Rich Galgano seamlessly wears multiple hats in the business world – a visionary CEO, inventive entrepreneur, insightful investor, and dedicated mentor. However, what truly distinguishes him is his journey of personal growth and transformation.
Best recognized as the co-founder of Windy City Wire, Rich’s story embodies audacious vision and unwavering determination. Amid skepticism, he transformed wire sales into a platform for innovation and industry redefinition, going beyond products to spark ingenious solutions.
Under his leadership, Windy City Wire achieved monumental success, selling for nearly $500 million in 2020. Beyond this, Rich, along with his son Jacob, spearheads a thriving family office, investing in unique brands and high-quality real estate.
Rich’s personal journey is equally inspiring. He confronted compulsive gambling addiction head-on, displaying courage and resilience that offer hope to others facing similar battles.
His transformative journey extends to the literary realm. An author working on business books spanning entrepreneurship, he’s set to share his life story in “Down to the Wire,” a compelling memoir capturing his extraordinary experiences.
Rich Galgano’s narrative transcends business. It’s one of redemption, unwavering pursuit of growth, and turning challenges into stepping stones. He’s a living testament to the power of transformation and its role in shaping remarkable accomplishments.
How did you get started in this business?
The idea for Windy City Wire was born out of a deep personal experience. I, along with my co-founder Gary Keller, had been working as salespeople for another wire and cable company. Unfortunately, our time there was marked by disappointment and frustration. The company made promises it couldn’t keep, and to make matters worse, the sales commission plan was in a state of constant flux, changing every year. This rollercoaster of uncertainty left us both exhausted and disheartened.
Amid this challenging environment, we realized there was a glaring gap in the market for a wire company that not only provided high-quality products but also operated with integrity and transparency. We envisioned a company that valued its employees and customers alike, and one that would stand as a stark contrast to the disheartening experiences we had endured.
Driven by a desire to create the wire company that we wished had existed during our time as salespeople, we took the leap to start Windy City Wire. Our mission was clear: to establish a business that upheld its promises, nurtured a supportive work culture, and offered consistent and fair compensation to its employees. By focusing on these principles, we aimed to build a company that could truly be the embodiment of the values we believed in.
How do you make money?
My revenue generation strategy centers on strategic investments in top-tier assets, a process that involves meticulous planning and partnering with exceptional brands, skilled operators, and reputable individuals. I prioritize assets like businesses, real estate, and rare collectibles that demonstrate a potential for value appreciation over time.
I am committed to collaborating with outstanding brands and operators who share a vision of growth and excellence. By joining forces with these entities, I ensure that the investments I make align with my commitment to sustainable growth and long-term success. It’s important to note that my involvement doesn’t stop at financial contributions; I also offer my expertise to accelerate growth and optimize operations.
My approach is underpinned by a proven track record of identifying opportunities and transforming them into profitable ventures. Whether it’s enhancing operational efficiency, expanding market reach, or refining overall strategy, I strive to leverage my experience to maximize the potential of each investment. This approach has consistently yielded positive results and contributed to the growth of both my portfolio and the ventures I support.
In essence, my revenue generation model thrives on partnering with exceptional individuals and brands, leveraging my expertise where needed, and aligning investments with my commitment to sustained value growth. This strategic approach, backed by a history of success, reinforces my dedication to building and nurturing assets that stand the test of time.
How long did it take for you to become profitable?
Achieving profitability is a significant milestone for any business, and my journey with my first venture, Windy City Wire, was characterized by remarkable success from the very beginning. In fact, Windy City Wire has maintained profitability every single month since its inception, demonstrating a unique and exceptional trajectory in the business world.
Right from day one, Windy City Wire proved to be a profitable enterprise. This accomplishment was a testament to the strategic planning, innovation, and dedication that went into its creation. This initial success laid a strong foundation for the company’s growth and positioned it as a noteworthy player in the wire and cable industry.
What sets Windy City Wire apart is not just its immediate profitability, but the consistency and sustainability of its financial performance. Over the years, the company consistently achieved year-over-year growth in EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, and Amortization). This remarkable feat includes the challenging times of the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) that struck in 2007-2008, a period marked by economic turmoil that impacted numerous businesses worldwide.
Windy City Wire’s ability to not only weather the storm during the GFC but also continue to grow its EBITDA speaks volumes about its resilience, strategic planning, and adaptability. This exceptional track record further underscores the effectiveness of the business model, the commitment of the team, and the strategic decisions made to ensure the company’s continued success.
When you were starting out, was there ever a time you doubted it would work? If so, how did you handle that?
The relevance and significance of whether doubt clouded my mind during Windy City Wire’s inception cannot be understated. The journey of launching Windy City Wire alongside co-founder Gary Keller was marked by challenges that exceeded the norm for a startup.
In those formative days, we found ourselves entangled in a formidable legal battle. A lawsuit surfaced, accompanied by a restraining order unjustly accusing us of unfair trade practices. This legal upheaval unfolded when I was merely 26 years old, intensifying the gravity of the situation. The weight of the circumstances was tangible, and there were instances when doubt cast shadows over our aspirations, particularly in the wake of certain judicial rulings.
