Dwain Farley | Paralyzed at 17, Adopting 7 Special Needs Children, and Becoming a Successful Entrepreneur with Multiple Exits

Dwain Farley is a Vistage Chair and the Founder and CEO of LeaSarHan Capital Investments. Vistage is a great organization of peer-to-peer roundtables for CEOs and Dwain leads private peer advisory groups for CEOs and business owners to help them step out of the daily grind to think differently, gain insights, take bold actions, and generate spectacular results. LeaSarHan Capital Investments (LCI) is a privately-funded investment firm providing growth equity and guidance to small and mid-sized companies generating positive annual free cash flow and attractive growth prospects within their industry.

Dwain is the former CEO and Partner at Ontivity, a leading construction and wireless infrastructure company for the cell tower industry in the southwestern US that was acquired by New Braunfels in 2016. He also served as the CEO of Domino Printing and Enterprise Information Systems, Inc. (EIS).

In this episode, John Corcoran, host of the Smart Business Revolution Podcast, is joined by Dwain Farley, a Vistage Chair, to talk about how to become a successful entrepreneur with multiple exits. Dwain also talks to John about his background, the companies he has founded, the challenges he faced growing his businesses, and his experiences in mentoring fellow executives as a Vistage Chair.

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Here’s a Glimpse of What You’ll Hear:

  • Dwain Farley recalls an accident that he went through when he 17 years old and how it shaped his life
  • Dwain shares how he started his entrepreneurship journey after college and what it was like to work with companies without an accessible entrance
  • The conversations Dwain has with his kids about disability
  • Dwain talks about growing his business, outgrowing his target market in Arkansas, expanding to Dallas, and the challenges he faced in the process
  • How Dwain ended up being in a Vistage Group and what he loves about it
  • Dwain discusses why he decided to sell his business, his experience of moving to the corporate environment, and why he decided to create a new company and not retire after the sale of his company
  • Dwain‘s experience as CEO of Domino Printing, surviving the 2008 economic recession, and his transition to the cellphone industry 
  • How Dwain mentors executives in the current COVID-19 crisis at Vistage
  • The people Dwain acknowledges for his accomplishments and success
  • Where to learn more about Dwain Farley

Resources Mentioned:

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Episode Transcript

Intro  0:14  

Welcome to the Revolution, the Smart Business Revolution podcast where we ask today’s most successful entrepreneurs to share the tools and strategies they use to build relationships and connections to grow their revenue. Now, your host for the revolution. John Corcoran.


John Corcoran  0:40  

All right. Welcome everyone. John Corcoran here, the host of the Smart Business Revolution podcast. You know, each week I talk to, actually twice a week, I talk to really inspirational and interesting CEOs, founders and entrepreneurs of all kinds of companies and organizations like YPO, EO, Activision Blizzard, Lending tree, OpenTable, x software. I’m also the co-founder of Rise25, where we help connect b2b business owners to their ideal prospects. 


And, you know, I wanted to introduce today’s guest, interesting guy who I connected with through LinkedIn. His name is Dwain Farley and Dwain has got a very interesting background 30 plus years of entrepreneurship and different levels. And especially at this point in time we’re recording this in July of 2020. With the coronavirus pandemic continuing to unfold, I thought that it’d be really valuable to have some sage, educated seasoned entrepreneurs to come on the show and share some of their stories, not just their own stories, but also working with other founders as well. And he is also currently a Vistage chair, which is a great organization of peer to peer roundtables for CEOs. So we’re gonna dive into that in a moment. But first before I get into that, I also want to also mention a few other vested shares I’ve had on the show recently Matthew Griffith Griffis from London, England. He told the story of a company he’s involved in, which is kind of like an escape room for entrepreneurs really cool. So check out that episode Tonya Twitchell. Also, this is a chair from Las Vegas, she told the story of five family members who died in a short period of time and how that inspired her to give back in a moment we’re gonna hear Dwain’s personal story what inspired him into entrepreneurship and then also check out the episode with Carl Arnold from San Francisco who built the host hospitality business to over 100 million dollars and now is also invested share really great story from him as well. 


But first, before we get into all that this episode is brought to you by Rise25 Media. At Rise25 we help b2b businesses to get clients referrals and strategic partnerships with done for you podcasts and content marketing. If you’re listening to this you’ve ever thought, should I do a podcast as well as listening to one? Well we say yes, we specialize in helping you to get that done. So if you haven’t been in any business with a high client lifetime value, this will be one of the most valuable assets we guarantee. So you want to learn more, go to rise25media.com or you can also email us at [email protected] 


All right, Dwain. So I’m really excited to have you here today. And you’ve done an amazing story. So at 17 years old, you had an accident, which shaped your life, and the rest of your life, and also, in a way, guided your life course into entrepreneurship. So, tell us what happened. What happened during that accident.


