Mastery of Corporate Growth

By Robert Green Atlanta Trend
  • Jun 30, 2022

Ron Domanico, the CFO of Brink's, has been extremely successful at leading corporate growth. "I see myself as a person who adds value," he says, "and while I try to grow organically first - that's the biggest bang for the buck - I have done approximately 100 M&A deals in my career with well over 95% of them successful."


The career CFO has an extensive track record of value creation, starting with his recruitment into the fast-track MBA development program at Kraft in 1981. Working his way successfully through various roles, and ultimately leading a number of multibillion mergers and integrations, Ron was eventually recruited to become CFO of Nabisco International in 1997.


"I was promoted from VP & CFO to SVP & CFO within nine months," he says, "and also accepted responsibility as President & CEO of Nabisco Asia and successfully led the region through the worst financial crisis in its history."


Leading Nabisco's $2.1 billion international business in 24 countries and exports to 80 other countries, Ron led the transformation of Nabisco International from a holding company to a proactive driver of international business. "I also traveled extensively - too much - to develop field management. All of this paid off as we met our aggressive financial goals despite economic turmoil in Asia and Latin America," he says.


Ron's success brought him to the decision to retire at the age of 40. "I had been traveling so much that I hardly saw my family," he says, "and I wanted to spend more time with them. Financially, work wasn't necessary."


 After weeks of much needed family time, the ever active Ron was soon compelled to become involved in work with multiple charities as well as his church. He was soon working 60 hours per week on his various activities, which he did for over a year. Finally, his family came to him with an important observation. "They said, Dad, you're no good at retirement. We think you need to go back to work," says Ron.


Heeding their advice, Ron let it be known that he was available once again. Receiving nine offers, he accepted the one that brought him to Atlanta. He began work at AHL Services as Executive Vice President, CFO and a member of the board of directors in May of 2000. "I was hired to turnaround the company and achieve higher growth," he says, "so I took a careful look at the assets we had. I couldn't help but be concerned about the aviation services business, even from the beginning."


Among its businesses AHL Services provided security services to airports, essentially acting as the TSA before the TSA was born. "I felt that there was a lot that could go wrong with this business," he said. Ron immediately began talking to the CEO, Frank Argenbright, about selling the business. "Aviation security was his baby and he was resistant at first, but I finally convinced him that it was sensible," says Ron. The aviation business was later sold for $175 million in 2001, before 9/11. "It was a fortuitous sale," says Ron, "the post 9/11 directive that all aviation security in the future be TSA made the business immediately worthless."


Ron stayed at AHL Services until 2002, leaving only after finishing what he had set out to accomplish. "We successfully deleveraged the business and redeployed assets into higher growth, higher margin businesses," he says.


In late 2002, Ron became CFO as well as a board member of Caraustar, the world's largest manufacturer of 100% recycled paperboard and converter of paperboard products. Recruited to lead a turnaround of the company, Ron led a restructuring and rightsizing effort that made the company much more profitable. "Our cash proceeds were among the highest ever achieved for similar assets," says Ron, " and were used to reduce leverage and improve the company's structure." 


Joining Home Depot spinoff HD Supply in 2010 as SVP and CFO, Ron was given time to fix the $9 billion company by private equity owners Bain ,Carlyle Group and Clayton, Dubilier and Rice (CDR). "HD Supply was assembled by over 100 acquisitions over a four year period," says Ron, "so the business needed to be restructured. We consolidated down to four large businesses and four smaller businesses." He divested non-core assets and closed 19 facilities in 20 months while retaining 96% of the customer base that had been serviced by those facilities. 


With debt refinanced and soaring profitability, Ron led the successful IPO of HD Supply in June of 2013. "The event was extremely profitable for everyone, including me," he says. 


Tempted into retirement once more, Ron spent a year off before being asked to meet with the CEO of Recall Corporation. Recall was the second largest information management/storage company in world.


