I did everything from solving technical problems on customers’ production lines to driving forklifts, from closing big client deals to helping close the books. My parents and brother retired by 2001, and Akzo Nobel kept me on until the middle of 2006 to help manage and integrate our company (Akzo was a multi-billion dollar company).
My dad, a chemist for a large corporation, was also always an entrepreneur at heart, and became a minority partner in a chemicals/coatings business when I was in junior high school.
After I graduated with two degrees from the University of IL, Urbana in 1993—German and Finance—I went to work in mergers and acquisitions with Arthur Andersen Consulting.
My dad’s business had expanded quite a bit by then (he bought out his partners, was the sole owner, brought my mom onboard, and had grown into the second largest supplier of non-stick coatings in the USA), and he wanted to build his business abroad.
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While she worked for the family firm, Bela had a knack for setting up couples, several who would go on to marriage.When it came time for her own reinvention, she took that natural skill and created her own business around it—Smart Dating Academy is now responsible for hundreds of successful matches. I grew up in a loving family with educated parents who immigrated from Bombay, India, to the suburbs of Chicago, and one younger brother.I knew that this could be a great opportunity for me to really hone my business skills and “grow up quickly in business,” so I went to work for his company, Coatings and Chemicals (CCC), in 1994.While I was based at the headquarters in Chicago, I traveled extensively all over the world, to Europe, Asia, Australia, and South America.My dad was harder on his children—my brother had also joined the business—than on anyone else in the company; his mandate was that we would be the people who would turn the lights on in the morning and turn them off after everyone left in the evening.I learned every aspect of the business and developed a thirst to do more and more during these years. We decided to sell the family company in 1998, during a great market, to Akzo Nobel.