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Think Like an Owner
49 minutes | 4 days ago
Matt Estep - Picking Low Hanging Fruit Off the Ground - Ep. 40
My guest Matt Estep got his business start early in life when he started a go-kart manufacturing business in high school with dreams of eventually being a professional NASCAR driver. The business still exists today but Matt sold it with other plans in mind. Matt went to Harvard Business School, launched a search fund, and acquired Midwest Supplies. Following the sale of that business to a private equity group, Matt has invested in multiple other small companies and dozens of search funds. During the episode Matt and I talk about some of the changes and improvements he made in Midwest Supplies, a business of his that has struggled through COVID, what he looks for in new acquisitions, and some niche companies he’s found such as a fireworks retailer and a mall Santa business. This conversation was a fantastic blend of investing and operating and I hope you walk away with some great lessons from both sides. For the full episode transcript and more information, visit alexbridgeman.com/podcast.
45 minutes | 11 days ago
Aaron Green - The CEO Role in a Growing Company - Ep. 39
My guest Aaron Green founded a staffing company called Professional Staffing Group, or PSG, in 1996. He has grown it along with 6 other related companies to just shy of $100m in revenue and 2,000 employees. Most of my guests operate small companies and PSG of course started small, but I wanted to learn from an owner who had managed to scale a company and their role in it over a long period of time. Frequent listeners of Think Like an Owner may notice a connection to previous guest Jared Henderson, CEO of Assist Services. Aaron is an investor in that company along with Tim Ludwig, who introduced me to both, and we chat briefly about the company near the end of our conversation. Over the course of the episode, we talk about hiring for growth, books and models for managing that have worked for Aaron, how he’s learned to delegate, and how he spends his time today as his company has grown. I learned a lot from this conversation with Aaron and I hope you walk away with a few lessons and insights too. For the full transcript and more information, visit alexbridgeman.com/podcast.
47 minutes | 18 days ago
Mitchell Blackmon - Operating and Growing a Chimney Service Business - Ep. 38
My guest, Mitchell Blackmon started Patriot Chimney, a chimney service and installation business in Roanoke, VA, last year with his brother Matt and his friend Billy. They have recently made their first hire and have another one coming shortly, a testament to the growth they’ve been experiencing. If you liked the recent episode with Rich Jordan, you’re going to like Mitchell’s story too as he’s thinking about many of the growing pains and plans. We talk about getting into college despite losing the opportunity to play college track & field due to an injury, starting a home cleaning business, how wrapping his trucks has brought in more customers, developing a new routing system, and how he’s hiring new employees. This episode is an example of what I love about the small business investing and operating space. Discovering new businesses and industries you never knew existed. I knew nothing about the chimney business and loved learning about it from Mitchell in this episode. I hope you find a few great takeaways from his story. For the full episode transcript and more, visit alexbridgeman.com/podcast.
45 minutes | 25 days ago
Lacey Wismer - Getting More Women in Search - Ep. 37
My guest on this episode is Lacey Wismer. Lacey runs her recently started search investment fund called Hunter Search Capital and has been conducting research on female searchers and unique challenges they encounter while seeking and operating a business. We talk extensively about women in search along with how she’s seen the model grow over her career, alternative models in search, constructing a searcher’s board, and how she’s instilling entrepreneurial values with her two daughters. Speaking of, her 11 year old daughter has a bakery business for residents in the Park City, Utah area. If you live nearby, you can place an order on her website at bananasbakedgoods.com. She makes cupcakes, macarons, cakes and more, an entrepreneur in the making. This conversation was super interesting, thought-provoking, and fun and I hope you benefit from hearing her experience. For the episode transcript and more, visit alexbridgeman.com/podcast.
