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Tim Quast
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June 30, 2002

Down to Earth: Deep in the heart of the American Midwest, an enterprising ECN operations manager is

By John A. Byrne

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  • Down to Earth: Deep in the heart of the American Midwest, an enterprising ECN operations manager is

Out among the flat, fertile plains of Central Illinois, Paul Adcock was taught a most valuable lesson: Hard work and careful planning are the sine que non of establishing a successful family farm.

It was a lesson Adcock carried with him from small-town rural America to the epicenter of a major electronic stock-trading firm.

Adcock's family farm, in the heart of the American Midwest, became a jewel -about 3,500 fertile acres with abundant crops of soybeans and corn and wheat. The farm has produced 125 Simmental and Angus cattle, a dozen of which were national champions.

Hard work, rising in the wee hours as a young boy, helped hone Paul Adcock's skills in negotiation, best execution and brokering deals. It was an early education that ultimately taught him how manage "backoffice" operations at Archipelago in Chicago.

"I had chores to do before going to school, scooping up manure, the whole bit," said the 41-year Arca operations manager. "I had chores to do after I was finished baseball or basketball practice. I had so many chores and responsibilities."

Yet he doesn't believe his childhood was stolen from him. "It was kind of normal for me and I really appreciate it, looking back," said Adcock, who lives now in the Windy City with his wife Jamie, six-year-old son Jack and daughter Emma, who's seven. The Adcocks are living in the big city, about 225 miles from the bucolic landscape of Paul's hometown in Assumption, Illinois (population 1,200).

Fairytale Childhood

Adcock had an idyllic childhood. "In the city you are always looking for something to keep your child busy. Out in the country I didn't have that trouble growing up," he said.

Adcock could never remember a moment as a child when he was not busy. If he wasn't aboard his dad's tractor shuttling down the corn fields, he was playing college sports. After sports practice he was sometimes tending a herd of prize-winning family cattle for a project sponsored by the 4-H, the association popular with young people in rural America. On weekends, he occasionally traveled with his father and siblings to cattle fairs. It was work but the family packed a picnic and made it enjoyable.

On other occasions, he went with his father to buy machinery. On those journeys he learned another valuable lesson - the art of negotiation.

"My dad used to negotiate so hard I was embarrassed," Adcock said. "He'd negotiate with these guys for two hours over a hundred bucks. He was trying to trade for as cheap as he possibly could."