When anyone calls Fishbowl asking to invest in our company, I always respond, with sincerity and on behalf of our team, “We are employee owned, debt free, we grow with our own cash, and our exit strategy is death. We probably don’t fit your investment model.”
Most investors are taken aback by my response because in their world everything has a price. But my world works differently. Some things are not for sale and cannot be bought—and Fishbowl is one of them. I value how our employees feel about our company more than the price potential investors would pay for it or what I might personally gain. I understand why in the business world we call venture capital money “funding.” Starting your business $1 million to $10 million in debt never appealed to me or the team at Fishbowl. When we need funds, we earn them, or we work with local banks to secure loans that can be quickly paid back.
We have publicly stated that we will never sell Fishbowl, go public, or adopt a mainstream corporate mentality. Fishbowl belongs to current and future generations of Fishbowlers—and always will. In 2012, 50 employees became co-owners of the company, and in 2013 we added an additional 21 who successfully and consistently demonstrated the 7 Non-Negotiables. This book is about our journey, our lessons learned, our achievements, and our Fail Ups.