Jeff Brewer, Hamilton Hall
Hamilton Hall, Current Searcher, Self-Funded for 1 year then raised a fund
Survey completed September 18, 2020.
Why did you choose your model? Would you make the same choice again?
I made a budget and believed I could handle self funding for a year by myself comfortably, maybe even two, but then covid hit, and I felt like it would be better to have a bit more runway with my timeline. Would do the same thing again. I almost closed a deal in the first year, and I would have been very frustrated if I had to share the equity w/ someone else.
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?
No. I’m an old man searcher (41), and I have less need for the additional skill set and companionship (other than my wife!). And who wants to split the equity! 😉
When is the right time to start speaking with investors? How did you select your search and/or acquisition investors?
As soon as you are considering a search. Get their opinions early. For me it gave me the confidence to self fund for a year knowing funding would be there if I wanted to go the other route. I selected for breadth of background (some funds, some former searchers, some longtime individual investors). I capped the max investment at 10% of my fund so I could put as many different backgrounds and personalities on my cap table. I also told them I would hold the investment a minimum of 10 years, and if they wanted me to sell before that then they shouldn’t invest. I ended up with 16 investors including myself.
Did you get an MBA before searching? If so, where and why?
Yes. HBS 2007
What is your work experience prior to searching?
Military, GE, BCG, Asurion, and a $65M industrial services company
What industries and sizes of companies are you pursuing?
Multiple, $3-10M in EBITDA
Are you doing a geographically focused search? If so, where?
I’m doing a nationwide search, but starting in Indiana where I live. I have a lot of deal flow here from my network, but I’ve also spent time in OK, IL, and GA looking at deals that have come up.
How long have you been searching?
10 months self funded, 3 months funded
What systems do you use? (CRM, Email Manager, etc)
Copper CRM, Gmail, Owler, D&B (HBS library), Hunter.io
How do you organize your day?
Highly varied. I try to send 10 emails to new prospects, do 5 face to face meetings, and send 15 follow up emails each week. I should note that I highly vet targets and then strongly personalize emails/calls/meetings. I’m doing more of a rifle approach than a shotgun. Not sure if it will work, but w/ my background and initial search territory (a relatively untouched Indiana) I’m getting a great response rate. I also look at some broker generated leads, but I don’t like 99% of them.
How do you identify prospects to acquire? Do you use only brokers, only direct outreach, or both?
PPP loan data gives me a proxy for size. I then use that plus NAICS code, a look at their website, a look at LinkedIn, and a look at Glassdoor to see decide whether to reach deeper. I also do a lot of breakfasts and lunches with CPAs, financial advisors, and lawyers to get leads from them.
Approximately how many direct outreach calls and emails have you made to owners?
How do you find company lists?
PPP loan data, Data.com search.
Do you subscribe to broker deal lists? Which ones?
Do you use interns? If so, how many? What do you have them do?
I used one and he was great, but I haven’t hired another after him. Juice isn’t worth the squeeze for my targeted, networked search.
Approximately how many deals have you reviewed?
How many companies have you gotten to the LOI stage with? How long before your first one?
2. 3 months.
What has been the most challenging part of your search? What was harder/easier than you expected?
Most challenging – When the owner does the math and realizes they can make in 3 years what you are offering for the whole business. The hard part is having to pick just one business to buy. I’ve got three going right now, and I’d buy every one if I could.
What articles, books, and resources were most helpful to you in preparing to search?
Doing 2 years as the COO of a $65M company. It helps me understand the thinking of the CEO of a company of that size and gives me the credibility w/ the owner that I won’t blow things up at his/her company.
What single piece of advice would you share with prospective searchers?
Don’t do it immediately after your MBA. Go work for your ideal search target company for 2 years. Learn the industry and the head and heart of the ownership. It will make sure you really love that industry. It will help you better sell to an owner when you do search. And it will make you a better CEO after having worked in the company in a non-CEO role. And if you’re really, really lucky, you can buy that company!