Search Survey Advice Compilation
39 searchers, operators, and searchers who’ve exited shared their experience in running their search and company. My final question to them in survey was for their single piece of advice to prospective searchers. This is a compilation of those responses. For individual surveys, compilations, and resources, head to the search fund page on this site.
What single piece of advice would you share with prospective searchers?
I don’t have advice, just my opinion: I try to take alignment over convenience.
It’s hard but rewarding. Make sure your family understands the project.
Figure out what you want to get out of the process and which model best suits you (Self funded vs. traditional, etc.), spend a little time figuring out your process then just start doing it and fix it as you go.
Focus your search on specific industries. Otherwise, can spend too much time outside your wheelhouse and too difficult to get up to speed on competitive dynamics.
Do it full time.
Really understand what it means to bring ok investors.
Patience. Also connections are key to identifying promising opportunities.
I have grown to have conviction that self-funded search has significant benefits.
If it was easy, more people would do it. There are fewer active searchers than pro baseball players. I’m sure many (if not all) MLB players had people discourage them from their dream due to long odds of success – the ones who make it are the ones that didn’t listen. Search odds are actually pretty good. Assuming you can raise the capital, your odds of becoming a CEO are better than a coin toss. Keep pushing!
Do an industry focused search. The momentum you get once you get beyond surface level knowledge of a niche is a big advantage.
Search is a great way to be an entrepreneur and the learning that is available through search is higher than I could have ever imagined. I love it.
Think long and hard about why you want to do it and make sure you are in it for the right reasons.
Every searcher does things a little bit different, because no two searchers are searching under the same conditions. It is important for you to find what works for you, what are your goals, skills and adjust your process for that. The traditional MBA programs will have you think that any business under $1M EBITDA is not worth buying, but then I have seen many examples of successful acquisitions with much smaller businesses.
Speak with as many other searchers as possible. At every stage. Have a list of questions you ask everyone, then adjust them as you learn more. Keep in touch with them as you progress. It’s a small community and in my experience almost everyone is willing to take 15 mins to chat and help you out.
You’re committing 5-10 precious years of your life to this. You have agency. Choose an industry, geography, and company that’ll be worthy of the best years of your career — make sure you love it.
I’m a self-funded searcher on no real timeline. So take this advice for what it’s worth. I think if you enjoy talking to business owners and take a genuine interest in them and their business, you’ll eventually find something. At least I hope so. 🙂
Most people seem to focus on quantity over quality (in terms of reviewing businesses for sale), but I’m focusing on the reverse.
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!
It’s like a sales process….it takes 100 at bats to get 1-2 very good opportunities.
Luck may play a bigger role than you’d like.
Save a lot more than you plan if going down the self funded path.
Good businesses move quickly so get into contract ASAP to weed out your competition, and then start your diligence. (with clauses in your LOI to allow you to back out, of course, if you are not satisfied with the dilligence)
Hang in there!
Go for it.
Understand why you are doing what you are doing. It’s not easy or simple – but knowing this will keep you focused and moving towards your goal.
Find a niche, it’s getting competitive. Going with a partner makes it much less lonely.
Understand what it is you are getting yourself into… searching isn’t for everybody.