An Overview of the Partnership
In March 2020, Nick Oberhouse joined NextGen Growth Partners (“NGP”) as an Entrepreneur in Residence after receiving his MBA at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. His primary focus was to identify a mission critical outsourced B2B services business. In 2020, Nick connected with Door and Window Guards, Inc. (“DAWGS”), a previous NGP acquisition target which was already in the firm’s CRM. DAWGS is a leading manufacturer and provider of steel panels used to cover door and window openings on vacant buildings. Relationship building continued throughout the course of Oberhouse’s search and, after a due diligence process, NGP acquired DAWGS in October 2021. With a shared vision, the partnership aimed to grow DAWGS into the nation’s leading vacant property security company.
Industry Appeal and Entrepreneur Fit
Vacant properties present a significant security risk, making it essential for property owners and investors to secure them effectively. With the number of vacant properties increasing in the United States, DAWGS’ proprietary services help prevent crimes such as theft, vandalism, and squatting. Property value preservation is also a significant concern, as vacant properties can rapidly lose value as crimes occur. These services provided by DAWGS are essential in improving safety and preserving property values in the surrounding community. Oberhouse and the NGP team identified significant white space in the sector as prospective customers in underserviced markets use more costly, less efficient options than those provided by DAWGS. This presented a meaningful opportunity for organic growth post-acquisition.
DAWGS was also a strong fit for Oberhouse. Prior to partnering with NGP, Oberhouse worked in blue-collar family businesses and as a consultant at Crowe for over 7 years, where he worked alongside companies in the manufacturing and distribution sectors, including steel manufacturing.
Mentorship & The Network
Mentorship is an essential aspect of NGP’s model. When EIRs partner with NGP, they gain access to a network of seasoned entrepreneurs, business strategists, and M&A experts. When Oberhouse began preparing for his role as CEO, he asked Steve Morrissette, NGP Advisory Board member and Chicago – Booth Visiting Professor of Strategy, to sit on the DAWGS Board of Directors.
Ghian Foreman, NGP connection, active member of the Chicagoland community, and long-term DAWGS customer, sits on the company’s Board of Directors. Foreman’s experience with DAWGS’ history of providing exceptional customer service adds valuable perspective to board discussions. He believes that DAWGS’ competitive advantage lies in its superior customer service and ability to form interpersonal connections with customers.
Key Initiatives & Operational Efficiency
After making the investment, Oberhouse assumed the CEO role at DAWGS, with co-founder Brandon Buhai continuing to remain active in the company as President. The management team has since implemented several key initiatives aimed at expanding the company’s reach and continuing exceptional customer service. As part of its commitment to developing talent alongside its growing portfolio companies, NGP encourages the recruitment and mentoring of promising executives. To improve operational efficiency, DAWGS hired Ryan Welage as Director of Operations shortly after acquisition. As identified through the diligence process prior to close, DAWGS expanded into the Los Angeles and Atlanta markets within Oberhouse’s first year as CEO.
Mergers & Acquisitions
During diligence, Oberhouse and the NGP Investment Team became aware of industry competitor Vacant Property Specialists (“VPS”). Months after the initial DAWGS transaction, NGP, DAWGS, and VPS began discussing a prospective partnership. In October 2022, DAWGS acquired VPS.
NGP’s Investment Team led all diligence workstreams relevant to the VPS acquisition and helped facilitate conversations between the DAWGS team and NGP investment advisors. The lending partner on the DAWGS transaction re-upped their position, and the Investment Team brought in an additional new debt provider.
NGP’s Portfolio Operations function, led by Eric Wilson, is critical to the institutionalization of the firm’s portfolio growth and value creation. In addition to supporting Oberhouse as a new CEO and in DAWGS value creation planning, the firm’s Portfolio Operations team helped strategize the path towards a smooth and successful integration.
With the VPS acquisition, DAWGS built route density in their existing markets and expanded to two new geographies.
The NextGen Difference
The ongoing partnership between NGP and DAWGS highlights the importance of strategic investments and mentorship. Through key initiatives and operational improvements, DAWGS is poised to expand its reach and continue providing quality products and services to its customers.