A professional in the janitorial and sanitary industry who blinked between 2009 and today was likely to miss Imperial Bag and Paper make a splash. In just under a decade, the company has acquired 17 businesses, built a state-of-the-art facility, and opened a new distribution center. 

The Tillises say the company’s mantra isn’t about making acquisitions, but how it can expand in a way that best serves its customers. 

“Our growth has included expansion into several new regions that allow us to better serve our multi-unit customers,” says Laura Craven, the company’s director of corporate communications and marketing. “One year ago, we were a Northeast distributor. Now we service the Southeast, Caribbean, Midwest, and with our recent acquisition of Gulf Coast Paper Co.: Texas. We can now offer our customers a consistent supply chain program across those regions.”

The company acquired another business, jan/san distributor American Osment, Birmingham, Alabama, shortly after Craven participated in the interview.

Growth is an understatement — it’s almost as if the Tillises sometimes think about it in their dreams. They wouldn’t be the only ones — plenty of leaders feel that if their company isn’t growing, it’s dying. However, some jan/san distributors seem to stick to either external or organic growth. The Tillises do both. 

“We focus on operational improvements, sales growth and geographic expansion,” says Craven.

When Imperial Bag and Paper closes a deal, Craven says it first focuses on maintaining its existing base, which it accomplishes through the improved resources and economies of scale. The company then leverages its capabilities to attract and gain new customers.

Between 2015 and today, Imperial Bag and Paper acquired eight companies. One of these moves not only helped to accomplish the goal of keeping and attracting customers, but also changed the company’s identity forever.

An advisor approached Imperial Bag and Paper in 2017 with the opportunity to purchase Dade Paper, a Miami-based company who had been a distributor to restaurants, supermarkets, cruise lines and other foodservice establishments in the Eastern United States since 1939. For a company that prides itself on taking advantage of the best business opportunities, this was a big deal.

The Tillises say the Dade acquisition was a “transformational event” — a no-brainer move that they had to make. Those comments aren’t hyperbolic, as the acquisition would bring combined business to more than $1 billion while also expanding Imperial Bag & Paper’s presence to a whole new area.

“This represents a major step forward in our core markets and geographies,” Jason said at the time. “It reinforces our position as a leading distribution and service provider in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern regions, while positioning us to continue to expand throughout the remainder of the United States.”

The deal between the two sides was so significant that Imperial Bag and Paper changed its name to Imperial Dade right after the June 9, 2017, acquisition. But as transformative as it was, it was graded about same as any other big move the company made.

The Tillises don’t have a business strategy, but a set of criteria that determines whether an opportunity presents the company an “exceptional acquisition” or one that simply isn’t a fit at the time.

“We looked at it and as we looked at it further, it literally checked every box of our criteria,” says Robert of the acquisition of Dade Paper.


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