“When I was growing up, most of my friends were dreaming of sports or of winning a championship – while I was dreaming about owning my own business,” says Darrel Vessels, Owner & CEO, Facilitek – Furniture for Business.
A company with deep roots in the Colorado Springs community has a new owner. On December 28, 2001, Darrel Vessels, Facilitek’s CEO, purchased the 19-year-old company from founders, Paul and Verdie Williams. The buyout concluded nine months of discussions, negotiation and due diligence.
Prior to joining Facilitek in 1997, Vessels served as executive vice president for United Van Lines’ local affiliate, Cowen Moving and Storage. He was also the former head of New Market Development for Fred Schmid – opening offices in San Diego, Salt Lake City and Phoenix for the company in the 1980s. During his tenure, Vessels has led the company to $30 million in sales in 2000 and to more than $20 million in sales during a tighter 2001. And, in the midst of economic recovery, he remains undeterred by unpredictable sales cycles.
“Business can be tough – and it’s full of challenge,” he said, “but that’s what makes it fun.” To date, the Colorado Springs market generates 35 to 40 percent of Facilitek’s annual sales – with Denver’s share increasing to more than 60 percent. “Our business has a long sales cycle so it allows us to forecast more accurately than some other industries,” he said, pointing out that he has survived two earlier, more severe recessions in the 1970s and the 1980s. “Consumers aren’t going away – they’re just holding back right now.” Facilitek’s product line includes a broad range of office furnishings and cubicle/space planning components as well as design services.
For the past five years, Vessels has served as the company’s sales and operations manager, both for Colorado Springs and Denver, with responsibility for a total of 49 full-time and four part-time employees. Among those, Facilitek employs three sales people and a designer in Colorado Springs, along with five sales people and three designers in the Denver metro area.
His philosophies include a focus on quality products and service, cost control and revenues. “That’s the only way to succeed in our business,” he said. “Keeping customer prices low and delivering excellent service.” Vessels also values the Facilitek employees, and does not foresee any layoffs or reorganization in the future. “Good employees can help you run your company and do a better job for the customer. I really believe in the quality of our people.” Vessels plans employee appreciation events in both offices. Colorado Springs marketing director, Jennifer Romero agrees that Vessels has excellent support from the employees. “We are all really excited and want to help the company and Darrel succeed,” she said.
Though the firm was founded in Colorado Springs, Vessels sees tremendous growth potential to the north. “Colorado Springs business is steadier and more consistent while Denver is more volatile. There’s a lot of vacant space right now in the Denver Tech Center and throughout the telecomm industry. Of course, that impacts our business,” he said. “When the Denver economy rebounds, however, it will remain a strong market for us.”
Facilitek’s Pikes Peak region clients range from civic organizations like the Colorado Springs and Convention Bureau and the Chamber of Commerce to companies like Vitesse, Vista Bank and Carmichael Training Systems. “We do a lot of work with municipalities and government customers as well as with churches, schools and laboratory furnishings,” Vessels said. Helen Beulke, Vice President of the Colorado Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) recently worked with Facilitek on space planning and furnishings for the CVB’s new office space at South Cascade and Cimarron. “It was a great experience,” said Beulke. “Facilitek’s team was extremely creative in the way it approached our office design. The result has been increased productivity – and they did help keep our costs down.”
Vessels agrees that his focus will continue to be sales and development of new markets. “I may even decide to acquire another company, if it makes sense,” he said. One thing the new owner did learn from his own experience in buying Facilitek is that a smart purchase depends on the support of professionals who understand what’s at stake. “I used Chris Whitney, a local attorney and Dolly Wong, CPA, to prepare for the buyout. The Williams’ did hire a business broker to assist them in the sale.
“Buying a business takes a lot of time and preparation – from working with financing sources to negotiating a sales agreement,” he advises. “Fortunately for me the timing was perfect. The Williams built Facilitek into a great company with great people – and we operate in two growth markets. I am excited about our future.”