organizations within the state of Texas, such as a board member of the Texas Center For The Missing and currently serves in an advisory role, heading the leadership development Institute on behalf of the Harris County Sheriff's Department.
Ben has a master of science in Industrial Engineering from the University of Houston, a Bachelor of Science, Mechanical Engineering, and a Bachelor of Arts Business Administration from Bucknell university and has completed the intellectual property law curriculum at the university of Houston law school.
Ben's early professional career as a project leader for the deployment of enterprise resource planning systems for midsize manufacturing and distribution organizations provided the platform of knowledge. He has leveraged in his entrepreneurial endeavors.
Ben terrific to have you on the show. Thank you for taking part of your busy day and being with us. Ben, why don't you tell our community where you started in business and how you got to where you are today?
Ben Richter: [00:02:20] Sure. So, education-wise, I'm an engineer a few times over, which puts me in a particular segment but I also pursued a business degree simultaneously and then a master's in industrial engineering. So, a few degrees later, I started my career primarily pursuing a straight-line kind of engineering, vocation, but I quickly realized my, sideline jobs in information technology were doing a lot better at paying my way, on my college loans then was my day job.
And I soon found myself in a consulting capacity eventually, leading the deployment of ERP projects and primarily in light manufacturing and heavy distribution and spent a career, both integrating and deploying new software systems for companies that transitioned into my accidental stardom and entrepreneurship, and started a logistics company along the way that we grew from a single warehouse to a 82 North American facilities.
And at one point we were managing almost $4 billion of commercial product and it was an exciting journey, and began a real interesting, career in process development and systems architecture for companies. And then also developing all of those fundamental what I call the DaVinci code for great companies, including culture and lots of stuff around people. And I was not exactly what I was taught in engineering school.
Jeffrey Feldberg: [00:03:38] It's a diverse background and there's been a tremendous amount of success. I know offline we've had a chance to talk and I've enjoyed hearing your story. Before we get to where you are right now, one of the things that we'd like to do on the pod, because successful entrepreneurs and business owners like yourself, successes isn't an accident. You did certain things that helped make the difference for you and had your business and yourself stand out.
When you look back to your earlier businesses that eventually you built the success and got you to where you are right now. If you were to look back, what would be a few of the things you'd tell your younger self to either not do or do more of?
Ben Richter: [00:04:12] Ultimately what I have learned collectively is that your business has to have a defined purpose. And if it's just generating revenue, I think we've all missed the boat. Somewhere along the line, people want to be engaged in something higher than itself, and that's critically important and developing a finite culture that is not words on a wall, but echoes through the behaviors of each and every person that you invite to either add or diminish at every moment, the culture of the company you're building is the single most vital important thing we do. And along the way, you get some of these really key architecture things done. And, the P&L's and balance sheets tend to fill up on their own in the right way.
Steve Wells: [00:04:56] Ben, I'm curious about that.
How did you determine that those values, those goals, is that something you generated yourself? Did you invite other people in, curious to see how you I'm process that
Ben Richter: [00:05:09] In the early development of our first big logistics business, I would have called that the Petri dish for experimentation, every mistake you could have made I probably made it at some degree or some level, fortunately they didn't end in a disastrous end. Along the way, we accumulated a lot of business mentors. I've been involved in entrepreneurial organizations, such as EO and YPO. And it's been extraordinary to get folks who are just willing to uplift, assist in your learning categorization. And along the way discovered a number of great mentors who basically are doing the same thing you folks are doing and providing. We've got two ways we learn lessons in life. One is you fall in a ditch, you dig out of it, you know, every nook and cranny of it. Or you listen to someone where you can apply their experiences to some future path you're about to pursue. For me. some really instrumental people, Verne Harnish, is one of my close friends and mentors and, fellow, WPO or by the name of Warren Ruston. And ultimately each of them has a different slant, a different filter, a different lens they look through, but ultimately you begin to pick things that you think are vitally important to the successful formation of an organization.
And then along the way you have all your employee contributors and you just cannot go into running a business, thinking that CEO's going to live on the top of the pyramid. I think the fundamental thing for me is servant leadership and developing that at all levels of the business and what we like to say is that we have leaders at all levels of business and the most important leaders are the ones that sit on the traditional bottom.
So, we hold in great homage our line level leaders and everyone works for them. And so, I wake up every day how to get the tools, the processes, the things they need to show up and feel like my day has been just nothing but uplifted by everyone around me. And, our success is what are those interactions look like between them and the customer we're really serving.
And that was a tough lesson to learn without a manuscript. And you learn it piece by piece. But I really believe it wouldn't matter to me what that high purpose calling is for the next business we engage in. The fundamental sort of, building blocks would remain the same and how we would develop those that are now at a known course of action.
