BUSINESS OWNER INTERVIEW SERIES: CROSSING PATHS WITH THE SEARCH FUND COMMUNITY II
In a series of interviews, we have deep conversations with business owners/founders who have crossed paths with the Search Fund community when they sold their business. Many of them became investors in Search Funds and/or formed strong partnerships with the Searchers who bought their business to achieve great scale and success upon the foundation they built. These founders/owners will share their experiences and lessons on this defining journey. If you are interested in learning more, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org Interview #2: An exceptional partnership grown out of a seller-buyer relationship Jeff Grove: Co-owner of Alta Sierra Capital | Co-founder and CCO of Dynamic Growth Dental Support. Jeff is an experienced clinical dentist, entrepreneur and leader. In 2018, he sold his dental practice group to a Search Fund buyer, who is now his business partner. Built upon the foundation of this business, he and his Searcher partner co-founded and operate Dynamic Growth Dental Support, a dental support organization formed to provide the business resources and support dentists need to focus on quality dental care. I had the privilege to speak with Jeff in length about his experience and lessons learned throughout this period. HSP: You weren’t at the typical retirement age when you sold Grove Dental Group. What brought on your decision to sell your business? Jeff: The decision came when I was trying to figure out a way to grow the business and realized I have hit a crossroad in where to take the business next. Another factor is the desire to reduce my personal stress and risk to improve my quality of life. I was able to solve for both after selling the dental practice to the Search Fund. The Searcher and his investors brought on valuable skills, experience and connections to take this business to a whole new level. I continue to work with them till this day. HSP: When you decided to exit, how did you think about which option was optimal for you and the business? Jeff: I wasn't looking for an exit at the time. The pivotal moment for me was when I realized I have found someone to fill my gaps and deficiencies in order to grow the business to the next level. The Search model, for me, is a means to pursue the growth I envisioned. I was able to retain a significant portion of equity to stay engaged in the business after the transaction. I was freed to do what I’m best at in the business. HSP: What are you up to now in terms of your involvement with the business and/or the Search community? Jeff: I hope to continue my journey in the Search world for many years. Since the sale of Grove Dental Group, we have expanded and grown the platform exponentially. We interact regularly with our board of search investors. In the company, I mainly am responsible for charting the course/vision, especially from a clinical and strategic/revenue perspective. I am the Chief Clinical Officer and spend most of my time in scrubs on the clinic floor in our practices helping the teams improve. That is where I add the most “boots on the ground” value. When not on the floor, I support Ryan, Brian, and all of our other executive leaders so that they can integrate their LMA (Leadership/Management/Accountability) functions into the business of dentistry. HSP: Could you share a memorable or surprising moment/story in your interaction with the Searcher/Search Fund either during the transaction period or when you worked together post-transaction? Jeff: One memorable moment was when we got our attorneys involved during the due diligence process. My first attorney at the time was not familiar with the M&A process and gave me advice that almost derailed the deal. I remember sitting in the car after my meeting with the attorney considering if I should follow his advice. In the end, I didn't. The Searcher and I had built mutual trust and respect at that point. I listened to my gut and decided to operate out of that trust. It is important that you focus on discovering the character of the buyer/seller (your partner) as much as you focus on the tangible due diligence items. HSP: Your advice to fellow business owners about succession planning and the sale process in general? Jeff: Advice #1: Be more confident to engage in a debate on a strategic decision especially if you still have equity interest and/or an active role in the operations of the business. You know what has worked and leverage that knowledge and experience. With that said, compromises are needed early on to build trust in your partnership with the buyer, or new owner of the business. Give each other some room to "fail" in small ways. Advice #2: be objective about your attorney’s/accountant's advice especially if they are not experts in M&A or in the industry your business operates in. Think his advice through and ultimately make your own decisions.
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