fbpx

A $30 Million Bird in Hand

March 12, 2021 |  

Want to increase the value of your business by up to 71%?

Take the 13-minute survey and get your Value Builder Score

About this episode

Subscribe:

Before Zoom, when you wanted to meet with a group of people remotely, you used a teleconferencing service. If you lived in Canada during the early 2000s, you probably used one of Frank Cianciulli’s lines.

Cianciulli built Enunciate Conferencing, a telecommunications business, to $15 million in revenue and more than $5 million in profit. The company was booming and doubling every two years, which is why he hesitated at first when Premiere Global made an acquisition offer of $30 million. But when Enunciate ran into a technical glitch causing the loss of a handful of customers, Cianciulli got spooked. He realized he had a bird in the hand and decided to accept the offer from Premier Global.

For Cianciulli, it was the end of an incredible journey from a standing start to an eight-figure exit in six years. This episode is peppered with wisdom, including:

  • How participating in awards can increase your likelihood of getting an acquisition offer.
  • Why minority investors usually value your business lower than a majority acquirer.
  • How Premiere Global used a boozy dinner to lower Cianciulli’s defenses.
  • What it was like for Cianciulli to tell his Dad he had been offered $30 million for his company.
  • Why Cianciulli broke down in tears three months after selling his business.
  • Why Cianciulli says part of him regrets selling.
  • The secret to buying just about any business.

Despite his incredible financial success, Cianciulli still regrets selling Enunciate in part because he had not separated himself personally from his company. Find out how psychologically ready you are to exit by getting your PREScore™.

About Our Guest

Frank Cianciulli is a serial entrepreneur and founder of The Wish Group. His first operating company Enunciate Conferencing in 2001 became a sensational Canadian success being recognized as Canada’s Fastest-Growing company along with Best Places to Work, Best Managed company, and several other awards. With the intention of replicating Enunciate’s success, Frank continued to start or purchase several different companies in the telecommunications, human resources, and technology/media space.

Thus far this has resulted in an unprecedented 8 different Wish Group companies earning Profit’s Hot 50 In just a few years Frank under his Wish Group banner has started and purchased over a dozen companies and his successful divestitures have totaled over $100,000,000. He has personally been awarded Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year, Canada’s Top 40 Under 40, the New Generation Business Excellence Award from the Italian Chamber of Commerce, and York University’s prestigious Bryden Next Generation Award in recognition of his success and personal commitment to his businesses and his community at such a young age. IG & Twitter: @frankcianciulli

Watch the interview

Want to increase the value of your business by up to 71%?

Take the 13-minute survey and get your Value Builder Score

Get Your Score Now

Transcript

John Warrillow:

So, what’s your biggest question when it comes to selling your company? You know, when I ask that question of other entrepreneurs, I hear things like, “How do I avoid an earn-out? When’s the best time to sell? How do I create a bidding war?” These questions along with many others inspired me to write the book The Art of Selling Your Business. It’s a field guide for punching above your weight when it comes to selling your business. I’ve taken all the best practices from the 300 plus interviews I’ve done for this show, and distilled them down into an action plan for you. You can get it, along with some gifts for my listeners, when you go to builttosell.com/selling.

John Warrillow:

I can hear my mom’s voice. She would always say, “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”, and that was just a very common refrain from my mom, and I grew up with that notion in my mind, which is why I had such a fun time interviewing Frank Cianciulli about the sale of Enunciate, his teleconferencing business. He got an offer which was an enormous amount of money, yet he was also growing an uber-fast business. And he hesitated. But eventually, something happened that caused him to realize that that offer was an incredible, life-changing amount of money and that he didn’t know what the future would hold. He chose to accept an acquisition offer.

John Warrillow:

And as he describes in this episode, he has built an amazing life and an amazing story after that. So, look, there’s lots to choose from in listening to this episode, I loved the discussion around Joel, his counterpart on the other side of negotiation. He was the corporate development person at Premiere Global and we got into some of the tips and tricks that he used to try to lower Frank’s defenses. I also loved the humility that Frank brought to this entire interview and the conversation he had with his parents around the sale of his company, which I thought was really thought provoking. And the regrets that to this day he still feels as a result of selling his baby. Here to tell you his entire story is Frank Cianciulli.

John Warrillow:

Frank Cianciulli, welcome to Built To Sell Radio.

Frank Cianciulli:

Great to be here, thanks for having me, John.

John Warrillow:

Where on Earth are you today? We chatted before we hit record, but I think you’re going to make me jealous one more time, tell me where you are right now.

Frank Cianciulli:

I’m in my home office in Miami, Florida. I’m staring at Downtown Miami, intercoastal, and the ocean as well, it’s a beautiful sunny day here.

John Warrillow:

All right, shut up. You’re making me angry just thinking about it. Awesome, well, listen, congratulations on the sale of Enunciate and everything you’ve done in your career, and I know it goes well beyond Enunciate but today we’ve decided to talk about Enunciate which I think is your first big success and big win. So let’s talk about what did Enunciate do? What was the business model?

Frank Cianciulli:

Enunciate was a teleconferencing company for the most part, so, audio, video and web conferencing. I guess what people would consider Zoom today, didn’t quite have that slick technology back then, it was a little more archaic. Mainly over phone lines and clunky internet or video. But basically think conference calls.

John Warrillow:

Yeah, a simple business model, how did you sell? Who did you sell to and what was the revenue model?

Frank Cianciulli:

Yeah, so I originally had worked at Bell Conferencing, and decided to start my own, but in that industry you’ve got the Telcos and then you’ve got a couple of large players that just consolidated, they were publicly traded, so Premiere Global is one, another one is a company called InterCall. And they obviously had heard of our growth and they wanted a footprint in Canada, they’re based in Atlanta in the US, and they started to court me. So it was a rather lengthy courting process.

John Warrillow:

Okay, sorry, you’re getting into the sale of Enunciate, is that right?

Frank Cianciulli:

Yeah.

John Warrillow:

Before we go there, let me just understand how you guys made money at Enunciate.

Frank Cianciulli:

I see.

John Warrillow:

So, when I think of conferencing, because I’m Canadian I think of the two big Telcos here, and I think you’ve got a conference call number, I remember the old days where you had an 800 number and all that jazz.

Frank Cianciulli:

That’s right.

John Warrillow:

So, you didn’t put telephone lines up and string wire everywhere across Canada, right? You were reselling there, if you will?

Frank Cianciulli:

Yeah, so you had the network provider which would be Bell, Rogers or TELUS, really, or AT&T I think back then as well.. So you’d buy the toll free from them, and then you would buy what we’d call audio bridges from manufacturers, and they look like basically just servers essentially. And you chart a permanent model, so it still exists today actually, although everyone’s migrating to a Zoom or a cloud type platform. But you’d get a phone number and you’d be charged a permanent rate, so if you had six people that were on for 60 minutes, you’d be charged 10 cents a minute times 360 minutes, a $36 call.

