Bobby Martin had built First Research up to $6.5 million dollars in revenue when he sold the business to a Fortune 500 company for 26 million dollars.
To read a transcript of this episode, click here.
Despite getting four times revenue for his business, Martin ended up feeling empty after the sale….
In this week’s episode of Built to Sell Radio, I interview Bobby Martin. Bobby built his business from the ground up and had a great exit. He sold his business to a Fortune 500 company for $26 million dollars – four times his top line revenue at the time.
Martin’s exit was a financial success but life after the sale took a big turn for the worse.
Bobby Martin is the founder of The Hockey Stick Principles, a research project to figure out how good ideas become successful firms; and he is the president and co-founder of Vertical IQ, a leading provider of sales research insight for banks. Martin also co-founded and served as president of First Research, a leader in sales intelligence. In 2007, First Research was sold to D&B Corporation. Today Martin is an active angel investor and serves as an active board member with innovative start-ups Local Eye Site, Boardroom Insiders, LifeSite Logics, and etailinsights.
John Warrillow: You know when you meet someone for the first time and you instantly like them? It’s the way I felt about Bobby Martin. We were two young entrepreneurs, we met at a trade show and we were both putting up our booths like good entrepreneurs, we were doing it ourselves up by the bootstraps we didn’t have employees to put them up and we both got to commiserate it and laughed at the fact that we here we were exhibiting and trying to make our businesses to become successful.
John Warrillow: Ultimately we saw each other throughout the years as we both continue to grow our business somewhat in parallel somewhat in the same industry not competitive but similar, and I came to know and really admire Bobby over the years and ultimately Bobby sold his business for $26 million to a fortune 500 company Dun & Bradstreet was the acquirer. What you’re about to hear is a cautionary tale. On the outside Bobby had an amazing exit, sold his business for four times top-line revenue, an amazing exit on paper however the exit itself and the process of selling his business left Bobby feeling a little bit empty. He goes so far as to say that he actually in some ties regrets selling his company. I’ll let Bobby tell you the rest of the story.
John Warrillow: Bobby great to talk to you.
Bobby Martin: You too John thanks for having me.
John Warrillow: Yeah no my pleasure you know as I was thinking it’s been a couple of years since we’ve met but we’ve kind of gone through this entrepreneurial life cycle together I remember when we first met it was at a trade show and you guys for setting up your booth and we were setting up our booth and we got to know one another.
Bobby Martin: Exactly and I actually attended many of your trade shows back in the day and the 2000s which you’re really entertaining I met a lot of great people at those as well.
John Warrillow: Well so I’m a huge fan of your former business First Research but for listeners who don’t know about it can you just describe a little bit about what you guys did at First Research?
Bobby Martin: Sure we provide industry profiles sort of cheat sheets on industries for sales and marketing professionals. I was a banker and I had the idea that the more I knew about a business or industry that the better my sales calls tended to go so that kind of led to meet creating cheat sheets and those cheat sheets sort of evolved into a company.
John Warrillow: That great and just give us a sense of the trajectory I mean when did you start and when did you sell how much revenue did you have when you sold that kind of stuff?
Bobby Martin: Sure I started tinkering around with First Research in 1997 and 98. I started it officially in 1999 by quitting my day job. That year 99 we worked for nine months, I think I sold $5,000 worth of subscriptions the next year 2000 was another slow year where we were just inching along. And then we started getting more and more interests, these businesses take a long time to catch on particularly new ideas but by 2006 we hit $6.5 million in revenue so we were adding on a couple million dollars in new revenue a year.
John Warrillow: That’s fantastic and your customers were these large typically large financial institutions who bought this research so that their sales people could be better informed going into a call?
Bobby Martin: That’s correct I mean we ended up also selling to lots of small organizations as well. So examples of that would be CPAs, consultants, really anybody who needed a nice clear summary on an industry from the perspective of a business perspective that’s easy to read so we had thousands of CPAs as customers, consultants all kinds of people like that and also large organizations as well.
John Warrillow: And just give us a sense when you know when you did sell the business of the six and a half million what proportion roughly was those very large enterprise customers versus the kind of smaller CPA firms?
Bobby Martin: Yes so that’s a great question I think revenue wise it was primarily from the large organizations but then number of customers of course we had thousands of small customers that paid us a whole lot less. It was kind of split up like that. It was a subscription business and still is so that people pay annual subscriptions to have access to First Research those kind of information as a service instead of SAS you know software as a service, it’s kind of like information as a service so that’s kind of how it worked.
