Craig Mitchell was the kid who was always looking for ways to make a buck, but at the age of 12 his story diverts from the traditional Americana canon of lemonade stands and newspaper routes: Craig fashioned an ice cream cart out of a dolly and a piece of plywood, threw on a boom box, and paraded around the neighborhood blaring “The Entertainer” to draw out customers. With his earnings, Craig purchased a bicycle—a three-wheeled bicycle with a basket in the back to expand his reach. Again, he reinvested his earnings. This time on a moped with an attached trailer, topped with an umbrella. When it came to business growth, Craig was a natural. Whatever was left over from his profits, he invested—buying his first stock, PG&E, when he was 14 years old.
After earning his degree in business administration from the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley (an alma mater to which Craig is irritatingly loyal, according to his colleagues), he worked for Ernst & Young and got his CPA, and then worked with numerous, high-growth ventures, including Lids and Noodles & Company during their formative years. Drawn to the work of both investments and business, Craig ultimately wanted to become an investment banker and pursue mergers and acquisitions (M&A). “To get into M&A, you have to go to a top-20 business school. But I had a spouse and three kids in tow, so getting an MBA at that stage was a big move.” Craig and his family landed at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill where Craig and his wife, Wendy, launched Friday Night Families to provide social support for business school students with families. Upon graduation, he joined the M&A group at Wachovia in Charlotte, North Carolina where he gained valuable experience working on transactions that ranged from $100 million to over $1 billion.
Craig loves his work in M&A. “I get to learn about a lot of different companies in a lot of different industries and figure out how they work and create value,” he said. “I take pride helping business owners accelerate their growth with acquisitions or get the maximum value for the business they have built over a lifetime.” At DCA, Craig recently closed on the sale of Farmington Fresh, which was a carve-out with numerous complexities, including a buyer that was also a competitor. He also helped Indoor Environmental Services (IES) sell to a private equity firm.
What Craig likes most about DCA is the culture, which is focused on clients and, more importantly, based on integrity. Craig feels supported by the other DCA partners, Curt Rocca and Steve Mills, to put clients before the firm, which allows him to truly advise his clients based on their best interest. Having worked at a big investment bank, he has experienced the high-pressure environments that lead bankers to act in their own self-interest. Craig commented, “One of my key values that has been reinforced by Curt and Steve is that you can be successful and still do the right thing.”
“Don’t fall in love with the deal” is one of Craig’s key pieces of wisdom for clients. It’s too easy for parties to discount the downside scenario because they so badly want a deal to work out, all their hard work coming to fruition. “This is often the most important transaction of your life,” he added. “Pretend you haven’t spent countless hours on the deal and then decide if you’re still excited about it.”