John Warrillow:

And so what are the costs associated with this business? Since you’re reselling, you don’t have the capital outlay that a big Telco would have, I’m assuming. What were the costs?

Frank Cianciulli:

Well, you still would if you bought your own platform. Back then you’d make the higher margins if you had your own servers. Now, since that model and since you had a couple of very large companies that scaled, they just had reseller models. So if I wanted to start my own conferencing company, instead of me going out there and buying all these bridges and dealing with the Telcos, I would just deal with a larger conferencing company and they would wholesale it for me or white label it for me.

John Warrillow:

Got it, got it. That’s helpful.

Frank Cianciulli:

But back then at Enunciate, we did have our own platforms, so we made that capital investment. And then at that point, it’s just people. You have operators and reservationists to take the reservations. If there’s ever an issue on a conference call and somebody hits star zero, somebody’s got to answer that phone.

John Warrillow:

Yeah, and you guys became one of the fastest-growing companies in Canada, as I recall it was the Profit 100 or the Profit 50, you were one of the fastest-growing.

Frank Cianciulli:

Yeah.

John Warrillow:

How fast were you growing in terms of top-line?

Frank Cianciulli:

Year one, 2.2, year two, 4.5, year three, 7.5, 11.5, and then 15.5.

John Warrillow:

You’ve got those numbers committed to memory.

Frank Cianciulli:

I remember those, well, it was one of the best ones. I mean, the profit was heavy too, so it’s a very lucrative business.

John Warrillow:

Let me unpack that, so you’re saying 15% top-line revenue growth?

Frank Cianciulli:

At least that, yeah. 2.2, 4.5, yeah.

John Warrillow:

Got it. So, okay, you’re growing over obviously a period of time, how did you finance the growth? What was the capital structure?

Frank Cianciulli:

Well, when we first started we did the whole friends and family thing, very conservative, and just started bootstrapping and two guys in a 10 by 10 office and just really started literally pounding the phones, selling. For the most part people pay and they pay quickly in that business, it’s like a utility, it’s not crazy expensive, conference calls are important, so we’d get paid really quickly. And then we just started hiring other salespeople as we grew.

John Warrillow:

So you had a partner?

Frank Cianciulli:

Yeah, we had a partner and, yeah, I mean, I bought them out later, but, yeah, we had a partner.

John Warrillow:

What triggered the buyout?

Frank Cianciulli:

Well, because we did the whole co-CEO thing. And because we started scaling fairly quickly, we grew to over 100 employees relatively quick from a thing that started with two guys in a 10 by 10 office. And you’re adding offices and you’re expanding offices, all that’s happening very quickly. You’re making a lot of money. So there’s things that go wrong in a business, and when it hits financial hardships, partners fight. It also happens when things are going really well.

John Warrillow:

What did you guys fight over?

Frank Cianciulli:

I wouldn’t say that we fought necessarily, in my case, I just felt that the ship needed one captain if that made any sense. And because of the demographics of the business, you know, we’re in Liberty Village in a loft and a lot of young testosterone in that office. I was younger, my partner was 16 years my senior. And it just wasn’t working out. So it was either, okay, have difficult conversations about, okay, you’ve got to do this and I do this, or I just want to run it now. I’m building it and I want to run it. And it worked out, he took his money and started his own company in Australia, he moved to Australia. He surfs in the sun every day, It turned out to be a great story all around.

John Warrillow:

Sounds great. How did you value the company for the purposes of breaking up with a partner?

Frank Cianciulli:

Well, he wanted to be purchased so it was more of just what we felt we could afford at the time.

John Warrillow:

Do you mean what you thought the company could afford?

Frank Cianciulli:

Yeah, I mean, if he wanted a big number that I couldn’t afford to do, what was I supposed to do? So the negotiation was very much what I felt the company or my comfort level can be cashed out to, as opposed to not stifling the company’s growth.

John Warrillow:

Did you have a sense as you grew what it might be worth? Were you thinking it might be a multiple of revenue or a multi of EBITDA? Did you start to think about those kinds of things at all?

Frank Cianciulli:

I did, I remember even telling him was like, “Listen, I don’t want you to work in the company but you’re still a shareholder.” I mean, a lot of people don’t realize that, especially owner operators, it becomes ego. You wear three hats in the business, you’re an employee, you’re a shareholder, and then you’re a board member. Those are distinct, they’re different. So I remember telling him, I don’t think he should sell, we’re going on a great path, we’re going to have tons of dividends, you’re going to get dividends, lots of them. What’s the big deal with the salary and the role?

Frank Cianciulli:

But I think he was hurt. And he just hurt, “I want out, I’m not going to be part of this and I want out.” I mean, all of the negotiations was me saying, “Just don’t sell, don’t sell out.” And then it turned out, we ended up obviously selling the company for a much bigger multiple a couple of years afterwards. But he didn’t seem to be upset about that.

John Warrillow:

Yeah. It’s funny, it’s something that comes up a lot in conversations with other guests where there’s a big gap in age where I can think of one example where the older entrepreneur just was at a different stage, right? They didn’t want to take a lot of risk, they wanted to slow down, they wanted to diversify their wealth and feel secure. And the younger one is like, “Let’s go, take on the world.” Was there a dynamic like that going on?

Frank Cianciulli:

For sure, for sure.

John Warrillow:

Yeah. How big a company were you at that time in terms of top line revenue?

Frank Cianciulli:

When I did the buyout? So it would’ve been 2004, yeah, so that year we did 7.5 million in revenue and, I don’t know what it was, but three and a half in profit.

John Warrillow:

Got it. So you took some of that profit and paid him out over time I’m assuming?

Frank Cianciulli:

Basically, yeah. Over some time, too, yeah.

John Warrillow:

Yeah, so you didn’t have to take on any debt to do that?

Frank Cianciulli:

No, we did it through cashflow. And then when the company sold a couple of years later, I still owed him money, so he got paid that out all at once. So I think that’s why he was also happy.

John Warrillow:

He was happy to see it.

Frank Cianciulli:

Because I knew he was planning it but then right away after that cheque he was off to Australia and he started a company and been very successful, they’ve done great.

John Warrillow:

That’s great.

Frank Cianciulli:

[inaudible 00:12:26] all around. And the relationship soured, which was a shame, because we were good friends, building a business was nothing personal, I just felt that I needed to run the company. I was anyway, and it was just getting a bit awkward and employees tend to, if they don’t like the answer from one partner, they go to the other one. A lot of that going on.

John Warrillow:

Yeah. They choose sides, right? They’re either Frank’s guys, or…

Frank Cianciulli:

Yeah.