John Warrillow: Got it so it was really one of these subscription businesses that’s super helpful. You mentioned the we, who’s the we in First Research? Did you have a partner? What was the kind of capital structure like?
Bobby Martin: Sure I did so I have the original idea and I teamed up with a man up in Boston named Ingo Windsor, a really smart guy who had a small business he was running successfully but it didn’t take up that much of his time. So I took on 65% of the company and Ingo owned 35% of the company and then about a year later we added Will Brollie who is a super sales person and he acquired 10% of the company and that’s how we were organized. We never did raise venture capital or anything like that, we just sort of bootstrapped it and stuck with that model.
John Warrillow: Did you have a lot of debt in the business or was it cash flowing well? What was that what was the debt structure like?
Bobby Martin: Yeah we didn’t have any debt in the business. Now when I first start started in 1999 I loaned the business $30,000 to $40,000 but that was paid back within a couple years and so the business was debt-free after that.
John Warrillow: And so why sell? I mean this thing was going like a hockey stick and we’ll get to the hockey sticks principles in a minute but I mean it was growing fast, I know you, we’ve met, you’re a young guy, why sell?
Bobby Martin: That’s a great question, it’s a really loaded question I’m not going to sit here talk for three hours about it but I could. The long and the short of it is circumstances was led us to sell the company in March of 2007. A few of those circumstances were that I was not looking to sell First Research, I was enjoying it very much but our acquirer Dun & Bradstreet / Hoover’s, Dun & Bradstreet is a large and publicly traded information company and owned another company called Hoover’s which is sales and marketing tool that they had acquired a few years ago, they approached us in 2000 late 2006 really I should say mid 2006 and it actually they learned about us I believe of course this is my opinion at a trade show.
Bobby Martin: One of their sales professionals who’s really good from Hoover’s walked up to the booth and asked me a lot of questions about First Research and she said, we should buy you. And it wasn’t that long after the folks from Hoover’s and Dun & Bradstreet started contacting us. So I was too open-minded to anything. I had no aspirations to sell the business but I was open-minded as well. That that’s kind of what led to it. The other thing I’ll say is why do I sell the business or we sell the business I should say is First Research was in a transition point. So for the first three or four or five years Ingo Windsor, Will Brollie, and a couple the other people who were early founders of the business ran the company. And we got to $5, $6 six million, I wanted to keep growing really fast and I had hired a management team in other words people smarter than me in particular areas such as marketing as an example or accounting or whatever the area of expertise.
Bobby Martin: And now that management was running the company and I was trying to keep those high growth rates and it was causing a bit of strain as you would expect these growing pains. And so the business was becoming more stressful to run as the president / CEO of the business and we were adding a whole lot of new salespeople and I’d always run the sales organization and so we were going through this difficult transition where I was trying to let go with sales and was having a difficult time with it. So that made it a little bit easier also think we got for us what was a good price, so we liked the price. I think that price was a win-win for both organizations and so everybody’s objectives where in that. So that’s kind of the long answer.
John Warrillow: So before we get to the price, it sounds like then it was a push pull a little bit in the case of certainly you were pulled into or drawn in to a discussion with a fortune 500 company who wanted to buy you but there was a little part of you that was also maybe feeling like you wanted to get out the stress of going through this growing pain formalizing the management team was also frustrating personally.
Bobby Martin: Sure and I don’t think that frustration led to me thinking, man I’d like to quit. That’s just not really in my personality but I do you think it made it a little less fun. What’s the business … it was really fun to grow from you know zero to a million was totally exhilarating. Growing it from one to five million was likewise really exhilarating and challenging as well. But then once we got over five million it was becoming clear to me to 5 to 20 million was going to be a little less fun it’s for one managers more complexity and I think that’s the bottom line.
John Warrillow: And so can you give us an example to kind of paint the picture of it and it doesn’t have to be a big example but maybe a story that comes to mind when you think about some of those growing pains that it just wasn’t as fun anymore? Maybe it may be a conflict you had in the sales organization where when you were $1 million company would have been a five minute conversation but at a $6 million company it became a frustration?