49 minutes | a month ago
Rich Jordan - Buying a Small Plumbing Business - Ep. 36
My guest is Rich Jordan. Rich bought a home service plumbing business only a few short weeks ago in Pennsylvania. If you’re on Twitter, you might already be familiar with Rich as he has been tweeting about his time running the business and has been so much fun to follow. If you’re not already following him you’re missing out. During the episode we talk about Rich’s first few days in the business getting his hands dirty, fighting off competing offers for his plumbers from competitors, and a few moves he’s done to grow revenue 60% in only 8 weeks of ownership. If you liked the Collin Hathaway episode from a few weeks ago you’re going to love this one as Rich reminds me of an early-days version of Collin. He is just getting started but has made tremendous progress already and I hope you enjoy getting to hear about his short journey so far. For the full episode transcript and more information, visit alexbridgeman.com/podcast.
43 minutes | a month ago
Mark Sinatra - Going Off-Playbook as CEO - Ep. 35
My guest, Mark Sinatra, raised a traditional search fund with a partner in 2006 after graduated from Wharton and a year and a half later acquired an HR company called Staff One HR. I’ll let him tell the full story but there were significant ups and downs running the company including moving the company from Southern Oklahoma to Dallas, managing staff turnover of roughly 85% during that move, and losing their biggest customer who was 30% of their revenue. Despite those downs, the company grew significantly and led to a successful exit, leading eventually to what Mark focuses on today which is investing in search funds. During the episode, we also talk about hiring great employees, building culture in a growing organization, and advice to prospective searchers. Mark was very open in sharing his experience and I hope you find some great takeaways from his story. For the full transcript and more information, visit alexbridgeman.com/podcast.
40 minutes | 2 months ago
Jared Henderson - Operating with a Social Mission - Ep. 33
I interview many folks with unique backgrounds and Jared is among the most unique. Jared worked at NASA, then McKinsey, got his MBA at Harvard, then alternated between working at McKinsey and Teach for America, ran for governor of Arkansas, and last year became the CEO of Assist Services. Assist is a Portland based transportation company for underprivileged children to help them get to and from school and other important locations. Jared is leading Assist Services to become a nationwide company, all remotely from his home in Arkansas. I’ve been very excited to have him as a guest because of his focus on social missions, building a great team to serve a very vulnerable group, and expanding a storied regional company to a national level. Enjoy the episode. For the full episode transcript and more information, visit alexbridgeman.com/podcast.
59 minutes | 2 months ago
Collin Hathaway - Investing and Operating in Home Services - Ep. 32
My guest today is Collin Hathaway. Collin runs a small micro private equity fund in Seattle, WA called Skylight Capital and has developed a strong core competence in plumbing, HVAC, roofing, and other home services businesses. He also has one of the most interesting stories I’ve heard of getting into micro private equity. During the episode we talk about his path to Skylight, why he focuses on home services businesses, characteristics he looks for in new acquisitions, and a little bit of his home services operating playbook. I’ve been trying to get Collin on the podcast since our first conversation a year ago and I wish this episode could have been longer. Collin is a great, entertaining storyteller and I hope you enjoy his hearing fascinating journey so far. For the full episode transcript and other information, visit alexbridgeman.com/podcast.
54 minutes | 2 months ago
Ryan Lechner & Nico Gimenez - Searching with a Partner - Ep. 31
My two guests for this episode are Ryan Lechner and Nico Gimenez who have raised a traditional search fund together as partners called Bonsai Group and are a few months into their search. I’ve had searchers with partners on the podcast before, Sam Rosati being a great example, but I haven’t had them on the podcast before together. What made this episode particularly fun is Ryan and Nico are lifelong friends and it shows. Finding a partner for a search with aligned values can be very difficult and luckily for them they had a very long due diligence period. In this episode we talk about why they chose to search as partners, how the role is divided now and might be upon close, how their outreach strategy has evolved, and a company with a very niche monopoly in surfing. For the full episode transcript and more information visit alexbridgeman.com/podcast.
44 minutes | 2 months ago
Brian Vanderheyden - Owner of Richmond Alarm Company - Ep. 30
My guest is Brian Vanderheyden who ran a search from Chicago starting in 2015 and 2 years later in 2017 acquired a company called Richmond Alarm Company in Richmond, VA. Richmond Alarm was founded 73 years ago and Brian acquired the business from the founder’s two sons who had taken over the business from the father. During the episode we talk about Richmond Alarm’s history and their in-office museum of 73 years of security technology, how he’s developed his team over time, the dynamics of the security industry, and why he admires Chick-fil-A. Enjoy the episode. For the full episode transcript and more information, visit alexbridgeman.com/podcast.