Dwain Farley  3:33  

Well, John, thank you very much and appreciate you having me on today. Exciting to be here. Like you said when I was 17 in high school, friend of mine and not necessarily real friends, just some from some friends from work. We’re out. One evening, one Saturday night goofing off and silly things that 17 year olds do. I end up falling backwards, headfirst. down about 30 feet off a cliff on the way down, caught a tree or two and ended up landing, fundamentally on my neck, they said. But here they had to take it. So back on. They said if it hadn’t been for the heavy jacket I was wearing it was in November of 81. And had it not been for the jacket I was wearing, which had a big kind of first color. They said it probably would have broken my neck. So I ended up breaking my back rasik Five, six, and so ended up in rehab for almost four months. So I came back as I actually came down to Dallas, which is where I’m at right now, down to Baylor rehab unit, which had just opened a spinal cord injury.


We have rehabilitation hospital, and so again, it’s been about For months there came back in, I guess, February or March. So yeah, very interesting experience. You know, people ask me what that was like, when they tell me what likely is not it wasn’t I wasn’t going to walk again. And so paralyzed from about my chest down. I don’t know that that really makes sense. I mean, I’m 17 years old, so I hadn’t quite figured out what that exactly meant. But anyway, I got down here to Baylor. They actually flew me down here in a Learjet from Northwest Arkansas, which was quite an experience as I was fighting my back when I did it. But I get here and there’s just, I mean, there’s a whole different environment. I walk in or I roll in there on a stretcher, for my first day of therapy. And, you know, there’s gunshot victims there. There are motorcycle victims. I mean, everything from spinal cord injuries to neck injuries to quadriplegics to It was just for someone who’s 17 years old never seen anything like this. It was just a very, quite honestly. I mean, I looked around and I remember having a thought, you know, compared to everyone else here, I’m in really good shape. Hmm. And so, yeah, that was kind of a life changing moment for me it was an amazing thing. And so yeah, the vast majority of people there were going to chop cycle accidents. And how did you pick yourself back up, you know, at 17 years old and not get dejected, not get depressed about your life, or did you go through a period of depression? You know, that was the answer. It took me about a year after the accident to really figure out the situation I was in. And so you know, there was a period of depression there. There was a there was some I went through two or three years there were


Yeah, there was just a lot of uncertainty in my head that I had to work through. And part of that was trying to go to school and get through high school and then on to college. Which Technical College up there north northwest Arkansas, I don’t even think is still there anymore. But yeah, it was 234 years of just a lot of difficulty. Yeah, I finally pulled myself out of that. Graduated. And then, you know, it’s kinda like, Okay, what do I do now? And thankfully, there were some people that I knew that allowed me to come in. And, you know, what I had studied was, you know, PCs, and I had a passion for that. I mean, in the sense that they were new. I mean, IBM had introduced their IBM XT and eight one. So now you know, what, three, four years down the road there? It’s like, wow, you know, these are starting to proliferate a little bit. I managed to cobble together enough money to buy an Apple TV PC.


Remember that?


John Corcoran  7:58  

I do. We actually had one.


Dwain Farley  8:00  

Yeah, there you go, Hey, this is a good one I had two floppy disk drives on this. So I mean, I was really high tech now. Yeah, I was really high tech. So anyway, put an ad in the paper and said, Hey, you know anybody who needs any help using their, their PC, give me a phone call. And so like three or four people call me. And, you know, the key to be an entrepreneur I’ve come to find out is, you know, put yourself out there, you know, having to ask, you know, here’s what I can do, kind of do it for you, and then keep following up, you know, what else do you want to do? What else do you want to do? And so that’s what I did you know, and then I got reformed referral to another referral, you know, then starting to put together PCs in my bedroom and selling those and then


John Corcoran  8:52  

This is why you’re in college. You’re doing all this


Dwain Farley  8:55  

had graduated from Scott from college. Okay.


John Corcoran  8:59  

So, next video. Yours and you actually said that you think that, you know, your injury made you feel that you weren’t sure who’s gonna hire you. So did that inspire your decision to go kind of work for yourself and just put something together?