Bobby Martin: Oh yeah that’s a great question. Yeah I think an example would be I mentioned I’d own the sales organization myself and we had used a particular sales model which was primarily based upon cold calling and relationship building. It was a bit old-school but it works very well in our price point. Once we got up to a certain point we decided to employ a more modern sales model. It involved lead generation vetting those leads and then pushing them through kind of a process of funnel if you will which is a modern sales method today. And so we wanted to bring in someone who would be good at that and so when we went through that culturally it was very difficult for the business because it was a different culture.
Bobby Martin: And so when I hired that particular person, I did it a bit reluctantly even though he’s a great at what he does and he’s very successful today, it was very stressful for me being in the middle as the organization sort of transformed itself from what it had been, which is a relationship building sales model into a more software type sales model. It was stressful trying to make that transition, have people report to someone new etc.
John Warrillow: And we when you say stressful let’s get underneath that a little bit so I mean did it feel … do you think he’s a better salesman than you?
Bobby Martin: No I think he’s a different salesman than me. I think he’s a very smart individual and I think he had the ability to run that particular sales model really well but I think there wasn’t enough mutual respect both ways, so mutual respect meaning I didn’t appreciate his sales model as much as I should have and he probably didn’t to my mind appreciate my old-school relationship building sales model as much. And so that’s what that’s what caused it to be somewhat difficult to transition.
John Warrillow: Yeah I guess one of these the lessons learned here is as founders we grow up doing everything right and it’s a lot of learn by doing but those scars and that protective shield becomes part of who we are right and I mean not putting words in your mouth but we become certainly pretty proud of what we’ve accomplished and when quote unquote professional management comes in, there’s a little bit at least from my perspective that I need to be acknowledged for what I’ve built while I appreciate what you’re bringing to the table, there needs to be a bit of an analogy but on the other side as well.
Bobby Martin: You nailed it, that is a great way to put it. It’s like everybody has to transition from the business being more than creation process into more of a corporate process so from zero to five million I could be an entrepreneur and once I got over five million I had to become more of an executive. I don’t know if I really grew up and wanted to be an executive, I want to be an entrepreneur.
John Warrillow: Let’s get into the sale itself. So along comes Dun & Bradstreet this huge massive fortune 500 company and tell us a little bit about that process. I mean that you did not solicit them but they came to you but just walk us through what happened next?
Bobby Martin: They contacted us about partnership opportunities and things we could do together because we were so synergistic because Hoover’s provides information about executives, it provides information about businesses, and it didn’t have a lot of detail necessarily at the time about industries.
John Warrillow: When they use that partnership word did you know that was code for we want to buy you?
Bobby Martin: I did think that was, I was thinking that’s what they had in mind. I didn’t know that for sure but then I met with some of their executives from Hoover’s and I think they did say it might be easier just to combine the companies. Now D&B also had an internet strategy going on with their announcement to their share holders that they were growing their Hoover’s business, growing their internet solutions business I think as how it was called at the time so I knew they were acquiring companies to grow their internet solutions business. That was primarily based around Hoover’s. They had done very well with Hoover’s from what I had read and understood. The business was based in Austin, Texas. They had done quite well with that and taking good care of Hoover’s I think.
John Warrillow: And so how would you describe the tenor of those first meetings?
Bobby Martin: In those first meetings in the very beginning they were conference calls and we would discuss kind of what we could do together like what are some ideas that we could serve our customers better. so what types of customers do we have, what custom customers do they have, and how could we serve them better by doing things you know together like combining our products for example or combining our sales efforts or our marketing efforts.
John Warrillow: And did you know during these conference calls that this was all just a facade that this was a dance that you knew was leading to an acquisition offer or were you genuinely going through those meetings like maybe this isn’t going to turn out to an acquisition maybe this is just going to be a partnership?
Bobby Martin: Yeah so that my instincts were that they probably wanted to do an acquisition but I didn’t know and quite frankly I was really pushing hard for a partnership. I really love that concept of doing a partnership with those companies. But I didn’t know for sure, I mean I did know for sure after I met in person with some of the executives when they said, might be easier to combine the companies kind of thing.
John Warrillow: And so take us from that point, so you met physically, did you go to Austin or do they come to you?
Bobby Martin: They came to us.
John Warrillow: So they’re on your premises, take us through that discussion. Did the other side raise the issue of maybe we should combine the companies and then what did you say?
