Today we’d like to introduce you to Dan Abbate.
Dan, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I was a typical smart kid who was bored with school. I started out in public school, then went to private school 3rd – 5th grade, then was homeschooled until I started college at 15 years old.
I grew up in manufacturing. My dad owned a good sized metal stamping company near O’hare airport in Chicago. In those early years (my mid to late teens) I learned all about business process engineering, M&A, and consolidations in my dad’s business and my own interests took me deep into the internet and related technology. By the time I was 19 I had a successful internet company getting 100,000s of pageviews per day that eventually was sold to a publicly funded NASDEQ company.
With the “seed” money from the sale of my internet company, I decided that I would purchase existing companies that I knew could benefit from process improvement and technology implementation to drive value. From 2000 to 2013 that is exactly what I did. I completed 8 acquisitions, improvements and sales of a diverse batch of companies. I did this using my own equity and for the most part my own strength of will.
Although this model was profitable for me, it was not scalable and was not that much fun because I really was doing it all myself. In every business, I would insert myself into the CEO position and then slog through the day to day activities need to bring about the change the company needed. The growth of this model was limited by my own time, the max companies I was able to work on at a time effectively was 2.
After selling my last company at the start of 2013 I knew there had to be a better way – although I didn’t know what that way was. I decided to move to Florida while I tried to figure out what structure I needed to be able to scale my approach while adding more fun to my daily life. I spent basically the first 3 years in Florida reading, learning, and talking to other entrepreneurs and finance people to get their perspective so that I could devise a plan to proceed forward.
Then in 2016, I started 81-c a private equity company that focuses on the application of blockchain and internet technology, process improvement and organizational remodeling into companies to drive enterprise value. Operating now with a management team at the 81-c level, and without inserting myself as CEO (I purposely have no title) in any of our operating companies, we have completed 2 acquisitions so far and are planning 4 more for 2018 and 12 for 2019.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
The main struggle for me has been figuring out how to get people to do what I need them to do. I had a bad habit of allowing the wrong people “on the bus” and then getting frustrated when they didn’t perform. Maybe its because I generally want to believe people are capable I gave them too many chances and put more burden on myself to make things work that I probably should not have been.
For many years I just assumed that was the way it was, and that successful entrepreneurs succeed in spite of people not because of them. Of course, I know now that that was wrong. Entrepreneurs grow and succeed because they have the right people, in the right seats doing the right type of work for them based on the skills and innate abilities.
Please tell us about 81-c.
81-c was built to operate. Sure we drive enterprise value through various improvement initiatives but at the end of the day that all translates simply to a solid operating company that makes a profit and positive cash flow for its shareholders (ie me and my investors).
It’s all about leveraging the skills of very smart and many times very expensive people, in such a way that the use of these resources are maximized through efficient application of their talents. The operating model that we apply is built to ensure that all companies have the needed visionary inputs to drive the business forward as well as a rock solid implementation and execution team to make sure that vision is reliably executed.
I’m most proud of the culture we are creating. I started this business so that I could have fun in the work that I do and the way that I do it. I want everyone who works for us either at the corporate level or any of the operating businesses to look at their lives the same way. We must find our right place, doing the right work that allows us to thrive, grow and enjoy our life.
We have specific process implemented that helps to identify happiness and contentment among all levels of our team. I have never (for very long anyway) done things that I did not enjoy, and it has been my promise to my team (and they have to promise to their teams as well) that we will organize our companies always for the benefit of the people who help us build and operate those companies. There is only the now, and in the now we must be content and happy (even at work!).
Our culture as species [human] needs to do a better job of implementing this philosophy. Too many people toil their lives away not knowing that it’s a simple choice to find the way that is right for them. We must raise our children to look out for themselves in this way; to look inward and decide how they want their experience of the world to be.
Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
My sister, mom, and dad were (and still are) very close. We vacationed quite a lot at the Don Cesar in St. Pete’s on the west coast of Florida. There is a little ice cream shop at the bottom of the Don (as it is called by those that stay there) that my family and I would always go to after a day of beach, pool, and mini-golf.
I can still remember the smell of the place when we would walk in out of the hot and humid Florida weather. They used to have one of those love tester machines where you would squeeze the handle and it would give you a rating. My sister and I every visit would try to squeeze that handle and get it up to the top.
Year after year, it seemed we could never get it past the third level or so no matter how much we grew as time went by. In retrospect perhaps the machine was broke and that’s all it went up to. haha.
- Website: www.81-c.com