Jeffrey Feldberg: [00:07:17] Ben there's a lot to unpack there and it's all terrific with what you shared. Let me go back to the first thing. Now you're preaching to the choir when you talk about mentorship and having others who are down the path a little bit earlier than we've been, who have been successful to come along and teach and to mentor and to help.
A lot of business owners will often say I'm too busy, and I don't have the time. Or if there's going to be some kind of costs involved, it's not worth my time or my money. So, what was it for you at the beginning that had you realize mentors are really the way to go and a strategy that can accelerate your development and your success?
Ben Richter: [00:07:53] So, unfortunately, we, as the mentees, we don't get to, oftentimes, pick our mentors. What happens is people see something in you that maybe you don't see yourself. And what you'd have to have is an open enough lens to know if you can't do it right today, when do you have time to do it over later? And the bottom line is when a few of these folks would approach me and said, Ben, I'm willing to help you.
You know, you not only have to say yes, but you also, and that the single most important lesson in life is showing up and then you have to show up to fulfill. And it's an early on, adopted question I have is, look, I really appreciate your help. And I want you to know, I want to make sure that I'm fulfilling all the necessary requirements for me too. And it was just a very symbiotic, respectful relationship. And I want to give 10 X to what I receive. And I think if you can keep that general ledger going with the folks who agree to invest in you, they really believe that their time in you is elevating you and it's going to touch others and it becomes part of their legacy.
And I think that's the currency we trade when we do that kind of mentorship. And I think it's really important for the mentee to understand that they have a higher calling than just being the greedy recipient of great valor. We have to listen delicately. We're going to get some of our preconceived notions violated.
And ultimately if we don't go into it with a beginner's mind, because guys like me can get really expert in a hurry. I've had a lot of schooling. I'm a structured engineer and it's tough sometimes for these pigheaded strong-willed fellows to learn new tricks. And I go into every mentoring relationship is like, I'm the four-year-old and I'm ready to learn.
And I want to look at things through your lens not mine. And that's how those things came to be. And I would love to say, without speaking for the people who have been gracious enough, to give me their time that I'm honoring them in that way. And I think that's the way you have to be when you're the mentee.
And as a mentor, I spend one day a month where the entire day is just to give back to honor. Those who've come before me. And that day starts very early and ends very late. And it's probably the best day of my month.
Steve Wells: [00:10:00] So, if I'm hearing you correctly, you, obviously had a mentor early on in your career, but are you are still being mentored?
Ben Richter: [00:10:08] You better believe I am. Yes.
Steve Wells: [00:10:10] So, what do you say to business people who might get this kind of ego or, you get to self-resilient attitude that I don't need anyone else.
Ben Richter: [00:10:18] I don't think it's a bad perspective but it presupposes that you believe that at some point you've learned everything you need to know to sort of function in your world. And if you're happy with who you are and happiness is a relative thing, then that is a great thing for them to each his own.
And I won't be the stern advocate to say you're missing something, but in a private moment, if you really want to know you're missing something that we all, every single day, I have an opportunity to learn and grow. And in our personal relationships. And in those that we're fortunate enough to have a leadership relationship with, and leadership is very different than managerial relationship.
I may hold title on some folks, but that's not how I leverage it. What I've learned to do is great, really enduring relationships with everyone I interact with. I hope everyone leaves and experience with me with feeling like they were better for it because we only get so many breaths to leave in this life.
That's it. There's an X number and I've used probably over 50% of them and every single one matters to me each day. And those interactions can be beautiful or they can be mundane and you get to decide, and I will have, you know, in my life, a lifelong filled with learning. Every time I learned something, that's a beautiful experience.
It's an uplifting portion of my day. It really makes me feel like I'm not static and elevated. And if that's not the thing that turns you on, don't do it.
Jeffrey Feldberg: [00:11:39] Ben that's something that you had also mentioned early on, and I really liked what you said. If you're just out there for the money and you're not solving a problem, you're going to have some issues along the way, Talk to our community about that, because I know we speak to so many business owners who were saying, okay, what business can I start that I can just make it big and retire fabulously, rich, and happy.
And for myself if you're happy doing what you're doing, the success and the money is going to follow, but not the other way around. So, talk to us about that. What's been your experience and how did you get there?
Ben Richter: [00:12:15] There is one thing unequivocally I know, and there isn’t any guarantee in business.
And in fact, we all know it's challenging in all kinds of ways, but we can look at those challenge as insurmountable problems that we have to overcome, or we can look at things every single day and we just have to change two words you've got to change, "have to" to "get to". And when everything becomes a grateful privilege, From your leadership and management opportunities to the business challenges.