However, capitulation was never an option we entertained. Instead of succumbing to the barrage of falsehoods and the legal onslaught aimed at quelling our nascent business before it could flourish, we resolved to mount a counterattack. The adversities we confronted merely steeled our determination to chart a course towards victory. However, the notion of victory in business is far from the straightforwardness often seen in sports. It’s a multifaceted concept that necessitates recalibration to align with the situation at hand.
Within the framework of the lawsuit, victory took the form of skillfully navigating the intricacies of the legal process and securing a positive resolution. In fact, our version of triumph centered around forcing a settlement that allowed our business to operate without the burden of ongoing legal expenses. This outcome not only granted us the freedom to pursue growth but also laid the groundwork for our long-term success.
How did you get your first customer?
Securing my first customer was a blend of sheer determination and fortuitous timing that showcased the power of hard work and persistence. In those early days, I dedicated myself to an unrelenting regimen of phone calls, diligently seeking potential client.
It was in this backdrop that I connected with an individual who happened to have an inquiry on his desk. This convergence of timing and my unwavering persistence led to a significant breakthrough. Curt Quam from Kelso Burnett in Rockford, Illinois, emerged as my first wire and cable customer. This inaugural sale was more than a mere transaction; it symbolized the confluence of effort and opportunity.
Interestingly, my journey to that first customer was also shaped by a seemingly unrelated experience. Prior to delving into wire and cable sales, I worked at Foot Locker in the Fox Valley Mall, Aurora, Illinois, where I honed my skills in salesmanship while selling shoes. This unconventional background equipped me with the knack for understanding customer needs, tailoring recommendations, and sealing deals.
In hindsight, while that first sale might have initially been a product of convenience, it was underscored by the sweat equity of hard work and the unwavering commitment to my goal. The relentless outreach, combined with the advantageous timing, created the launchpad for what would evolve into a remarkable career in the wire and cable industry. The story of my first customer stands as a testament to the power of persistence, a bit of serendipity, and the expertise cultivated through previous experiences.
What is one marketing strategy (other than referrals) that you’re using that works really well to generate new business?
In my businesses, referrals aren’t a marketing strategy; I want business to derive from a well-defined and deliberate sales channel that actively hunts for opportunities. This strategy revolves around a deep understanding of our customer base, the unique value we bring to the table, and our commitment to delivering unparalleled products and customer experiences.
Rather than passively relying on word-of-mouth, the businesses I am involved in take an assertive stance in identifying potential clients who align perfectly with our offerings. We have a clear understanding of our ideal customer profile, enabling us to target businesses and individuals whose needs resonate with our solutions. This proactive approach ensures that we’re not just waiting for customers to find us; instead, we’re actively seeking out those who can benefit most from what we offer.
Furthermore, we leverage our insights into customer pain points and challenges to tailor our outreach. By demonstrating a comprehensive understanding of their needs and showcasing how our solutions can solve their problems, we position ourselves as the answer to their requirements. This strategic approach creates a strong foundation for building meaningful connections and ultimately closing deals.
What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make in the last few months?
Not necessarily a tough decision, more like a tough conversation. In the past few months, I encountered a situation that demanded directness and candidness. I found myself in the position of delivering a stark message to a fellow entrepreneur: their business was effectively bankrupt, with no viable prospects for raising further capital. This wasn’t a scenario where a softer approach was feasible; it required a straightforward conversation about the business’s harsh financial reality.
In this situation, my approach aligned with my philosophy that the truth is, in fact, the truth. I didn’t sugarcoat or tiptoe around the issue. I conveyed that their business was hemorrhaging cash, generating zero revenue, and that the current trajectory was unsustainable. It was a blunt and unvarnished assessment, but a necessary one to grasp the gravity of the situation.
Addressing this challenge meant making tough recommendations that could potentially salvage the business. I emphasized that action needed to be taken swiftly to avert complete collapse. This direct communication was grounded in my belief that the truth, no matter how harsh, is the most constructive path forward.
While the message was unflinchingly candid, it was also delivered with a genuine intention to help. My approach sought to provide a reality check and, in doing so, open the door to exploring potential solutions. This instance underscored the fact that difficult decisions demand directness, and that facing harsh truths head-on is often the most responsible and ethical course of action.
What do you think it is that makes you successful?
What sets me on the path to success is a combination of factors that I’ve cultivated over time. Foremost, a relentless commitment to innovation and critical thinking fuels my approach to business. This means consistently seeking out value in unexpected places and using my analytical skills to unearth hidden opportunities.
Furthermore, a deep-seated dedication to excellence guides my endeavors. I prioritize quality in all aspects of my work, from the products and services I offer to the relationships I build with partners and clients. This dedication to delivering the best possible outcomes is a cornerstone of my success.