Dwain Farley  9:16  

Well, you know, it’s kind of as I came out of school. Okay, what am I going to do? Do I go look for a job? Is he going to anybody gonna hire me? I mean, and then again, it’s like, well, why not just put an ad in the paper and see if there’s anybody who has the need for my skill set. Okay, didn’t have a great skill set. I mean, just got out of school and had some really good PC based skills that quite frankly, not a lot of people did. So it was kind of in the right place at the right time. And again, just kind of put myself out there and said, Hey, you know, who needs help at home or in your business, whatever. And some people reached out.


John Corcoran  9:50  

What were attitudes like back then, you know, and it’s really compared to now to people that were in a wheelchair. And do you feel that? You know, there’s been, I think that there’s been more accommodations. Now there’s more of an attitude that I believe, but maybe you correct me if I’m wrong that, you know, we want people that have suffered some kind of disability to continue to be fruitful and contributing members to society, but what was it like 40 years ago?


Dwain Farley  10:25  

Um, you know, honestly, I mean, this may be a little bit hard to believe, I didn’t really think about it a lot. I mean, once I kind of got past the initial couple of years of, you know, getting through school that that was an accomplishment, you know, it’s kind of like, Okay, I’ve got to eat I’ve got to my parents weren’t necessarily weren’t wealthy. And so it was kind of like I was out here to do something. Actually, I didn’t. At some point, I came to the conclusion very shortly after getting out of school that, you know, wheelchairs how to get around, it’s not who I am. And so Believe it or not, people, I guess people responded to that. I don’t know if that was part of the thinking now. The more the more clients I attracted, the more I had to become cognizant of where they were, you know, I mean, physically, I mean, when you get there after ADA, yeah. And so there were so a lot of places that didn’t have bathrooms that still had steps. I had to be real careful as I started work for some of the manufacturing companies that are in Northwest Arkansas, that, you know, a lot of them didn’t have an accessible entrance. And so now that changed pretty quickly, but for the first five years or so, no, it was I had to be cognizant that I had to ask, you know, to think about where to get in? Yeah, to think about it.


John Corcoran  11:48  

Yeah. And were you up in so you’re up in Northwest Arkansas, were you near Walmart in Bentonville?


Dwain Farley  11:56  

As a matter of fact, yeah. What four or five years into my life. into my business. We started doing a lot of work and a lot of programming for Walmart. Our customers were, you know, Walmart Tyson.


John Corcoran  12:09  

Because a lot of the industry in that area, if it’s not for Walmart, it’s for other companies that are around Walmart. I believe Walmart for many years had a policy that any other suppliers had to have an office in Bentonville around them.


Dwain Farley  12:22  

Yeah, I mean, that came a little bit later that that is true. But between JB Hunt and Tyson Walmart, those are kind of the big three. And they, some of them in some cases, they fed off of each other some cases not. But you know, those were clients at some shape or form as we went along. Yeah, over the years.


John Corcoran  12:41  

Yeah. You’re a parent. I’ve got four kids, you got seven. So clearly, I got some I got to catch up here. But um, well, how have you approached your kids, you know, and talking to them about you know, your circumstance, your accident, you know, because I look at my kids. Sometimes it’s Sometimes they it’s amazing. Sometimes they feel so sorry for themselves that they are fixated on something that, you know, they got the raw and the deal or something like that. And I just want to be like, you don’t know how good you have it, you know? So how do those conversations go for you? Or does it even come into the conversation?


Dwain Farley 13:18  

Well, it does.


John Corcoran 13:21  

A little bit about a little bit about that.


Dwain Farley  13:27  

my wife and I, we’ve been married 32 years now. And for the first 15 years, we didn’t have kids. And then we made the decision to go ahead and adopt. And we decided to adopt internationally. So we get all of our children from China. So, you know, for the last almost 20 years, that’s that’s what we’ve been doing. So a majority of those children have some special meetups of some sort. And so to kind of answer your question directly, you know, the conversation that we have is look at the disability, whatever that may be. And by the way, the definition of disability for us and for China are a little bit different. Okay? But regardless, that’s not allowed to stand in your way. You know, you’ve got to go out there and you have to use, you know, whatever tools and talent, you’ve been given by God and do something with them. So do something productive. And so they both responded very well to that. I’m all I’m just tremendously proud of all my kids who’ve just done that just great.


John Corcoran  14:32  

Well, I can’t imagine how, you know, building a business is one thing, but also doing it while also adopting seven kids over 15 years. That’s just insane as like every other year you’re going and picking up a new kid.


Dwain Farley  14:43  

Yeah, the old guy. as we went along, they all they got, they kept getting a little bit older when we were when we adopted our first child, Leah. She was about 18 months. We decided we’d skip the first first year, you know, a lot of different reasons. Yeah, okay. But then as we kind of went along, you know, we brought our latest child home. His name is Benson in 2015. And he was six or five, I guess. So kind of got a little bit older as we went along. And that’s so now the age range distribution is worked out very, very well.