You have, you look at it a little differently, and those around you look at it a little differently, and we want to hire optimists and people who like to optimize not only their own personal life, but everyone around them and business can be the greatest force of good on the planet. and I just don't mean its outcome as an organization.
Although I think it's great to have, a purposeful organization that's doing things that changes something that otherwise wouldn't be as good if we weren't doing it. And that's important, but more importantly, inside the organization, we have all kinds of people with human challenges every day. And oftentimes we just look at them as a number and if you're building an organization like that, it gets tougher in the morning to get out of bed and you got one or two ways you do it.
You see the daybreak covers right back over your eyes and say, not another one of those, or your feet hit the ground and you can't wait to get with the people. You get to do these things with every day. And the bottom line is I really believe that perception, that attitude, that sense of gratefulness that really engaged, changes the way we do business.
And I think you can apply that to any business. And yes, if financial freedom is something you're trying to develop as the CEO, personally, there's nothing wrong with that. Just take a lot of others along for the ride. Have a legacy of a hundred people you did that for, and you're going to wake up with a bigger smile than you ever thought you'd have.
And I don't mean this in a transactional way, like quid pro, but you did it by helping them be better people. And I think, I think we're missing the boat at what business can be sometimes.
Steve Wells: [00:14:17] I always found it so, motivational to see people who start companies, if they're entrepreneurs or people who take an idea that maybe they didn't start and bring it to another level. The business, people drive so much of our economy. So, it's always very encouraging. Now we deal at Deep Wealth with people who are exiting their business.
We're talking to people and, sometimes they're at a different stage in life that they're ready to move on. They may have gotten tired or they see another opportunity to move on. Or they want to take an exit and maybe use some financial resources and human capital to give out in some way.
And so that's always very exciting as well. Have you ever seen that example?
Ben Richter: [00:15:00] Absolutely. And it's an evolution. It's just like, every single day uplifting your game, your leadership game.
You're absolutely evolving as entrepreneurs; we get to say that we get to eventually play on different chess boards. I think there's a natural evolution that we start off all trying to learn and function in our society. And I told you I had to get three degrees just to go out and do something.
And ultimately that's a challenging thing. You know, if you're a young Amish kid at nine years old, you got everything you need to know to function in society. I think the natural evolution of entrepreneurs is we go from learn to earn to return. I've had an exit.
I'll have other exits. What got Jeffrey and I originally talking was, a minority equity contribution that was made, last January. And, this is, a next generation evolution. My next thing will be, you know, evolving a different segment of the business and maybe challenging capitalism in unique ways, but alone, the way, you know, you build a greater deck of resources that help you foundationally.
And if you’re a serial entrepreneur you're going to go out and do something. The greatest entrepreneurs I've met have done just that. Exactly what you're talking about. I don't even call it an exit. I call it an entrance into your new phase of leadership. And it all depends what you're trying to do.
I love the entrepreneurs that took everything they learned in business made all those mistakes and then built a foundation on helping other entrepreneurs do just that. And that could be your next calling. It's a very unique thing. I love to see the entrepreneurs down that natural progression path, where at the end of the day, they really become amazing philanthropists.
Jeffrey Feldberg: [00:16:35] Ben let's talk about the exit that you had, and then fast forward to what's going on, where you are right now at Bradford Airport Logistics and Bradford Swissport Logistics. It’s a very interesting time to be where you are doing what you're doing. But back to the exit for just a moment, because as Steve mentioned at Deep Wealth, our mission is to help business owners do two things.
Number one, give them the tools and the education that they require to protect themselves. So, they're not being taken advantage of on the exit because we found along the way that unfortunately, as business owners, we're one very small cog in a very big wheel. And oftentimes the odds are against us, but while they're doing that is to give them the tools that they know how to prepare for their exit in a way that will increase their enterprise value significantly.
Hence the name Deep Wealth, helping business owners find and extract the hidden deep wealth that they never knew they had. So, going back to your exit, what would be on the one hand, three things that you thought you did really well on the exit and on the other hand, two or three things, perhaps that you would either not do it all or do differently?
Ben Richter: [00:17:43] One of the kinds of things that fundamentally you can do that can maximize, enterprise value and, you would be surprised. An M&A friend of mine, a fellow entrepreneur likes to term, Rembrandts in the closet of how many in your organization you might actually have.
You didn't know it, but that thing you do with elevating employee awareness and, what we call, our employee excellence recognition coin. We thought that that was just a great way to let people know that we appreciated them. What we didn't realize is this was a fun time, mental engager between us and our client.