Bobby Martin: If I recall I think I said that I don’t really want to sell the business that’s what I said and then I talked about why I didn’t want to sell the business that I thought we could accomplish the same things financially by being separate organizations. But then I also prefaced it probably with everything’s for sale type of thing. I think I believe that’s what I talked about in general. That sounds-
John Warrillow: A classic line like I mean you know I don’t want to sell, I think we should create a great partnership together but I mean everything’s for sale it at the right price. Would you use something like that with a smile on your face?
Bobby Martin: That’s right well yeah without a smile on my face.
John Warrillow: Oh really?
Bobby Martin: I don’t think I had a wry grin or anything like that. I think I just said everything’s for sale. That was primarily those weren’t in discussions with a lot of people that was more the leadership from Hoover’s.
John Warrillow: But I’m interested though Bobby because we’ve met and I find you to be oozing with southern charm I mean you’re like a super nice guy to meet, you’ve always got a smile on your face, you seem like a super genuine person to meet face to face. Did that southern sort of hospitality follow through in those meetings I mean were you very kind of genteel and smiley and happy? Or did you have a really game face on in those early meetings when you were pretty serious?
Bobby Martin: Oh no I was definitely more affable and outgoing and positive and excited and interested, but I certainly wasn’t playful about the merger type discussions you know playful and like goofing around necessarily. I was more yeah you know I don’t know. I was being honest that’s what I was being I was trying to be as honest as I could be.
John Warrillow: Got it so take us up to the next round of seriousness, so you say maybe but you know everything’s for sale, what was the next step? Did they come to you with an offer? Just take us through that.
Bobby Martin: Yeah they keep, I think most acquires as they were they would keep things top level and non-committal which is exactly a good way to do business and so they said we think your company might be worth this range and then I would say well that you know we’re a part because I’m not going to do that. And then they were smart, they were never desperate, they waited a couple of months, do you know what I mean? They didn’t beg or anything like that or come back a week later a day later they sat on it for a long time which was absolutely fine. I was more interested in the partnerships anyway.
John Warrillow: So they ultimately acquired the business as I understand it for $22 million dollars and then another four in future incentives is that right?
Bobby Martin: That’s correct.
John Warrillow: So tell me in those early conversations if they ended up at 22 like where were they at and where were you at and obviously you guys met somewhere in the middle?
Bobby Martin: Yeah you know what I’m not sure I could talk about the actual amounts just because of the confidentiality in it but I think basically you can imagine it’s a $26.5 million so we were probably 30% 40% apart type of thing if I don’t recall and then you kind of meet sort of in the middle but that kind of thing so it was like that. It was real broad at first and then eventually it lead to term sheets in that type of thing.
John Warrillow: And people listening this might be saying, holy crap $6.5 million in revenue and he did a deal for $26 million, that’s like more than four times revenue. It must have been an astronomical multiple on your EBITDA.
Bobby Martin: Yeah so we did fine, we had a good business in terms of how we managed it with profits and that kind of thing so it was a good business and I think the deal is a good deal for everybody. You know what I mean like I think that First Research had a good growth rates and so that would justify the price and I think they’ve done very well with it. I don’t know that because you know I haven’t worked there very much since the acquisition. I stayed on a little while after the acquisition but I think they’ve done very well with it because they understood the business and understood how they could continue to grow at it have been done very well with it.
John Warrillow: What was the stickiest part of the negotiation itself?
Bobby Martin: That’s a good question I think the stickiest part … well first of all I think the process itself went very smoothly. I think both parties were motivated and there wasn’t a lot of complexity because I controlled the shares of First Research and-
John Warrillow: So you didn’t have two class structures between your other partners? It was all the same class of shares, you had the majority so therefore, is that right?
Bobby Martin: Correct, and then everybody in particularly Ingo, Ingo was my main person that I wanted to make sure he was happy. If he wasn’t going to be happy I wouldn’t have done it but I think it made sense for him, he’s a little bit older than me and so it made sense for him more so than myself. I’m 46 years old at the time I guess I was 38 maybe something like that and Ingo is a bit older than me 10 or 15 years older than me so it made more sense for him, but I didn’t have to run around and herd cats with the merger very much, really it was quite simple. But there was complexity with it of course. We have not stock options plans but plans very closely aligned to stock option plans at First Research so we had to work through that. But it was an amicable process I would say, it wasn’t that … once we agreed upon the price I don’t think it ever got too difficult to work through.
John Warrillow: So you agreed on price in a letter of intent essentially that was contingent on 60 days of due diligence?
