Tom Alessio’s commercial skills transformed his father’s scientific instruments business, increasing revenue and profitability through industry ups and downs. And when it came to a sale, he chose the right moment.
After returning from serving in the U.S. Army at the end of World War II, Oreste “Ernie” Alessio began working as a geologist in the Los Angeles port district of Wilmington – home to the third-largest oil field in America.
In 1953, he invented a small mineral sampling device called a riffle splitter to improve some research in his laboratory, and colleagues remarked that it was something the mineral analysis industry would want. Ernie began small-scale production, forming Sepor, Inc. as a part-time venture.
Over the next 20 years, Sepor grew slowly, with Ernie launching new products between geological assignments.
“Then my father went on a geology trip to Africa, but the job wasn’t successful,” Tom recalls. “When he came back, he was over 50 and had a hard time finding work. So he decided to turn Sepor into a full-time venture.
With steady growth, Sepor reached $1 million in revenue in 1979, and Tom joined after finishing his degree in finance and accounting.
Tom says: “The first thing I did was try and computerize the company; and as one of the first in our industry to do this, it paid off in the long-term.
“We slowly grew the company through ups and downs in the industry, but then my father had a stroke and I took charge.”
This was the early 1990s, and Tom saw further potential in Sepor. He developed a five-year plan to double revenue, expanding product lines and building new vendor relationships.
Against a backdrop of volatile gold and commodity prices in the early 2000s, Sepor successfully reached its next milestone of $3 million in revenues, when the market suddenly picked up. By 2009, Sepor’s business had doubled again.