And that was something investors are looking for, that you have this embedded relationship with your customer that is indispensable and sticky and they just love you to death. And we didn't realize that having a 100% renewal rate over 21 years was a big deal to an investor. It turned out to be, it was a Rembrandt in the closet, just an example.
And it's really important for other experts who have gone through these kinds of exits to be able to describe what those are. Because you can blow the dust off. So, many things you're doing and recognize it as a lot more value than you give it credit for. There's so much in goodwill that's very difficult for a lot of business people to put their arms around that how valuable it is come transaction time.
I think the other thing for us is I'm going to get into best practices and maybe some things we could have done differently or better. First and foremost, for us. and I want to say now having been through it in hindsight, I'm glad we stuck to our guns, but for us picking a culturally aligned investment banker was really important and we didn't exit. We were just selling a minority equity interest and it was primarily because we just didn't want to grow in North America. We wanted to grow globally. And as part of our global growth initiative, it required a lot more capital to do that in the same term of life that we have.
So, we wanted to catalyze growth and also catalyze our geographical influence within this aviation community. If we wanted to pursue this lofty goal, it required a little more capital than we would otherwise be able to do on our own. And it wasn't as if we had any ill found functioning, aspect of the business.
And in fact, anywhere through the process, if we wanted to tell everybody we were done, we'd be fine. If we wanted to achieve this goal faster and better, we think that there were a lot of uses for resources. And obviously along the way, we certainly wanted to maximize enterprise value. But what might come across a little different is, during the process, after we had fundamentally shared everything about our vision mission strategy with all these would be investors.
We then shinnied the list down, but these folks along the way, shared with us how they good catalyze our growth, provide us board members that were going to give us insight. That the reporting wasn't going to be burdensome and slow down the business and create bureaucracy. And they were going to be aligned with us.
And here are the kind of clients. And it's all kind of nice in the dating phase. But when you get down to sort of pick a life mate, and I want to say it is akin to marriage. you want to make sure that exactly what they told you at the time of dating is what it's going to be like after we get hitched.
And for me, I didn't feel the process that we were going through had that aspect in it. And I asked our representative investment banker, if we could do a reverse RFP, he first asked me what that meant because he had never heard of it. And he said, where'd you get it from? I said, well, we made it up. We talked amongst our executive group.
We wanted to. Have them pitch us on what, on all the things they promised. And I want to hear that from their worst customers that have had a bad experience, as well as from just the ones that they want to put on as a reference. And I want to know unequivocally, what are the deals you've done over the last 12 months?
It was a level transparency and honesty. They asked us for complete transparency. And we gave them the good, bad, and the ugly. We were going to ask them the same. Some of them were reluctant in giving us various information. It told us something and it was scored.
We asked them some really tough questions that weren't more than 16 of them, but these 16 questions, like who is going to actually be on our board and what are their backgrounds and why are you selecting them? And the answers were somewhat congruent.
And in other cases, not. When you had a bad relationship, why was it? What did things look like when you go through tough times? We did this in January of 19 and we are going through now that toughest crisis in the history of mankind for aviation. At 20% diminished passenger and planes at the beginning of COVID, our industry felt like the world was ending at 20%.
We got down to 95% loss. That's biblical proportions. That's apocalyptical I mean, it's the world ending as you know it and mind you, if I had picked one of the people on our list, who I know how they would, dispose themselves during a time of crisis. Protectionism, it’s defense, it's lockdown. And the current investor we have, and if you really want to know what people are like, don't go down a sunny hill with them, holding hands, go through a crisis, step by step with them.
And the organization that currently supports us was exactly that. And the sobering part of this is when we were done with our analysis and our reverse RFP, our investment bankers said, how much credence are you going to give it your overall evaluation? I said, 50%, the guy literally fell out of his chair and some other strong words came out.
I suppose the saving grace is a few months after our transaction, the same head of this very prestigious group came back to us and said, I want you to know, we will never do another business deal without a reverse RFP. We may not use your same level of scoring and we may not adopt the same questions, but some form of that was absolutely necessary.
And it really helped the process. And I think, if you're the prettiest girl at the dance, I think it's okay to demand, and ask them some tough questions and, make sure that what they told you in the early stage it's going to match. And I will have, you know now we're a year and a half into this, and it's exactly what they promised and their personality and disposition didn't change one iota through the toughest climate and the toughest crisis this industry has ever faced.
And they've been an advocate for playing offense and looking at new strategies and doubling down and all the kinds of things that you would love to go through a crisis with. Now that I've been through with this, there's nothing we couldn't go through.
