Cobalt Service Partners
Year of Investment
Access solutions

Nearly four decades after he and his father started Industrial Door Company, Jerry Fields was ready to step back—but he couldn’t let just anyone take over. Now, IDC is joining Cobalt Service Partners, an access solutions platform within Alpine Investors. Below, Jerry shares what it was like to start a business as a teenager, how a few emails changed the course of the company and why he decided Cobalt was the right home for the IDC team.

A couple of years ago, I started thinking about selling Industrial Door Company. It’s been a fun and rewarding 39 years, but running a business is a lot of work and I wasn’t sure how much more I had in me. I also knew the things that had made us the top company in Sacramento wouldn’t be the same things that helped us grow from there.

At first, though, none of the firms that expressed interest in an acquisition were interested in every part of IDC—they all wanted to dismantle it, and that was a nonstarter for me. Our team members are the reason we’ve succeeded and there was just no way I could watch them be tossed aside. I wouldn’t have been able to sleep at night.

Then I met Anthony Gonzalez and Tyler Hoffman at Cobalt Service Partners, and everything changed.

Ups and downs

My father, Sy, and I founded IDC in 1985. He had tried to retire, but couldn’t stick with it—and had recently purchased a small commercial door company that seemed to have a lot of potential. He asked if I’d be interested in running it together, and I—just 19 years old at the time—jumped at the chance.

The business grew quickly: We started out installing roll-up doors for manufacturers, then took on their repair work, while simultaneously building partnerships with area developers. We added pedestrian doors; glass, aluminum, and storefronts; glazing; and eventually automatic doors and security access. By the time my father actually did retire in the early 2000s, IDC was a full-service operation. Everything customers needed related to doors, we were there to help.

But all those changes came with a lot of ups and downs. They say everyone makes at least 10,000 mistakes in their lifetime, and I think I made most of mine in the early years of IDC! Starting as a teenager, there was a lot I didn’t know—and finances were an especially big learning curve. With no accounting team at the time, I was figuring out the bookkeeping all on my own, and got plenty of firsthand lessons in what not to do.

Jerry Fields (left) and his father, Sy Fields (right).

Alpine calls it PeopleFirst; we’d never used that term. But we both saw IDC’s team as the key to its success.

A pivotal decision

Then about 10 years ago, I started getting emails from Josef Roberts, who ran a peer group for door companies through his consulting firm, E Squared. I’ll be honest: I deleted a lot of emails from Josef. But one day—probably when I was frustrated enough with something to ask for help—I finally replied. We set up a call, and I joined the group.

It ended up being a pivotal decision. From the start of IDC, we’ve believed in taking care of our employees, the people who take care of us. But learning from other business owners in the E Squared group inspired us to formalize that philosophy. We created handbooks and org charts, PTO policies and retirement plans. We also stepped up efforts to give our team members the tools they needed to succeed, from actual hand tools to training. Today, every new technician spends time in the field with multiple team leaders so they can see a variety of approaches in action, and we frequently send employees to manufacturers’ training schools to keep their knowledge and certifications up to date.

In short, we decided to get big by acting big—and it worked. Today IDC has a team of 50, many of whom have been with us for 10, 15, 20, even 25 years.

Shared values

From our first call last year, it was clear that Anthony and Tyler had the same approach to growing Cobalt. The Alpine “buy and build” model was exactly what I’d been hoping for—when a team member expressed concern about her job, I could honestly say she wasn’t going anywhere, and that if anything, IDC would need more people like her. I could look my employees in the eye and know their future was bright.

Of course, even I was a little skeptical at first. I remember when Anthony and Tyler were praising IDC during an early meeting, I called out what seemed like flattery: “You keep saying we’re amazing, but how much do you really know about us?” They explained they’d analyzed the data in a report I’d shared and, among other findings, discovered we had a turnover rate far below the average in—and even beyond—our industry. I’d never realized IDC was an outlier, and it was a lightbulb moment about our companies’ shared values. Alpine calls it PeopleFirst; we’d never used that term. But we both saw IDC’s team as the key to its success.

Cheering from the sidelines

I’m glad to say that in the weeks since IDC joined Cobalt, our interactions with the team have only confirmed those first impressions. Before the acquisition, when I asked if they’d continue the tradition of IDC’s annual fishing trip, they said they would—and sure enough, they booked it as soon as the deal went through. And when a longtime IDC leader offered to delay a planned trip to make scheduling a big meeting easier, the Cobalt team told him he was absolutely not missing a day of vacation and worked around his plans.

Meanwhile, I’ve been sharing an office with IDC’s new CEO, Ryan Shields, whom I already consider a friend. I’m staying on full-time for a month, then helping out part-time for five more months before I fully retire. My goal is to stay retired as long as possible—at least longer than my dad did! My wife and I will be keeping busy with hobbies, travel, and our new granddaughter, but I’m also excited to cheer on IDC from the sidelines as the company and the team continue to grow. I’m grateful to know that the people who made this company what it is will be taken care of. And just as a different kind of peer group once did for me, I hope that they and all the other businesses joining the Cobalt family can inspire each other to new heights.

Certain statements about Alpine made by portfolio company executives herein are intended to illustrate Alpine’s business relationship with such persons, including with respect to Alpine’s facilities as a business partner, rather than Alpine’s capabilities or expertise with respect to investment advisory services. Portfolio company executives were not compensated in connection with their participation, although they generally receive compensation and investment opportunities in connection with their portfolio company roles, and in certain cases are also owners of portfolio company securities and/or investors in Alpine-sponsored vehicles. Such compensation and investments subject participants to potential conflicts of interest in making the statements herein. Past performance not indicative of future results. Results may vary materially and adversely. Please see Alpine’s Terms of Use for additional disclaimers.
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