To seal the deal.

Author:Lacour, Greg
Position::Archer Advanced Rubber Components

George Halages and Alyssa White, his wife's younger sister, have clashing personalities. He's a stolid, meticulous engineer. She's mercurial and passionate. "He's black-and-white, does his work in pencil and drawing within the lines. I'm drawing in all different colors, and I draw outside the lines," she says. "Oh, we've had some knock-down drag-outs." But they've managed to resolve their differences and turn them into an advantage. Archer Advanced Rubber Components, the business they started 15 years ago in Halages' garage, has tripled its staff and more than doubled its gross sales in the past five years through acquisitions and pricing that allows the company to undercut overseas rivals. The company makes and sells all sorts of rubber gaskets, seals, O-rings, washers--crucial components in nearly all manufacturing systems. Major customers include manufacturers of lawn-and-garden equipment, home appliances and fuel and water systems that need to keep fluid from leaking. Archer is a rarity in the rubber components business because it makes and sells all four types of standard rubber seals and gaskets: lathe-cut, die-cut, molded and extruded.

Halages, 51, spent much of his early career working for Cleveland-based motion-and-control technologies giant Parker Hannifin Corp. but decided in 1999 that he "was just tired of making a lot of money for other people." White, 48, dropped out of N.C. State University and founded successful post-disaster restoration and property-management companies in Winston-Salem. But she wanted to try something new. Twenty-hour-plus workdays were frequent during the startup phase, and White went without a paycheck the first five years, relying on income from her other businesses, which her husband, Mike, and their sons took over.

"It was really, really hard at first," says Halages, the company's president. "I had $60,000 in credit-card debt. We'd check the mailbox every day, hoping and praying there'd be a check in there so we could make payroll. But we ended up figuring it out together, and it works out." Just as Archer achieved $9 million in annual sales and began to make what Halages calls a "substantial profit" in 2009, the Great Recession clobbered many manufacturers. But Halages and White saw a golden opportunity for Archer in the downturn: They could scoop up assets of companies that made other kinds of seals and gaskets to supplement Archer's specialty lathe-cut components. Through buyers...

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