IN GOOD SHAPE: Mark Delaney, left, chief financial officer at Hexagon Metrology, with software engineer Donald Ruggieri Wilcox, center, and Financial Controller Steve Westerfeld. Delaney joined what was then Browne & Sharpe in 1980.
PBN PHOTO/NATALJA KENT
By John Larrabee Contributing Writer
A decade ago Mark Delaney had no idea how much longer he’d be working at Brown & Sharpe. The senior executives had invested in too many technologies that were never commercialized, and the North Kingstown company – once one of Rhode Island’s top employers – was floundering.
Someone else might have started a job search, but Delaney – then the company controller – decided on a different course. He teamed up with others in middle management and began searching for someone to buy the operation.
The strategy worked. Today the company is thriving under a new name, Hexagon Metrology Inc. A Swedish corporation, Hexagon AB, purchased the business in April 2001, and impressed with Delaney’s effort in the sales pitch, they named him vice president and chief financial officer. Since that time, business has grown from $90 million in annual revenue to $220 million.
“A good CFO is able to maintain a company; a great CFO helps grow the company,” said Angus C. F. Taylor, the current president and CEO. “This is exactly what Mark Delaney has accomplished at Hexagon. Nearly 10 years ago, Brown & Sharpe … was on the brink of collapse. Mr. Delaney’s knowledge, persistence, analytical ability and passion provided the leadership to save the company that provides hundreds of jobs to Rhode Islanders.”
The company is making a strong recovery from the recession of 2009. That year, Hexagon Metrology laid off 40 of its 235 workers; a year later, they were hiring again. Today the company employs 214, including 51 applications engineers, and that number is climbing.
“We’re seeing a rebound,” Delaney said. ‘‘We fought off the recession with a combination of cost reduction and improved efficiency, and we maintained our profitability. Now we’re looking for engineers, factory assemblers and machinists.”
Delaney graduated from Bentley University with an accounting degree in 1980, and soon found a job at Brown & Sharpe, a company that produced measuring equipment. Over the next few years he earned a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Rhode Island.
“I was interested in cost accounting, and they had an opening in that field,” he recalled. “I knew I wanted to work at a good manufacturing company, and back in 1980 Browne & Sharpe had 2,500 employees. It was one of the biggest manufacturing companies in the New England area.”
By the end of the century, however, there was talk the doors would soon close. “The senior executives took their eye off the core business, and therefore the company had a liquidity issue,” Delaney recalled. “Eventually we had to put the company up for sale; that’s how bad it was.”
Delaney played a key role in finding a buyer. “We started with two road shows to private-equity investors, and I participated in those,” he said. “They backed off, but we ended up finding a match with Hexagon AB. I was actively involved in selling the company, not knowing what my future would be once we sold it. Hexagon AB proved to be a breath of fresh air, by empowering management to run the company and by providing the financial resources to help with our growth plan.”
After the takeover, he was one of several middle managers to be promoted to senior positions. “When Hexagon AB bought the company,” he said, “the next step was to get our cost structure under control, and then reinvest in research and development, which had been neglected. We decided to fill the holes in our product line with a combination of new product development and new product through acquisition. Since 2001, in North America alone, I’ve worked on nine metrology acquisitions.”