Steve Wells: [00:24:14] Yeah, that's amazing. It's really like an auction in a sense, but it's not just financial, so you're taking a lot of other data and combining it to make a decision. So, I assume your selection wasn't exclusively on financial.
Ben Richter: [00:24:27] 50% had the traditional financial, filters that an investment banking representative would have. And 50% was nonfinancial stuff like, reporting burden to who's coming on the board or to what their strategy is, to how they work with clients during difficult times. And these questions you just had to really read into them and we made them give us a 30-minute face-to-face presentation in addition to a written report. And we scrutinized it and graded it. And I want you to know we had five final bidders and the number one and number two financial package did not win.
Steve Wells: [00:25:05] Wow. That's amazing. So, in this process, did the Rembrandts in the closet come out as a result of that or did that come out in a different way?
Ben Richter: [00:25:14] Most of the Rembrandts came out in the earlier phase before we put them on the hot seat. Because at that point, they'd already seen all the Rembrandts. They had valued them and they were in love with them and wanted them hanging on their walls. Guaranteed.
What we learned is a lot of things that we did culturally, as a company were so exciting to some of these folks like would you teach that to our portfolio businesses? Once we get you on board? Now, obviously some of that is cheap talk until you're invited to, but I've actually participated now in three industry wide calls. Some very specific to their particular portfolio members. And we've shared some of our best practices with fellow portfolio companies and CEOs, and it's been an extraordinary thing and they did exactly what they said they would do. But I think the normal investment banking process can help you find those and your investment banker, his job should be to do that because we take a lot for granted.
Steve Wells: [00:26:07] And, you know, I just want our listeners to get in their head with this reverse RFP. We preach all the time that you need to have competition. You need to have multiple people coming in to bid for you. You don't just take the first person that comes along. And a lot of people almost philosophically don't agree with that. If you had not done that, you probably would not have ended up with the relationship that you have right now. I would assume if you didn't do that questioning,
Ben Richter: [00:26:32] I'll take it one step further. In this climate where we're at now in aviation and where our heads needed to be.
And some of the things that I wanted to do, if I was not supported, we may not be here. And so, I'll share one little story. And again, it's on the cultural side. It had to do with spending a lot of money. I really believed that as we were going through this. Not only did we have trepidation at the, exactly the management team, but early on in code it, I knew to my employees, the people that were supposed to, you know, we had got the sign on the wall and we're supposed to love more than anyone else.
And that four-letter word, sometimes it's just not used enough. Southwest Airlines got it. Right. And what I want you to know is along the way, I really felt it was important that we, the executive management team got in front of every employee. At the time we had some over 600 employees. And I wanted to go out and go to every single facility and meet one-to-one and have a one to one CEO.
And my co-CEO is an amazing guy. Extraordinary culture guy. His name is David Fitzgerald, one of the tops, top, executive managers in the country and a real developer of people and talent. And, in the room, when I had made mention to this half the room thought I was absolutely out of my mind, nuts.
And not that, that isn't something that I've, been inferred to before. But in this particular instance, they thought I was going to get sick and get a lot of people sick along the way. And so, what you need to do in moments like that is really listened to the folks who have an opposing opinion and really seek to understand what their concerns are in terms of safety and risk.
And we began to develop a plan around addressing every one of those issues so that, our town hall meeting would be separated by six feet. Everyone has masks. And just, you know, up until the last a month ago, we had zero cases of COVID in the entire company.
We spent about two and a half weeks planning beginning in April, in 27 days, I got to every single facility and had a one to one with every single employee. The cost of doing so and getting our executive management team mobilized at a time where we have diminished revenues. And we're doing all kinds of hard things to help our customers and act in ways that are completely outside of our contract, whatever they need. And we're just in a desperate place where other people are normally would be doing this job had vacated and their assignments. And so, we're doing all kinds of crazy wonderful things.
But I got on a plane. I did that. I got more information from our line level leaders around how to navigate the storm, what they need, what our customers need. Some 220 the inbound statements because I, in each of these interviews, I turned them into the CEO and I took notes. And sir, I'm an act on this stuff. And we asked very specific questions, almost another little reverse RFP around how do we do various things and, and these were critical questions that you would ask an executive team member, but if you treat someone like an executive, they'll show up like one. And we've got so much incredible data. Yeah. And had we not had that board approval to do this, obviously unbudgeted crazy assignment. And they basically in a board meeting said, you're absolutely approved. Don't even think about it. But we also know that if we've told you, no, probably you do it anyhow. And, they were sort of right, but at the same rate, the logistics of having an equity partner, they had every right to say, no, if they want to do it was a, it was a big expenditure over the course of a month.
