Learning On the Job

In his six years as CFO of Pivot Data Centers, Colin Paddington has mastered a new industry while helping raise the company’s enterprise value from $5 million to $155 million

Colin Paddington (Photo: Dmitry Nekhoroshkov)
Colin Paddington (Photo: Dmitry Nekhoroshkov)

One merger? Sure, okay. But two? In six years? That takes patience and tenacity, and luckily, as a seasoned triathlete and Ironman competitor, Colin Paddington, CFO of Calgary-based Pivot Data Centres Inc., had both as he stewarded the IT-colocation and service-management company’s sale not once but twice between 2007 and 2013. Most recently, he helped facilitate its sale to Rogers Communications for $155 million, and in the process of leading the company’s transitions, he has learned what it takes to persevere under tough conditions in an unfamiliar industry. “My nature is to see what’s possible,” he says.

Paddington began his career working his way up at Canada Trust and TD Bank Group. “I knew I wanted to be in finance, so where better a place to start than one of the big banks?” he says. It wasn’t always easy, though. Paddington remembers cutting his teeth during the 1999 registered retirement savings plan season at TD Waterhouse, navigating with his gentle demeanour through trying encounters with stressed clients.“Wait times were two hours, and Y2K was looming,” he says with a laugh. “I had to develop a thick skin to serve those customers.”

He ended up taking his steeled resolve to a back-office customer-service group working with customers who’d had contentious trading experiences. “I really wanted to get to the trading floor, but it didn’t happen,” he says. “I made it to number two of an internal interview process but didn’t get the position, so I decided that I was better suited for management.”

But then, in his early 30s, providence and his personal instincts aligned. He made it onto a list of leaders who showed excellent potential to reach a vice president position, and he ended up joining the TD Securities team, helping to grow its structured-derivatives business to approximately $250 million over the course of a four-year tenure before returning to school.

By the Numbers

Colin Paddington

13
Number of triathlons he has completed

4
Number of Ironman competitions he has completed

9
Number of months he worked on the Rogers acquisition

6
Number of years that Paddington has served as CFO of Pivot

$155 million
Amount he helped Pivot obtain in its sale to Rogers

After earning his MBA (and a spot on the dean’s list), Paddington chose to move closer to family in Calgary, where a position as vice president of finance at Pivot soon appeared. Taking the job wasn’t an easy decision to make, so he performed due diligence, examining both hard data and his instincts before finally deciding to take the leap. “It came down to gut-check and intuition,” he says. “I had interviewed their employees, customers, and partners and examined their financials, but I still had my doubts about being outside the security of a large bank.” Paddington thus brought humility to his new role—knowing very little about being a leader in a small business and even less about data centres—and his humbleness kept him from becoming complacent.

“When I started here, in 2007, selling to a large Canadian cable company was the furthest from our minds,” he says. “I helped arrange for an exit of the founding shareholders and focused on growing the company by raising capital. Enterprise value was $5 million when I started, and we sold to Rogers in September 2013 for $155 million.”

As CFO, Paddington had to play quarterback for Pivot’s leadership team, its board, and its advisors, leading them through rounds of scrutiny from Rogers for many months. It took a balance of planning and adaptation to get Pivot to its current position of success and continuing growth. “As much as there was a plan to bring in private equity, it was very fluid initially, but with support of the board, we employed more rigorous financial planning and metrics to get to where we are today,” Paddington says.

Through the merger, he experienced how patience and tenacity go hand in hand. “To execute on anything meaningful requires both,” he says. “Some shareholders didn’t have the patience and didn’t want the risk, so they got out early and missed the upside. I’m in for the long term. It doesn’t work if you rush through it.”

Pivot offers a suite of IT-colocation and service-management solutions for clients. (Photo: Bob McKerrell)
Pivot offers a suite of IT-colocation and service-management solutions for clients. (Photo: Bob McKerrell)