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Friday, Jun 21, 2024

An Acquisitive Mind

Irvine-based environmental consulting firm Montrose Environmental Group Inc. is the latest notch in the career belt of Allan Dicks, who has led financial operations at six public and privately traded companies in the past decade.

This includes a public Canadian healthcare company, a large privately held security services company, and billion-dollar divisions of Dole Food Co. and Land O’ Lakes Inc.

He’s also taken two companies public, which will help Montrose—which has quietly and quickly built up a business that now has more than $150 million in sales—as it considers an initial public offering, likely in the next two years.

Since taking the reins as chief financial officer in 2016, he has helped grow revenue by 25% each year, completing 15 acquisitions and streamlining back-office operations while expanding his finance team.

Dicks was named Outstanding CFO of a private company at the Business Journal’s 12th annual CFO of the Year Awards event, held on Jan. 31 at Hotel Irvine (see profiles, pages 1, 6, 8 and 10).

Eclectic Resume

A South Africa native who has kept his native accent throughout his travels, Dicks got his start in the U.S. working for PricewaterhouseCoopers in the mergers & acquisitions division.

He intended to return to South Africa, but after continued opportunities for growth, and meeting his future wife, Kristine, he chose to stay.

He got his first CFO gig at the age of 33 at Dole Food, just three years after joining the company. A few years later, he was recruited to become the vice president of finance at White Cap, a $1.4 billion division of HD Supply Inc. He moved to Orange County to join the construction supply company in 2007, right before the collapse of the housing market.

He was in the job for “an incredibly tough 18 months.”

“I spent a lot of my time implementing the best practices and processes while having to downsize the finance group by 40%,” Dicks said.

The Costa Mesa office was ultimately folded into its Florida operation, and Dicks moved on to Moark, a division of Land O’ Lakes. In his five years as CFO, he helped bolster revenues by 50% to $750 million.

He took three other CFO jobs before joining Montrose. Two of these gigs he held at the same time: he was the CFO at Los Angeles-based Convalo Health International Corp. when he agreed to be the interim CFO at Patient Home Monitoring to audit the $20 million company’s implementation of new systems.

He now oversees a team of 20 at the Irvine office of Montrose, which employs more than 1,000 employees in 50 offices across the country.

“It’s by far been the most spectacular company I’ve worked for,” Dicks said. “I’m working with some of the brightest, most passionate individuals I have ever had the pleasure of working with at a company with a beautiful mission.”

Standing Out

Montrose provides a variety of environmental consulting work, including measurements and analytics, planning and permitting, environmental solutions, and waste-to-resources.

Its clients include Fortune 500 companies, with business lines ranging from oil and gas to manufacturing to automotive.

The 6-year-old company has been averaging nearly one acquisition every six weeks since Dicks’ arrival, typically buying companies with revenues between $2 million and $10 million, and with 10 to 15 employees.

Dicks’ role has been to allow for seamless integration of these acquisitions by streamlining back-office finance operations, like reducing the number of bank accounts from more than 30 to five and automating payment processing.

Public Plans

This overhaul has shortened monthly internal reporting times by several weeks. It will also help the company continue to be on the prowl for more acquisitions as it prepares to go public in the next 18 months.

“Much of my time will be involved in the IPO prep. It is a lot of work for everyone, but I’m very fortunate to have an incredible financial team,” Dicks said.

Last October, Montrose said Los Angeles-based institutional investor Oaktree Capital Management LP had taken an undisclosed stake in the company, “to provide the company with capital and strategic support to expand its footprint.”

“The environmental testing and services industry is highly fragmented and Montrose is in an ideal position to consolidate the industry,” Oaktree officials said at the time.

Dicks, who lives with his wife and their two children in Laguna Niguel, said the main thing that makes Montrose stand out among the other companies he has worked for is its culture.

“We live and breathe collaboration. It’s a very fast-paced company, and everyone rolls up their sleeves to help the company grow,” Dicks said.

“There are no egos here. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

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