I founded my first company at age 28, Sonus, where I served as Founder and CEO for seven years. I learned a lot about raising money from high net worth individuals, private equity firms and strategic partnerships. Over five years, I made over 150 presentations to raise capital, completed over 100 acquisitions, and created distribution agreements with over one thousand independent business owners and dozens of suppliers. With four separate equity raises totaling 38 million dollars, and negotiating 20 million in strategic debt financing I learned a lot about the process, and different equity and debt structures, not to mention negotiation skills in purchasing businesses.
I have been the CEO and Chairman of both a Canadian listed and US listed public company. Another fun fact is that when I listed Sonus on the American Stock Exchange in 1998, I was one of the youngest people to do so. Being the CEO and Chairman of a public company, I learned a lot about the importance of governance, leadership, responsibility and positioning. Learning to run Board of Director meetings with Audit, compensation and legal committees I learned while doing, and fast. I also learned that you can never learn or know too much, or fast enough.
My journey starting and growing Sonus was invaluable. Raising capital, negotiating purchase agreements, closing on, integrating and operationalizing so many businesses while navigating the building of technology platforms, hiring and developing teams, creating new business concepts and on and on was so educational that it formed my thinking about what can be done. But more important than what I learned to do, were the painful lessons in what NOT to do. As I pivoted my business model into a new direction, I was untimely replaced by my private equity partner as they didn’t like my direction. So they opted to replace me and sell the company. This was a painful, yet powerfully transformative time for me.