Additionally, I leverage my ability to surround myself with exceptional individuals. Whether it’s assembling a talented team or collaborating with seasoned experts, I recognize that a collective effort is often more potent than an individual one. This collaborative spirit enhances problem-solving and allows me to tap into diverse perspectives.
Perhaps most significantly, my willingness to embrace challenges head-on contributes to my success. I approach obstacles not as roadblocks, but as opportunities to learn and grow. This resilience has been instrumental in navigating the dynamic landscape of business and adapting to changing circumstances.
Ultimately, the synergy of innovative thinking, dedication to excellence, collaborative spirit, and a resilient mindset collectively defines what makes me successful. These traits have been honed through my experiences and interactions, and they continue to drive me forward on my journey.
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
My most profoundly satisfying moment in business, and one that crystallizes the essence of my journey, was the transformation of a seemingly mundane commodity item into a nationwide phenomenon. The realization that I had taken plastic insulated wire and cable, an everyday product with limited perceived value, and converted it into a catalyst that propelled Windy City Wire into a dominant force on the national stage, is a defining triumph.
However, this satisfaction wasn’t confined solely to the evolution of the product itself. Equally pivotal was the decision to not only shape the product’s destiny but also to manufacture it within my own facilities here in the United States. This move wasn’t just about innovation; it was a testament to our commitment to quality, fostering local industry, and the unwavering belief that a homegrown approach could yield remarkable results.
The pinnacle of this journey came when we reached a point where the culmination of our efforts was validated in the most resounding way. The decision to sell the business for nearly 500 million dollars wasn’t just a financial achievement; it was a testament to the value we had created, the impact we had made, and the ingenuity that had reshaped an entire industry.
This moment encapsulates the essence of my business philosophy—taking the ordinary and infusing it with innovation, dedication, and a forward-thinking perspective. The transformation of a commodity into an industry juggernaut, coupled with the choice to manufacture locally and the ultimate validation through a significant acquisition, stands as the zenith of my journey, embodying the very spirit of entrepreneurial success.
What does the future hold for your business? What are you most excited about?
Looking ahead, the trajectory for all of my businesses is marked by substantial growth, enhanced customer experiences, and notable advancements in operational efficiency. The exciting prospect on the horizon lies in the synergy of these elements, propelling my ventures to new heights.
The crux of this anticipation revolves around a dynamic fusion of innovation and optimization. The future holds the promise of expanding our customer base while elevating the quality of engagement. By continually fine-tuning our processes and systems, we’re positioning ourselves to deliver an unparalleled level of service. This commitment to excellence extends beyond the conventional to redefine industry standards, offering customers an experience that resonates on a profound level.
A particularly inspiring facet of the future lies in the businesses I’m investing in, those which are not merely recipients of financial support but also of my personal involvement and insights. These enterprises exhibit a profound understanding of what’s necessary to revolutionize their respective industries. They embrace innovation, foster creativity, and prioritize the customer journey. As these businesses grow, their ripple effect will be felt not only within their sectors but also within the broader landscape of innovation and progress.
What business books have inspired you?
The Eagle and the Dragon’ by Chris Duffin. I want to be open about the fact that Chris is not just an author I admire but also a personal friend and a business associate. With that said, I believe this book offers a truly compelling and inspiring narrative that holds valuable insights for anyone who reads it.
Chris’s book takes readers through his personal journey, from his challenging upbringing to his remarkable accomplishments. I’ve had the privilege of knowing Chris on a personal level, and his story resonates with authenticity and the lessons he’s learned along the way.
What stands out to me is how ‘The Eagle and the Dragon’ showcases Chris’s ability to overcome adversity. He shares his experiences of rising from difficult circumstances to achieving success in multiple areas of his life. His story is a testament to the fact that challenges can be transformed into opportunities for growth.
‘The Eagle and the Dragon’ is not just a book about Chris Duffin; it’s about empowerment and motivation. Regardless of our personal connection, the book offers readers valuable life lessons, encourages us to pursue our goals relentlessly, and underscores the impact of resilience and hard work.
This is a book worth reading, not only for its inspiring content but also for the genuine insights Chris brings to the table. His journey serves as a reminder that even in the face of challenges, we can strive for personal and professional excellence.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Reflecting on my journey, if I could offer advice to my younger self, it would be to prioritize my health and well-being with more intention and awareness. One specific aspect of this advice centers around the consumption of Monster energy drinks, a habit that had far-reaching consequences on my health.
I wish I could tell my younger self to put down those damn Monster energy drinks, the toll they took on my health was significant. Looking back, I now understand that overconsumption of energy drinks likely contributed to the development of serious health issues, such as cardiomyopathy and AFIB (atrial fibrillation). The battles I faced with serious heart issues and the multiple ablations I underwent could have been prevented or at least minimized had I made healthier choices earlier. While I can’t change the past, I can use my experience to inspire others to make more informed decisions about their health and well-being. If I could offer one piece of advice to anyone, it’s to prioritize your health, listen to your body, and make choices that will contribute to your long-term vitality and happiness.