As I looked out the windows of my expansive hotel room at the Ritz over looking Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago, I could not help to wonder how I got here and whether I belong. I still remember the day in 2008 I made the decision to leave my position with Ecolab, a $3b company with business in 190 countries, and join a $180m, Midwest-based, backward company to lead the first dedicated sales effort in their 35 year history. I knew it was taking a risk after 13 years with Ecolab but I also knew ththis was a great opportunity. In six years, we acquired five companies and had organic growth exceeding 8% to push us over $600m in annual revenue and 15,000 employees. My team has grown to 13 people and we will be adding sales people in LA and Dallas as well as hiring a Marketing Director. We flew our plane to Midway, had a limo take us to the hotel and we are having dinner with one of the top New York private banking firms in the world who is wants to buy our company.
This week we presented every day and attended introduction dinners every night. The investment companies came from Europe, LA, and NYC. They came with large teams of accountants, investors, and industry experts - Directors from the USDA, CEOs of Pepsico and Nestle', and other service companies. They sat for 5 to 6 hours and listened to our story. Our team of seven including out CEO, president, CFO, SVP, HR, Tech Services, and me. We were on stage, under the spotlight, and grilled on our numbers and the "blue sky" we are selling. They came to determine how good our team was together, how strong our business is, and whether the opportunity is real. We knocked it out of the park. Our feedback from top companies in the world were "you had me at hello" (heard twice from diff companies), "your company is World Class", to "you are the American dream - making a ton of money, employing a large number of people, and protecting the US food suply." For five straight days and nights we went through the same process with five different investors. Next week four more and the following week another four. It will be a long arduous process. I understand it is hard to complain as I sleep in luxurious hotels, get transported by private planes and limos, eat at high end restaurants, and live the life of a rockstar. However, the pressure never lets up.
I am learning quickly that I need to soak up the experience. I am in a great place and wonder how many people will ever be in the middle of selling a billion dollar (yes, I said that) company. I am damn lucky to be a part of this team but I will lose a month during this process and a few years off my life. Who knows what awaits us on the other side with a new owner. I will do my best to document the process without compromising our company.