And it really moved a lot of people in inquisition mode and leaving their posts and operating, and it was challenging. But it was absolutely the right thing to do. And if you pick a financial partner, that's what you're going to get.
And if you pick a partner that has all the financial merits and also cares about the culture of your organization and wants to promote the kind of things that holistically are going to make you a great organization. I think it's a better partner.
Jeffrey Feldberg: [00:30:20] And so here's a great example where Ben followed his heart and followed his vision and did what he needed to do to literally turn the tables and reverse the situation and did that against his investment banker's advice. And it just goes to show as business owners, when you're going through the process, we have more control and more leverage than we often give ourselves credit for not having and to follow your heart and to follow your vision. So, Ben, kudos to you on that. That's absolutely fantastic. Let's transition now to what you're currently doing.
So, you're in logistics at the airports. If you had to pick the one industry to get as hit as hard, it's your industry and you're living it now day by day. So, what is it that you do exactly for our listeners so they can understand that?
Ben Richter: [00:31:09] Fundamentally all the goods that are consumed within the modern-day airport terminal complex, have a plethora of ways that they find their way into the secure side of the airport. And the airports we operate we create a consolidated operation that actually approves and vets all of the vendors and the goods, and, re delivers all these goods in a sequence consolidated manner, highly timed, and highly visible to operations and law enforcement and completely invisible to the traveling public. And this is our premise and goal for what we do.
And obviously the TSA does an exceptional job trying to screen all of our personnel entering these sensitive areas. We want to move all the commercial, goods away from operating around the sensitive areas of the airport. We have done that in extraordinary ways. More importantly, when the airport is crippled as they are now, all kinds of infrastructure begins diminishing.
So, you could stick to your specific scope of work or in many cases, we’re doing all kinds of things for airports that you could not even imagine. And for our customers then it's an extraordinary ability to really partner with folks who really in our aviation industry is incredible. And the people who work in it are just passionate about travel and aviation and aircraft.
So, it's, these heroes emerged during times of crisis and in many industries, I don't know if it's the same, but people tend to want to run and escape because things aren't good. Why do I want to work in airports anymore? They are, they have passengers or revenue, and it's not the case.
These folks are really incredible. It's been an extraordinary thing to team with them and to rebuild the infrastructure and aviation is one of the most resilient industries. You know, passengers will all come back. Now we've got a lot of people sitting on the bench for health reasons, who are fearful.
We've also had a fair amount of media that's providing some good data and also not so good data. And I also think we have a lot of regulators have worked on trying to restrict and originally this all began with not making sure the hospitals fall over, which I think was commendable. But at this point, shutting down the economy is not good.
We've got to figure out as really smart, political leaders on how we Institute programs that get the economy moving back in the right direction, whatever that means. And I'm not trying to make any political statement other than the fact that I recognize commerce, is so vitally important to keeping this country in a positive moving direction, because we are going to have folks who are now on the bench who Aren't making enough money. And when the job rates go down all kinds of things begin to break up. And well before that happens, I think we have a duty to figure this thing out and to do more. I wanted to also respond Jeffrey to another statement you made.
One of the biggest Rembrandts in the closet did get discovered. Post-transaction and it was the comment we got from the investment banker who said, I'll never not do this again. I want you to know that was not out of love for the reverse RFP, he recognized it was a Rembrandt closet. A business owner that is truly focused on standing behind their values and fundamental beliefs around what makes the company great in the eyes of the buyer was extraordinary and led to a feeding frenzy. Like where do we get more of this? And he realized that process was part of the selling process and it's something that he could use to get greater valuation. So, he felt that at the end, this thing really brought people to the table.
We had last minute doublings of various offerings. We had people going, you got a call from a mid-level. He said, I don't care. What, what the number is, I'm going to win this deal. He said, I never got a call like that and the history of my career. He thinks some of that had to do with us sticking to our guns.
And so I hate to give you that sort of financial kudos, because that was not our incentive. Our incentive was to get it aligned. And at the end of the day, yes, I took a diminished, not the highest economic, offering for the company, but I did that for all the right reasons. And maybe we wouldn't have had any of these offerings if we weren't the consistent congruent, executive management team and team associated with this.
And I'm going to tell you, your buyers are going to test every bit of your company. They're going to talk to your employees. They're going to talk to every industry leader. They're going to talk to the customers and you can't pull the wool over their eyes. You either are, or are not what you say you are.
And I just tell you be who you say you are and it makes a lot of difference. And if that could be an added Rembrandt, I think it's a good one.
Steve Wells: [00:35:29] It definitely sounds like one. So, in this process, who is your team?