51 minutes | 3 months ago
Scott Picker - Founder & Owner of Aspen Creek Landscaping - Ep. 29
My guest today is Scott Picker. Scott was born and raised in Oregon and went to college at Washington State University where he majored in agriculture education and horticulture, before starting Aspen Creek Landscaping in Sherwood, Oregon. Over the last 20 years, Scott has built a 55 employee landscape construction and maintenance company focused on high end residential and local wineries. During the episode we talk about him planning out and building Aspen with his wife from the ground up, how it has evolved over time and how he’s had to change his role to suit the company, building a great, customer focused team, succession planning, and his side business raising 160 longhorns on his ranch. This episode was an amazing look at what running a company looks like on the inside and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. For the full transcript and more information, visit our website at alexbridgeman.com/podcast.
57 minutes | 3 months ago
Ben Rudman - Investing in Consumer Businesses - Ep. 28
Most of the investors I’ve had on the podcast aren’t interested in consumer businesses, which is precisely why I wanted to talk to a consumer focused investor. Enter Ben Rudman. Ben is the founder of Charis Consumer Partners, a consumer focused independent sponsor, and has a passion for consumer businesses that is hard to resist. In this conversation, we review his time developing his expertise in consumer, why it’s such a challenging place for investors and where he looks to invest, some pitfalls and things to avoid in consumer, and what he’s learned being an operator. Whether you care about consumer or not, this episode is a must listen and filled with insights on investing and building companies. Ben is a wealth of knowledge and experience and I hope you find some great takeaways for yourself. For the full transcript and information about Think Like an Owner, visit alexbridgeman.com/podcast.
46 minutes | 3 months ago
Mason Myers - Buffett Inspired Ownership at Greybull Stewardship - Ep. 27
My guest today, Mason Myers, has spent the last 10 years building an incredible investment vehicle called Greybull Stewardship. With Greybull, Mason has acquired 11 portfolio companies with an evergreen fund structure with opportunities for LPs to add or withdraw capital only every four years. This structure gives Greybull a very long time horizon to offer the right owners a great home for their business. Mason’s founding idea behind Greybull was to build the firm he believed owners deserved to sell to and one that could get better over time. Mason is a big fan of Berkshire Hathaway and has applied many similar concepts at Greybull that we spend time going over. We also talk about Mason’s time as an operator and how it makes him a more effective investor, how Greybull strengthens over time with its network of owners, operators, and LPs, and how to be a good steward of an owner’s life’s work. For the full transcript and more information, visit alexbridgeman.com/podcast.
52 minutes | 3 months ago
Joel Blake - Entrepreneurship through Apprenticeship - Ep. 26
My guest today, Joel Blake, has a fascinated story about how he became an owner of a manufacturing sales company called Marketing Technologies. Before acquiring, Joel first worked for the company as an employee before he and another partner took over the business from the two retiring owners. Joel calls this model entrepreneurship through apprenticeship and it’s a major topic of our discussion. Joel also, as you can imagine, has a deep appreciation for sales and we talk extensively about how to cultivate a sales mentality and develop the ability to connect with people you’re meeting with for the first time. We also talk about his transition to being an owner and working through that process with the previous owners, how owners can prepare their business for transition, what being an owner is like after being an employee, and what he’s learned from being a parent of two young children. I loved this episode. It’s been one of my favorite of the podcast so far and I hope you come away feeling the same. Enjoy. For the full transcript and more episodes of Think Like an Owner, visit alexbridgeman.com.
33 minutes | 4 months ago
Betsy Brandt - Preparing to Search - Ep. 25
I’ve done a few search fund focused episodes, for instance last week’s episode focused on life during a search. In this episode exploring search funds, Betsy Brandt joins me to talk her preparation in launching her search fund, Forest Park Capital. I wanted to hear more about how a search fund is planned, the benefits of an MBA program, how capital is raised, and so on. Betsy was kind enough to share her experience working in investment banking and operating at a private equity backed company, going through the search program at Harvard, starting and setting up her traditional search fund, and a few advantages of being a female searcher. This episode is a great review of the many questions asked when considering launching a search. If search is an option you’ve weighed at any point, you will enjoy hearing from Betsy. Enjoy. For show notes, episode transcript, and more, visit alexbridgeman.com.