Bobby Martin: I don’t remember the length of time that the due diligence, but that was the idea of course but yeah absolutely and they did do their due diligence process.
John Warrillow: And were there material changes to the price between the letter of intent and the ultimate close date?
Bobby Martin: Not very much if I don’t recall, not very much.
John Warrillow: No, and then during the due diligence I mean for folks who have not gone through this I mean I’ve heard it described as the entrepreneurs proctology exam it being the most horrific 60 days of your life. So what was it like for you and what advice could you give other entrepreneurs about to go through due diligence?
Bobby Martin: Well okay so that’s a great question so it was very detailed. They had to go through everything but see I have a banking background so I was a banker and I used to lend money to businesses so I totally get it and so I had no problem with that because if I put myself in their shoes, if I was going to acquire a company and pay lots of money for it I would want to understand as many details as possible. And so I had absolutely no problem with them asking for all kinds of things and I provided it with no problem if I don’t recall, that’s how I remember it.
John Warrillow: So give me an example of the minutiae the level of detail that would go to try to understand your business so just to illustrate for other entrepreneurs listening sort of how much detail they might ask for in the due diligence process?
Bobby Martin: So I think they need a lot of details about processes, how we do things.
John Warrillow: Give me an example.
Bobby Martin: Well how we serve our customers for example like the steps by which we serve our customers or that type of thing. Or maybe a list of our customers and how much each is paid and that kind of thing if I don’t recall. It’s hard of me remembering exactly but I do remember lawyers it was mostly between the lawyers and the lawyers being very involved with the information. Of course if there was anything confidential then we couldn’t provide it to them or vice-versa and so it was that kind of thing. But it was you know they basically wanted to learn everything about the business before they bought us.
John Warrillow: Were you worried that that might come back to haunt you at all? I mean because they were in the same business roughly and the deal, the letter of intent I’m assuming had an out clause for them there wasn’t a breakup fee, correct me if I’m wrong. So you were sharing all this detail with them, they could have been turned around and said, deal’s off we’re going to take that information Bobby and use it against you.
Bobby Martin: Yeah absolutely I was concerned about that. Not real concerned, it didn’t keep me up at night but I saw that as a reality of the situation in that any company who’s buying another company has to go through that process, so you have to get comfortable with those facts that if the deal doesn’t go through for any reason that you’ve now given this company who is a potential competitor all your information, I also think there were non-disclosure agreements and I think that the people that were going through a lot of that due diligence wouldn’t necessarily apply it directly because they’re an ethical company, they really are very ethical company and I saw that through and through when I work there.
Bobby Martin: So yes is the short answer. And the other thing to know about me I think is for your listeners is that I am a bit naive and I think I was a bit naive through the process and that theme, there’s a book by Bo Burlingham as somebody you know well I think, called Finish Big. It was the best book that I know of that anybody who owns a successful business that could be acquired should read. And if I’d read Finish Big before that I wouldn’t have been quite as naive as I am.
John Warrillow: It a great book by the way and if you haven’t picked it up go pick it up. It’s a definitely great read we’ve had Bo on the show by the way and he was fantastic. So for sure get that book Finish Big by Bo Burlingham. So to go back Bobby through the process, if you had to do it all over again and I’m thinking specifically about the negotiation for a moment, knowing what you know now, what would you do differently?
Bobby Martin: Well first of all I read that book because the things I miscalculated, I didn’t miscalculate the process itself because having that banking background and have an appreciation for just how business transactions work in general, but I think most of my being naive my naivety was based around but consequences emotionally of selling one’s business. So if I knew what I knew now I would have not taking the process of selling my business so lightly because that business First Research had defined my professional career and you know somebody’s career is really important to who they are as a person and it was my dream come true.
Bobby Martin: I was stuck in a banking job that I didn’t really like, I didn’t like being a number in fact I despise it felt really hopeless to me and the fact that I could start a business and be part of something really cool that sort of identifies more with me as a person, and when I was released it was like a divorce. I mean it was like I had lost my, my wife had left me but she left me some cash, but what I really wanted was my wife because what I already had was really cool. When I’d already accumulated a lot of money so it’s interesting because people ask me a lot do you regret selling your business? And I’ve said for many years, yeah I think I do regret it.