John Corcoran  15:18  

Yeah. So let’s go back to you know, you’re building up this company in Arkansas, you’re hiring people are getting larger and eventually you hit a point where you kind of outgrow your market is that fair to say? Because eventually you decide to go down to Dallas, when does that happen?


Dwain Farley  15:37  

I guess that would have happened to 90 maybe 95. Somewhere learned about you know, it was a progression, you know, we’re building some PCs and then doing some programming on PCs and selling accounting systems. I mean, again, the customers kept getting bigger than the continent limitations I was doing, we’re getting bigger, started hiring some people, some technicians and then some programmers and some systems analysts. Know the size and complexity of the systems started to morph. And eventually, we started doing automated data collection systems, you know, reading barcodes and collecting that kind of data and doing something with it. And really, really needed to hire talented programmers. And you know, between Walmart JB Hunt Tyson and first brands and some of the other companies around there. It was very small, there was a lot of Yeah, yeah, we were draining the talent pool in a big hurry. Okay,


John Corcoran  16:33  

So how big were you, how many people were working for you when you go to Dallas?


Dwain Farley  16:40  

I think we were 40 Plus, okay, some were there. And so the vast majority of those were technicians and programmers. And again, you know, we couldn’t, we couldn’t find enough people. Although I was paying higher wages. Most of the folks coming to the University of Arkansas. They wanted to have something like a Walmart or a Tyson on their resumes. It wasn’t impossible, but it was just, we just couldn’t grow. I mean, we literally had business and we had people to do the work. Right.


John Corcoran  17:07  

And so it was a different time. You couldn’t hire people abroad. You couldn’t hire programmers abroad or anything at this time.


Dwain Farley  17:13  

Well, that’s that’s true. I mean, we were putting ads in St. Louis and Kansas City and Tulsa. I mean, literally, we were willing to move people in if we had to. It just couldn’t make that work. And again, just not enough. So one day, we just sat down my executive team and I and we said, Look, we got to do something. How does Dallas sound? And they said, Oh, okay, so that’s what we did. We just moved the company lock stock and barrel to North Dallas. And was there any significance or rationale behind the fact that you had done your rehab there? Um, no, actually, my dad was down here in Dallas and my grandma’s down here in Dallas. I knew something about Dallas. You know, we had five universities to pull from that were very attractive to me. We had a lot of clients here in Dallas, in fact, not not our largest clients, but but a significant number of them were down here. I had some good sales resources down here in Dallas, so it was just kind of the most natural place to go.


John Corcoran  18:14  

Got it. Okay. And did you experience any, you know, some when companies are scaling up, they hit sit in certain spots where they plateau? Did you experience that as you’re growing?


Unknown Speaker  18:27  



John Corcoran  18:28  

And where were what what was the level? Is it a million bucks? 5 million bucks. What was the point do you remember?


Dwain Farley  18:37  

Yeah, I mean, at about the time, we hit about 10 million, I figured out that you know what, I’ve either got, I can’t do the work. I can’t oversee the work and I can’t manage the growth of the business at the same time, and that and what’s one of the things I mean as a business chair and as that’s, people ask me, what is the biggest issue that an entrepreneur phases. It’s that tipping point, where do you stop doing the work yourself? And start actually managing the resources of the business. Mm hmm. And that’s so I think I held back the company a lot, because I had felt like I had to have all the hadn’t had the control all the focus, you know, every decision had to go through me. And about the time we got to that, you know, eight or $10 million mark, no, you can’t do that anymore. I had to make a decision. Maybe that’s amazing


John Corcoran  19:25  

that you were at eight or 10 million and you were still so intimately involved?


Dwain Farley  19:30  

Well, yes. But the size of the systems we were deploying, you know, could be big. Okay. Much bigger. So I got it. Oh, yeah, you’re right. I mean, if I was, if I was selling widgets, or individual PCs, you’re right. I would have made that decision much earlier. Right. But as soon as I finally realized, you know what, I can hire somebody to come in. It’s probably, I’m a pretty good coder. But I can bring somebody in who could do what I do on the production side a whole lot more efficiently. Yeah. Then my job is to grow the business, that’s where we really started to take off coming to Dallas, and making that kind of mental adjustment in my own head. things really took off. So tell me more.


Unknown Speaker  20:13  

What was that? Like?


Unknown Speaker  20:16  

It was like, You know what?


