Pat Lazure, Flavor Crisp
Current Operator, Self-funded
Survey completed September 29, 2020.
Why did you choose your model? Would you make the same choice again?
I was fortunate to have my wife support and bankroll my search.
Did you search 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. With my M&A background, I felt like I had enough experience to search on my own.
When is the right time to start speaking with investors? How did you select your search and/or acquisition investors?
Only when you need them.
Did you get an MBA before searching? If so, where and why?
Yes. My MBA is from Creighton University in Omaha, NE. It was a great experience, but MBA’s are overrated. I pursued my MBA for purposes of creating a little thicker “safety net” to distinguish myself in case the economy every went sour during my career and I needed to differentiate myself in the job market. The MBA served me well, but actual job experience was much better in positioning me for my search and operating my companies.
Was your search geographically constrained? Where did you search?
I only searched for companies that would allow me to operate from my hometown in Omaha, NE.
How long was your search?
How did you find the company you acquired?
I was running investor relations for a small, publicly-traded company. The firm that I worked with out of NY actually introduced me to the Omaha-based company.
Describe the company you acquired.
I acquired a company called Flavor-Crisp, which is a spice company that has operated for 60 years. It actually used to be one of two divisions of publicly-traded Ballantyne (BTN).
What was EBITDA and your purchase multiple at close?
How many employees did the company have at acquisition?
1 (Company is nearly virtual b/c we rely upon co-packers.)
Assuming you used a broker, how helpful were they during the transaction?
No broker involved. Nearly every broker I worked with was terrible. I could tell you stories for days!
What was the post-close plan with the owner? How well did it go in practice?
He couldn’t have been any better. I now consider him a life-long friend.
During your first year in the company, did you make changes/improvements? If so, how difficult were they to make?
My goal in the first year was simply “not to break anything”. The approach was deliberately humble and cautious. I’ve seen too many cowboys & cowgirls in my chair decide that they have all of the answers, quickly make changes, and wreck everything. I didn’t want to be one of those people. Plus, with a self-funded search and a self-funded acquisition, I couldn’t afford to break anything.
How has the company performed post-close? What was more difficult than you expected? What needs to improve? What is going better than expected?
The company has performed exactly as expected, but that’s not because I did anything brilliant. If I did anything right, I respected the decades of groundwork that was given to me as part of the acquisition and I didn’t mess it up. If I did anything right in my first year, I made modest enhancements to the company’s foundation; positioning it for future growth in year two & beyond.
What did you not appreciate about running a company before becoming an operator?
How do you build company culture?
I added a new level of customer service. I’ve had the opportunity to run a few start-ups and have always believed that customer service can be a source for competitive advantage. I’ve applied that mentality to my new company and it seems to be well-received.
Did you implement any growth initiatives, add services or new products?
Not yet. The initial focus has been to build a strong foundation to support growth in year two.
What articles, books, and resources were most helpful to you in preparing to search and operate?
“HBR Guide to Buying a Small Business” is the searcher’s bible. I listened to the audiobook two times before buying my company and two more times after buying it. Maybe this makes me a slow learner, but I learned something new with every listen.
What do you wish you knew prior to searching and operating?
I wish I knew that the Searchfunder community existed.
What advice would you share to prospective searchers? Advice to current operators?
It took me far too long in my career to recognize that recurring revenue is the holy grail of business. Make sure you only buy a company that has recurring revenue. Also, “the more obscure, the more allure” was one of my investment criteria. Don’t be afraid to gravitate towards businesses that may seem odd and may be difficult to explain to folks at a cocktail party. Finally, see if you can find a business that appears to be a little bit neglected. The valuation will be suppressed, while offering more room for upside.