Bobby Martin: I don’t regret it I’m crying at night because I’ve done all kinds of neat things since then in life is just fun to live, there’s all kinds of things but I’ll probably would have done it again but now I look back on a differently and the reason I do is because so many cool business have started from employees and partners at First Research who have started phenomenal businesses, many of which I’m involved with as a partner. And so now I have five businesses that I’m really involved in that I love very dearly. So it’s worked out in the end and everything goes full circle types of things. Does that make sense?
John Warrillow: It does so walk us through that period emotionally for you after the sale of your business, from the check clearing to what were some of the feelings? Can you describe that for folks so that they if they’re going to go through this process they can learn from maybe your journey?
Bobby Martin: Yeah sure it was very difficult for me emotionally and physically and for many many reasons. One is that the sense of loss that the loss became clear to me because I was no longer in charge of First Research and I had to adapt to the way that Hoover’s and D&B were doing a business and I think they were smart and they had great business methods but they weren’t mine and so that was very difficult to absorb. I ended up with all sorts of psychological problems after the merger. Not psychological it was affecting others too much it was mostly internal and I was visiting psychologists trying to deal with it, I wasn’t sleeping much at all.
Bobby Martin: I ended up with a lot of chest pain that I thought I was having heart problems but so I had to go through and do a bunch of tests to make sure that I wasn’t having heart problems I was having stress problems as it turns out and that’s what was causing the pain. Kind of what I look for that, if you’re considering selling your business do not take that lightly, and do not think that that’s the goal like the goal is to sell and it never was my goal but there was a lot of buzz about how cool it is to sell your business but it’s really not that cool. So for me it’s not cool for other people could be.
John Warrillow: So how did you go beyond I mean you met with a psychologist who helped you through this, did they identify what the issue was? Was it this sense of lost, the sense of lacking purpose that Bo writes so well about?
Bobby Martin: I think absolutely was. I think that then I didn’t realize that a lot of my sense as a person was tied up with First Research and not in a bad way. Some people say oh that this person doesn’t care about anything but their business, that’s not how I was. It wasn’t that, it was that it was a big part of who I was, it wasn’t only a part of what I was but it was a huge part of what I was and so when I had that I had a huge sense of loss and that was very difficult.
John Warrillow: And how did this affect your relationship? I know you, you’re married with kids, how did it affect those relationships?
Bobby Martin: Yeah so that’s a great question. I think it did affect our relationship we also had small children so at the time we were having very young children, two-year-olds and I think that I was dealing with it and dealing with it through being alone a lot and being kind of down and that spills over to your family and your close relationships. So my wife I think she was great through the process and there was nothing collapsing about it necessarily but it was a very difficult for our time for our marriages as well as I was dealing with that and my wife was great throughout it. She was trying to raise small children, she was trying to you know what I mean like it’s not that easy so it was a tough time. That’s part of the reason I say I wouldn’t have sold my business is just how much it carries over to your personal relationships. I grew my hair out really long after I’d left the business my hair grew really long and everything like that so it was tough.
John Warrillow: I would love to seen that, do you have any pictures we can post of you with long hair?
Bobby Martin: Yeah I’ve got one or two around yeah.
John Warrillow: All right show notes go to the show notes to see Bobby with long hair. Fun side I mean notwithstanding that the emotional challenges and some of the physical challenges you described, was there anything I asked this of everyone I talked to by the way it was there anything you went out and bought as a sort of trophy for yourself of having sold this business anything fun that you can share with our listeners?
Bobby Martin: Yeah I love that question because it deals with the rewards financially of owning your own business or selling your own business and I did end up buying a really cool mountain place that we just love and we use it’s like a cabin type last place in the mountains in North Carolina. And boy I do think a lot about the fact that I connect that mountain place with the sale of my business. And the more I love that place and the more we use it and become bond as a family, the bigger smile it puts on my face.
Bobby Martin: Now granted it was just a portion small portion of what the sale outcome was but I didn’t end up going out I didn’t change my lifestyle. I bought that place, other than that nothing changed like financially other than the independence. Now I do have the independence to pick any type of career, I could totally retire if I want to of course who wants to do that the same type of people who start businesses aren’t the type of people who are going to totally quit, so it gives you career flexibility. But the whole financial thing is completely overrated to my mind.
