Business types love to talk about the importance of diversifying one's assets.
Well, try this interpretation on for size: John O'Hagan is a small business owner who sells ice and ice carvings for events, rents out tents and tables for small parties, shreds documents out of a truck, dabbles in debt collection and recently launched a private investigation business — all out of a tiny office in Morris Plains.
“It's kind of a strange mix,” said O'Hagan, president of Esposito's Ice, Security Shredding and, most recently, Capital Investigations. “But they do have some symmetry.”
And the different endeavors have helped keep his business afloat over the past 16 years, through hurricanes and economic downturns and the inevitable uncertainty that comes with running a company.
Although the private investigation business is the most recent addition to his suite of companies, that's where his career began. O'Hagan started out as a private investigator working for Danbee Investigations in Midland Park.
But the job required him to work 60 to 70 hours a week, and he was itching to launch a business of his own.
So in 1998, when Joe Esposito, the late owner of the ice company on Speedwell Avenue, told him he was interested in selling, O'Hagan pounced.
“I saw some real room for growth,” he recalled. And business was good for the first few years, O'Hagan said.
“We tripled in size within a couple years and had a warehouse up in Denville for many years and stored about 100 pallets of ice, had 10 trucks,” he said. “It was nice. We had a really big operation, but it's extremely demanding during the season.”
During the off-season, that business would cool. So in 2000, he started Security Shredding, a mobile document shredding company that promised to keep cash coming in when the ice alone wouldn't cut it.
As it happened, while January through April is slow for the ice business, it is the peak time for document shredding, O'Hagan said. And in the summer, when ice is booming, the demand for document shredding dries up.
But although the combination worked — and continues to work — O'Hagan had to make a few adjustments along the way
He sold part of the ice business in 2007 and decided to focus on selling only dry ice and ice carving, while expanding into party rentals for intimate events and backyard barbecues.
The document shredding took center stage instead and continues to comprise the bulk of his business. He currently has two mobile shredding trucks, with plans to add a third in the near future, and he has begun offering debt collection services to his shredding clients.
And as he looked at what else he could offer, he decided to dust off his private investigation license, which he had maintained all these years, and put it back to use in Capital Investigations, which he launched in October.
O'Hagan said his is not a career path he would recommend to everyone, but the diversification has been critical in his survival .
“I do make things a little more complicated sometimes by adding something else,” O'Hagan said.
But “you have to be a little bit diverse,” he added. “You have to find that happy balance.”
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