September 30 marks my departure from Equity Risk Partners, the business we built over the past 16 ½ years. You all remember the Sound of Music song that graces the title of this post. I thought I would depart from the normal Michael Marcon Tweets format this time in order to say goodbye to those who made my time at Equity Risk so special.
As I reflect on my tenure at Equity Risk, I am also struck by another song from the Sound of Music – we truly were able to “Climb Every Mountain.” This scrappy little company consistently went toe-to-toe with the biggest firms in our industry and we won significantly more often than we lost. How? We built a brand that highlighted our unique and focused expertise. We hired great people. So great, in fact, that I often lamented (although, now I take it as a compliment) that we were the training ground for our competitors. And we just flat outworked everyone else. There you go – the secret to success! No charge (just hit the “Like” button!).
As I look back on my leadership of Equity Risk Partners, it is like looking back at my prom pictures from 1982. Back then, I thought I looked fly in my powder blue tux. Now, I say “WTF was I thinking?” To my former colleagues that are reading this post from the comfort of another company, thank you for supplying my learning curve. Your grace and tolerance as I figured out what the heck I was doing made my leadership transition that much easier. I know I made it harder for you. I hope it was not too hard and that we get a chance to re-connect and get a chuckle out of my cluelessness.
To Bob Zenoni and Melissa Abreu — your guidance, patience, work ethic, and loyalty were the cornerstone of Equity Risk. You helped me grow as a professional and as a person. This journey was much more satisfying with the two of you in the co-pilot seats. Since your departures with the sale to Hub, it felt like I was managing with an arm tied behind my back.
To John Pasquesi – thank you for your faith in me. In 2001, when everyone said it could not be done, you gave meaning to the phrase “put your money where your mouth is.” You believed in the vision. I appreciate your patience while you waited for me time and again to catch up to where you already were. I appreciate your wisdom in gently guiding me in the right direction. Most of all, I appreciate your friendship. To start 16 years ago as business acquaintances and end up as friends is the true definition of a successful investment (along with a hella ROI).
To Josh Warren, Chris Veber, Jason Leong, Jennifer Limjoco, Veronica James and Scott Pachtman – your long-term dedication to the vision and the mission that was Equity Risk Partners gave a credibility and consistency to the firm that was unmatched. I am forever grateful for your contributions to the firm and to me.
To Lynh Rangel – you made me a better leader. Thanks to you, clients, colleagues, partners, friends, and family were all fooled into thinking that I actually knew what was going on. When I got frustrated, you smiled. When I got angry, you smiled. When I was spinning in circles, you smiled. And, when I forgot someone’s birthday, you remembered. You are irreplaceable.
To my Equity Risk colleagues – you are the best. I am proud to be associated with each and every one of you. I can give you the highest compliment I know in business; if I had to do it again, I would hire each one of you in a heartbeat (note to Hub-Legal, that is just a figure of speech). Your skills and work ethic will be the legacy of Equity Risk for years to come.
To Tony Marcon – how many people get to go on a life changing journey with their brother by their side? The failures were much less harsh and the successes much more sweet because I was able to share them with you. They say, “It is lonely at the top.” But I never felt that way because for 23 years, I always knew you had my back. I will miss that. And one other thing – that time when you were 12 and I made you walk home from the gym and didn’t give you a ride? Too bad. It built character!
To Keaton and Matthew – you were there in November 2000 when Mom and I took you out to dinner and explained to you that Dad was going to take a big risk and start a new company. I told you we were going to have to save our money in order to pay for the new company. Both of you offered to give up your Christmas presents that year so I could use the money for the company. You were, and are, why I did it. I hoped to be able to show you that you can do anything if you set your mind to it and work hard enough. I am so proud of the men (and father) that you have become.
To Mary – I am not me without you. You gave me the shove when I was on the fence. You gave me the hug when I was in the dumps. You kicked me in the ass when I was feeling sorry. You gave me the courage to leap and you took away my fear to fail. I always knew you were the best personal decision I ever made. I now know that you were also the best business decision I ever made. I can’t wait to go on the next journey with you.
I will close with my favorite quote from my favorite movie of the 1980’s. Just in case you are worried about me, what I might do next, and how I will handle the next chapter of my life, just ask Billy Hicks (Rob Lowe) from St. Elmo’s Fire – “You’re not gonna believe how outta hand it’s gonna be!”
Michael C. Marcon is the founder of Equity Risk Partners and former chairman of the Ursinus College board of trustees. He tweets from @mcm7464. Tweet him any of your questions about business, leadership or life.