I mean, you've mentioned the investment banker. I'm sure there's some key leadership. Structurally, how did you develop your team to do this transaction?
Ben Richter: [00:35:41] Yeah, well, fortunately I had a co-CEO, we’re brothers in arms and I had to rely on him during this almost 14-month process to do a lot more. I didn't want the organization focused on this as an operational assignment.
I wanted them to know if the deal doesn't happen, we're going to be fine. And I want you to operate, like it's not happening. And then there was a certain segment of the business that I solicited primarily in my business development side of the business and accounting that were fundamentally vitally important.
My CFO was sworn to secrecy that, what was happening here was not something we were broadcasting in our normal meetings. And not that it was so secret or private it's that it could become a distraction to folks. And I didn't want anyone to feel like even though a whole number of our executive management team, all benefited in all kinds of ways from it, but it was after the fact.
That way there wouldn't be any disappointment. So, I set expectations low. And then we proceeded down this path, vigorously. So, our team included top guys from business development, accounting, and myself leading that as a strategic initiative. And I had IT, regulatory, and business development reports to me and the operational people sided business report to David.
But he did that in, took on a lot of weight for us. This wouldn't have been possible without that cohesiveness. But it's really important to run your business. If you had to tell everybody to go pound sand, that you wouldn't miss a beat. The [problem is a lot of business leaders get so vested. Then they're in a non-negotiable situation. They've already spent the money or mentally, or, on the receiving side of the infusion and it's the wrong place to be.
Jeffrey Feldberg: [00:37:23] So, Ben, as you move through this pandemic, as you mentioned, travel is down, you're saying 90 or 95 percent.
Ben Richter: [00:37:31] It was as low as that. We're back up to, anywhere between 35 and 60% of passenger in payments in some airports, 35, probably being the low and 60 being a better, some forecast by mid-year that we'll be back up to 2019 levels. and some think it's longer out. And if anyone gives you a forecast on where aviation is going to be, I'm just telling you it's wrong before it's right. It's nobody's best swag. But tomorrow it'll be, it'll be altered. And what we saw was a very flat August, which changed all the forecast and in September, people are responding to that. And again, it goes back to jump-starting the economy, letting people know that they can be safe on aircraft and, just getting people back into the airports.
And I think the entire mechanism of retail and F&B is going to get reinvented at the airports too. Call me to hopeless optimist, but I think reinvented in really amazing ways.
Jeffrey Feldberg: [00:38:22] So, talk to us about your company. Have you done any pivoting to respond to what's going on to make sure that you're here, not just for today, as challenging as it is, but the day after that and the day after that and onwards? What's been going on?
Ben Richter: [00:38:35] Some airports are using this opportunity to develop their airport infrastructures faster than anticipated. Case in point, Salt Lake City, which just announced the unveiling of their new terminal.
But they were building an airport right on top of another airport. And the complications associated with this reminded me of the ninth wonder of the world. It was an extraordinary engineering feat, all with full volume, passenger enplanements. Very difficult. And we were brought in to help ease that, but it was a two-and-a-half-year saga.
What's happened here is with diminished passenger and payments. They could actually go in and redevelop whole terminals at a time. It shed two years off their construction project savings north of $300 million, maybe a little south of $500 somewhere in there I'm told, but in any event, a massive amount of savings of capital funds that would otherwise have been invested in this, project.
And it also allowed us to double down on supporting this effort. So, when they came up with a plan, it required us to do a lot more and in a hurry. At a time where, other airports maybe scaling back where we're trying to develop, cost measures and savings to be able to support the airport with security and oversight, but in a very diminished capacity.
So, we're having to do both of those things. But where we are getting to double down is in our code our technologies. This is a time, where we didn't scale back on anything in terms of technology development. We have a, more time to do adventurous, strategic, and we're at full tilt there.
We're running it a Mach 1.2. It's a fun time to be at Bradford.
Steve Wells: [00:40:12] Did you have to change in your company because you're, you're really, you're really supplying the logistics. did that change how you do your business?
Ben Richter: [00:40:20] I think fundamentally the general processes of how we operate, remain the same. However, there are all kinds of opportunities, to develop efficiencies during times of diminished volumes. And that's not just with us, but that's up the entire supply chain. So, we have collectively worked on making the entire supply chain more efficient and, that's, an enormous task and every airport's different and we have all kinds of, service offerings that, are so wide it's tough to describe, but literally every tenant in an airport, you know, from security agencies to environmental, to, obviously our airlines, but also food and beverage operators, retail, custodial, operations and maintenance all have. Processes and systems that can be integrated with and supported both in times of hyperactivity, as well as times of diminished volume.