John Warrillow:

Interesting. So, as you grow, you start to really accelerate. Any outside investors? Did you look at bringing in outside investors? Did you have outside investors?

Frank Cianciulli:

Yeah, so what happened was in the friends and family round, we had a gentleman who became the partner, it was Tony Lacavera, he had a company called Globalive.

John Warrillow:

We’ve had him on the show actually.

Frank Cianciulli:

There you go, so, okay, if you want to know the history of Tony, he was grinding it out, he was three years into Globalive at that time. I don’t think they were even making money, they were probably still burning. He’s 26, I’m 27, I pitch him on this idea because I saw he already had infrastructure, he had operators and stuff like that, so I thought, okay, we could double down. And it was valuable, having Tony as a mentor, just because he had walked through the minefield first.

Frank Cianciulli:

I think that’s also what helped, listen, we worked really hard and sold a lot, that’s why we grew, but ultimately having that kind of guy that had the governance and had made the mistakes beforehand, that helped. And ultimately what happened was, I guess at that point Globalive, his actual company, we did the buyout so it became just him and I at the end.

John Warrillow:

Got it. So he kicked in some money at that stage.

Frank Cianciulli:

Yeah.

John Warrillow:

A similar stage-

Frank Cianciulli:

Early, then he bought out all the shareholders and then we bought out Jeff. We had another minority partner too who we bought out as well. Basically it was our first sales director.

John Warrillow:

How did you value the company for the purposes of selling a portion of it to Tony Lacavera? Did you guys have a valuation metric?

Frank Cianciulli:

Yeah, a multiple of EBITDA, but it’s so tricky when a company’s growing, got hockey stick growth, right? But at the same time, you’ve got to deal with what you’ve got and what you’ve accomplished, and what the company can afford. And it’s a minority stake, so there’s always a discount there because you don’t have any power. Somebody buys in a minority stake, they can’t influence the business. Need to account for a multiple for that.

John Warrillow:

So that’s interesting, so you would pay less for shares in a company where you were the minority shareholder?

Frank Cianciulli:

Yeah, that’s my rule of thumb always.

John Warrillow:

Interesting. I’ve never heard that before.

Frank Cianciulli:

I mean, sure, you honor their shareholder agreement and all that stuff, but at the end of the day, if you’re not active in the business, you’re not going to know what’s really going on.

John Warrillow:

Yeah, and so as investors you’re not going to pay such a premium as if you had control?

Frank Cianciulli:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John Warrillow:

You know what, I’ve done this show for 300 episodes, I’ve never heard that notion before. It’s really interesting.

Frank Cianciulli:

Wow.

John Warrillow:

Yeah, either I’m dumb or a slow learner or you’re pretty smart. If folks want to listen for the episode with Anthony Lacavera, we’ll link to it in the show notes of Built To Sell, but it was maybe a year and a half or two years ago, and we talked a little bit about WIND Mobile, which was a company he built and exited I think a billion dollar evaluation at the end of the day, which is a huge, massive exit.

Frank Cianciulli:

1.6, I think, yeah.

John Warrillow:

A billion six, yeah, so a great story if you’re into that stuff. Good, okay, so we got Anthony Lacavera on board as it sounds like, I don’t want to say silent partner because I’m sure he was involved, but he wasn’t an operating partner, is that right?

Frank Cianciulli:

No, he wasn’t an operator, he was operating Globalive, but we spoke every day and we’d meet once a week formally, management reviews. So that was his first venture outside of what he did.

John Warrillow:

You refer to him as a mentor, was it weird to have a mentor relationship with a guy the same age?

Frank Cianciulli:

Yeah, so, I mean, maybe mentor is the wrong word. But, no, it really was, it really was from a perspective of business and from that context. When I think mentor I think life and business, almost like a life coach as well, especially when you think of maybe someone who’s your senior, who’s at a different stage at life and can teach you about balance. This was strictly business. This was all about, okay, entrepreneurialism 101, building a business 101, he had made a bunch of mistakes.

Frank Cianciulli:

Whether it was dealing with receivables and all that kind of stuff, right? So we got ahead of a lot of things to ensure we didn’t get stung with bad debt and any kind of employee issues, any HR matters that a lot of companies might learn as they go and make a bunch of mistakes, we were just able to put a lot of policies, procedures and processes in place to avoid a lot of those kind of… I mean, you’re still always going to have challenges, but we were able to mitigate a lot of them.

John Warrillow:

Got it.

Frank Cianciulli:

Because he was always there, just someone to talk to, and even not always only him but I had access to his full management team because Globalive was the partner itself as a company. So I could call the CFO and their IT people often.

John Warrillow:

I see. So, Anthony personally didn’t invest in the company, it was Globalive, his business investing in yours.

Frank Cianciulli:

Well, he did it first then the company actually became, so it became me and Globalive as a company.

John Warrillow:

Got it, got it. So, at this time, you’re roughly seven and a half top line? Seven and a half, eight million top line at this stage?

Frank Cianciulli:

Yeah, and then we doubled two years after that and went from seven and a half to 15 and a half.

John Warrillow:

That’s amazing.

Frank Cianciulli:

So, seven and a half, 11 and a half, 15 and a half after the buyout. So we had great momentum.

John Warrillow:

You know what, I wrote down four and a half, seven and a half, 15 and a half, and I thought you were referring to your percentage of growth, and I’m like that’s actually slower than I thought.

Frank Cianciulli:

No, that’s million in revenue.

John Warrillow:

Yeah, forgive me, I wrote that down wrong, I wrote percentage and I’m like I’m surprised it wasn’t growing faster just given how big you got how fast you got. Got it. I’m with you now. So you double in two years, you’re at 15 and a half, what triggered you to want to sell?

Frank Cianciulli:

So I didn’t, Premiere Global publicly traded, started doing a bunch of acquisitions. They were public market so they would look at what their stock price is and say, okay, they’re trading at whatever it was, 10, 15 times profit, hey, if we can buy companies at five or six, we get an immediate lift. So they came courting, and now I’m not interested, I was growing so quickly, I was having the time of my life. For me, operating a business was a dream come true, it was better than a lottery because the money was good but it was more so I found my purpose, I found something I’m good at in life.

Frank Cianciulli:

The energy, I woke up every morning excited. You have your bad days. But they came a couple of times and then one time he’d made sure he brought me, and I said, okay, I’m literally going to take you to an expensive restaurant, I’m going to start making these guys really pay.

John Warrillow:

Where’d you take them?

Frank Cianciulli:

We’re at Canoe.

