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Life After the Sale

Life After the Sale
Like many CEOs and business owners, you may be dreaming of the day you sell your company and your time is yours to do pretty much whatever you want. We asked three Vistage members who recently “planted that flag” what their lives are like now. Here’s a look.
Back home doing good things

Joe Ennis
Former President and CEO, General Tools & Instruments
Joined Vistage in 2012

Joe
Joe at a minor league outing with his son, Mark

I grew up in Memphis on Elvis, the Baptist Church and fishing. After working for Stanley Tools for 25 years I moved to New Jersey as VP of Ingersoll-Rand. In May 2001, I started with General Tools & Instruments in lower Manhattan, a few blocks from the World Trade Center. Not long after the September 11 attacks, I sat in an upstairs deli looking down to see hundreds of people marching along Broadway singing ‘God Bless America.’ It was so patriotic and surreal, and it’s when I fell in love with New York.

It was a tough time for the company for a while, but over the next few years we were able to double the sales and margins. After much consideration and conferring with Vistage Chair Mark Taylor, Gerry and Martin Weinstein (the two majority owners) and the Board of Directors, we felt it was time to sell. With Mark’s strategic guidance, we closed the sale in February 2014. I have to say that Mark Taylor is a business guru and a pure inspiration.

I stayed on as president and CEO, when the firm decided to bring in younger folks — and I fully agreed. I’m still on the board and support the company as an outside member and investor. I officially retired in 2016.

I always knew we’d return home to Tennessee. Today I’m deeply involved with my local Rotary Club and on the Collierville Parks and Recreation Advisory Board. I bought a wooded property in town to retire to and to help out my wife’s parents. Before I left General Tools, I asked myself what can I do to give back? Our son Mark, 39, is deaf and autistic — a special kiddo — so we decided we would help other kids in the way we’ve been able to help Mark. I set up a 501(c)(3) for “Mark’s Park,” a 32-acre nature exploration park for autistic children and their families.

“These days, I look out at the lake and just stop to appreciate it all. It’s so quiet — animals are all over, and I’m really just happy to be here.”
Joe Ennis

We hope to encourage, educate and entertain other disabled kids. We are also incorporating humor into the experience, since laughter is such a great way to help children learn. There will be story time, fishing, riding golf carts and more. COVID delayed development, but we plan to open in mid-2021.

Sometimes I miss the rewards and challenges of running the business, but I feel I’m in a good place, doing good things for deserving people.

Selling on my own terms

Hall Dillon
Former owner, Dorn Color
Joined Vistage in 1989

“I’ve always wanted to fly fish in New Zealand, and here I am holding the brown trout I caught in the Owens River area of the South Island.”
Hall Dillon

I became involved with my family’s business when my father had a debilitating heart attack in 1978. My brother and I ran the business together until 1985, when I bought his interest and became the sole owner. I knew I needed a group of advisors. When I learned of Vistage in 1989, I joined immediately. Since then, Vistage has been the perfect resource. Whether through a speaker, my group or my Chair, I have been able to develop options, process issues, and ultimately find solutions to my most important questions.

My Vistage experience also prepared me well for selling the company. Since I didn’t have family members or employees interested in buying the business, I’ve always known it would eventually be sold to outsiders. Two Vistage speaker presentations — Ken Blanchard’s “Full Steam Ahead!” and Patrick Ungashick’s “7 Areas of Transferable Value” — helped make it clear that I needed to start exit planning, even when I wasn’t really interested in exiting.

In 2016, a private equity firm wanted to buy Dorn, but I wasn’t interested. Dorn was running beautifully and was consistently profitable. We had grown 20-fold since my father ran things. The private equity firm approached me again in 2019. This time they asked what it would take for me to say yes. I knew the answer. Dorn was ready and a sale to this firm was strategic and synergistic. It would be a win/win/win for buyer/employees/seller.

Since the sale, my wife, Carol, and I have enjoyed several major trips, including Thanksgiving 2019 in Marathon, Florida, with family, including the grandkids; and Cabo San Lucas with friends. We also traveled for seven weeks across Fiji, Australia and New Zealand, ending on February 24, right before COVID hit the states.

Family
Hall with his family during Thanksgiving 2019 in Marathon, Florida

Note: All of these are good fly-fishing destinations, so I fished wherever we traveled. I will soon become President of the Board of Directors at Rockwell Springs Trout Club — my new job!

Vistage has been hugely instrumental to me and my company’s success. I couldn’t be more appreciative of my Chair Jim Mazzella and my fellow group members for their good counsel over many years. I’ve always said, “People do business with people,” and “I couldn’t have done it without the help of others.”

Creating once-in-a-lifetime memories

Sheril Feldman
Former co-owner of David Feldman Worldwide
Joined Vistage in 2011

Sheril (right) at Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, February 2020 with her mom (middle) and best friend

I was the co-owner of a court reporting company with my brother, who was also a Vistage member. We both got so much out of Vistage, including using our groups to help process issues around the sale. We hadn’t been actively trying to sell — the right deal fell into our laps. Our industry was going through some major changes in 2017 and had we not sold, COVID would have closed the business. We are so lucky.

After the sale, and before the pandemic hit, I did what I love most — travel. This is not surprising to anyone who knows me. It’s surreal to talk about my travels now with so many people going through such hard times, but with that said, during this time of COVID, I’m even more grateful that I went for it BIG. I have those once-in-a-lifetime memories with the people I love to cherish forever.

“Phuket, Thailand, January 2020, with my three sons was one of the best trips of my life.”
Sheril Feldman

My boyfriend and I spent time in Spain, France, Italy, Switzerland, London and Germany. One trip, we picked up a 2019 Porsche from the factory in Germany and drove it across Europe; on another we attended the Grand Prix in Monte Carlo. We traveled across South America and went on golfing, yachting and skiing adventures in the U.S.

I also had the chance to travel with my mother and with my best friend who had just lost her 17-year-old son to cancer. We were single moms for years together and her boys and mine are all very close. After her son died, I was able to take her to Brazil and give her some much needed relief from the unbearable loss. I am profoundly grateful for that time together.

Recently, I bought a large property in Miami that I am renting out. I’m excited to be back working in a meaningful way and apply what I learned through Vistage.

Having the money and freedom to travel has been a dream come true — and I sure hope to do it again when my twins graduate college; I want to take all my kids to Africa on safari. But to think about that now doesn’t seem right; too many people are struggling. My main focus now is making sure my family is staying healthy, spending as much quality time with them as possible, getting back to work — and counting my blessings.

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