I’m not sure where this story starts. Setting up my own business for the first time or deciding to try for a family. I wanted desperately to do both. And I found that both were symbiotic / complimentary…
I was stressed, angry and burnt out working in a big media agency (there is another gender discrimination story there, but not a very original one!). And not pregnant (I blamed the job – as you do!). I found freedom, inspiration and confidence in working for myself, and the flexibility to start exploring fertility/infertility treatment – so far our biological child had evaded us.
My business baby took off and by year 3 we had demonstrated consistent profit. Biological baby finally arrived, thanks to some amazing and expensive medical intervention. And my whole life and priorities changed. I still wanted to be involved with the business but I didn’t want the responsibility of other people’s livelihoods, as well as all the other ‘baggage’ that comes with running a business. I simply no longer had the time, energy or desire. I wanted to send my business baby off to boarding school. So I decided to sell.
I found an amazing buyer within weeks. A really inspirational co-founding entrepreneurs from Montreal who were equally passionate about digital. I couldn’t believe my luck. I lost / left a piece of my heart in Montreal in my early Twenties – I love the place – and I thought this was serendipitous that I could sell my business to a Montreal-based group, work with Canadians, whom I love, and take infrequent trips over there.
It was such an exciting opportunity: the group company wanted to build an international digital marketing network and we were to be their first acquisition outside of the motherland. My role would have involved helping them identify and broker European agency acquisitions, and to help to grow their infrastructure across their target markets.
Deloitte were sent in to do the due diligence, and our lawyers started the tango. As tiresome and painful as this process got at times, it was all moving along, and we were due to complete within three months of receiving a verbal offer.
Then the one thing that I had been told couldn’t ever happen, happened. I fell pregnant again – naturally. All of the doctors / medics giggled. Apparently it happens all the time, post-IVF. Even post-adoption. I was in complete shock. My brain simply couldn’t process this outcome. This was the best news ever! But it had come at the worst time for the business.
I had a choice: to either keep schtum, sign the deal and then ‘adjust’ my due date to my new bosses; or come clean. My plan was to only take six months’ maternity leave second time around. So how bad could the impact be? And after all, when you buy a business you buy it for the mid- to long-term value, right? Not just for the return in the first year. How wrong could I have been…
My guardian angel investor advised me that it wasn’t my decision to make any more. That I had to disclose my ‘information’ and let the acquirers decide. So I made that call to Montreal, one evening in May 2013. The voice on the other end fell silent. He was stumped. Lots for words. He managed to compose himself enough to let me know that he would revert back to his CFO and that they would come back to me later that week.
Twenty four hours later I got ‘the’ return call. They had decided to kill the deal. They didn’t believe that my business could achieve the target EBITDA for the coming year that the earn out was structured on, with me out of the business. They didn’t even ask me how long I planned to be out. They didn’t even negotiate. They said goodbye and I haven’t heard from them since.
It’s been nearly two years since that fateful phone call in May 2013. My beautiful bouncing biological baby, our Brucey Bonus, is now 16-months old and gives us – and his elder brother – giggles, cuddles and joy on a daily basis. Our family is complete. The journey to hell and back has been worth it. And selling / not selling the business (I also nearly sold it in 2014 but this time I got the cold feet!) was just one peek and trough on the roller coaster ride.
But the best bit, the icing on the cake, the ‘f**k you’ moment came twelve months after the phone call, which coincided with the end of the business’s financial year: we exceeded the target EBITDA that the Canadians would have set us!!!! Somehow, one day, call it karma, they will find out. And maybe then they will regret their decision not to buy my business.
But I have no regrets. I have anger. But that is also passion. It is what drives me every day to be a good mother and a good career woman – to balance both and to be happy and reconciled with the choices,the hands that life deals me and how I choose to respond to them.