37 EWT Business History
Edd Twohig, Business/Employment History
In the early years growing up on a farm there were always chores, planting and harvesting to keep a young one out of trouble. The first introduction to entrepreneurship was at age 13. The farmer next door had, 2 years earlier, a small apple orchard, that had become inefficient, pulled out by the roots. In walking past these dried trees it occurred that this was a very dry wood that would be welcomed as firewood. I approached the farmer and proposed to cut this wood into cord wood length and keep ½ the wood for the work. For that summer it resulted in hourly earnings in excess of that of a skilled tradesman, and my first bank account at a branch where I still maintain an account.
Teenage years included part time work in small businesses of woodworking, junk dealer, grocery store and my grandfathers lumber mill. As an indicator of my future profession, at one point (age 16) I was the chief tally for loading ships of lumber to England. This entailed tallying truckloads of lumber and at night calculating the delivery to the ship of the loads from my truck and those of 3 others tallys . Then, when the ship was loaded, reconciling the total cargo with that calculated by the ship.
After working in, and eventually winding up, the family automobile, truck and farm equipment dealership, I became an apprentice at the firm of Chartered Accountants that served the family business. At that time the regimen of an apprentice was work days and study nights. Upon attaining the degree of Chartered Accountant, I was immediately chosen to open a new branch office. Advancement to partnership followed as the firm grew to 20 branches. That firm is now the Canadian partner to the International Grant Thornton firm.
While practicing in a predominately fishing area I advised a group of 4 of my clients to join in filling a need for a fish meal processing plant, a business of which I had gained both financial and operating knowledge with a client in another area. Total responsibility for feasibility, design supervision, equipment procurement and financing fell to me. At the last moment, one of the clients backed out, so I invested the 25% interest meant for them. The management of the plant responsibility continued, on a fee for service basis for any time that was devoted thereto during office hours, until its sale.
The plant had a throughput of 5 tons per hour of raw material. The industry had always packaged the product in bags for delivery to animal feed plants. Our product brokers were asked to see if ours could be delivered in bulk. They did nothing, so I went directly to a chain of feed mills that were very willing to set up bulk facilities. That reduced our staff, of an already efficient plant, to one person, and increased our bottom line by 10% on sales. I subsequently negotiated sale of this plant to National Sea Products, who had several processing plants in eastern Canada, New Hampshire and Florida.
Another large fish processing client had me do the feasibility, projections, financing application, design supervision and equipment purchase for a 15 ton per hour fishmeal plant. Interestingly, this client had come to my professional accounting office to take over his account. They had been poorly served by their lawyer as well as by their accountant. I selected a new law firm for them and worked with that firm to reorganize about 15 controlled corporations into a more efficient organization.
This client asked me to join them in order to establish a 40-ton per hour fishmeal plant in Newfoundland. In order to secure experienced fish meal plant operating personnel, I negotiated a common stock exchange for a 5-ton per hour plant. My duties were as project manager as well as for the feasibility, projections, financing, etc. of the new plant plus management of the purchased plant. The new plant was a more complicated than a normal project since the bulk of materials and equipment were purchased and landed at site by cargo vessel. As well, it was necessary to negotiate construction of a higher capacity power line of 50 miles to the site and to negotiate with government to have a bridge strengthened to move our heavy equipment to site. After start up and a full operating season, my interests in the company were sold to Minas Basin Pulp and Power (a Canadian holding company) who had a previous investment in a fish meal operation, and with whom both my father and grandfather, as well a I, had done business.
I kept the 5-ton per hour plant as part of the deal. The plant was rebuilt to eliminate down time and bulk product handling was added. This was a seasonal operation on schedule of 2 - 12 hour shifts per day, 6 days per week, including one 12-hour shift for weekly maintenance. For a few years the seasonal operation was under plant managers, during which time I turned to management consulting. Later, following resignation from the engineering firm,(mentioned below) I operated the plant myself for a season and then, over 18 months, negotiated sale to the St Simon Island, SC, SeaPak division, of Rich Foods.