John Warrillow:

Canoe, so Canoe, for folks-

Frank Cianciulli:

We’re overlooking Lake Ontario and he says, and this is what got me, I didn’t ever really ask price or anything, and I just said, “I’m not interested in selling, I love business”, and I had already had started other businesses, and I think that’s the main reason I sold by the way, because I already had started other companies and they were growing very quickly as well. But he said, “I don’t understand, why would you not want to put 30 million bucks in your bank?” I said, “Pardon? 30?” I remember right on my way back calling Tony and going, “Tony, so they’re talking like 30.”

Frank Cianciulli:

And he’s like, “Whoa, we’ve got to look at that then.” And then I think the official LOI at that time was 33 and then we had kind of lost an account and through the negotiations, it got down to 30 but that number was kind of like… And I learned a lot about how to buy companies from them, from kind of realizing what worked on me. People, even if they’re not interested in selling, once you actually put it in writing and they maybe talk to their partners or spouses, psychologically it starts to get interesting.

Frank Cianciulli:

You start spending the money in your head and now when you have a bad day at work you think, “Hey, I got an offer, maybe I should sell.” So it’s a real psychological warfare I think when you’re negotiating with a business. Because a home is different. You have to, usually, list your home if you’ve decided you want to sell a home, but imagine if fairly often people knocked on your door. You don’t want to sell your house, you love your house, yeah, but once he throws out a number, then what? A business is like that. Because people contact you. Even if you’re not officially for sale.

John Warrillow:

I love this story, I want to spend some time here. So, for folks who don’t know, Canoe is a very fancy restaurant at the top of one of the Bank Towers in Downtown Toronto, it looks out over Lake Ontario and hamburgers are $56 or something like that, it’s a very fancy place. So I’m glad you took him there, which is great, or he took you there.

Frank Cianciulli:

Yeah.

John Warrillow:

And so you’re at Canoe, and tell me a little bit about the conversation. Was the auspices of the meeting set up under the auspices that they wanted to acquire you? Were you aware going into that lunch that that was the nature of the conversation was going to be about acquisition?

Frank Cianciulli:

Yeah, I mean, this guy, I’ll never forget, his name was Joel Hughey and he was just very good at his job. So his sole job was out there finding companies to buy and going through the whole courting, and it’s a courting process, I mean it really is. When they flew me down even to visit them, I get to my hotel room and there’s a big, fancy gift basket with $200 scotch in it, the whole bit. And so he was coming to town anyway and let’s just get caught up.

John Warrillow:

So he didn’t make it a big deal, he’s like, “Hey, I’m going to be in Toronto”, was the line.

Frank Cianciulli:

He used several different tactics. It seemed as if I guess they had a feeling for the size and how quickly we were growing, and they saw us, we were winning a bunch of awards, so and that’s why I do encourage entrepreneurs to always go for those awards, whether it’s best places to work or best managed or fastest growing, and all that kind of stuf].

John Warrillow:

[crosstalk 00:22:39] Inc. 5,000 is a big one, yep.

Frank Cianciulli:

Yeah, because definitely if you want to raise your profile or just someone to read about you. So they kind of got a sense for our growth, so they wanted something that was a good sales engine. And, again, because there wasn’t much in Canada really besides the Telcos.

John Warrillow:

So, let’s go back, Joel’s like, “Hey, I’m coming to Toronto, maybe we can have lunch”, and you’re like, “Okay.” So you sit down with Joel, then what? How does the conversation go?

Frank Cianciulli:

I mean, he’s asking about business and, “You guys are doing a great job”, and I said, “Yeah, we’re killing it, we’re growing. I mean, two years ago I was at seven and a half”, making whatever it was, and then so every month that goes buy you’re growing, I mean, I’ll never forget and sometimes it’s the opposite, and the business was struggling, but every month the financial review was so much fun because the company was always growing, there was always more profit.

John Warrillow:

What were you putting on the bottom line?

Frank Cianciulli:

So, when you’re in that space and you have a real business, and you can just take those profits out and you’re still investing, you’re still growing regardless of even taking money out like that time we did the shareholder buyout. But at least me, I wasn’t thinking about selling, I mean, things were going great.

John Warrillow:

Just to be clear, you’re 15 on the top line, what would you have been putting to the bottom line at that time? Ballpark figure.

Frank Cianciulli:

So, yeah, it was actually the last fiscal year then it was five and a half of EBITDA on 15 revenue.

John Warrillow:

And so how thirsty is the company? So, five and a half, you and Anthony owning the business, are you able to suck any of that cash out and put it in your pocket? Or are you having to reinvest it all in the growth?

Frank Cianciulli:

No, that’s profit, right? So we’re growing at a big clip. I mean, looking back, maybe we could’ve thrown more money at it and grown even more when I look back at that, but then we also had the shareholder buyouts, right? So we had checks going out every month to the shareholders, my ex partner.

John Warrillow:

You’re paying the guy in Australia and, yeah.

Frank Cianciulli:

Yeah.

John Warrillow:

So, I love this, you’re having this conversation with Joel, and how does he kind of pivot the conversation to the discussion around acquisition? Do you remember what his line was or how he sort of raised the specter of an acquisition?

Frank Cianciulli:

Well, I mean, I could see the press releases, I knew they were buying. I knew they were on a bit of a warpath as far as sales. And you’re getting to know him, he’s getting to know me, we’re both wine guys, we’re having all those conversations and then I think he had asked me, “Okay, so what is it looking like this year as far as your numbers?” And I think when I told him, “We just did four and a half in profit, I think, that prior year.” And he goes, “Well, why would you not want to put 30 million bucks in your pants?”

Frank Cianciulli:

And I said, “30 million dollars?” I guess I didn’t really think of multiples. But I think even if I knew five or six times, I don’t know, as an entrepreneur I was just so focused on growing the business I didn’t actually think, and that number just sounded big.

John Warrillow:

It sounds massive.

Frank Cianciulli:

Three and a half years ago I was at Bell Canada as a sales rep.

John Warrillow:

That’s awesome.

Frank Cianciulli:

I’m living in a small condo in Square One, and now someone’s talking about 30 million dollars, whoa. I mean, it wasn’t all mine, half, but still.

John Warrillow:

Yeah, but so he says, “Why wouldn’t you want to put 30 million dollars”, that was his shot over the bow to say that’s kind of what we would be willing to pay for you.

Frank Cianciulli:

Exactly, so once I’d realized there was that, then we’re like, okay, let’s talk.

John Warrillow:

And so did you basically take the calculation back in your mind and go, “Okay, 30 million, we’re doing roughly five”, did you do the six times EBITDA number in your mind?

Frank Cianciulli:

Yep.

John Warrillow:

At lunch, you’re doing that in your mind?

Frank Cianciulli:

Yeah, and then obviously after when we started chatting with Tony it was a matter of, okay, so we’re going to keep making all this cash, do we need to sell? It became a question of, and I think this is what every entrepreneur thinks, okay, well I can just keep going? Why would I sell? Especially when you’re growing, so this is why, I know it’s maybe not relevant in this conversation, but I do regret selling. I don’t think it made sense to sell at that time, I think I could’ve went at least three to five years longer. Just because of the trajectory.