Dwain Farley  20:19  

These folks that are brought in, they’re going to do well, they may not do it exactly like I do it. But that’s okay. It was coming to that realization. You know what, that’s okay. And you know what, after a while, I figured out, you know, what, they’re actually doing better than I did. And so, then I was able to take and focus on new customers, new markets, you know, that’s when we started to look for additional resources in terms of capital, you know, because there’s someplace somewhere to take the company. It just freed up the focus of the vision of the company.


John Corcoran  20:52  

Mm hmm. And at the same time, I imagine new challenges. So what were those new challenges like and how did you overcome those or how did you make sure that you were up to the task?


Unknown Speaker  21:06  

Lots of


Unknown Speaker  21:10  

some of it was,


Dwain Farley  21:13  

you know, always always reading, always learning, you know, try to try to figure out what are the best business books? I mean, I knew that there was a lot I didn’t know, you know, what do you do between that 10 and $20 million level and, you know, where do I get capital from, you know, how do I manage my receivables? You know, yeah, I can grow at a tremendous pace. But guess what, your availability of cash goes down? Hmm. So growth isn’t always a great thing. And it’s never a good thing when it’s not managed. And so having a handle, having your hand on that throttle, and being very careful is it’s where it’s at.


John Corcoran  21:52  

I mean, that’s during this time that you were involved in a Vistage group. Did you have a coach Did you have a peer group


Dwain Farley  22:01  

I had a really good group of advisors that I had brought in what I thought was, I had I ended up spending a lot of time trying to figure out who I needed to talk to, who would have some information that could help me grow my business helped me, help me facilitate the knowledge that I needed to grow the business. That’s one of the things that frankly, I’ve really enjoyed about Vistage is that it brings this group of talented CEOs and business leaders to other business leaders who are struggling the same way I did. Okay, I did it the hard way. I didn’t have to, but I wasn’t I wasn’t looking around for something like a vestige or e o or whatever. But I should have been, especially in those later years. Because this was so helpful to so many businesses. I would like to have been a part of it. Yeah,


John Corcoran  22:52  

yeah. In 1997. Your company is acquired by data recognition which is based Out of Austin. Was that part of the goal all along? Did it come out of nowhere? Was it a surprise? How did you end up? You know, selling the business?


Dwain Farley  23:10  

Well, and you asked, I think you’d asked me, at some point, you know, who was one of those people that really made a difference in my life and a guy by the name of Ed dado, and Ed was the CEO of data recognition d-ri. And we’ve actually got together at some kind of a forum or something about a year before and had come back together and had a conversation. And you know, the kind of hardware I was deploying and the kind of hardware he was deploying to different manufacturers but put the two companies together. And all sudden we had a huge market share here in the southwest for automated collection. And so it just made a lot more of a merger than it was an acquisition but it was two companies coming together. And between the two of us we’re here working together really, really well. And I don’t know, a couple of years after we brought our companies there, we had some really good growth. That’s when Brady stepped in and said, Hey, we like what you guys are doing. You know, we got this whole component. What


John Corcoran  24:15  

is rating Corporation was the company that then acquired, acquired data recognition. Okay, got it. Right. So then you flip to an even larger company, and then you’re a public company out of Milwaukee.


Dwain Farley  24:29  

You know, they made all the stickers that you put on everything in an industrial setting with barcodes and said, Well, we had all the hardware and software and integration to take something with that data that’s collected. That was very, they liked that approach. It gave them an entry into another level of service, that they could bring their existing customer base. It was kind of a marriage made in heaven there


John Corcoran  24:54  

and some longtime entrepreneurs they really chafe when they are forced into a corporate environment. How was it for you after many years of running your own shop? And then working for a company where you got along with the other founder really well, what was it like being in that corporate environment having to report to a board of directors?


Dwain Farley  25:11  

Well, and I think both at NIH, both of us chafed, you know, it, we thought they’d bought us for a certain reason. And Brady’s a great company, and to this day still are, you know, but there were places we were to take that division, that, frankly, they shouldn’t have had that, that vision. That’s not where they wanted to take it. But they owned it. I mean, it was a cash transaction. It was all there to do with what they wanted. And so Edwin had left and went off and did some things that he wanted to do. I stayed and ran it. And, you know, after my non compete was over, and again, it wasn’t anything against the people. It’s just, you know, they were morphing off into a different direction. I had seen a lot of opportunities with radio frequency data collection. Okay. At stickers, you know, Linear barcode or a 2d barcode, let’s, let’s take an electronic chip in there and read it from a distance.


John Corcoran  26:06  

Yeah. And these are super cool. I saw a demonstration of it at the retail conference I was at last summer. And it tells people a little bit about what RFID is, for those who don’t know what it is, and the advantages of it compared to regular barcodes.


