It was nearly 12 years ago in November 2002 that Dominic Whitehand, his wife Sharon, and Jonathan Odria each put $1500 down on a table — and began WhiteGold Distribution.
For the first eight years or so they didn't take a cent out of the company, constantly reinvesting year in, year out. They didn't take even take out a bank loan. True!
Now they can celebrate, although sitting on the opposite side of a table from the trio, a mere 30 minutes after they have formalised the deal — selling a majority shareholding in their company to Exclusive Networks Group — that not only gives them financial security but takes their company to a new level of possibility, they remain almost serious. Shell-shocked, perhaps. Happy, yes. But quick to stress they have a job to do.
Sharon, WhiteGold's operations and finance director, says it is still surreal because "the boys" are out there all the time while she's in the background number crunching, grinding everything.
"I work hard," she says. "I do what I have to do but it has been very hard sometimes. This deal means less sleepless nights than I've had in the past. It's not an easy thing to do to grow a business from scratch.""
Her husband (and the company CEO) cuts in, "There's no degree out there in how to run a distributor business."
Sharon continues, "To me, this says you are doing really well, you have achieved."
Odria, WhiteGold's sales director, says,"It gives us a whole new team, a family we can interact with."
Sharon: "Yes, now we've got a bigger extended family."
Dominic: "It's like we've called in a really, really big brother to help us out." They all smile at that.
What they all also emphasise is that day-to-day they will be doing exactly what they have always done and so will everybody else in the company. The deal does mean the end of the WhiteGold name early next year but other than that they are quick to stress the autonomy they have been handed by Exclusive Networks Group and the importance of not selling a majority share to a company that wouldn't allow them to still do what they do best.
Sharon: "One of my things has been ensuring we look after the staff. I'm not one of those people who doesn't care."
Odria: "So there are no job losses. In fact over the next month we will be adding nine more staff. We still get to steer our own ship."
Domenic: "It's a confidence booster, a validation of what we are and have been doing."
Negotiations with Exclusive Networks Group began in January when it approached WhiteGold at a US conference. They quickly found that not only did they share a similar vendor base, they shared a similar business culture, company ideology and way of looking at distribution and approaches to market.
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