For a while now, I’ve wanted my own project, my own business, or simply something to build for myself. Over the past year, I brainstormed about projects or potential startup businesses that I was both passionate about and felt I was capable of building. As I bounced around a few odd ideas, I kept coming back to podcasts, writing, and private company acquisitions. I hadn’t yet heard the terms “micro private equity” or “permanent capital,” but I knew this part of the business world is what I was interested in learning about.
I found the idea of buying small companies and building a portfolio (Berkshire Hathaway-style) to be a fascinating business model, and I wanted to seek out companies and investors doing just that. I began finding these mini-Berkshires and became consumed with them, looking to learn as much as I could. It was exciting! Every so often, I have these “aha” moments where I discover something I’ve never seen before and it becomes a new topic of focus. I felt that same excitement after reading Warren Buffett’s annual letters to shareholders, finding communities of small value fund managers, discovering podcasts like “How I Built This” and “Invest Like the Best,” and, finally, the micro private equity model. That thrill of learning about new ways to invest and models is addicting. Ultimately, near the end of this past summer, I decided a podcast/blog on these companies and investors was a project I could build and work on with excitement.
While developing the website and figuring out how to actually start a podcast (which is easier than one might think, thanks to Squarespace and Libsyn!), I started coming up with possible names. Every idea I came up with had the word “owner” in it. I wanted the project to be about developing a more powerful owner’s mindset through conversations with both owners and investors who would go on to become owners. Many investors in small companies speak about an owner’s mindset: understanding that owning stock in a company makes them part owner, and imagining themselves as if they were the owner of the entire company. This mindset forces an investor to think about questions that a true owner would ask, while also leading an investor to think about the business in a more long-term nature.
Well, where do investors actually own the entire company, are forced to think about the company long-term because it’s an illiquid investment, and act, ask questions, and think about a company as a true owner? The answer is in micro private equity, search funds, permanent capital, and even many microcap stock investors. “Think Like an Owner” is for this group and I want to focus my learning in this space.
Proceeding from there was nerve-racking to say the least. I’d never hosted a podcast before, although I’d heard hundreds, maybe thousands, of hours of them and had a rough idea about how they should be done. It wasn’t until I started researching equipment and software that I realized how much there was to learn about podcasts; I never would have learned these things had I not started one of my own.
The same could be said for finding my first guest, Trish Higgins. I’d heard about Trish and her husband James Higgins through their interview with Patrick O’Shaughnessy, which incidentally is where I first heard about the concept of micro private equity and permanent capital. As part of my entrepreneur group here at the University of Portland, we were heading to New York City and I thought maybe I could find a way to meet someone from Chenmark. I called them out of the blue and thankfully they were kind enough to forward my message along and told me that Trish would be in Boston on business. Immediately I made plans to travel there during our NYC trip and we had an excellent conversation while completing my first ever podcast episode. On the way out of Boston I felt the thrill of starting something new, a project that had my full attention and excitement.
Since then I’ve reached out to various professionals in the space via Twitter and basic emails and I’m continually struck by how generous, open, and willing to share their time everyone has been with me. Nearly everyone I’ve spoken to has a busy schedule, a family, plenty of obligations, and other new and up-and-coming professionals reaching out to them for advice and help, yet they still volunteered their time, energy, and experience. The ability to reach out to anyone in the world with an internet connection continually boggles my mind, and I am incredibly grateful for how connected we can be in this day and age.
I want to continue to find and build a small community of private investors and owners who acquire companies with a long-term focus, search fund entrepreneurs and investors, professionals in micro private equity, students and young professionals interesting in learning, and like minded people who are hungry for knowledge and clarity. Surrounding myself with smart people who are willing to share their story is incredibly important to me, especially as I graduate from college in the coming year.
If you fall into any of these groups, or have helpful information to share on this topic, I’d love to have a conversation. I can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, my Twitter handle @aebridgeman, and LinkedIn.