WorldWide Trailers Before The Profit
Back in 2001, Tom Etheridge and Nancy Pappas founded a company that designs, builds, and sells concession trailers to food vendors and a few other industries. By the time Season 2, Episode 4 of The Profit rolled around, the company was facing two life-threatening problems.
One was logistical: although manufacturing took place in Waycross, Georgia, Tom and Nancy were based in Tampa, so if the trailers were delivered to Tampa with any damage that couldn’t be fixed on site, the trailers had to go all the way back to Georgia for further repair before returning to Tampa.
The second was personal: When Tom and Nancy started the company, they were a couple. But after seventeen years, they had suffered a bad breakup, and there was little – if any – trust between them. While they said they tried to keep personal drama out of the workplace, unresolved anger (mostly Nancy’s) had a way of popping up during the business day.
Marcus Visits WorldWide Trailers in Tampa
The Profit Season 2 Episode 4
Marcus’s first impression of WorldWide Trailers was that the plant was very small and not many people worked there. When he met Tom and Nancy, he learned that the Tampa operation wasn’t bigger because the trailers were manufactured somewhere else. He didn’t understand why the company needed two different facilities in two different states, and figured they could save a lot of money in real estate, labor, and transportation costs if the operations were consolidated. Why weren’t Tom and Nancy living in Georgia where they would be closer to manufacturing? Nancy didn’t want to give up her beach house in Florida.
Marcus asked about the company’s sales performance. Tom said they sold 125 trailers for $4 million in revenue and about $400,000 in profit. Marcus wanted to know about their costs, but neither Tom nor Nancy seemed to know what it cost to make a trailer.
Tom and Nancy were grateful that Marcus was there to help them with their business, but Nancy was under the impression that the producers had reached out to them, when it had been Tom who had applied to have their company featured on the show. This set Nancy off, as she felt like Tom wasn’t communicating important details to her. Her anger seemed out of proportion to Tom’s offense and Marcus wanted to chat with Nancy privately to find out exactly what was going on between the two of them.
Nancy spilled all of the sordid details of her breakup with Tom, and it was clearly too much personal information for Marcus. While that was uncomfortable for him, he was more concerned about Nancy’s interaction with Tom. He felt their lack of trust and poor communication was bad for business.
Marcus Thinks the Process Can Be Fixed
Marcus visited the facility in Georgia and noticed a lot of parts scattered across the grounds, some of it rusty. He wondered if the workers had ever taken inventory. They hadn’t. Marcus noted that they would have to fix this problem right away so that they could have a better handle on costs and improve their efficiency. But, overall, he was pleased with the people he met in Georgia, and impressed with their enthusiasm and dedication.
Back in Tampa, Marcus met Tom and Nancy for dinner. He felt that the issues with inventory and shipping inefficiencies could be corrected, but he was worried about the communication between the owners. Tom tried to assure Marcus that his personal business with Nancy wouldn’t get in the way of their business relationship. Although Nancy said she agreed, she immediately launched into a rant about not being to work with Tom’s girlfriend. The discussion escalated into a fight, and Marcus got up from the table and walked outside. Nancy went after him and convinced him to come back in.
Marcus asked Tom to confirm the $400,000 profit he made last year, and Tom said the number was absolutely correct. With that, Marcus offered $500,000 for 50% of the business. Tom seemed ready to make a deal, but Nancy felt that wasn’t enough. She was seeking $1 million. When Marcus explained that wasn’t reasonable, she still felt uneasy about having only 25% of the business after all she had put into it. Marcus countered with $700,000 for 50%, and $100,000 of it could be split between the two owners, while $600,000 would go toward the business. Tom and Nancy agreed and the deal was made.
Truths are Revealed
After a brief meeting in Georgia to announce the deal, the owners and Marcus came back to Tampa to find major quality issues with a trailer that had just arrived. Once again, it became clear that neither Tom nor Nancy had a clue about the costs associated with their trailers. Marcus asked Tom to bring him the financials, and he noticed right away that the profit was $200,000, not $400,000. Were they lying to him? Had anyone stolen from them or were there illegal activities? Or did Tom have some knowledge that he didn’t want to share with Nancy? Marcus requested a private meeting with Tom where Tom did confess that he had kept some transactions secret to protect himself from Nancy. Marcus told Tom it was toxic for the business and it had to stop.
Marcus had Tom and Nancy meet him in Georgia to do an inventory, and Marcus brought in an inventory auditing team to help with the process. The WorldWide Trailers team didn’t have a system in place to keep track of inventory so the auditing team had to do most of the work. What they learned was that WorldWide’s estimate of $100,000 in inventory on hand was more like $20,000. Nancy felt beat up by Marcus’s acknowledgement of the problems in their business. She seemed not able to accept responsibility or criticism.
Marcus thought it was critical that Nancy move to Georgia, so he showed her a beautiful house near the facility. She still seemed unwilling to leave her beach house. She also indicated that Tom would never leave Tampa, either.
The Deal is Off!
Back in Tampa, Marcus arrived for a meeting with Tom and Nancy. He wanted to see how they were working together on a new project. But when Nancy came in she announced she wanted a conference, and then she called to request that all of the employees come to the office. When the employees arrived, Nancy passed around a customer order from a dealer. Apparently Tom’s girlfriend was an employee at the dealership, and Nancy didn’t want Tom’s girlfriend to have any connection to the business. As Nancy became more agitated and began to shout and curse, Tom did the same. Suddenly, Nancy yelled that the deal was off. Marcus couldn’t have agreed more, and he walked away from the company.
WorldWide Trailers After The Profit
WorldWide Trailers is still in business, although its revenue is rumored to be half of what it was when the show aired in 2014. Several websites show Nancy as the only contact for the business, but Tom’s LinkedIn page states that he’s still one of the owners. It’s possible that he just hasn’t updated the page.
WorldWide’s Facebook Page seems relatively current, with the most recent post from April 27, 2020. On Facebook, the company states:
“Many of you have asked if we are still open. The answer is yes…we are fully operational. Even though some of our suppliers have temporarily closed their doors do to the Pandemic, we are outsourcing raw materials as necessary to keep pace with our custom food trailer builds.”
(followed by a lovely photo of a custom BBQ concession trailer)
The company has several positive Google reviews from as recently as 2018, but a recent complaint on its Better Business Bureau page tears into Nancy for her toxic and abrasive behavior, and accuses WorldWide Trailers of gross incompetence.
Nevertheless, WorldWide trailers appears to be trucking along, albeit at a modest pace. If Tom is indeed out of the picture, that could be the reason the company is still operating today. Perhaps it now has a better handle on inventory and financial tracking after Marcus’s intervention.
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