48 minutes | 4 months ago
Jules Brenner - Life as a Searcher - Ep. 24
I continue exploring search funds and with this episode I talk with a searcher who is in the middle of the process and thus is experiencing it’s ups and downs live. My guest, Jules Brenner, runs a self-funded search called Manufacturing Succession and as the name implies is focused on acquiring a manufacturing company. Jules has an interesting background with engineering and start-ups and talks about how that background guides his search. In addition to life as a searcher, we talk about preparing for a self-funded search, owner outreach, and searching as an engineer. If you’re an investor interested in manufacturing companies or just want to connect and learn more about Jules, go to manufacturingsuccession.com/contact. Links Mentioned Manufacturing Succession Salesmate.io Big Ass Fans
40 minutes | 4 months ago
Trish Higgins - Chenmark Five Years Later - Ep. 23
Trish Higgins was the guest on my very first podcast episode and was kind enough to share her time with me when I had no downloads, no show, and no website. Funny enough, that first episode is still my most downloaded episode to date. A lot has happened since then and I’m very excited to have Trish on the show for a second episode. In this episode, we cover Trish’s recent move to the operating side, how Chenmark has evolved including what’s become easier and more difficult over time, and we dive briefly into landscaping. For those listeners interested in eventually operating your own company, Chenmark has begun recruiting future operators into existing leadership roles at current portfolio companies where they will be trained for eventually running a future portfolio company. If this is interesting to you, I highly recommend reaching out to Trish. Finally, Chenmark writes a weekly newsletter called Weekly Thoughts about their views on investing and operating small companies, behavior and psychology, and concepts from other disciplines that can be brought over to business. I’ve been a reader for years and I’ve found it extremely valuable. Go to Chenmarkcapital.com/weeklythoughts to subscribe. Links Mentioned Chenmark Capital Yale Case Study Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business Weekly Thoughts
41 minutes | 4 months ago
JR De Agostini & Max Artz - All About Owner Outreach - Ep. 22
I’m continuing to focus on specific themes within small company investing and this episode focuses on owner outreach during a search. My guests for this episode are JR De Agostini and Max Artz from Peterson Partners who ran their own search and are now running the search investment fund at Peterson. Our conversation covers how to craft your message to owners, filter through owners who aren’t actually interested in selling, build relationships, and a short detour near the end on the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cleveland Browns. Links Mentioned Peterson Partners
34 minutes | 4 months ago
Defensive Capital - Searching in the Defense Industry - Ep. 21
I’ve wanted to record a few episodes that focus on specific themes, industries, and strategies around acquiring small companies and this episode is the first in a few to come. My guest today is an anonymous Twitter account named Defensive Capital who I’ve gotten to know over the past few months. True to the account’s name, he works in supply chain in the defense industry and our conversation focuses on opportunities for entrepreneurs and searchers in the industry. If you have any interest in the defense industry or manufacturing, you’re going to like this one. Enjoy.
56 minutes | 5 months ago
Permanent Capital and Infinite Games with Ali Aydar, CEO of Sporcle - Ep. 20
My guest Ali Aydar has a fascinating background. Today he’s the CEO of Sporcle, an online trivia business, but earlier he worked in various venture backed companies playing the finite game and decided to play the infinite game at Sporcle instead. He is the first business owner on the podcast and we talk about operating a business through tough times, the advantages of having permanent capital in a business, and his choice in leaving the finite game. Ali is a wealth of experience in operating companies and we’ve both been thinking about this episode for a while. If you like our discussion on finite and infinite games, Andy Ellis and I also talked about the concept extensively in an earlier podcast episode I will link to in the description. Episodes of Think Like an Owner are available on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, Stitcher, Breaker, and TuneIn. For show notes and links, visit the podcast page here.
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