Bobby Martin: Having money you know what having money gives you? Complexity, and that’s the truth. You get money you make investments and those investments create complexity. Like you buy a commercial building for example, now you have to manage the commercial building to diversify your portfolio. It’s like it’s overrated I don’t really like it that much. I mean if I was poor that’s totally different, totally different thing but quite frankly if you’re upper-middle class just roll with that. I mean Warren Buffett said it really well and he says I don’t buy stuff because if I bought a boat or yacht then I have to manage the person who manages the boat and then he carried on about that for a while. I mean he’s spot-on, when you buy stuff you have to manage it and that’s no fun so that’s just a word about that.
John Warrillow: A word of wisdom. I want to ask you one more question about First Research that I think is important to the overall story and that is how did you tell your employees and what was that experience like?
Bobby Martin: Well that was really tricky because we had to keep it confidential especially since they’re a publicly traded company. But there were so many meetings going on and I was completely distracted as I had to be that people knew something was going on and I’d always run the company very open like I would tell everybody everything because it’s just the culture and so I couldn’t and didn’t and that made it very awkward. Everybody understood completely why I kept that confidential, but the announcement came, I think they I believe if I don’t recall they have to announce it to the shareholders first so within five minutes after they announce it to their shareholders, not that it was a big deal that their share, was a small potatoes for them but that’s just how it has to be with publicly traded companies, then we immediately announced it to ours, that’s how it kind of went I believe.
John Warrillow: And how was that announcement and was it an email? Was it an all hands meeting face to face you up on stage what did that look like?
Bobby Martin: It was an all hands meeting face to face and they came as well some of their executives came and answered all the questions. They did a great job and they also have great benefits at D&B and so they were pleased with benefits packages and all this. I mean it was good you know it’s a good thing.
John Warrillow: What was the reaction among the staff?
Bobby Martin: I think it would be different with each individual. Each individual isn’t impacted differently or in their minds thought about it differently I think so their reaction was congratulatory, they were amicable, a couple of them were a little bit disturbed by it but we just work through those issues one on one, it was fine.
John Warrillow: And so did they benefit financially from the sale because they had stock options in the former First Research right?
Bobby Martin: Yes correct they did.
John Warrillow: So Dun & Bradstreet was able to sort of help them participate in some on some level or you guys were?
Bobby Martin: We did yeah that was our plan so that kind of that happened at the merger time, you know what I mean like with a transfer of money from the lawyers and the lawyers paid off people who were owed which is primarily through the stock equivalent of stock options type things, that’s how they did it, the lawyers took care of everything.
John Warrillow: And were those I mean for your employees not Ingo and Will but for your other employees were those life-changing amounts of money did they you know thank you or was there a sense of like how did they react to the financial part of the sale for them personally?
Bobby Martin: Yeah I think that’s a good question. I think for five or six people it was a lot I’m guessing the life-changing amount, well a life-changing might be a bit of a stretch people ended up with seven figures type of thing and yeah I think they were appreciative for sure. It also gave their own careers flexibility and that’s the thing that I’m really happy about is it some of them some of the smartest people they went started their own businesses. I guess they figured if Bobby can do it I know I can and they were right you know they’ve done really well at these businesses. So I think that’s the big thing that came from it is that about outshoot of other creative ideas and great business models.
John Warrillow: And it sounds like you’re involved in some of these businesses, so tell us what you’re doing what you’re doing now when you’re not in the mountains what do you up to?
Bobby Martin: So that’s a good question. So a few things, one I’m an angel investor so into five or six different companies and I’ve just loved that, I’m mostly own minority shares of businesses between 10% and 40% and I mostly instead of trying to manage this business as I act as an encourage and it’s a very exciting part of my career. The other thing I’ve done I’ve started Protocol IQ which is a company that provides industry profiles kind of like First Research but they’re provided to the banking industry and so we’ve done really well with that.
Bobby Martin: I just recently become active chairman, I was president and we just hired a new president I became active chairman and then written a book called The Hockey Stick Principles which is about a lot of these things we’re talking about. And The Hockey Stick Principles will be released in April 2016 and there’s a website for a hockeystickprinciples.com. But that’s been oh I love it because I’ve interviewed all these really interesting entrepreneurs like Doug Leppa and Bob Young from Red Hat it’s been awesome.
John Warrillow: That’s fantastic so to reach you Bobby hockeystickprinciples.com?
Bobby Martin: hockeystickprinciples.com
John Warrillow: hockeystickprinciples.com. Bobby Martin thanks for joining us.
Bobby Martin: Of course love being here thank you John.