Frank Cianciulli:

But you don’t know that. You don’t know that, even if you have been growing hockey stick growth, but you don’t know that it’s going to continue to grow. I remember having some bad days post that Canoe meeting, because from that Canoe meeting to sell was at least a year, maybe a year and a half. It was something like that, it took a while. Well, I’d say at least a year, it was probably 15 months. So you’d have your bad days and when you have those bad days you’re like, maybe I should sell, maybe I should sell.

Frank Cianciulli:

Then you have a great day or a great month or a big win and then you’re like forget it, I want to keep going. It’s really psychological, I mean, then people were talking bird in the hand, you start telling friends or maybe some close friends, and their reaction is always like, “You’ve got to sell.” I think the only person that said just keep it was my dad, oddly enough. You know, “You have a good business, why do you need to sell it?” And I continue on that, I don’t think it makes sense to sell a good business that’s generating good cash flow. The Warren Buffett, right? The buy and hold. He sells businesses when he feels he can apply the capital somewhere else to get a better lift. But if it’s your passion and it’s your baby and you’re good at it, there’s a lot of factors that come in with businesses.

John Warrillow:

What was the conversation like with your dad? Tell me more about that. So, I mean, was he an informal mentor of yours that you went to for counsel and tell me about that conversation?

Frank Cianciulli:

Yeah, I mean, he wasn’t sophisticated as far as understanding valuations or things like that, but I did give him roughly how much we’re making and what these guys want to offer.

John Warrillow:

What did that feel like to tell your dad that someone was willing to write you a cheque for 30 million dollars?

Frank Cianciulli:

Well, for me it was definitely sweet, that and when I started winning the awards, because that whole Bell Canada thing, that was a summer job while I was wrapping up my last year of university. I was supposed to be a lawyer. My dad has been brainwashing me since I was 12 to be a lawyer, and I had the blinkers on, I was going to be a lawyer. And then when I go work for this conferencing company and it was lucrative and I was doing well at it, so it felt good that I was good at something.

Frank Cianciulli:

So then I remember telling him, “Listen, dad, don’t worry about the law school thing, I’m going to put that off, but I think I’m going to start my own conferencing company.” So then I finally did, and then in a relatively short period, you’re talking about three, three and a half year after starting a company, someone’s talking 30 million dollars. That was a good moment from that perspective. I thought he’d have a different reaction, I thought he’d be like, “That’s it, great, sell it, let’s go, this is good, let’s retire.” But he was like, “Keep it, keep it, it’s a good business, keep going”. I’m like, oh, God.

John Warrillow:

What did your dad do for a living? What was his profession?

Frank Cianciulli:

So, he was actually a mechanic by trade when he was younger, but he I guess around 1980 got his real estate license and did relatively well, ended up having his own brokerage and ended up buying a lot of land and then brought my mum into it and she ended up buying a lot of property. So they were entrepreneurs, I was an only child. But he was, maybe because of that blue-collar background, it’s lawyer, lawyer, he was thinking lawyer.

Frank Cianciulli:

And so I think one of the most proudest days of both of their lives when I won the entrepreneur of the year, I mean, that was a fabulous evening and an experience and it felt like even more than when I got married and had my first kid. I don’t know.

John Warrillow:

Don’t tell your wife that.

Frank Cianciulli:

No, I know, but something tells me they’re really, really proud. I mean, everybody has a kid, not everybody is entrepreneur of the year if you want to put it in that perspective, right?

John Warrillow:

Yeah.

Frank Cianciulli:

I mean, most people get married, so this was a big thing for them, I think coming from humble backgrounds and an only child, they tried to do everything right. They put me in private school and then when they had the ability my dad bought me a brand new Volkswagen Jetta, instead of going away to university, they didn’t want me to go away, I was an only child. So I think they were just so proud or justified that, “Hey, we did good with this guy, we raised him well.”

John Warrillow:

It’s a great story, and it must make them incredibly proud. And I wonder, dads and sons have complicated relationships, I mean, books have been written on it. It goes well beyond my pay grade to even think about that, but there is a sense of, at least in some relationships, a subtle sense of competitiveness, right? Where you want to, I’ll think of my own relationship with my dad, there’s a little bit of I want to do him proud or I want him to feel proud of me, you know what I mean? And at the same time… Yeah, keep going.

Frank Cianciulli:

No, I want to do that too, I mean, I get the sense that my dad, it’s interesting, my dad and my mom because between both of them my mom was always working hard, hustling, hustling, hustling, wanting to get bigger and bigger and bigger and competitive so I got that. My dad also was successful, a little more conservative, she was more of a risk taker. He was way more conservative, and he always stressed lifestyle too, like don’t kill yourself working. And even until this day, the way I structure it, Enunciate was the only company I ever operated. I mean, now we have I don’t know how many operating companies, I’ve got presidents and management teams that run it, I’m here in Miami, I’m able to be away.

Frank Cianciulli:

So, because I think my dad’s influence as far as just making sure you smell the roses along the way, otherwise what are we doing all this for? And it was a badge of honor when I was first building businesses and I’d look at guys that would work hard until they’re 90 or 100 and working seven days a week and it’s like, yeah, I like that, I like the concept of loving what you do and always working which I think I always will do, but at the same time, these guys, they’re on their deathbeds, they’re all having the same regrets.

Frank Cianciulli:

Didn’t spend enough time with the family, didn’t enjoy all the riches. I mean, what’s the point of doing it if it’s just ego? I mean, I used my ego to grow it, but now I’m at a different stage. I want to get wealthier, but I don’t want to kill myself doing it, so if I can’t generate enough momentum or work with the right operators I wouldn’t do it. So I think that’s where I got that, from my dad, but, yeah, I think one of the regrets or maybe because of his stage in life but maybe to do something with an entrepreneur, back him on a venture, but I think he was at that point.

Frank Cianciulli:

My mom I think would’ve, unfortunately I sold Enunciate in the fall of ’06, and she died exactly two years later, tragically.

John Warrillow:

I’m sorry to hear that.

Frank Cianciulli:

Yeah, I know, cancer. Relatively young, 57, but I probably would’ve done some type of ventures, probably real estate related, with my mom.

John Warrillow:

Neat that she was able to see the success you had had before she passed, that’s pretty special.

Frank Cianciulli:

Yeah, I’m really happy about that to be honest, because going on awards circuits was a period of, I don’t know, a year or two, or the university is giving me an award, the Italian Chamber is giving me an award, and Top 40 under 40, so every few months there’s a big gala and-

John Warrillow:

Black tie, and…

Frank Cianciulli:

Yeah, so it was a really wonderful time, so I’m definitely glad. So I’m a big fan of those, even though at the end of the day the reward is the money and all that kind of stuff, but, I mean, I don’t know, something about validation is fun. And not only for the owner or the entrepreneur, but the whole company.