Dwain Farley  26:20  

I mean, a barcode, you read it with a laser scanner, what if you could take and put that same data, make it basically a license plate and put a chip on that same label. And now instead of having to read it in a linear fashion with the laser, now electronically collect that same data, so now I can do it from inches or feet, instead of having to be so close up to the what barcode? Well, that opens up all kinds of opportunities.


Unknown Speaker  26:45  

Yeah. They can just wave the wand basically at a stack of stuff. Yeah,


Dwain Farley  26:51  

exactly. So, where this and how this came together was between, you know, that technology which was an emerging tech, not technology at the time. Then you had Walmart and Target and some with a lot of other retailers saying, look, you know, this technology is really interesting. Maybe we can have all of our suppliers put RFID tags on their product that we accept that Walmart is accepting into the warehouses and have it automatically read. Well, I saw a tremendous opportunity there. Yeah. And frankly, you know, right, he didn’t, and I understand that that’s, that wasn’t the wheelhouse. And so I left ready to open up my next venture, which was basically the same thing I sold to them. But now we’re focused on RFID. So this


John Corcoran  27:34  

is now six years after you sell your business. And before I get into that enterprise information systems and maybe the new company that you started in 2003. But before I get into that, you know, yeah, I imagine I don’t know what the sale price was, but you’re probably pretty much set for life at this point. What is driving you at that point, why not just go sit on the beach and drink a Mai Tai and enjoy yourself at this point.


Dwain Farley  28:00  

Mostly it’s just me, at this point I was doing some things that were really interesting to me. Okay. Yeah, you’re right, though there wasn’t, there wasn’t a financial reason I was looking for a day job. Honestly, wheelchairs and beaches don’t mix. And


John Corcoran  28:19  

that’s it. That’s true.


Dwain Farley  28:22  

We just yeah, it’s not really functional.


John Corcoran  28:25  

It could be I mean, it could have been a pool then. You know, you can drink a Mai Tai on the pool.


Dwain Farley  28:31  

There. Okay. Yeah, good. Good point. Again.


It wasn’t about being productive and finding interesting things to do. And to me that the whole idea of, you know, taking what we had done and rolling that into something like a new technology, like RFID was just fascinating to me, and I had an opportunity.


Unknown Speaker  28:56  

Good, good.


Dwain Farley  28:58  

We have a capital to do that. And a lot of the people that had maybe made the transition to Brady Brady corporation with us, you know, some of them had stayed some a little bit left. But I had a ready pool of people who understood what I was trying to do and how I was trying to do it, and understood the technology. Like, man, this is not a recipe for success.


John Corcoran  29:20  

Was it amicable for the most part with Brady or when you left it, it suddenly became now your competitor?


Dwain Farley  29:27  

Well, it never was, hey, you’re a competitor. Because we asked the question, do you guys want to be in RFID? And there were lots of discussions around that and said, No, we like the path we’re on. Yeah. But ultimately, for the first couple of years that I had we were co managing companies like Frito Lay was one of our big customers. Okay, so they were selling the hardware, we were doing all the systems integration of software. I mean, it was a very nice symbiotic relation relationship there. And again, once we started going into some of the areas and No, it was a good party.


John Corcoran  30:02  

And you kind of follow a similar path. So you run it for four years, and then it’s acquired by Domino printing. And what again, same question. Was that part of the goal? Was that the plan all along, or did the acquisition come out of nowhere?


Dwain Farley  30:18  

That particular acquisition kind of came out of nowhere? We were actually one of the, I guess, probably the largest systems integrator for RFID in the southwest, and we’ve grown very quickly in that three or four years, again, everything just kind of fell in place in terms of the right resources in terms of people already having capital. from previous acquisitions, it was just that it worked out well. Domino came out of the just again, they just showed up on our doorstep one day and said, You know, we’ve seen some things you’ve done, we’ve heard about you in the marketplace. They had a very specific focus on serialized track and trace and I mean, they had a big I mean, they’re, they’re into coating and inkjet systems, laser systems, and I mean, huge customer base and beverage and food and pharma, medical devices, I mean, if it needs to be if you got to put a serialized number or code on a product at high speed, those were the guys. Well, they needed the back end of that they needed the software and the services and the integration, again, to be able to offer a whole nother level of service to their customers. And they saw this as being kind of that conduit that that decent that could plug in. And so


John Corcoran  31:42  

and the UK based and you must know there must have been some kind of cultural fit because you spend four years there with Domino as CEO of the Americas for them. And during that period of time, you know, there’s the financial meltdown, the mortgage meltdown. 2008 you have. You know, during your career, there’s been different, you know, ups and downs in the economy and recessions. Why do you think that you’ve been able to survive them? Or have there been particular ones that were harder than others? Which, of course, is a relevant question, given what we’re in right now.


