C. J. Cash, Sweet Spire Capital
Sweet Spire Capital, Current Searcher, Self-Funded
Survey completed September 17, 2020.
Why did you choose your model? Would you make the same choice again?
I desired the flexibility to limit my search to the city where I currently reside. At the outset of my search I desired the flexibility to look at both upmarket and downmarket opportunities. That said, over the course of my search I concluded that I desired to have a larger stake in a smaller business as opposed to smaller stake in a larger business. I have a desire to hold the asset/business permanently as opposed to exiting in typical private equity time frames. Yes, I would do it again.
Are you searching with a partner? If so, why did you choose them? How did you find them? If not, why did you choose to search solo?
Solo. As a self-funded searcher, working solo allows me to consider smaller businesses without concern for whether the business will have enough work and cash flow for two searchers.
When is the right time to start speaking with investors? How did you select your search and/or acquisition investors?
As a self-funded searcher, I began engaging with investors when I started my search, not before it commenced.
Did you get an MBA before searching? If so, where and why?
Yes, Harvard Business School.
What is your work experience prior to searching?
I am an older searcher. I had over a decade of post-MBA experience in various operating roles (sales, marketing, business development, strategy, business operations, etc.
What industries and sizes of companies are you pursuing?
Focused on old-economy service business, particularly maintenance-driven home and business services like HVAC, cleaning services, life safety, etc.
Are you doing a geographically focused search? If so, where?
Yes. Atlanta Metro.
How long have you been searching?
What systems do you use? (CRM, Email Manager, etc)
How do you organize your day?
This is a tough question to answer. Pre- and Post-Covid look very different. What’s more, my search is very much network driven, sourcing and engaging leads from business owners and business owners trusted advisors. Some weeks are more dedicated to diligence on a deal/industry niche, some days are spent engaging with business owners that are members of an industry trade group.
How do you identify prospects to acquire? Do you use only brokers, only direct outreach, or both?
Brokers, Trusted Advisors (CPAs, Transaction Attorneys, Estate Attorneys, Insurance Brokers, Wealth Advisors, etc.), Dunn & Bradstreet Lists, Industry Trade Group Membership Lists.
How do you find company lists?
Dun & Bradstreet Lists, Industry Trade Group Membership Lists.
Do you subscribe to broker deal lists? Which ones?
Aggregators like Axial or Individual Brokers? Aggregators: No. Individual Brokers: Yes/Many.
Do you use interns? If so, how many? What do you have them do?
Approximately how many deals have you reviewed?
How many companies have you gotten to the LOI stage with? How long before your first one?
What has been the most challenging part of your search? What was harder/easier than you expected?
Geographic constraint is both a blessing and a curse. Allows for me to be focused on that dimension and engage in community (industry groups and generally) in a way that I couldn’t if searching more broadly. On the downside it obviously limits the number of at bats. Additionally, because it is a network-driven search, I’m wary of getting the reputation locally as the person that throws out a bunch of LOIs. I Accordingly, being mindful of a very local network/reputation has led to perhaps slower moving, less formal engagement with owners and fewer LOIs. I don’t think that would be as serious of a concern if searching more broadly.
What articles, books, and resources were most helpful to you in preparing to search?
HBR Guide to Buying a Small Business.
What do you wish you knew prior to searching?
Good brokers are valuable; quickly find the good ones.
What single piece of advice would you share with prospective searchers?
I have grown to have conviction that self-funded search has significant benefits.