As a consultant with my old accounting firm, assignments provided a broad experience in public utility rate setting and capital projects, government planning, business advisory services and as the project evaluator of applications for establishing industrial development projects for Cape Breton Development. These applications came from many parts of Eastern Canada and USA for the manufacture of varied products including nails, rope, pens and bread. These were busy times, such that, on one occasion, my wife came to the airport with clean clothes as I changed flights. One memorable consulting assignment was to examine a woodwork manufacturing plant and building material outlet. My first weekly progress meeting with the owner gave a preliminary report that the manager was light on staff organization and delegation. To my surprise, returning on Monday, the manager had been fired and had left. The next two weeks required reorganization and establishing management responsibility centers and functional controls with the existing, and capable, staff.
One assignment was to partner with a firm of consulting engineers on a proposal for a 25-year fishing industry development plan for Trinidad and Tobago. My inclusion of a computerized financial plan and sensitivity analysis was attractive to the government officials and well received in our report. The engineering firm, Canplan Consultants Limited, next asked my collaboration in submitting proposals to the World Bank for 2 projects in Yemen, design and construction management of a fish processing plant and a preliminary study for a harbor and community development. We were selected and I joined the firm as Vice President, responsible for project management of the projects and also for international business development, as well as input on other projects as required. In one year this resulted in over 165 days overseas. We also established a travel agency for which I was Management Director. The company growth was too rapid for its available capital resources. I negotiated amalgamation with a stronger engineering firm but it fell through because of negative action by our company president. This prompted my resignation and allowed a short time in retirement, mostly sailing, then managing and selling my fish meal plant.
During the period of management consulting with the Chartered Accounting and Engineering firms, while on an engagement with the telephone company, an association was developed with a communication technical expert. He involved me, as the financial partner, with a cable television franchise application. We were awarded the license for Metrovision Limited. I then applied for a regional license in my own name, but did not have enough political connections to be awarded the license.
We did go forward as consultants in 3 other successful applications and as partners in a fourth. Sale of ownership interests in the cable companies provided the normal negotiation challenges.
While searching for another business venture, a pre-cast concrete manufacturing company being operated by trustees, following the untimely death of the young owner, was attractive. I did the investigation and valuation and after a few months my offer was accepted. The manager was capable but had not changed from the unsophisticated business practices of the young owner. I undertook rationalization of a product line that included unprofitable castings. Also, a computer and software were added and a standard product costing control system introduced. Following the retirement of the manager the company was operated and expanded by my sons. We recently negotiated sale to a large local construction company.
Shortly after leaving the engineering firm, at a meeting with my securities broker, (who grew up in the same small town), at a time when a Provincial election had been called, he said, “ You are going to run as candidate for the Nova Scotia legislature in Kings North”. I said “ But I have not lived there for 25 years”. He replied, based on my parents and family reputation, “ But the name is good”. The result was, my election for that and also for one subsequent election, but I did not offer for a third term. I served on several Legislative Committees including one to establish legislation supporting Venture Capital Corporations. Then, following the old adage “Put your money where your mouth is” I attracted partners and raised the money to start a small regional Venture Capital Company. This did a number of deals and by the time I moved to the USA I had acquired 100% ownership and then sold the last investment to a firm from France. After retiring from elected office, I renewed my bankruptcy trustee license and practiced until relocating in the USA.
I sub contracted and managed international fisheries projects until my wife and I took over the restoration of a property, constructed in 1745 with additions in 1821 and 1875, that my stepson had purchased and started to renovate as a Bed and Breakfast. This was then sold back to him, and subsequently, I returned to run the Inn for him from 2004 to 2009.
Then in 2011 and 2012, I was sole parent, cook, housekeeper and driver of 2 Grandchildren, age 11 and 12. Apart from accepting an occasional personal request for business assistance, I have dedicated myself to thinking and writing about legislation and administration of Governments.