Dwain Farley  32:18  

Yeah, I mean, I don’t know that I remember the.com that that? Well, I mean, we’re again, a lot of it was we tended to be in an industry, we were delivering a product that helped companies become more efficient. Well, in a downturn, that’s what we’re looking for. Yeah. How do we do more with less? And so that’s, you know, when you’re reading barcodes or when you’re collecting data, you know, when you’re, especially with RFID. Well, that’s, that’s you’re implementing technology that a person doesn’t have to do. And so


John Corcoran  32:52  

some saver savings in terms of labor costs, which offsets probably the investment of capital they have to spend in order to put a new system in place.


Dwain Farley  32:59  

Absolutely. Now, having said that, both are not 11. And in 2008, I mean, these are all capital projects, in some cases 250,000 500,000 a million plus in terms of capital spend for these companies. And so yeah, they all tend to take a moment or two of pause or months of pause to kind of figure out okay, what’s gonna, what’s happening here? Yeah, where they start issuing purchase orders. And so, yeah, did that give me some concern? Absolutely. Did I have to tighten up the organization? Make some management changes, conserve cash, you know, those kinds of things? Absolutely. But we weren’t as affected, just due to the nature of what we were delivering to our clients.


John Corcoran  33:42  

And after Domino, you did take a look at least from your LinkedIn profile here. It looks like you took a little time off. Is that right?


Dwain Farley  33:49  

Yeah, you know, and I enjoyed my time with Domino. It was a lot of fun. You know, going back and forth to the UK they also have a big sales office or their presence in the US. So in Gurnee, Illinois, so did a lot, a lot, a lot of travel. And by the time I kind of got to that three into that three or four years, I was just exhausted. I mean, just tons and tons of travel. And so yeah, I took some time off. Yeah. Got reconnected with the kids. We did a couple more adoptions through that process, had a ton of fun.


Traveling. And then some folks came to me and asked me if I would be interested in getting into the industry doing something new. Doing cell phone towers, and doing 2g, 3g, 4g upgrades. It’s like, Yeah, that’d be kind of cool.


John Corcoran  34:44  

It’s a brand new industry,


Dwain Farley  34:46  

a brand new industry had nothing to do with software development.


And that was a lot of fun. I mean, there was a lot of, you know, you get a lot of the Hey, we don’t ask me to come in. I was able to put your nappy equity investment into the company and become CEO and their vision. I mean, I was a minority in that enterprise, but you know, my job was to help build up the company so they could sell it. So this is the first opportunity for me to actually build something up with the vision to sell it.


John Corcoran  35:19  

Right and so even though you’d sold to companies before this Exactly,


Dwain Farley  35:23  

yeah. was never that was never the focus going in


John Corcoran  35:28  

right anyway. But and you also step in this is the first time you step into an existing team you’re not building it up yourself. So how is that different?


Dwain Farley  35:36  

Very different. I had to get used to that. It was now building consensus. And you know, when my two partners who actually owned more talk than I did, and so very much well, and they’re great, guys, I mean, I would have gotten into it. I wouldn’t have invested my money if they weren’t really really good guys, very competent and knew the industry inside out. What made the difference? And the reason we grew so fast is that between the three of us, you know, I brought in a lot of expertise that was not industry centric. And so yeah, there was a lot of we don’t do it that way in the wireless industry, or we don’t do that in the telecom or cell tower industry. Well, that’s okay. But let’s try it anyway. Yeah. So between the three of us, we were able to take and bring some innovation into the company that will allow weren’t a lot of companies doing this industry. And so again, that came to the attention of a private equity firm who came along three, four years later. Guess 2017. And ask us if we would be interested in selling. Here’s, my takeaway is this, you build a become you build a good company, a solid company, good revenues, good profits, you know, you really spend your time focused on culture, and you’re not gonna have to go out and look for somebody to buy you the people show up on your doorstep, they’ll go, they’ll come looking for you.


John Corcoran  37:04  

And what about that? Did you mention culture? Was there anything you had to do when you stepped into on tivity culture wise to change or shape the culture and put your stamp on it?


Dwain Farley  37:16  

That’s a great question.