"I wasn't looking for a job, but I agreed to meet him for lunch," he says. "We had a great conversation so I told him that while I would not work for him, I would consult and find a couple of companies for them to buy so that they could achieve the scale need to compete more effectively with their number one competitor, Iron Mountain.


Within a short while, Ron and the Recall leadership team just happened to be attending a meeting in Australia at the same time that the CEO Iron Mountain was in the country. "Iron Mountain's CEO was on the board of Quantas and was in town to attend their board meeting," says Ron. "We suggested an impromptu meeting to pitch the idea of merging the two companies. Then and there, they developed a "back of the envelope" framework for combining the companies. "We cleared antitrust on three continents within 10 months, did the deal, and all rode off into the sunset," he says.


The CEO whom Ron worked for at Recall Corporation almost immediately became the CEO of Brink's. "He started calling me, asking me to join him at Brink's," says Ron. "I told him no several times, until we agreed on an offer I couldn’t refuse."


Brink's, the world's largest cash management company by a factor of two, had been treading water. Brink's is primarily known for its armored trucks which carry money and valuable goods to and from banks, retailers, governments, mints and jewelers. A significant portion of Brink's business is conducted internationally, with 80% of revenues earned outside the United States. Asked to lead a strategic transformation of the company, Ron developed and executed an organic and M&A growth strategy. "We focused organic growth on four breakthrough initiatives, and we have completed over 30 acquisitions since I started," he said.


Things have improved significantly. The three year FX adjusted compound annual growth rate in revenue is 14%, operating profit 21%, EBITDA 24% and ESP 21%. And there are important plans for the future.


"Cash has grown at 5% to 6% annually for the past few decades and we believe that it will continue to grow at that rate," says Ron. "Check usage continues to fall and many people mistakenly believe that cash is also falling. The opposite is true."


Their work on what they call Brink's Strategy 2.0 will make total money management systems available to all. "Some of the largest retailers in the world remain steady at 20 to 30% cash receipts." says Ron, "and why not. Cash is still the ultimate financial inclusion instrument and will remain so for a very long time." 


Explaining what Brink's Strategy 2.0 solution entails, Ron says that the daily cost of having one of their armored trucks pick up and deliver each day is too expensive for some customers. "But a once a week or once every two week pickup is doable," he says. Under this program, Brinks provides a secure smart safe with RFID transmitter, bolted to the floor, to each location. Cash is inserted by the customer and electronically input at the same time. Brink's deposits the input amount to the customer's bank account within a day. "The customer has access to their funds," he says, "even though the cash is picked up later."


With cash not going away, Ron sees Brink's retail addressable market growing by a factor of four. "I think we've got another home run here. My goal before I retire is that Wall Street recognize the true value of the company," he says. 


Would the man who has trouble retiring actually retire? "I would retire to my 60 hours per week of charity work," he says. Not just antsy, Ron's charity and nonprofit work mean a lot to both him and his family.


"I believe in giving back. First, there is wrestling. I wrestled in school, where I was mediocre at best, but it taught me discipline and perseverance. I'm now the lead official for the Georgia State Wrestling Championship Tournament. The Fellowship of Christian Athletes wrestling is big for me and my wife and we participate in every way possible," he says. It is not unusual for wrestlers and coaches from around the state to stay at Ron's house at tournament time. "They can't necessarily afford to stay at a hotel," he says, "I had 15 guests from south Georgia stay over just a few months ago."


The love of wrestling paid off. Both of his sons became All American wrestlers.


Ron is also involved in an organization that teaches and promotes economics to school students, the Georgia Council on Economic Education. "We develop and provide lesson materials, train the teachers, and pay for the substitute teachers to fill in. It's a very worthwhile cause," he says.


Lastly, Ron and his wife are big supporters of building a new wrestling room for the University of Illinois which is where he obtained his BS and MBA.


Gratified for his success, Ron believes that his career in achieving corporate growth and making companies stronger is not due only to him. "I'm good at what I do, but many people have been involved in the success of my career – especially my wife of 42 years. My major contribution has been to focus on those opportunities where I sincerely believed I could add the most value," he says.