John Warrillow:

Yeah, sure.

Frank Cianciulli:

Basically it’s the effort.

John Warrillow:

Makes people feel great about the place they work. I want to go back to the deal for a second. So you’re at lunch at Canoe, Joel says, “Why wouldn’t you want to put 30 million bucks in your jeans.” Were you able to keep a straight face when he said that?

Frank Cianciulli:

Yeah, I did. I said we don’t need the money, we’re still growing, that kind of stuff. But secretly I’m like, huh. That just sounded so big to me, I’m not sure why.

John Warrillow:

Well, I know why, it’s a huge number.

Frank Cianciulli:

It sounded very Model-ish, very Model 649 dealing. I had such the blinkers on, I was so focused on building the business. Ironically though, when we used to talk about starting our own company, because from the moment we decided we wanted to start the company from actually starting it was five years. I’m a History and Poli Sci major, I know nothing about writing business plans or raising capital, none of that stuff. So it wasn’t until I met Tony Lacavera and he knew all that that it all came together quickly, but we were ready to go, so once we met Tony, we put it all together really quickly and we knew we were going to execute it.

Frank Cianciulli:

So I was just so focused on just growing the company, but I didn’t remember that back when we were planning we said, “We’ll grow it for five years, sell it, retire or do something else.” But it was ironic that it was exactly five years, we started August of 2001 and the sale was September of ’06. 61 months.

John Warrillow:

Incredible growth. So let’s get into what happens next. So you leave Canoe, who do you call first?

Frank Cianciulli:

Tony, on the way back to the office.

John Warrillow:

And what’s his reaction?

Frank Cianciulli:

So, he’s like, “Oh, okay.” So I think he realized, okay, this is real. But then Tony’s more analytical, he doesn’t have an emotional connection to the business, so he looks at more just dollars and cents. But he does understand that I do have an emotional connection to the business, so I remember him saying to me and then when I got to the office I was even waiting in the parking lot, where I called him before going in the office. And I remember exactly where I was in the parking lot of our building in Liberty Village where he said, “Building a business is fun”, and he goes, “And we’re past it, we’re making money”, and he goes, “So, yeah, some guys like managing their money after they sell, but they’re older, we’re young.”

Frank Cianciulli:

He goes, “You’ve got to think about that, you’re enjoying this, this is fun.” So that’s what stuck with me, that was hard. Then things changed and Tony, they were looking at buying YAK Communication and I know that they needed the money from the sale to be able to complete that. I mean, Tony would’ve figured something out anyway but they needed that money.

John Warrillow:

Sorry, forgive me, I just want to make sure I understand. So, Tony was looking at, Globalive was looking at, making an acquisition?

Frank Cianciulli:

Well, yeah, YAK Communication was [inaudible 00:37:38].

John Warrillow:

Okay.

Frank Cianciulli:

I know Globalive was far smaller and weren’t capitalized enough to buy that business, and if they were to do it, they’d have to bring on partners and equity. So when he got the big payday from the Enunciate sale, that helped him. Even then it was a miracle they pulled it off, even with all that capital.

John Warrillow:

Okay, so for folks listening they may not have heard of YAK or whatever, so that makes sense. So, it sounds like your partner, this Anthony Lacavera said, “Hey, you’ve got to think about this, you don’t want to just sit on the beach, there’s a lot of excitement.” And then you became aware that he would’ve liked to use some of the proceeds from the sale of Enunciate in order to buy YAK?

Frank Cianciulli:

Yeah, but just to clarify, that’s why I respected Tony so much, because he kept them separate. I remember saying that, “Okay, well, you want to buy this, so we should sell and that’s it.” And he was like, “No, let’s treat everything separately, this is Enunciate and let’s decide whether this is something…” He goes, “Ultimately it’s your call but I’ll support you in whatever you want to do.” But he was more, “Okay, this is how much profit we’re making so let’s think about this. If we go three more years at this level so we’ll take whatever it is, 10, 12, out of the business. Then what’s the business worth? Is it going to be in decline?”

Frank Cianciulli:

So he brought a very analytical approach to it from as far as the numbers. And he kept them separate, he says, “I like to keep every deal separate”, and I don’t know if that’s true but that’s what he said to me.

John Warrillow:

Right, so the conversation you guys are having in your mind is we’re able to pull out a chunk of change every year because we’re so profitable that we don’t have to invest in CapEx. So, we just keep growing this thing for… So, one option was to continue to grow, continue to pull profits out, and it may be worth even more than 30 five years down the road, that was one thing.

Frank Cianciulli:

Plus we have the cash, yeah, I think that’s what made us unique. I mean, I think a lot of companies, even if they have rocket growth and then they get a big multiple, they haven’t been taking cash out. So you have fatigue, let’s say you’re the owner operator, even though your business is worth 30 million bucks, but you haven’t taken any money out, and you’re barely pulling a salary.

John Warrillow:

You’re still driving the Jetta.

Frank Cianciulli:

Yeah, you’re still driving the Jetta, exactly. So, I think that was what was different, and I think that’s why looking back we shouldn’t have sold. But then I thought, okay, I’d have all this money to do all this stuff and obviously I bought a place in Florida and built a big house, all that fun kind of stuff.

John Warrillow:

Yeah.

Frank Cianciulli:

But I would’ve been able to do that anyway, through the cash flow, but you don’t know that for sure when you’re in it either, right?

John Warrillow:

Yeah, well, I think people listening to-

Frank Cianciulli:

That’s why, if anyone’s a purchaser or wants to buy businesses, just make the offer, no ones going to tell you they want to sell. Just put it in writing and you’ll see what happens.

John Warrillow:

That’s a good pro tip.

Frank Cianciulli:

People start spending the money once it’s on paper.

John Warrillow:

Once it’s on paper.

Frank Cianciulli:

Same thing happened with Joel. He submitted an LOI, I printed it, I kept it, I showed people, my family and friends, right? Before that it was just talk. But once it was in writing, in a formal LOI, things changed. Then it got in my head.

John Warrillow:

Yeah. So he left lunch, how long after lunch at Canoe did Joel present you with the letter of intent?

Frank Cianciulli:

It came relatively quickly. I mean, not days, but not much longer than two or three weeks, and then he flies me down to visit Atlanta. Then the whole team comes out and steaks and expensive wine, these guys were crazy wine guys, they’d spend thousands of dollars on wine at dinner. So, now, they’re pitching being part of their family as well. Part of the deal is they needed me there for at least, it was 16 months, we sold in September, they wanted to make sure I stayed at least until the end of the following year.

