Dominic Colonna – Heart attack slowed him, but a good plan kept the company going

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:28 pm

Dominic Colonna – Heart attack slowed him, but a good plan kept the company going

Dominic Colonna learned in management courses that, as a business owner, it was important for him to surround himself with good people.
Little did he know when hiring such people how important they would be for the continuity of his company, Colonna-Daum-Price Inc. (CDP) in Waukesha.
The lesson was driven home one March morning in 1999 when Colonna suffered a mild heart attack — an event that changed his life but, because of the way CDP was structured, didn’t change the business.
Colonna founded the company, a manufacturers representative, in 1975 after working for a company that handled cooling and heating products. CDP represents businesses that manufacture computer-support equipment (such as systems that keep computer rooms temperatures cool), HVAC equipment and control and monitoring systems.
With its 11-person main office on the south side of Waukesha, CDP also has offices in Green Bay and Middleton.
While Colonna took the advice of his management course teachers and hired good people, he continued to work hard and fast-paced in the business.
And his lifestyle habits coincided with that pace.
"I was pretty much a fast-food guy," Colonna said during a recent interview at his building on Travis Lane. "It wasn’t rare for me to be eating while I was driving to some appointment. My busy lifestyle and the demands of the business led to that. And, on top of that, I wasn’t getting much rest, generally sleeping from around 11:30 p.m. to 5 a.m."
Until that March morning when he woke up his wife Karen at about 2 a.m., telling her the indigestion he had must be something worse than indigestion, as over-the-counter medications weren’t doing anything for him.
Figuring it may be heart trouble, he took two aspirins and was off to Waukesha Memorial Hospital, where it was determined that he had a heart attack.
He didn’t experience any of the other common warning signs of a heart attack — dizziness, chest pains or others.
"So how do you know? You just don’t," he pondered.
But he did know something was not right inside him. It turned out to be a problem that, in many cases, leads to death.
"I was very, very lucky," he says. "I’m not a very religious person, but the big guy upstairs must not have thought it was my time."
The damage to the heart wasn’t that great, but it was still damage.
Once released from the hospital, he worked half-days for six weeks.
The business was in good hands in his absence, he says.
"I absolutely didn’t have a worry in the world about the business," he says. "I knew it would continue operating just fine without any input from me."
It all goes back to that plan to surround himself with good people so the business would continue to flourish in his absence. "The plan worked," he says.
While it was business as usual at CDP, it was time for Colonna to change his lifestyle – changes that he admits didn’t come easily.
"You don’t go from 90 miles an hour to 25 in a week," he says.
"But once you do make the change, you wonder how you did it before," he adds.
Colonna’s family doesn’t have a history of heart trouble and he didn’t show signs. His cholesterol readings were never above 155. "And all my vitals were always in line," he says.
His father lived to age 96 and, looking back five generations, he saw no evidence of heart disease. But he does. Earlier this year, he was back in the hospital for a second stent when blockage was found elsewhere in his heart.
He now feels great – thanks to his new lifestyle.
He exercises an hour a day five days a week, working out on a treadmill and other machines starting at 5:30 a.m. – watching television news.
He lifts a few weights for muscle toning.
He does 60 pushups every day.
Pizza, other fatty foods, dairy products and junk foods are out of his diet.
His diet includes a good amount of fiber.
His intake of alcoholic beverages is minimal.
He slows down to eat.
And he gets more rest.
"I have a lot more energy now; I definitely feel better," he says.
"I feel food. I can do almost anything, but I still have to watch what I eat, and still have to watch it day to day," he says.
Support comes in big measure from his wife; the couple have been married for 40 years. They exercise together and try to do as many other things together as possible.
"Our relationship is one of caring, trust and friendship; we consider each other friends who support each other," Colonna says.
And his business partners support him, too, with two of his employees now holding a one percent stake in the business and at the ready to take over the company when Colonna retires.
"I’m thinking of retiring next year; I’ll be 65," he says. "I’ll sell to two key people we have on board."
Larry Daum, vice president of engineering, and Jeff Price, vice president of sales, will buy the company, and already have their names represented in the business name.
The company will continue as CDP, Colonna says. And it will continue to grow. He’s considered some diversification in recent years, but the slow economy put that on hold. Now, he’s seeing positive signs.
"The signs are positive," he says. "Companies that had tabled projects – some of them are starting to resurrect those plans; we’re already 11% ahead of last year. Our read on this economy is that it is going to improve."

Dec. 26, 2003 Small Business Times, Milwaukee

Sign up for BizTimes Daily Alerts

Stay up-to-date on the people, companies and issues that impact business in Milwaukee and Southeast Wisconsin

Andrew is the editor of BizTimes Milwaukee. He joined BizTimes in 2003, serving as managing editor and real estate reporter for 11 years. A University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate, he is a lifelong resident of the state. He lives in Muskego with his wife, Seng, their son, Zach, and their dog, Hokey. He is an avid sports fan and is a member of the Muskego Athletic Association board of directors.

No posts to display