* 7 platform companies acquired
* 450 employees
* ~30 total acquisitions (lots of tuck-ins)
Not bad for 7 years work.
I'm talking about Chenmark:
Chenmark is a holdco founded by a trio who left Corporate America to buy small businesses.
2 of the 3 co-founders came on Acquiring Minds this week (find it in your podcast player or on the website).
My 3 fav takeaways:
1/ The size of business you choose to buy is a personal decision.
"Don't let anyone tell you there is a single correct size of business to buy."
A quote from Palmer Higgins, who noted that when they started in 2015, search was smaller than it is now, but even then there was a supposed Right Way and Wrong Way to buy small businesses, and they were definitely doing it the Wrong Way.
2/ But they were right.
(My words. The Chenmark guys don't gloat.)
But seriously. Like good investors, they had a thesis around the Chenmark project.
They poked and prodded their thesis, and most importantly they did some heavy introspection.
Do they actually WANT to spend a career running small businesses??
7 years later, yes and yes.
Yes, the napkin math of acquiring, growing, and holding small businesses doesn't lie.
This is a very real path to very real wealth.
And yes, they DID want to run small businesses.
Let me elaborate on that in takeaway #3...
3/ The founding thesis of Chenmark
It's a 2-parter:
1) The financial. Does this path pencil out? Very much so.
2) Life would be more interesting running small businesses than sitting behind a desk in a tower on Wall Street.
This second part of the thesis was highly personal. (love it)
Would they forgo intellectual challenges? I mean sure Wall Street can be lame, but it IS filled with high achievers at the top of their game.
And what about the dreaded...managing PEOPLE?
They liked this, embraced it.
Palmer acknowledges the personnel headaches, but talks about how gratifying it is to work with people and have an impact on their lives.
And as a small business owner you do this every day — and it's powerful.
As for the loss of intellectual stimulation — not true.
Sure it's different than competitive White Collar Land, but it's absolutely intellectually stimulating, and actually requires broader range.
James characterizes this as breadth (small business) vs. depth (Wall Street).
And lastly... a bonus - my favorite quote of the episode.
From James Higgins:
"The tricky thing about trying to build a holding company that owns a lot of small businesses is the first thing you need to do is move to Maine and buy a snowplowing business."
It ain't glamorous folks!
(at least not at the beginning)
Palmer & James Higgins of Chenmark