In search of the perfect buyer

Family Business Magazine

The Barrett family’s VitalChek Network was a high-tech startup in a fast-growing business. Could they raise cash for expansion without selling their souls?

By Stan Luxenberg

Herb Barrett’s fortune, like that of many entrepreneurs, began with a vexing personal problem. After years as a DuPont engineer in Delaware, in the early ’70s Barrett returned to his home town of Nashville, Tenn., and enrolled his two sons in a private school—only to find on opening day that the school refused to admit his boys without birth certificates. Barrett lacked copies, and Delaware bureaucrats told him it would take six weeks to produce any. Barrett figured out that he could speed the process by sending cash via Western Union and paying to have the copies sent to him by overnight mail. He had the boys in their classrooms only four days behind schedule, but the incident rankled him for years.

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