You know, what was different about this particular industry is that, you know, we had lots of small teams of people going out all over North Texas, all over Oklahoma. I mean, so you didn’t have an opportunity to, you know, obviously, safety was a big issue. You can’t send people up to 300 feet in the air without being very cognizant of safety and and process and, and so the answer is, yeah, we spent a lot of time talking about culture. We spent a lot of time working with our folks and evolving that culture. Absolutely. Because the last thing we want to do is You know,


John Corcoran  38:01  

you are a specific example of ways in which, you know, made deliberate decisions to evolve that culture.


Dwain Farley  38:07  

Yeah, you know, I mean, I don’t know, that we particularly cared for us, we made a significant investment in our training process. And we built our own training tower. I mean, we built a replica of a cell site right there on our next to our building. I mean, you couldn’t tell the difference between this cell site and some cell site anywhere else. I mean, we made that kind of event all the way down to the chain link fence to the building out beside I mean, we did all that wiring, and that way we could take and train our people, and they knew that we had their back in terms of safety in terms of process in terms of quality. I mean, those were the things that we were willing to invest in, and the employees saw that Hmm. So you know, we started deploying quality teams out to the field and made sure that what we delivered to the players client was in fact, what the client was expecting. And so just again, a difference in our industry that most of the customers had seen before.


John Corcoran  39:12  

Yeah, there’s a great story. I’m trying to remember what book it was in. I think it was in one of Jim Collins books about the guy who he ended up being treasury secretary under George W. Bush, in the early 2000s. But he had gone into a steel company, and which was struggling, and he said, we’re gonna put safety first everyone said, huh, like, okay, we’re struggling financially. He said, No, no. First thing, top priority is safety. And that set the cultural tone and they ended up doing tremendously well, financially. I forget the name of the individual who did this. But this was before he’d gone into government, but it sounds like that’s kind of a similar story with you where You said okay, safety first. Everything else flows from there.


Dwain Farley  40:03  

And that’s absolutely true. I mean, once they, once they employees are confident that management is standing behind them, will have their best interest at heart. And you, you train them in the process, you’ve got to train them in quality, you gotta train them in safety. It is an exchange of information, then they in most cases will step up. And that’s what they did. And I think that was recognized by a private equity firm. 


John Corcoran  40:34  

And so, again, my partners did a great job. I mean, they, again, they had all the intuitive industry knowledge and brought that to bear. And we made a great team. We’re running a little short on time, but you have been involved in Vistage for a couple years now. What has it been like going through this Corona, Coronavirus pandemic and in kind of a different role. Where you are not in the same company, but you’re mentoring founders and executives. What has that been like?


Dwain Farley  41:07  

Well, obviously in March, it was deer in the headlights look. That was our first meeting that we were doing by zoom. And done each meeting each month thereafter. You can see, you know, in April, April, May, June, everybody’s kind of getting their feet underneath them. And what amazes me is that we made this statement in March, how do we come out of this process? stronger than we went in. So a lot of these folks a lot of these CEOs have done just that. I mean, they made the cuts that they needed to really tighten things up. They focused on cash. And the vast majority have a better cash position now than what they did going into it for a lot of reasons but mostly it’s been active, proactive management. And that’s and I’m just terribly proud of them.


John Corcoran  42:07  

Hmm, that’s great. Well, I want to wrap things up with the question that I was asked, let’s pretend we’re at an awards banquet, Dwain, you’re receiving an award for lifetime achievement for everything you’ve done up to this point. And what we all want to know is, who do you think in addition to, you know, family and friends, who else you know, who are the mentors, who are the peers, business partners, who are the coaches, who are the people that you would acknowledge in your remarks.


Dwain Farley  42:31  

Obviously, my wife and family they had, they had to put up with a lot in terms of traveling those kinds of things over the years and the stress, but, you know, my top my after that, it’d be bn and that that first, that first partnership that we had that made such a difference. I mean, he was such a great mentor to me. I learned so much for him, we do to this day. I will use it as ohms You know, all those little things pithy sayings that I had had that were just so relevant? My partner’s from Ontivity. They were just great. Cameron and Johnny, great guys. And then for those will be the folks that I really have a real shout out to that that made a difference in my life.


John Corcoran  43:20  

That’s great. All right, Dwain, where can people go to learn more about you?


Dwain Farley  43:25  

Go to my LinkedIn page. B. Dwain Farley, and appreciate the time today.


John Corcoran  43:34  

I love the stories. Thank you. And thanks so much.


Dwain Farley  43:38  

My pleasure. My pleasure.


Outro  43:39  

Thank you for listening to the Smart Business Revolution podcast with John Corcoran. Find out more at .com and while you’re there, sign up for our email list and join the Revolution. And be listening for the next episode of the Smart Business Revolution podcast.




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