Pat O’Donnell on 63 Acquisitions and Hot Button Legislative Issues

Today’s podcast guest is Pat O’Donnell, President, YESCO Outdoor Media.  Pat manages an out of home plant with 2,250 faces  and sits on the board of directors of the OAAA and Geopath.  Pat talks about doing 63 tuck-in acquisitions, using Blip, priorities for the year ahead and hot-button legislative issues.

Patrick O’Donnell, president YESCO Outoor Media

YESCO has done several tuck-in acquisitions over the last few years.  What are you looking for?

There’s three main components I look at…the first being is it complementary geographically for us, the second thing is can we absorb it without having to add significant infrastructure or overhead…and third, can we buy it at a multiple where there’s room to increase revenue and build value in the inventory…if you look at the footprint of the Rocky Mountains and the National Parks throughout Utah, Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, we serve those very well.

How do you integrate acquisitions?

I looked the other day and I know that we’ve done 63 acquisitions over the years.  We approach it the same way for a large or a small transaction.  Each department, our sales department, our real estate department, operations and administration…has a checklist associated with each new piece of inventory…  It’s not in the system until all of those things happen…The physical aspect is very important to us.  Branding is very important to us.  We want the best possible looking inventory.  It’s the idea that each structure is an easel for our customer’s artwork, and that easel needs to be well-maintained, well-lit, branded correctly.  That’s really important…The other thing is the personal connection.  We want to get to know the landowners and customers.  We’re looking for a long-term relationship.

What are your top priorities for the next twelve months.

We’ve averaged nearly 6% revenue growth for the last thirty years here at YESCO.  I’d really like to see that continue…we’re a family company and we’re never going to have the kind or growth – nor the volatility – that the larger companies have, but I’d like to see that trend line continue up.  I’d like to see more cooperation on companies in the industry in terms of measurement and to eventually get the accreditation.  I think there needs to be more support for Geopath.  I’d love to see an open access marketplace so that independent companies and our inventory, is available to buyers side-by-side with the public inventory.  In March YESCO is celebrating its 100th anniversary.  As that takes place we need to start mentoring our next generation of leadership.

You’re on the OAAA’s legislative committee.   What legislative issues are on your radar?

Certainly the Thomas case which just came out of the appeals court is really important.  Anything that could dismantle the HBA (“Highway Beautification Act”) should be everybody’s concern.  I can’t even imagine what it would be like if…in every state in the country we had to get new law.  It would be chaos.  You may remember Dave a number of years ago when we had the debacle in Oregon.  I don’t think that benefits anybody other than those who would seek to ruin us.

Also I think we all need to be concerned about government’s insatiable appetite for more money.  About their inability to curb spending..and the end result seems to them looking for ways to get more money out of our industry particularly through taxation…We’ve seen that not only in Cincinnati and Baltimore but in some smaller communities.  We’ve seen it up in Ada County in Idaho where arbitrary changes in valuation of assets and taxation increases have taken place…it can be very very expensive…It speaks to the need why we need to work together through our organizations.  The best way we can head these things off is when we can have local participation where we know personally the regulators and the legislators and that’s where the best work gets done to head off this stuff…

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