ZIFFPAGE TITLEMoment by Moment

Moment by Moment

The changeover from shell company to operating business was no easy task. Each day, Enesco typically shipped about 1,000 Precious Moments orders and handled some 300 service calls, managing nearly 2,000 stock-keeping units worth of palm-sized porcelain angels, kittens, brides and bashful children.

To take on the business, Huwel needed a call center and an enterprise resource planning system, along with other key back-office applications. He had to have a warehouse capable of handling the 48 trailer loads of merchandise that Enesco would begin turning over to Precious Moments in mid-June. The proprietary software used to manage a 20,000-member collectors club had to be brought in-house, and pretty much everyone who would run all of this stuff had to be hired and trained.

The only way to get it all done in time was to start early, even before the negotiations with Enesco were concluded. So in March, Huwel retained Mike Berent, the chief operating officer of Chicago consultancy Tahoe Partners LLC, to map out the still-prospective transition, and on April 1, Troccoli signed on to help run it. By April 20, a blueprint of the project had been drawn up, and a warehouse was under construction on the grounds of the Precious Moments theme park in Missouri. "We had to have an idea of where we wanted to go if this was going to be possible in the time frame we had," Huwel says. "I was pulling together a conceptual project plan, and rough timelines of the disciplines we needed to establish and the people to bring on board, getting a sense of what the overall organization needed to look like."

It was a calculated risk, because Huwel was making financial commitments, hiring people and paying for assessments of his hardware and software needs, without knowing for sure where his revenue would be coming from.

"There was concern that the deal wasn't going to come together, and it was interesting when the negotiations got rocky," he says. Huwel describes the conversations with Enesco as "cordial," but the talks snagged on money and dragged out for two months, rather than the two weeks Huwel expected.

The ties between the two companies were deep—and lucrative. Enesco had tried to purchase both Precious Moments companies in 2000 for as much as $175 million, but that deal fell apart. Huwel couldn't afford for that to happen this time.

As part of the deal, Berent had also contracted with Enesco to handle its end of the transition. "I thought, either this is going to be fun or I'm going to be like the cop in a domestic dispute, wondering who has the gun," he says.

This article was originally published on 10-05-2005
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