John Warrillow:

What was your reaction to the wining and dining?

Frank Cianciulli:

I thought this could be a nice… I knew, because I had other ventures, that I knew I wouldn’t work for these guys, I’m not going to work for someone else. The money was too big, I think if guys sell their businesses and it’s not money where they can retire off, and then you might want to look at working with the company that buys you. But, no, not in my case. I had other ventures making great money and obviously a bunch of money in the bank so I didn’t need to work there. But I thought, huh, this is a cool transition, these guys are going to all kinds of fun stuff.

Frank Cianciulli:

They’re talking about these management retreats in Pebble Beach and all these places. I remember after I sold the business and I worked there for the year and a half and they’re in Atlanta, so they had their own private booth and the coach and we went to the Masters, so they brought me to the Masters. I had quite a few cool experience working with these guys for the year I was there.

John Warrillow:

So you’re getting wined and dined in Atlanta, you’re going to the Masters, it’s a pretty special time. I’ve heard from some entrepreneurs that they get their defenses lowered by the booze at the special dinners and so forth, and towards the end of dinner some of the conversation turns to deal points and they end up thinking about the dinner after the fact thinking, “Oh, man, I shouldn’t have said X”, or, “I should’ve have done Y.” Did anything like that come up for you?

Frank Cianciulli:

Yes. It did. All of the above. And this is when I realized that at least when it’s done well, because that takes energy and a lot of companies don’t do that, go through a broker, and maybe they’ll get on a call and offers will start flying. That’s not the best way to do it if you want to be successful in making acquisitions, you have to build relationships with the potential vendor, which is the owner of the company essentially. And because think normal sales, people do business with people they like, so people don’t want to sell a company to someone they don’t like.

Frank Cianciulli:

And you don’t want that to happen, even if it’s a good deal, because they’re going to leave it in rough shape or you don’t know what you’re buying after the fact, because you want a good relationship even after, especially if the person’s not going to be active in the business. So, yeah, the wine starts flowing and you’re talking about life, so they’re learning about you, they’re learning your little trigger points. And that’s important. It’s the same thing I do with talking to people about selling their business, I need to understand what they want to do with the money, with their families, what’s their hobbies, are they going to buy a boat? What are they going to do with it? That kind of thing.

John Warrillow:

Got it, got it. And so in retrospect what might you have done differently with that dinner?

Frank Cianciulli:

I mean, I knew they wanted the company badly, so if it was a matter of maybe trying to make a few extra bucks on the deal, I think just hold my cards a little tighter, because it became a lot of talk about what life would be like for me post-sale. That I’d still be in Canada doing my own thing, there’d still be Enunciate with all the same employees, but, wow, you’re going to be part of, in your case, in my case, I was going to be reporting directly to the CEO and with that C suite where other acquisitions weren’t, just because they wanted to treat Canada like a different region. There was one other entrepreneur, they bought his business in Australia, that would be on that team, but everyone else, no.

Frank Cianciulli:

But I’d have the special treatment, and we would do these fun things, so they gave me a taste of it when we’re out there having nice dinners. Because you’re hearing them tell stories, stories, “Oh, and they’re at Pebble Beach and they did this”, “Oh, and they’re at this conference or that conference”, they go to great places, really great places.

John Warrillow:

In retrospect, now given how sophisticated you are about this stuff, is it clear to you that they were dropping Pebble Beach and mentioning it all with intent.

Frank Cianciulli:

Yes, all by design.

John Warrillow:

All by design.

Frank Cianciulli:

Yeah, and I’m a pretty street-smart guy, so I can usually pick it off. That’s why I say this guy was good at what he did. He was just a nice guy regardless, just a good quality human being. So, he was just good at his job.

John Warrillow:

Yeah. Where does it go from there? Did you try to get competing offers or what was the next step?

Frank Cianciulli:

No. Well, you know, we did, and I think it was TELUS, actually, and they just gave us a real low ball, comparably anyway. And so at that point we just focused on Premiere.

John Warrillow:

Did you use the TELUS offer in an effort to kind of get Premiere up a bit?

Frank Cianciulli:

No, the negotiations were really just about comparing, because they would show us all of the acquisitions for the previous five years that were completed, not only by them but just in the industry. And they had the whole formula with the multiples, so they were showing that their offer was already on the high end, or the highest, of that bracket. So it really made it tricky. But we still pushed it. We can still, we don’t need the cash, plus our trajectory, we don’t know what the trajectory of those companies were.

Frank Cianciulli:

If you buy a company at the same multiple as mine but they’ve been flat versus I’m growing at 50% a year, that’s irrelevant then. So these are the kind of arguments and negotiating we were giving.

John Warrillow:

What was their original letter of intent at? Was it right on the 30 million?

Frank Cianciulli:

It was like 33, the first LOI, and then it came down. This is another reason why we sold, we had some technical issues and we had a few accounts leave. We got over them, and then it was like, okay, what do we do? Do we wait and not sell and wait to just get back up? Because they had to adjust it down. One of the accounts was significant.

John Warrillow:

How much revenue? Do you remember?

Frank Cianciulli:

A half a million dollar a year in profit, this one account.

John Warrillow:

Wow.

Frank Cianciulli:

The company ended up going bankrupt, it was one of those dot com, it was Ameriquest Mortgage, because two years later with the whole…

John Warrillow:

Yeah.

Frank Cianciulli:

So that worked out.

John Warrillow:

Well, 2008 they imploded, right?

Frank Cianciulli:

Yeah, they all imploded, yeah.

John Warrillow:

Yeah. So, you lost a big account and they said, “Hey, we need to look at this LOI again?”

Frank Cianciulli:

Yeah, we tried negotiating, saying, well, we still want to sell at that price. And it’s like, “Well, we can’t do that”, and that was the only bitter part of it from that perspective, from a negotiating perspective, and that was it. I mean, that was too big of a hit for them to say, “Okay, we’re still going to pay you the same number.” So then it became negotiating what’s fair, but it was pretty much whatever the multiple was minus the EBITDA from that account.

John Warrillow:

It sounds like-

Frank Cianciulli:

It wasn’t so much, well, I lost the money, we lost three million dollars of valuation, but I think, yeah, it helps. I don’t know. I’m still on the fence, ironically, but I think because that occurred, it made me realize nothing’s for sure. The whole bird in the hand thing kicked in because it’s like, okay, what if I did lose three or four accounts? What if those technical issues dragged on another month or two? A lot of our clients were obviously patient so we worked through them, but at some point when your business evaporates, what do you do?

John Warrillow:

Yeah. So losing this account, these technical issues, made you realize that-

Frank Cianciulli:

That scared me into selling.

John Warrillow:

Nothing’s for sure. Yeah.

