It’s been a busy two weeks for me since I published my last blog. Actually, it’s been a busy 12 months behind the scenes. You probably read in the industry publications or on LinkedIn or Facebook that my sister, Jackie and I sold our 61-year-old family business to another produce company! It was definitely a bittersweet decision, but as our mom always said, “Success came to me because I never saw obstacles.”
When my eldest daughter Alex returned from maternity leave two years ago, she came into my office. She told me that she loved the business, and wanted to work in the business, but did not want to own the business. Some would have seen that as an obstacle to the succession plan that we had, but we saw it as an opportunity.
We had many discussions with our business advisor/coach and realized there were ways to continue the legacy of our business without transitioning the ownership to the third generation.
So, we began the process of investigating options. Ultimately, we decided to retain the services of an investment banking firm. Because we recognized the value of our own company culture, we chose an investment banking firm whose culture we felt fit with our style.
The same was true when we had to select an attorney for the actual transaction portion of our journey. We interviewed several. Our final decision was to work with someone who “felt like family.”
Starting with more than 100 firms (which could have seemed like an overwhelming obstacle) that showed an interest in our company, we were thrilled that one company stood above the rest. What was most appealing about Frieda’s to them? Our strong brand and reputation, and our culture. Bingo!
So last Friday, January 20, at 7:15 am PST, we had a zoom call. All parties were on the call from both sides (the buyer and seller) plus attorneys, accountants, etc. As we started the call, I held up the photo I have on my desk so my mother, Frieda “was present.”Framed photo of my mom, which sits on my desk
To lighten the mood, I told a produce joke! I mean, don’t you think that’s a fun way to break the ice … with a produce joke?!Screen shot of our zoom closing call with bankers, lawyers, and us
The call lasted two minutes, and our transaction was complete! Then we began the most important part of things, and that was meeting personally with everyone in our company. Thinking about those meetings and personally telling everyone that we had recapitalized the business could have seemed like an obstacle.
My sister Jackie, my daughter Alex, and our new CEO Dan Madsen joined me in meeting with small groups of our team members. We had between 10-15 people in a group so that we could tell them personally our exciting news!
And then our chef prepared a fabulous lunch for everyone to enjoy together and we toasted with (non-alcoholic) apple cider.
Two of my work teammates commented during our meetings, saying they had been through more than one “sale of a company” in their careers and they were so grateful for the way Jackie and I handled it. We were patient, anticipated most everyone’s questions, and were so kind to everyone. That sure made us feel good. And, we turned an obstacle into an opportunity.
So, you might be wondering how we celebrated? Friday evening, both Jackie and I went home and had private dinners with our spouses.
And here’s the fun coincidence … more than five months prior, I had set up a dinner at my home for Saturday night January 21. I invited two produce icons and their spouses to dinner: Rob and Pamela Robson visiting from Brisbane, Australia (they founded ONEHARVEST produce company), and Dennis and Susi Gertmenian (Dennis founded Ready Pac Produce more than 30 years ago). So, you can imagine the texts I sent both of them on Friday about what we would be celebrating on Saturday … not just more than 30 years of friendship with all of them, but our company transaction!(L to R) Jack Daly, Dennis and Susi Gertmenian, Doug Wiggins, me, Pamela and Rob Robson, and Jackie Wiggins.
You can only imagine how much champagne flowed and all the beautiful flowers and cards we enjoyed.(L to R) Dennis Gertmenian, me and Rob Robson, lifelong produce friends
Many thanks to the team who helped us get to the finish line in record time, and we are so excited about what fantastic opportunities are in front of us with our new owners, Legacy Produce LLC. Our team here at Frieda’s is already buzzing with ideas and excitement! Success will come to us because we never saw this as an obstacle.