With Whittaker’s advice, we’re as secure as we ever were but growing at the same time. Here’s how.
Totten Tubes is America’s most diverse and specialized steel tube & pipe company, serving clients across the entire west coast of North America. We talked to Greg Totten, 3rd generation co-president, on how switching to Whittaker 10 years ago was a turning point for the growth of the business.
My grandfather started Totten Tubes in 1955. Having worked as a manufacturers rep on a variety of steel projects, he saw an opportunity in steel and invested in some materials on consignment. Within a year, he opened his first warehouse with minimal equipment and one employee, and began carving the Totten name into the industry.
We’ve been a family business for 68 years now, and for 50 of those years our family had relied on the same trusted accounting firm to provide financial support.
One of the last remaining partners of that firm retired, and our uncle (who had been our internal controller for many years) was also retiring. As the business was being passed onto the 3rd generation, we knew we needed to make a change.
I met Dan at an awards ceremony for the Cal-State Fullerton Center for Family Business. There was a strategic side to Whittaker that I found really appealing.
When my brother and I took over the business in 2017, one of the things we realized is that we were really lacking a strategic partner on the financial side of the company.
Knowing Whittaker well now, I can identify why they stood out to us at the beginning:
- They’re like a boutique firm with resources to help a family business
- They have a strong advisory arm
They really seemed to understand what we were doing as a family company. Other firms we were exploring were attractive, but bigger than we wanted. We didn’t want to be small fish in a big pond.
We wanted someone who could provide us with strategic accounting and help us with things like ROI on projects. Whittaker filled that advisory role. We went through a hiring process to get a new CFO internally who would be strategically focused, and now they work closely with the Whittaker team.
In the first few months we went through a pretty involved process with Whittaker.
- Evaluated previous years’ tax returns
- Went over our business goals and plans
- Learned about Whittaker’s processes and how they could help us
From day one we’ve been checking in with quarterly meetings. That alone is a really big deal. Just to have a check in with a CPA once a quarter to understand:
- Where are things going?
- What are we trying to do?
Dan really relates to us. He’s running a family business, we’re running a family business. The advice we get is really valuable.
The company had been run very conservatively. We wanted to respect that, but we were afraid we were missing out on opportunities.
The 2nd generation was kind of a founding generation. They had been financially conservative (to a fault, we felt) and tight with capital expenditure.
My brother and I want to continue the family legacy. If we were going to remain family owned, we’d have 3 branches of the family that own the company, meaning an expanding group of shareholders. We knew we needed to grow the company to bring value to that expanding group. That’s what my brother and I have taken on.
We wanted to grow and we had questions. We needed help in finding ways to expand and improve, but still conservatively enough not to sink the ship.
Whittaker were instrumental in pushing us into a more growth oriented position. They helped us sell to the board an important investment we wanted to make in a large piece of equipment. This machine was a million dollar investment, and is now one of 4 pieces of equipment we’ve installed in our 7-10 years working with Dan and his team.
With Whittakers help we’ve been able to grow and improve our capital expenditure but also improve our cash position.
We’re as secure as we ever were but we’re growing at the same time.
Since working together we’ve opened a family office, and we have a few LLCs within the family to manage corporate real estate holdings.
We needed an accounting firm that could understand the totality of all the different interests we have going and keep it all moving in the right direction.
Whittaker continues to be that for us as. They grow with us. We like the relationship we have with the team and we’re able to call them when we need something.
I would recommend them to any family business like ours. And I’ve spoken to fellow business owners in the Cal-State Fullerton Center of Family Business who have been guided through major transitions with Whittaker by their side. I know they’d agree.
If you resonate with Greg’s story, you can:
- Learn more about our process of helping you reach your family’s financial goals.
- Reach out and talk to us to see how we can help you specifically.
We know how important legacy is – it’s at the heart of everything we do. Let us help you protect and grow yours.