The Art of the Turnaround

Article excerpt

Husband-and-wife team rebuild existing business

Not every entrepreneur makes his or her way by starting a business from scratch; some buy into it. Take Merle Vaughn and Jeff Lasley, the husband-and-wife team who own Acromedia Systems. The Los Angeles-based firm designs, builds and installs communications systems, audio visual devices and local area networks (LANs). The paging system that announces your flight and the cameras in the parking areas at L.A. International Airport are examples of the products the three-year-old firm supplies.

The couple were both practicing attorneys when an attractive business opportunity came their way. "Acromedia Corp. had been in business for 23 years when two of the four partners decided to retire," recalls Vaughn. "The two remaining partners were looking for a way to avoid dissolving the company. One of them approached Jeff for legal advice." Using $20,000 in savings and a bank line of credit, the couple purchased a 51% share of the business (enabling them to qualify as a minority business enterprise). In 1995, Vaughn, Lasley and the two partners founded Acromedia Systems.

Under Vaughn's and Lasley's managerial guidance, Acromedia has grown from eight to more than 40 employees, and revenues climbed to $6 million in 1997. The duo made significant changes to restructure the company and improve cash flow. For example, instead of continuing to subcontract out the fiber optic installation, they brought the work in house, reducing costs by as much as 50%. …