Rich people own many companies. They close the ones that aren’t doing well and grow the profitable ones. I was working at one of the small-medium companies, Chariots (41 employees) owned by a billionaire (John Francis) or at least a multi-millionaire. It took 2 years for the company to become profitable, but it didn’t happen. It was 1999. The company was just a website (Chariots.ca) that sold new cars online, doing a deal with the stores that sold new cars. He fired 21 people. The site was working, the application was already written, he didn’t need all of us anyway.
I was a manager in the database maintenance team. Even though only 20 of us left, the company wasn’t profitable and he laid off 11 more, 9 left. A few months later, John decided to shut it down altogether, and he wanted to interview all 9 of the remaining employees to see if he needed them at one of his other companies.
I knew he lost some money with the company, probably a pittance for his money.
He asked me, “What do you think about how things are going in the company?”
John was not very technical, and I knew that people like him think differently than other people. I had to say something to show that I understood what was going on and was available for any opening.
I said a quote, “Did you lose money? You haven’t lost anything. Have you lost your honor? You lost something. Have you lost hope? You lost everything.”
The man liked it.
He fired everyone but 2 people, my boss, the director, to sort out the business side before closing the company, and me. I had to automate all the channels through which we received data from the car shops. After I did that, the site was running as if the company was still going strong, even though it was closed since data on its web pages was refreshed daily.
John hired me at his parent company as a database administrator. The company was Trader Media Corporation (better known as Autotrader) - for the province of Ontario only, because the TMC brand is all over the world, and he wasn’t that big…
One day, to the amazement of my colleagues who froze, John came to my office, pulled up a chair, and wanted to talk. No big deal. I knew he wasn’t technical, and he hired me in a technical position without asking anyone. I was somewhat intrigued. I asked him why he hired me.
He told me, “I saw a value in you, and in my company, every value finds its place.”
Bang! He suggested we go to lunch, and I declined because I’ve never felt comfortable around people with too much power. I think I was a fool. He put me on a team that had to move his entire business online.
Four years later, he sold that company for $430 million. The calculation was like this: the sales value was 10 times the profit per year. He was spending 90 million a year with the company and had over 130 million in revenue. He sold it on time. In two years, the value of the company reached a fraction of the sales value due to online competition.
The new owner changed the management, and I didn’t really get along with my new boss (in my opinion he was a jerk) so I resigned from there as well.
In my new post it would be a job where I had to deal with architects.
Where it all started: