Kellogg World Alumni Magazine Spring 2007Kellogg School of Management
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Risk takers, value makers
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  Doug Cook
  Doug Cook '98  Photo © Nathan Mandell

Risk takers, value makers

Feldco chief Doug Cook is a glass act

"If not now, when?"

That was the pivotal question Doug Cook asked himself before changing course to acquire his own business, Feldco, a 30-year-old home improvement venture that the Kellogg School alum has since rejuvenated.

About halfway through a 12-year-long broadcasting career, Cook '98 enrolled in the Kellogg Part-Time MBA Program. He knew he wanted to expand his skills and professional options, but he had no idea just where the education would take him — or how poetic the symbolism would be once he found the company he purchased in 2000.

The search required two years of due diligence, but today Cook is CEO of the leading Chicagoland replacement window, siding and door specialist. The value of looking at the world through new glass is something the Kellogg entrepreneur discovered unexpectedly.

"If someone would have said to me 10 years ago that I would end up spending a big part of my career in the home improvement industry, I would have said, 'What are you, crazy?'" says Cook. "That couldn't have been farther from my world back then."

But his experiences in Professor Steven Rogers' Entrepreneurial Finance course kindled what had already been smoldering: a desire for his own business. "I just didn't think it was going to be possible to do at that point," says Cook, who remains active in the Kellogg entrepreneurship program and who, along with his spouse Dianne, is a Leadership Fellow in the Kellogg School Dean's Council in recognition of their financial contributions.

Instead, Cook believed he would first hone his skills in the corporate world.

"Sitting in Steve's class, though, really lit a fire in me. I thought, 'If not now, when?'" says Cook. "There's never going to be a good time, and you can always find a reason not to do something: kids, marriage, money, health. You name it. Time is not on your side if you're an entrepreneur looking to get into the game."

So he began a two-year search to acquire a company. When his broker brought Feldco to him, Cook wondered whether the venture offered any "lights, camera, action" pizzazz, but he kept an open mind and took a closer look. What he saw was a "dusty, not rusty" company that intrigued him and a deal that could work for everyone involved — including founder Bernard Feld, looking to retire while safeguarding his legacy and his employees' security.

After seven years, Cook has shaken off any dust at Feldco to turn the company into a thriving enterprise of 200 employees and more than 150,000 customers served by four locations in Illinois.

Cook's advice to those looking to acquire a business? "Don't rule out prospective ventures for ignorant reasons ... and be prepared to leverage your passion to get others to believe in your vision, your product or service and your leadership."

Acquiring a business takes time, says Cook. "That's especially something that bright, ambitious people, have got to understand."

To help foster that understanding, Cook contributes to the Kellogg entrepreneurship program. In addition to speaking frequently at the school and serving on the board of the Levy Institute for Entrepreneurial Practice, Cook and his company sponsor the annual Kellogg Alumni Entrepreneur Conference in May.

"Doug embodies all the qualities of an ideal Kellogg alum," says Steven Rogers, director of the Levy Institute. "He is personally successful and always giving back to his alma mater. He's a fantastic role model for our students and alums."

— Matt Golosinski
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