Pressing on the Search Fund Investment Career
- by Seena Mortazavi
About three months ago, I faced my first major crossroad as managing director at GreenStreet Growth Management search fund. A promising job opportunity came from a fast-growing business impressed with my skills and background. The opportunity meant that I would have to step away from my search fund to work full time for the business without my current investor group. The offer was tempting, and I would be lying if I said that I didn’t think about how much easier my life would be if I were to take the position. Not only would I welcome the opportunity to start operating a great business, but I would also remove one of the most difficult personal challenges of the search: the uncertainty. As I contemplated this decision with my inner group of advisers, I realized that terminating the search fund without my current investors wouldn’t be fair to them. They had put their confidence and capital in me, and I don’t take that responsibility lightly. Ultimately, I decided to politely decline the opportunity and continue into the world of the unknown.
The uncertainty is probably one of the hardest parts of the search fund process. Will I be putting roots down in Southeast California or Upstate New York? How much traveling will be required of me? Should I invest in a snowboard or surfboard? These are all questions that come up as I prepare to start the next chapter of my personal and professional life.
Dealing with all of these uncertainties has not been easy; fortunately, what started as a lonely journey has turned into one filled with a great group of core advisers who have helped me stay focused during some of these challenging times. Most of my investors have already been in my position. They started their careers long ago and have had a lot of success growing businesses over the past 10, 20 or even 30 years. I am fortunate to be able to draw on their wealth of knowledge as I look to offer a unique transition plan for a business owner.
While working with many small business owners looking to sell their businesses in my previous career, I learned that they cover the spectrum. At one end, you have owners who care about one thing: money. At the other, you have owners who are thinking of starting a new chapter in their lives and are more concerned about their employees and customers and their own legacy. Most owners fall somewhere in the middle, and that is where I can offer something unique.
Through the search fund, I am not looking to squeeze every dollar out of the business by laying off employees. My goal is to build a great business, and I plan on doing that by reinvesting in the business and its employees. I have a long-term view of building on the existing foundations of a business and am prepared to sacrifice short-term gains for the greater good. That means thinking of the bigger picture when it comes to allocating resources, and being patient when making key strategic decisions. Having seen many businesses fail after their founders stepped away, I care about staying true to the values that the owner has put in place to preserve the legacy of the business. People often underestimate how important that is. After starting a business from scratch, many owners care deeply about handing over their life’s work to someone they can trust.
This is the one motivation that keeps me going against all odds: the desire to help business owners achieve their goals and ensure that their businesses have a bright future.
My advisers told me this journey was not for the faint of heart, but you can’t truly understand what that means until you are living and breathing it every day. How do you know that you won’t take that great job offer that crosses your path, or lose hope when a business misrepresents its financials? While it may be easy to think that you would stay true to your original goals, you don’t know what decision you will make until you find yourself facing those tough decisions.
Remember that it is those tough decisions that will ultimately define you.