Frank Cianciulli:

I’ve got to tell you, there still might have been a good chance I don’t sell. I mean, psychologically I remember saying I’m not selling. And those issues put me over, and, again, that’s why I tell everybody and I even think myself, put an offer out there. It’s like when you’re a salesperson, you’re trying to sell someone a service and they say they’re happy with their existing vendor. It doesn’t matter, still call them, still send a proposal. Because, guess what, if their vendor screws up, what you want is them to pick up the phone and say, “That guy was great that called me a couple of months ago about that service, I’m going to call him.”

Frank Cianciulli:

Same thing with trying to buy a business. Make the offer, go through the process, because if that entrepreneur or that business has a bad day, now things have changed, now they have an exit, they have an alternative where they weren’t thinking that otherwise. Some people do, some people have something bad and then put their business for sale, but you can sniff that out if you’re a buyer.

John Warrillow:

Yeah, so in your case, you’ve realized that nothings for sure and that you’ve got a bird in the hand and you’re going to take it. What changed for you? What was life like after the cheque hit your bank account?

Frank Cianciulli:

It was not a good period, so the year after-

John Warrillow:

[crosstalk 00:50:08] Did you say not a good period?

Frank Cianciulli:

No, not for me personally, no. That year of transition, working for someone else, seeing the stupid decisions they were making. Fine, we’d go to the Masters, but besides that, I felt that I was also just getting involved in the other companies where I wasn’t, because I was focused on Enunciate. So the other companies, and I think I kind of disrupted them a little bit, I had a hard time dealing emotionally with the sale. I wept, I remember at the Christmas party, so I sold in September, the December Christmas party, Downtown, got a hotel room, stay there.

Frank Cianciulli:

And I remember with my wife just crying and crying my eyes out, what have I done, I sold my baby. Because you’re at a Christmas party, there’s hundreds of people there, you’re just on an emotional high, when I was always with my employees where we kick off meetings or chairman’s clubs, those were emotional times, this is my family. Closer than my family in a lot of ways. I love spending time with the people that are in my business more than anyone else because we have a common goal, something to talk about of interest to me.

Frank Cianciulli:

Because I can still talk about the small stuff that I talk with friends, I can still talk to sports with my employees, but we can talk about something that matters in my opinion. So I was really, yeah, I didn’t buy anything, that’s one piece I would tell anyone, if it’s enough you’ve got to treat yourself to something after you sell your business. Not be frivolous necessarily, but I didn’t do that badge of honor, let’s just keep going, let’s keep building these businesses for the future. But I should’ve treated myself to something.

Frank Cianciulli:

I remember it always was my dream to get a membership of St. George, and I was like, okay, let me go and then there was a waiting list, forget it, I don’t need to go join St. George and buy a fancy car.

John Warrillow:

St. George’s is a golf club in Toronto that’s quite prestigious.

Frank Cianciulli:

Yeah, so, I regret not doing that earlier, some of those things earlier. I did them later, fortunately, but I think the reward is a special thing. So, yeah, I threw in St. George’s later but I think, man, if I just would’ve joined right after I sold my company which is a nice story, it would have been a nice feeling, to do that to reward myself with something. That’s why I like getting gifts for people as opposed to just giving them money, right? Or a gift certificate. Because that way they remember you when they open or use that gift, and there’s a relationship there as opposed to just money.

John Warrillow:

Yeah, yeah. I’ve definitely heard from past guests this notion of this very incredible high when the cheque clears and then a big drop, so I’ve heard that from others. And I’ve heard that sort of coming out of it is really about finding a new purpose, a new project, whether that’s another business. What was it for you that got you out of that sort of low period?

Frank Cianciulli:

Yeah, once obviously the other companies started to scale and I was officially out of Premiere and we start getting other offices and stuff. But then what I found post when you have a company and it’s really succeeding and then even if you do other things, now the grind is not as exciting. Because you had the momentum, you weren’t grinding anymore. I mean, it’s always a grind, even when things are going well, but I think that’s when I got back to obviously there’s this thing and we started generating Wish Group and marketing it and all that kind of stuff. So my new identity now is not Frank at Enunciate, now it’s Frank at Wish Group.

John Warrillow:

Got it. And so for folks who-

Frank Cianciulli:

So I’m happy overall, the peace of mind that came with it. But I also wonder, man, how big would it have gotten? Would I be even wealthier and more happier today? I don’t know. Or, who knows, maybe the company would’ve started to decline and that would’ve been awful. It’s like you sell on a high right, if you’re an artist or a musician, you left them wanting more or you end a TV series when the audience still wants more. So that’s kind of what I did, so maybe it’s a good thing. All the memories are good. It was all never a year of flattening out or going into decline. So that’s pretty special too, that’s worth something I think.

John Warrillow:

Yeah, for sure. So, tell people where they can reach you now, is there a website or a LinkedIn? What’s best for people to reach you.

Frank Cianciulli:

Yeah, LinkedIn is just Frank Cianciulli, but the website is wishgroup.ca and Instagram is @FrankCianciulli as well. And that’s for the [inaudible 00:54:40].

John Warrillow:

Great, and what does Wish Group do just in 30 seconds? Kind of what’s the company do?

Frank Cianciulli:

Yeah, so, Wish Group is a collection, it’s a holdco and it’s a collection of telecom, media and HR businesses. So we’re back in the teleconferencing business, so we compete with Zoom and we are the largest B2B webinar and virtual events company in the country, and we own some of the largest privately held HR staffing companies in the country and digital marketing and all types of other fun businesses there. So it’s essentially turned into an entrepreneurial ecosystem, an entrepreneurial, not an incubator, we operate the businesses, but very much an environment where we invest in people and give equity to managers and management teams, that sort of thing.

John Warrillow:

A mini Berkshire Hathaway it sounds like.

Frank Cianciulli:

Exactly, or even like a Pattison Group maybe is another one.

John Warrillow:

Yeah. Great, well, we’ll put the information about Wish in the show notes and the spelling of your surname in the show notes so that people can connect with you on LinkedIn. Frank, it was great to meet you and great to hear the story.

Frank Cianciulli:

Well, thanks for having me, it was really exciting taking a trip down memory lane.

John Warrillow:

Hey, if you liked today’s episode, you are going to love my new book, The Art Of Selling Your Business. The book was inspired by the cohort of my guests over the years who have been able to negotiate an exit far better than the benchmark in their industry, sometimes two or three times more than they would’ve expected. I was curious to understand the tactics and strategies of these entrepreneurs and what they do differently from average performers. The result is a playbook for punching above your weight when it comes to selling your business.

John Warrillow:

To learn more go to builttosell.com/selling where we put together a collection of gifts for listeners who order the book. Just go to builttosell.com/selling.

BACK TO THE TOP