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 “rang that bell” what their lives are like now. Here’s a look.

John Heap
Former owner, Colorado Lining International
Joined Vistage: February 2011

My father started Colorado Lining Company in 1978 as a small plant in Franktown, Colorado. It was focused on fabricating and installing geomembranes in water reservoirs, irrigation canals, golf courses, wastewater treatment plants and landfills. When he retired in 1992, I purchased the company and renamed it Colorado Lining International (CLI) to help expand our scope.

Over the years the CLI team was able to grow from just over $750,000 in sales in 1992 to $32.5 million in 2016.

When I joined Vistage in 2011, it was a game-changer. Reserving one day a month to work on the business from outside the bubble made all the difference in my ability to see the bigger picture. I began to look at my longer-term plans and how I could set up the business for sale.

In 2017 Raven Industries made an excellent offer to purchase CLI, one that would satisfy our family’s financial needs and give employees a strong company with promising growth opportunities. As part of the agreement, I am contracted to work as the Director of Business Development through September 2020.

Prior to that, though, my wife, Suzi, and I began working with the KEGO Orphanage in Kenya, Africa, which was part of a “Give Back” program for an industry group. From that grew Rippling Waters Charity, a 501(c)(3) charity that my family started. 

Image: Teachers and eighth-grade students on the way to Homa Bay for a graduation dinner celebration.

Over the past several years, it has become a passion for us. The charity was able to purchase land adjacent to KEGO, providing the children with a soccer field and water well. Rippling Waters donated the pumps and piping to deliver water to the school and the town of Onjinyo. We have since rebuilt the kitchen and improved the weekly meal plan. Last year we shipped desks, chairs and other supplies to upgrade the classrooms. The longer-term plan is to get KEGO operational with aquaculture and gardens, and to continue to provide clean water and better teaching resources. 

If you could have painted this picture when I took over the business at 33 years old, I would have said you were crazy.” – John Heap, Vistage Alum

The business and life lessons learned in my eight years with Vistage prepared me to lead CLI to a position of strength that was noticed by our industry. Having taken the “chips off the table” has created a new opportunity for our family to travel the world, give back and enjoy the fruits of a 40-year business career. That includes enjoying our new home in Scottsdale, as part of our “winter in the desert” plan.

Dan Prince
Former President and CEO, Gibraltar Laboratories
Joined Vistage: 2009

For 28 years, I served as President and CEO of Gibraltar Laboratories, which provides analytical testing services to medical device and pharmaceutical companies.

Through Vistage I learned a great deal about leadership, strategy and succession — all of which helped me prepare for selling my company. I was able to build a strong team and set the business up for a third generation of leadership that, most likely, would have continued to run the company very successfully. Instead, with input from my external board and my Vistage group, I decided to sell Gibraltar after splitting off a small division to be operated by my son Derek. I am now overseeing the growth of that company, PRINCE Sterilization Services.

After the sale, I continued my membership under my new company. I am in the same group and I continue to benefit and share the learnings with Derek and his team. I’m also able to share the experience of selling to a large private equity firm with my peer advisory group.

Selling the company has been a huge adjustment, mostly because I did not feel qualified to manage the new wealth that the sale brought. My Chair, Jeannette Hobson, was a great help when I was selecting a wealth management firm that I am now very happy with.

My life now is honestly beyond my wildest dreams. I am able to spend lots of time with my family, help my old company, help my new company, travel around the world, play lots of tennis and live in Florida — which helps me save taxes and avoid the cold winters of New Jersey.

Kevin Trout
Former owner, Grandview Medical Resources
Joined Vistage: 2002

I founded Grandview Medical Resources in 1996 and joined Vistage shortly afterward. It was a high-tech medical equipment distribution company that grew to be a top performer in the industry. In 2011, Sizewise Worldwide acquired it in a strategic sale, which was negotiated for me by a fellow Vistage group member.

I agreed to a five-year employment contract and stayed in my Vistage group throughout that contract. I joked with my group that when the contract expired, I got “paroled,” because it was hard for me to be a corporate employee when I am really an entrepreneur through and through. My group members were dear friends at that point — some were with me in that group from the beginning. Plus, I got such tremendous value from a business standpoint that I didn’t want to give up my group.

“Owning and successfully selling a business is a great ride that I wouldn’t trade for anything. But now I get to share everything I learned along the way — and that’s pretty fantastic, too.” — Kevin Trout, Vistage Chair

During that time, a plan was forming: I knew I loved helping fellow Vistage members with their businesses. I knew I loved developing my own employees. I also knew I’m not someone who is ever fully going to retire. And then I had my Chair encouraging me to consider Chairing.

Being a Vistage Chair not only provided an opportunity to become a mentor and coach, but I get to stoke my entrepreneurial spirit and have the flexibility that I wanted after corporate life.

I launched a Small Business group in June 2019 and now have 17 members. At this writing, I am assembling both a Chief Executive and a Key Executive group.

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Vistage Perspectives 2020

Read about insights, challenges and successes across our community in the latest Vistage Perspectives magazine.