Posted by Bob Martin

Michael Dubyak, Chairman of South Portland-based WEX, shared with us the story behind writing his book, The Road to WEXcellence, and read from a couple of chapters. “Why did I write a book? Maine doesn’t tell good stories about its successes. This is a good story,” he said. “I also wanted to share the learnings from my experience.” Dubyak said the book was written to capture all the phases of the story of WEX. “I believe that my behind-the-scene perspective offers lessons.”

Dubyak read from the book’s preface, which began with the story of the culmination of WEX’s effort to launch their IP in 2005. “We were on our road show with 74 meetings in ten days,” he said. “Meetings all around the country with investment banks and potential investors. It was draining. Our owners at the time, Cendant, were in control of the process, and there were two companies trying to buy the firm before the IPO—so we had two due diligence efforts underway while we were raising interest in the offering. If one of the companies was successful, we would have to shut down the IPO.”

Dubyak said that when he opened the drapes of his hotel room on the morning of February 16, 2005 and saw the view of the Statue of Liberty, “I just lost it. I was so overcome with emotion. Here I was, a guy from Maine getting ready to ring the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange, my emotions flowing, and I just sat down on the couch and cried.” He said that he finally got himself together and met up with Melissa Smith, WEX president, and the rest of his executive team, and they launched their IPO.

“We didn’t do it for the money for ourselves,” he said. “All the money went to Cendant. We saw this as our chance for independence.”

Dubyak then read from the book’s third chapter, which is about entrepreneurial risk. “Entrepreneurs take on risks to survive,” he said, noting that by year 12, most startups have either gone out of business, or disappeared. “Very few survive,” he said. “Staying in business requires ratcheted growth and capital.” Dubyak explained that each round of raising capital is lettered, starting with “A”. “We were on the “I” round,” he said. “We cycled through six presidents before I became CEO. But the management team stayed together. “We called ourselves ‘WEX’ers,” he said. “What made us special; what makes a Maine company special are the people of Maine. We are persistent and loyal and compassionate. Our culture is that of a family, and I am proud to be a part of it.”

In response to questions, Dubyak reported that the firm’s new headquarters should be complete by the fourth quarter of this year and will house 450 employees. He acknowledged that this will present another challenge to Portland’s traffic and parking situation. Asked how the firm’s culture of community involvement plays into its competitive advantage, Dubyak said that high employee satisfaction translates to high customer satisfaction. “We’re now signing customers like Exxon and Shell to ten-year contracts,” he said. “That locks the competition out.”

Since WEX’s IPO opening at $19 per share, its stock has risen to $190.80 per share with a market capitalization rate of $8.3 billion. The book is available on Amazon and at Barnes & Noble.

(Photo L-R: Michael Dubyak and new club President John Curran.)