Legacy and preserving a brand are paramount to Piedmont Door Solutions’ President and CEO Chris Mitchell. Piedmont, a commercial door specialist operating across the southeast, southwest, and mid-Atlantic, prides itself on its spectacular customer service and trusted brand. In reflecting on Piedmont’s recent partnership with Cobalt Service Partners, an Alpine Investors-backed platform specializing in access solutions, Mitchell shares why Piedmont is well positioned for long-lasting success and why he chose to partner with Cobalt.
From the very start, Piedmont Door Solutions built its values around service and people. Founded in 2001 by Pat Keane in Charlotte, North Carolina, our commercial door business came from Pat’s realization that customers were not being served in the way they deserved to be in the industry. You see, commercial doors have many parts—the physical doors’ design and hardware, the automation to open and close, the security and access systems, and the emergency response systems—yet those components used to be fragmented across separate companies. Piedmont brings those solutions together and streamlines the previously cumbersome, multi-vendor process for customers. But it wasn’t just about offering a comprehensive and premium product. Pat also knew that people are what make businesses successful—a core value that’s foundational to Piedmont even today.
I joined the Piedmont team in 2015, as Pat was looking to step back from the day to day of the business. We first met and shared our visions for Piedmont’s future and it was an absolute dovetail. My sales and operations background and Pat’s entrepreneurial perspective resulted in a compelling business strategy that employees and customers could get behind. Fast forward to 2023, and Piedmont has grown to nine locations covering the southeast, southwest, and mid-Atlantic. If I had to summarize that path of growth, it’s because of our people — period. It’s all because of the Piedmont team’s hard work and dedication.
The Piedmont Difference
I wake up each day focused on two things: the customers and the employees of Piedmont. As leaders, we ask, what does the customer need for a seamless experience? What does an employee need to do their best work? When those two things are done right, everything else falls into place.
At Piedmont, we like to address a customer’s needs backwards. It’s not our job to tell the customers what they should have. We’re given two ears and one mouth for a reason; we need to listen twice as much as we talk. Our team will sit and listen to what the customers need, instead of just assuming and pressuring them into doing what we think that they want. We’ve never been an organization that markets a particular manufacturer’s brand, which is a go-to-market strategy that many other businesses in the space tend to employ. Yes, we sell many great brands, but our value proposition is the Piedmont brand and the quality of the people doing the work. This mindset is key—and one I’m very proud of.
Preserving the Brand for Generations to Come
Earlier this year, the Piedmont team and I were laser focused on continuing our work when we received outreach from Cobalt Service Partners about a potential acquisition. We weren’t necessarily looking for a financial partner at the time, but I’ve always stayed open to the idea of one. With that outreach from Cobalt, I felt like the right partner found us at the right time.
Similar to when Pat and I sat down in 2015 to brainstorm Piedmont’s future, Pat and I sat down with the Cobalt team this summer to talk big picture plans and we experienced that similar dovetail feeling that we felt over eight years ago. For me, one of the biggest factors in those early conversations was that I didn’t want to see this company ever be in a position where it had to transfer ownership on someone else’s terms. I’ve seen some leaders work until they have to retire — not want to retire — and I think that strategy can put good businesses at risk. For me, the opportunity with Cobalt allowed me to secure the future of Piedmont—the brand, the strategy, the people and the customers. It allowed us to literally preserve Piedmont for generations to come.
Cobalt’s pitch stood out from the non-humanized, almost robotic pitches I’d seen before. When we got to know Cobalt’s team, we weren’t treated like pawns in a transaction. Instead, the initial discussions focused on the vision and the people. Cobalt practiced that idea of having two ears and one mouth, just like Piedmont does with our own customers.
Further, I could tell Cobalt was a team, not just coworkers, and there’s a big difference to me there. You could tell that they enjoyed working together and it was a culture I trusted for Piedmont. I have a personal definition that shows the difference between a leader and a manager: a manager is someone that has to build a fire under a person, but a leader is someone that can build a fire in a person. I could sense that same fire in the belly with the Cobalt team, which is what I want my team and I to be around for generations to come, even when my career is over.
Securing a Successful Future
I look forward to where Cobalt is headed with Piedmont and the many other access solutions businesses that will join the platform. Collaboration is so meaningful and we all can learn from each other. I certainly don’t think that I as a leader have all the answers, nor do I think that what works in one market works in every market. So having that national diversification and learning from each other—that’s a tremendous asset for any business.
I’m also excited that the Cobalt partnership helps remove barriers to innovation. This partnership gives us an ally to share not only risks and rewards but learn and grow stronger together. A true win-win.
Alongside Cobalt, Piedmont doesn’t have to look only a year or two down the road– we can truly look a lifetime down the road. This long-term orientation is essential since if you don’t plan your strategy, the strategy will plan you. Just as I start my day wondering about the needs of Piedmont’s people, it feels good to shake hands on this deal knowing it’s good for the customers and the employees. Both boxes are checked and we’re only just beginning.