In the Spotlight: An Interview with Ben Parsons, President of DALMAC Print – Signs – Cresting

April 5, 2022 · 8 mins

In the fall of 2018, Ben Parsons and his business partner Ben Howard acquired the KKP franchise in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island (PEI); one of the largest KKP franchises in North America and the first KKP franchise in Canada to be awarded the franchise’s prestigious “Best in World” recognition.

Confederation M&A was engaged at the time as the sell-side advisors, representing the previous owners Shawn and Troy MacKenzie; second-generation owners who took over the business from their parents and company founders – Dale and Marg MacKenzie.

After a few years operating the business, Confederation M&A had the opportunity to work with Ben P and Ben H again, but this time, representing them in the search and successful purchasing of two PEI sign companies to expand their service offerings.

As they approach their fifth year in business, Ben P and Ben H have now been through five acquisitions, a rebranding to DALMAC as now an independently-owned and operated PEI business, and have just opened the doors of a new sign manufacturing facility in Charlottetown (not to mention almost half of the time under their ownership has been in the middle of a global pandemic!).

Our Partner Jeff MacKenzie had the chance to sit down with Ben Parsons to discuss their journey over the past five years and what the future holds for DALMAC.

Jeff: Take us back to 2018 for a minute – what was it that first attracted you to KKP (now DALMAC)?

Ben: The business had an excellent reputation in the community. It was a well-established, long-standing business with sellers that cared about the ongoing success of the business. It had a strong, experienced team, and a healthy culture. We saw an opportunity to expand on the strengths of the business and reposition it for continued growth and success in the future. And, equally as important, the day-to-day operations were interesting and fun to be a part of.

Jeff: You have a partner in the business as well, Ben Howard. Tell us more about the partnership and what makes it effective so far?

Ben: Ben H and I became fast friends both from personal circumstances and some professional engagements we worked together on. We have complementary skill sets. We have a high level of trust in each other and a lot of respect for each other’s respective abilities and judgment. We thoroughly discussed what could go poorly in this new venture, how we would handle those situations, and what could go well and how we would handle those situations. We outlined some tools that we would use in our partnership should we hit any challenges. Thus far we haven’t had to use any of those, but we both felt better having spent the time on the possibility that those challenges could happen at some point, and how they would be resolved to ensure a healthy successful partnership through good times and challenging times. A global pandemic for example. Both partners are equally committed to a successful partnership as well as running a successful business.

Jeff: DALMAC has always been very involved in the community. Tell us the importance of giving back and being a part of the Prince Edward Island community.

Ben: It was a value of the MacKenzie family, and is also a value of Ben H and myself, that you need to support the community that supports you. That was one of many reasons we had a successful transition of KKP, now DALMAC, with the MacKenzies. A healthy, prosperous community makes for healthy prosperous businesses. We don’t believe you can have one without the other. So, we try and support the community whenever we have the opportunity. The team at DALMAC also takes a lot of pride in this and it is important to them as well. They all live on PEI, from Montague to Miscouche, and so being part of an organization that contributes to the community is important to them too. We are very proud that our products are produced on PEI by very talented people. We believe you can grow a successful company across Atlantic Canada and beyond PEI. Supporting the Prince Edward Island community is, and will always be, very important to DALMAC.

Jeff: It wasn’t long after you purchased DALMAC before you made the decision to pursue more acquisition opportunities and ended up buying a few sign businesses to add to your portfolio. Talk us through your thought process in purchasing the sign businesses (Sign Craft, Sign Station, Yesco and TSC Signs) and how you went about that process?

Ben: After Ben H and I had our feet under us, we believed having the ability to supply exterior signage was strategically important to our vision for the business, so we set out to find out how we could incorporate that into our business. We approached Confederation M&A to help us identify some potential sign business targets and the top of the list were Sign Craft in Charlottetown and Sign Station in Summerside, both owned by a gentleman from Nova Scotia of retirement age. His initial response was to let him think about it, and a few months later he came back and said that he was ready to start discussions. Following that, we went back to the MacKenzies to see if they and their two partners in the sign business would be interested in doing a deal with us to create a larger, more capable sign manufacturer. They were interested in that, so we purchased Shawn and Troy’s shares, Chuck Gillis and Shawn Blanchard became our new partners in the sign business, and we were able to land on a deal that worked for everyone. Things carried on from there until closing on June 30th, 2020.

Jeff: I would imagine trying to bring multiple businesses together under one operation presents its fair share of challenges. How has the process of bringing multiple companies together under one ownership structure gone?

Ben: You are correct, it has its fair share of challenges, but for all it has gone really well. What attracted us to both Sign Craft and Sign Station was the very experienced skilled people, and long-standing established businesses, that aligned well with DALMAC and so we felt good about the fit going into it. Most of the challenges we’ve had were driven by trying to operate as one team from three, really four, different locations. So very early on after closing we flagged finding one location to operate the sign shop as the most important thing to bringing the group together successfully and getting the alignment right.

Jeff: Sign Craft has officially moved into their new building at 20 Cobirt Drive in Charlottetown. What does the new space allow you to do that you weren’t able to do before, and what future growth do you envision in this space? Ben: The new space will let us have better execution on faster timelines. The physical space was a real constraint for the business over the last number of years. Unbeknownst to many Islanders, Sign Craft and TSC Signs manufacture all of our signs here on PEI for our local customers. We needed a space with higher ceilings to maneuver larger signs as they are being built and the ability to keep our vehicles inside to keep maintenance costs under control (we have a crane and 3 bucket trucks and they do better sleeping inside). We also needed the ability to add some equipment that will let us increase our capacity and unleash more of the potential our very skilled sign makers have. We added a channel letter bender just this month which we are quite excited about. Future growth we envision in this space is the ability to supply more sophisticated projects to our local customers, the ability to compete regionally more effectively, and execute projects on faster timelines.

Jeff: In September 2021, you stopped operating as a KKP franchise and chose to operate independently under the name DALMAC Print, Signs, Cresting. Take us through the reasoning behind that process?

Ben: After operating the business for three years our assessment was the franchise was no longer a fit. The franchise fees were our third largest expense and we needed those funds to invest in people, equipment and community to keep growing the business and building on its past success. We also felt the KKP branding didn’t do justice to all of the capabilities KKP Charlottetown had, so we moved to DALMAC to retain the excellent reputation KKP Charlottetown and the MacKenzie family had built over the past 35 years.

Jeff: Tell us about where the name DALMAC came from?

Ben: DALMAC is a version of the founder of the business’s name, Dale MacKenzie. The original Kwik Kopy Printing franchisees on PEI were Dale and Marg MacKenzie, Shawn and Troy’s Parents. When we purchased the business we purchased the shares of Dalmack Holdings Ltd. so Ben H and I often referred to it as ‘Dalmack’ to each other. We ran focus groups when searching for a new name and none of the names performed as well as DALMAC and none of them we liked as much as DALMAC. We also liked that DALMAC let us tie in the history of the company. That was important to us and we think it is important to Islanders. DALMAC has been around since 1984, has made many contributions to the community and so preserving that history as part of our story was very important to us. Also, the MacKenzie family took a lot of risks and made a lot of sacrifices to put the company in the position it is in today, so we felt DALMAC paid tribute to that as well, and we liked that. And as a wise marketer told us “as far as made-up names go, it’s as good a made-up name as any”.