LAS VEGAS—Very few successful businesses bless-ed with the umbrella of a strong parent group are willing to head off on their own in the middle of a recession.
But that's exactly what Puma Polymers L.L.C. did in June 2009 when two company executives—Pathway Polymers Inc. President Gerret M. Peters Jr. and Chief Strategy Officer James Sowersby —bought the specialized urethane products division from Pathway.
The officials figured by focusing on the specialty elastomers business, the diversified firm would be able to make better, quicker and timelier decisions to help the company succeed without having to go through a long chain of command.
So far, that plan has been working well.
The company had a down year in 2009, Peters said, but the market has been strong for the specialty chemicals business during the last several months.
“Things are looking up for us. We've doubled our business compared to last year at this time,” he said.
He said the firm is continually developing products at the rate of one to two a month, and if its current growth continues the firm will be looking to expand into a new facility in the future.
Chattanooga, Tenn.-based Puma's diversified product portfolio fills needs in a variety of industries, including:
— Por-a-Thane hot cure cast elastomers, used for industrial belts for printers, copiers and automated packaging; skate board and forklift wheels; and various high-ware offerings.
— Por-a-Mold room temperature cure elastomers, aimed at the pre-cast concrete industry to make molds used to produce artificial stones, rocks and walls.
— Por-a-Kast room temperature urethane plastics for molding figurines, taxidermy and prototyping.
— Masterworks polymer modified gypsum for model making.
Auxiliary offerings include mold releases, fillers, in-mold coatings and urethane-to-metal or urethane-to-rubber bonding agents.
Peters had been looking to purchase a company for a few years, and when the opportunity to buy the division from Pathway presented itself, he said it was too good to pass up.
“My business partner (Sowersby) has a successful track record as an independent entrepreneur, and by combining his financial acumen with my 30-plus years in the polyurethane industry we had a winning combination,” Peters said at the Polyurethane Manufacturers Association annual conference,held May 9-11 in Las Vegas in conjunction with the Canadian Urethane Manufacturers Association's meeting.
The biggest issue the two executives faced was not the recession per se but the banking meltdown and the poor lending environment, he said.
However, the company successfully obtained the financing it needed, he said, “which is a reflection of the strength of the Puma Polymers' strategic business plan.”
Puma assembled a strong team to support its customers' needs in its target markets, he said. “We recognized the need for strong technical selling skills along with strong technical development know-how.”
“The Puma strategy is to bring a hi-touch/old-school approach to servicing our customers,” Peters said.
“Hi-touch means we listen to what customers are asking for and tell them if we can or can't provide the solution,” according to the executive. “We also strive to reach out with information to customers on technical developments and order status.”
Some of what the firm does is innovative and cutting-edge; some is going back to business basics, he said.
Despite all the gains it has made since becoming a stand-alone company, Pu-ma's goal for the hot cast urethane market is to maintain a nice, strong position overall but remain a smaller player with high-quality products and fast response to customers' needs, Peters said.