As the saying goes, keep your enemies closer—and then let them acquire you for $150 million. Josh McCarter, the founder and CEO of Booker, had known Rick Stollmeyer, the CEO of competitor and future acquirer Mindbody, since 2011, when the two met through Young Presidents Organization on a father-daughter trip in Colorado. “We had this competition thing going on on the business side and a really nice friendship developing on the other side,” McCarter said.
In March 2018, Mindbody announced its intention to purchase Booker, which had launched in 2010, and closed the $150 million deal 30 days after it was announced. The process Booker ran leading up to the acquisition took 60 days. Three months after the close, McCarter spoke about selling the business.
How does it feel to have the deal done? Is it like you crossed that finish line?
You know, the sale is done, but now we’re climbing a bigger mountain with a bigger team. So, I’ve barely taken any time off since the sale. We’ve had a remarkably fast and positive integration. Just like the actual sales process itself went really fast, the integration has been about as smooth as any integration you could ask for.
How did you prepare yourself and your team so that it would be a smooth integration and transition?
One hundred percent of the Booker team carried over and got offers from Mindbody at closing. That was a very good signal to both companies that, hey, we’re bringing these companies together, and the intent is that this is a growth business. That sent a really good message. Then as we were in our 30 days of final diligence, I had my entire executive team go to [the] Mindbody headquarters, and we started to talk about integration plans, roles and responsibilities, holes in our organization, holes in Mindbody’s organization—and so we really started mapping out what the combined org would look like.
Some things we were able to transition almost seamlessly on day one. In other instances, we said, “Okay. Here’s the 90-day plan, and here’s how we get from kind of A to B.” We spent a lot of time thoughtfully thinking about: What’s the strategy? What are we trying to get done? What are our top priorities? Then, what’s the organization that we’re going to need to be able to support that, and then kind of the roles and accountabilities fall out of that. We first got alignment on that part and then started drilling into the other items. By the time the deal closed, there was some ambiguity, but it was more directionally we knew where things were going.
How do you prepare yourself for no longer being the boss and having a boss yourself?
You know, on one side I would say it’s a strange experience, because I’ve been the boss for a long time in my last couple companies, so it’s just a different experience. On the flip side, I feel that coming in here, I’ve got a great relationship with Rick, and I have developed a very good relationship with the other executives on the executive team, and feel there are very meaty areas of the company where I can make an impact. That still keeps me motivated and excited.
I don’t have CEO on my card anymore, but I still feel like I can make some very impactful decisions for the business, and there’s also part of me that for a little bit I think I’m going to enjoy not having to have the stress of managing investors, and preparing for board meetings, and so forth, and really focus on driving some key initiatives at the business.
Do you expect that you’ll start another business?
I’m not sure, but I’m only 45, so I’ve got a long way to go before I ever even think about retiring. In one way, shape, or form, I expect that I’ll be involved in businesses, whether it’s as an investor, a CEO or a board member. But I still feel like I’ve got a lot of wood to chop here.
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