Steve Wells: [00:41:09] I can tell you provided just exceptional leadership in this time of crisis. I really get the sense you have really a deep amount of character and you bring it into the company. How do you keep your character high and positive?
Ben Richter: [00:41:21] There's some fundamental beliefs that I think, you get to develop through your interactions and experience, and it was kind of like why practice this uplifting because eventually your leadership and perception through the influence of all of the amazing people that we are graced to meet with.
You begin to develop a few simple rules that you repeat often and use consistently. And they're based on a lot of pretenses and I truly believe, and it starts at this very high level that every human being apart from some physical or mental abnormality that then creates some higher level capability, they have, all have the same human potential and through our experiences and through the people we meet and how quickly your lens opens at your flower blossoms really depends on a lot of factors. But ultimately in my custody and care, if you're fortunate enough to meet myself or any of the managers in our company. And I don't want to confuse that with leadership because I think leadership happens everywhere in the company, but us managers we're really going to develop you. You are be, be developed in all kinds of ways and not just the skillset for doing a job, but to knowing that you have this unbelievable potential.
And I think all of us get our greatest jolly out of seeing someone do something they otherwise didn't think they could. Five years ago. I never thought I'd be doing this. And you know, when we can create petri dishes like that within every organization, I'm just going to tell you, it has, it has so many positive returns.
And if you want to do itself your slate, just to have a Rembrandt in your closet and do that. If that's your justification in the beginning. But eventually you'll realize that we have a higher calling as business leaders and business as a higher calling. There's an organization I belong to called Conscious Capitalism and John Maggie with go food started this movement.
I, when we were in the early stages of it, Develop. And in many of its board members became people who were highly influential and it was just looking at business at a different level. And you don't get that day one. And so, had I not had the couple of businesses and I want you to say, you know, I'm never going to tell you about all my successes.
I'm going to tell you about all my micro failures. Beause that's, what's formulated all of these extraordinary things, but how you look at these values, if you look at them with great reverence, and ultimately, they were your little micro learnings that got you to a higher understanding of what your calling and purpose are.
And then it changes everything. And when those things click, and it's not just me, you could have this interview with anyone in our organization and you'd have a pretty similar interview.
Jeffrey Feldberg: [00:44:02] Ben, that's amazing. As we begin to wrap things up here, I'm going to ask the one question we ask every guest on the podcast.
And it's a wide-ranging question. It could be on the personal side; it can go to the business side or anything in between. Looking at what got you to where you are right now, if you could go back in time to your younger self, what would be the one to three things that you tell your younger self to do more of, or do less of, or anything else that you'd care to share?
What would that be?
Ben Richter: [00:44:33] For me, it's a couple of things. It is an absolute love of learning and, not just learning but growth and it's also celebrating your biggest challenges and make them part of a place you get to go back to, and it gives you confidence to overcome the next challenge.
And if you look at life as a great accident, you're missing the boat. Ultimately everything was intended. to happen to some extent and, ultimately folks who say, Oh, well, that guy was incredibly lucky. I think lucky is a lot about preparedness and then having the lens or the eyes to recognize opportunity in unique ways.
And we get those lenses from our experience and interactions with others. I think one of the most difficult thing COVID is doing as human beings. We're not meant to live in isolation. And as much as I love the podcast and the zoom call, I'll also tell you Jeffrey, we'd have a different sort of interaction, nose to nose with masks on of course, and six feet apart.
But we could make that happen. And I think those are fundamentally the things that have been big life shifters for me and continue to be,
Jeffrey Feldberg: [00:45:43] Well here's to healthier days ahead and many more of them real soon.
Steve Wells: [00:45:48] Well, Ben, it's been a really amazing conversation. I've really enjoyed it.
As we wrap it up, we've covered a lot of topics. Is there any last thought that you would like to share with the audience?
Ben Richter: [00:45:58] Yeah. The one thing I would like to do is take a moment to just thank you both for the work that you're doing in this area.
It's a highly trepidatious experience to go through any kind of these transactions. And, the toughest way to learn is to actually be in the middle of it and, garner what could be a significant mistake, and gaining resources and understanding how to improve those processes. And. What are some of the most important decision-making roles you're ever going to have, and whether you're uplifting through a minority equity or you're exiting an organization that just has such a large impact on both the organization and all of the executive team members involved in the process.
And I think the work you're doing is fantastic. I'm glad in some small way I can help contribute to it.
Jeffrey Feldberg: [00:46:44] Well, thank you so much and thank you for your time. We wish you all the very best.
Ben Richter: [00:46:48] Thank you.