Meet the Founder
How did the Windy City Wire story begin?
Back in 1994, my future business partner and I were working in sales for a wire company. We were frustrated by the lack of innovation in our industry, so we brainstormed ideas for more creative solutions. But, when we pitched our ideas to management, all we got back was, “Thanks, now get back to work.” Still, we knew we could make the wire business better and decided to strike out on our own by founding Windy City Wire. After some early growing pains, we grew rapidly through innovation and by leveraging technology to provide a superior customer experience.
What were the early growth days like?
Although we were consistently profitable every quarter for 10 years, we had to reinvest all profits back into the business to fund growth. We began to look for a better way to finance expansion. Also, while my co-founding partner, Gary, was interested in liquidity, I wasn’t nearly finished yet – there was so much opportunity ahead. So, we needed a flexible capital solution that could achieve both Gary’s goals and mine.
Why did you partner with Seidler?
I had met with other private equity firms before being introduced to Seidler but was turned off – most had control (not partnership) in their DNA and wanted to maximize debt and fees. It didn’t take long for me to realize Seidler’s roots in family business and their partnership approach were quite different from the pack. I remember very well the first time we met the Seidler team in late November 2005. Our initial phone call was the Monday before Thanksgiving, and they flew from LA to Chicago to visit us that Friday (a date I had offered only to call their bluff).
Their straightforward approach was completely different from the private equity crowd that had pursued me for years. We reached a handshake deal within a week and closed six weeks later without a hitch. The personal fit was great from the start. They allowed my co-founding partner to take a meaningful estate planning distribution, while allowing me to retain my hard-earned equity. We were also able to keep a debt-free balance sheet and retain control of the Board and day-to-day operations.
What did the partnership accomplish?
We had a successful, collaborative partnership for 15 years, with EBITDA growing from ~$5 million to nearly $50 million. The Seidler team helped us close two highly accretive acquisitions and assisted with multiple facility expansions. They also provided valuable insight and guidance as we transformed our business from distribution only into a vertically integrated manufacturing and distribution model. This transformation enabled us to offer the highest quality and most innovative product set in our industry.
The Seidler team knew how to support without interfering. I was the one who set the company’s priorities throughout our whole partnership. This enabled me to devote all my energy to my business, including recruiting, training, and retaining the best sales team in the industry, developing significant data analysis capabilities, and building a 300,000 square foot headquarters. I was happy to be able to call upon partners who were completely aligned with my goals – we spoke every day, sometimes multiple times a day.
Throughout our partnership, the Seidler team knew I cared deeply about the “permanent home” for my business when the time came to sell. I’d spent over 25 years building Windy City Wire, and I wanted my employees, customers, and the overall legacy to be well taken care of. During our 15+ year partnership, Seidler helped me develop a scorecard of metrics that would put the business in a position to sell when I was ready, assisted me with evaluating the “fit” when potential buyers knocked on our door over the years, and kept me armed with updates on M&A markets. Ultimately, we found a great permanent home for Windy City in a publicly listed U.K.-based distribution business. More than two years after the sale, Windy City has retained our valued leaders and significantly grown revenue and EBITDA. Having Seidler as a partner helped me realize the full potential of my business.