I remember the day the news broke like it was yesterday. A lot of us were aware something big was coming. A lot of people had “secret” meetings, but everybody knew we almost all had the same secret.
As the marketing designer who had to prepare all the communication material, I was brought into the process around a week and a half before the official announcement.
The negotiation in itself had been taking place for over three months, and we all did a great job of keeping it confidential. But there were two main questions from the beginning, and they were the same for everybody.
Were some of us going to lose our job?
Generally speaking, there are two types of acquisitions: hostile, and cooperative. Hostile takeovers usually happen when the company being bought is in financial difficulty and has no other option but to surrender. Or, when the company is doing well but gets bought by a bigger player in the field, to stop the competition from expanding. In both cases, job cuts usually happen.
In our case, it was a cooperative takeover. We were being bought for our technology, our processes, and we were going to be given targets to reach within the next few years. Our buyer wanted to work alongside us to expand their own market. We were to remain our own entity, at least for now. So the answer to the dreaded question “Is anyone going to lose their job?” came shortly after the announcement. No. This was great news.
Were employees going to make some money on this deal?
That night when I got home from work (I usually work remotely but had gone to the office for this special occasion), I called my parents and asked them to Google my company. When my dad read the price of the transaction ($30M) in the news, his first reaction was: “Hey, you took part in this, aren’t you getting any of that money?” Yes, he was exactly right, I was getting some of that money. I’ll get to that shortly.
Following the announcement and the first week after that, there were a lot of meetings, touch bases with everyone, lawyer conference calls, paperwork, signatures… Externally, the news was out, and everybody now knew our company had sold. But internally, the final transaction wasn’t going to happen for the next few weeks, and the various payouts and bonus packages to employees weren’t going to be executed before 6 months down the line. But nobody cares about that. Nobody wants to read about paperwork. The one question everybody asks when your company gets sold for $30 million dollars is the same as my dad had asked me: “Aren’t you getting some of that money?”
Well, let me explain.
Am I getting money? Yes.
Yes, I will be making money from the acquisition. As an employee who had been with the company for a number of years, I was part of a program that gave me the option to purchase shares of the company at a discount price, and the right to sell them later at market value. When the sale happened, I was able to exercise that right.
It’s too early to tell how much I stand to make because the scheme is based on many different factors, some of them we don’t know yet (future targets). A lot of people also forget that acquisitions and the various employee bonuses are still subject to taxes. When you read “Company X Sells for $30M” in the news, nobody is getting paid $30M, not even the CEO.
Whatever happens, I won’t make enough money to retire and go sip martinis on the beach for the rest of my life. To be honest, I’m not interested in that anyway. It will be a nice amount of money. Some of it will be used to spend on stuff and experiences, and most of it will be put in a savings account.
Money and Company Culture
I didn’t always agree with my CEO, what he said and/or some of his decisions. That’s completely normal. At the end of the day, I never had resentment for him, it was always a normal human interaction. You can’t agree with people all the time.
That being said, there is one thing I give my CEO full credit for: creating the company, the culture around it, and doing that successfully. Now that the company sold, it might seem like an easy thing to say. But I always gave him credit for that, even way before there were talks of a potential successful exit.
For 10 years, he grinded it out. The first 2 years at his own company, he didn’t make a dime in salary. I’ve seen my CEO get irritated in meetings, and I know people who have seen him full-on angry at meetings. I’ve seen my CEO exhausted, staying in the office late, sending out emails in the middle of the night, on Sundays, working on his days off with the family… Everything a modern, 21st century CEO is “expected” to do, really.
So does he deserve to sell his company for $30 million? Of course he does, I truly believe so. I’ve witnessed for three years his overnight success story. Most of his closest associates have witnessed it for the past 10 years. And the rest of the people, the ones who read the headline and skimmed through the news article? Well, they only read the 2-min article about an overnight success story.
Along with my CEO, there are a few people at my work who are probably going to make enough money to retire and go sip the aforementioned martinis on a remote beach. It’s still unclear at this stage who will stay and who will leave because it depends on each and everyone’s contract. Regardless, whoever decides to leave and embark on a new journey will most likely have deserved it.
It’s pretty insane. My whole life as a teenager, student, and later employee, I was passionate about startups, creating your own business, trying, failing and starting over. I tried my hand at a few things, but I was always missing one thing: consistency.
