Decades into a career as a metal finisher, chemical, and equipment salesperson, Marko Duffy can now add a new title to his resume: matchmaker.
After 25 years working in shops, five years working for a supplier, and 10 years running his own sales business, Duffy now finds himself running an electroplating shop in Danvers, Massachusetts, near his hometown.
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TDF Metal Finishing named Duffy its managing director in 2021 after the company was bought by Phenna Group from the United Kingdom. Phenna also owns Hansen Aerospace, which is also in Danvers and specializes in nondestructive testing and has the largest independently-owned immersion ultrasonic facility in the world.
‘Just Three Doors Away’
So when Hansen officials called Duffy at his former Marathon Manufacturing Solutions offices last summer to inquire about the possibility of adding some finishing operations to their facility, Duffy put two-and-two together.
“I knew that TDF had been up for sale for some time, and they were only three doors away from each other in Danvers,” Duffy says. “I told Hansen that TDF had half of what they needed and space to do the rest. I just put them together.”
A few months went by, and Hansen officials called Duffy in May 2021 and told him two things: 1. They had purchased TDF as he suggested; and 2. They wanted Duffy to come on board to help run things.
It was a tempting offer, but Duffy has taken great pride in running his own business for more than 10 years — “A lot of businesses fail in the first year,” he says — and he had to give it some thought. He quickly decided that running his own shop was actually something he had always wanted to do, so he took Hansen up on the offer.
“I had worked with Hansen in the past, and I had a great amount of respect for them,” Duffy says. “Plus, I knew the TDF people well and enjoyed them, too; the platers, the people on the floor, everyone who worked here. It was just a great opportunity.”
Specializing in Electroless Nickel, Anodizing, Chromating, and Passivating
Ferrairo says he had been planning to retire and sell the business for several years, and it wasn’t until he engaged a consultant to him market the company did he feel right to make the transaction. A firm called Exit The Family Business helped him prepare TDF for sale and attract a few prospective buyers.
“I had received interest from several firms regarding the acquisition of our business, but none of them met my expectations,” he says. “When it became apparent a sale was in the best interests of my family, I engaged Exit to properly prepare for a transaction and increase the valuation of my firm.”
Ferrairo says their efforts resulted in a 53% increase in valuation over other offers brought to me by outside M&A firms.
“I would never have been able to do what they did without them,” he says.
Hansen Aerospace Joined Phenna Group
Hansen Aerospace, meanwhile, was the first company to be acquired by Phenna Group in 2019, as it aimed to establish a multi-sector, international testing and certification conglomerate for the aerospace sector.
Hansen is located in a 65,000 square foot facility and employs around 20 people, offering services such as magnetic particle inspection, chemical processing inspection, fluorescent penetrant inspection, ultrasonic inspection, and spot micro Inspection.
Duffy says his experience in working with dozens of finishing shops throughout New England will help him in running TDF as a manager. He has seen how some of the best facilities are run, and he has also seen situations where he felt improvement was needed, and he expects to call on that experience going forward.
“There aren’t too many plating shops in New England that I haven’t actually been in,” Duffy says. “If I was doing my past jobs right, then a lot of them would say I was an integral part of their business. I just want to take the best that I learned from those great shops.”
Getting a Start at the Bottom
Right out of high school in 1979, Duffy started at the bottom and worked his way through almost every position in a finishing shop, beginning at Hopwood Globe in Malden, MA. He was part of the crew that installed the wastewater system, then moved to be a plater, then a truck driver, and eventually vice president of sales.
Duffy moved to ADTEC Electroplating in the 1990s as vice president of sales, where he was instrumental in helping them grow annual sales from $2 million to $10 million in just under 10 years. That led him then join the supplier side for MacDermid Enthone, where he worked with over 100 finishing shops in New England
In 2012, Duffy started his own company, Marathon Manufacturing Solutions, to offer products and processes to fabrication and machine shops as well as the paint and powder coating industry.
Along the way, Duffy has been active in the NASF New England chapter, as well as in his community in Lawrence, MA. He has served as a council member and an advisor to the local school district and the YMCA, but he has been stringent in giving back to a community that has seen rough times over the teams.
Giving Back to the Community
It “’s the poorest community in Massachusetts, but only in dollars and not in spirit,” Duffy says. “It really is a tremendous community.”
In 2018, he was selected to participate in Lawrence Leads, an executive leadership development program for leaders in the City of Lawrence hosted by Harvard Business School. Duffy was part of a program that features the rigors of a Harvard Business School course and a cohort of 30 people from a cross-section of businesses, professionals, and non-profit organizations with a goal to better position and positively impact the Lawrence community.
For his part, Duffy worked with local business leaders to help draw on the local immigrant workforce by visiting shops and offering bilingual training sessions on topics such as modern nickel plating to helping those workers prepare for promotions and advancements in their shops.
Duffy says the experience — including taking the Harvard Business School course — changed him in a way that he felt more confident in leading a company such as TDF.
“I went there, and I was the imposter; I felt like I was the 30th of 30 people in the room,” he says. “These were the brightest, the smartest, and most incredible people. Being there really honed my skills.”
The Harvard training — plus the experience of being around so many plating shops in his career — gives Duffy a blueprint for how he wants to serve the TDF employees and the customers they have.
“There were things I saw over the years that made me think, ‘I really like the way they use technology,’ or how they treat their employees,” he says. “I liked the simplicity in the way some shops handled their shipping and receiving, so all of that I will use in how I run this operation.”