I’d try an idea, pick it up and drop it a few weeks later. I tried a ton of things. Selling t-shirts, making websites, freelance design, I even tried trading. But I never committed to spending enough time on one thing to make any sort of progress on it.
Then a few years ago, I got a job at this random startup. 3 months after that, I almost lost my job when my manager and the whole team got fired (literally, the whole team). I’m the only one who made it through because I worked my butt off to save my position.
A year and a half after that, I decided to start blogging and to do it consistently for a year, next to my 9–5 job. Every week for 52 weeks in a row, I posted 3 articles (on average). Flash forward to today. The company I work for got sold, I’ve been growing my blog like never before, and I’m nowhere near stopping. 3 years ago I never thought consistency would take me this far, this fast.
Notes and Learnings
Our company was bought in the middle of the biggest pandemic the world has known in over 100 years, in some of the most uncertain economic times known to humankind. My CEO became a millionaire while others are still getting pay cuts, losing their jobs, or closing down their companies. 90% of people got hit by the coronavirus crisis, and 10% got lucky. This illustrates one of the most fundamental principles of work: never rely on luck.
As Gary Player, the famous golf player, once said: “the harder you work, the luckier you get”. Acknowledge luck, but never expect anything from it. Work like it doesn’t exist, and when it strikes you, be grateful, keep moving, and stay focused.
Consistency works but it doesn’t mean it will make you rich.
I’ve written many times that you should never pick a side hustle with the only purpose of making money in mind. It sounds cliché but it’s true. If you let money be your only motivation, you won’t last very long before you feel like giving up.
That being said, I strongly believe you can make money if you try something consistently enough. Take anything. Selling t-shirts, having your cooking show, creating online products, selling your own art, writing your blog, flipping houses, websites, designing furniture, selling books… Whatever it is, if you’re passionate and consistent, it is highly likely you will generate some sort of money from your side gig. It doesn’t mean you’ll sell your company for $30 million like my CEO did. But you don’t need $30 million anyway. Money is a byproduct of success, not a goal in itself.
Do stuff you like (or love).
I work as a marketing graphic designer at a company that was a small startup a few years ago. I picked this job because they got back to me, and I always wanted to be a graphic designer, that’s what I studied for. The location was perfect too.
I was lucky enough to know what I wanted to do in life from a young age. I went on to study in that field, and to get a “successful” position to work on doing what I like to do. I think it’s really hard for a lot of kids to know what they’re going to do straight out of high school. There’s a lot of uncertainty, it’s unsettling. But once you start finding your path (or taking a default path) and settling, then you forget about the fun there is in exploring.
That’s why I believe in staying a kid. Always experiment with stuff, figure out what you like, no matter your age, so you can get an idea of what’s coming for you. By learning to know yourself better, your personal path will lead to new opportunities. Once you settle, it’s very easy to forget how to have fun.
One day, a few years into my 9–5 job, I thought to myself: “I don’t want to settle.” I had the comfort of a monthly salary, and it’s very easy from there to take things for granted, and to stop moving forward. And so it was finally when I had the most money and the least time in my life that I decided to start working more, for free, for myself.
It’s important for anyone to do stuff they love next to their 9–5, regardless of whether or not it makes money. We live in a time where job stability is going to fade away more and more. Having an activity already being developed next to a normal office job is always a good idea. Not only in case things go awry, as a B plan, but also because you won’t lose something you do yourself on the side. In many cases, a side hustle is stronger than a job, for 2 main reasons.
- You’re in charge, so as long as you don’t stop, it keeps going.
- You feel much more personally connected to your project, because you created it.
My CEO is not going anywhere. Most of management is not going anywhere. I’m not going anywhere. I’m going to keep working at this company, and keep developing my side hustle (this blog) on the side. I’m grateful for the opportunity I was given to work with this team. I’m really grateful for the life I have in general. But I won’t take anything for granted just yet, and I’ll continue my journey, always with the same advice in mind:
- Find what you love,
- Be consistent with the practice of it, and
- Enjoy the journey.
Note: I was not given permission to disclose the name of the company (or of people) I work for in my article. I will update the piece if I am given permission at a later stage.
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