Providing some background before my questions (at the end) as it might be helpful to some folks. Happy to answer any questions related to my experience to date.

I’m a part-time searcher that graduated b-school roughly 2 years ago.

I almost launched a searchfund in business school (had investor support, etc.), but decided against it after lots of thought and conversations with my wife. We came to the conclusion for a variety of reasons such as: high cost of capital, high risk of failure, less independence compared to self funded, business size and location restrictions, growth needed to be ITM for Traditional, etc. I understand the pros and cons of each model and appreciate each path.

My background pre b-school was corp finance and Corp banking. During B-school, I interned at an Investment bank, a traditional search fund Investor where I ran a proprietary search for a few months on their behalf, which was a great experience, and an independent sponsor for a half-year, where we closed a platform deal and had a few bolt-ons under LOI when I left.

After b-school, I worked in IB for a year. The first three months in IB I had zero time for part-time search as my bank didn’t have a formal training program like others and I had to study for the series exams after###-###-#### PM and on weekends. After I passed my exams three months in, I started engaging in brokered search again (I did some lite brokered search during business school and over the summer before starting IB). My time availability was very up and down with IB and personal life but I was still able to review opportunities that were interesting to an extent (scanning brokered sites, executing NDAs, reviewing CIMs, and submitting Questions). The hard part was finding the time to diligence opportunities and take owner/ broker calls but I made it work. Search aside, IB was interesting to me, but I hated the WLB, so I left after a year for a corp. dev / M&A team where I’ve been for 8 months. Being on a deal team still has times of high stress and terrible hours but overall my WLB is great now and I really love the job. However, I still dream of owning and operating and plan to achieve that.

So over the last year and half of part-time brokered search, I’ve probably executed a few hundred NDAs, submitted###-###-#### IOI, LOI, email, or verbal offers. I’ve had two accepted and came in second in a process on another. For the two IOIs accepted, the deals fell apart quickly as more information was provided to me. Both experiences were great learning opportunities that didn’t cost me any money. For brokered deals, sometimes it is hard to balance trying to get enough information before submitting an offer and annoying a broker. Sometimes brokers, won’t provide much pre-LOI, which I find extremely stupid because everyone retrades. For the offers not accepted, PEs or Strategics typically beat me out handsomely. In one case, I saw a search fund acquired.

I did not formally track the above, but I spent at least an hour or so a day on search and much more when I was preparing to submit an LOI or under LOI. I’ve executed many NDAs, knowing that the deal probably would not be a fit due SDE size or price. For further context, my wife and I have well paying jobs, so to justify us moving, we require a business that can produce $400k SDE after PF debt service. As many of you know, that is quite challenging, especially in this rate environment. If we stayed local, my wife could keep her job and I would only need SDE post PF debt service of $150k or so to have cushion for business volatility and hopefully take home some money each year. I’d say we open to many more deals in our area but unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be much broker activity and we are in a major city. I’ll note that I was not good about proactively developing relationships with brokers.

The big takeaway, I’m learning something new on each deal.

For example:

- Many service companies 1099 employees when according to IRS code, they should be W2 which inflates earnings. If your employee count reaches certain criteria you must offer certain benefits (I forget the exact details but I look into this for companies with over 50 employees).

- I understand sba underwriting criteria and fees much better.

- I know what questions need to be addressed to quickly assess an opportunity and land at a preliminary value without spending too much time. I have a very simple model template that only take a few mins to run. Many times I have a sense for what I can pencil in my head.

- Brokers want to know you’re qualified, credible, and won’t waste their time. For deals I really like, I ensure I call the broker and provide my background, sources of funding, why I like the deal, and highlight that I respect their time and mine and will be transparent.

I can go on and on here.

I’m posting today because the deal flow from brokered search has not been enough, attractive deals are super competitive, and listings in my market are slim. Thus, I’m going to start part-time proprietary searching again and have a few questions.

- What sources are folks using for sourcing leads? Are grata, PPP databases, and Upworkers still popular? What are the new tools? Any new AI that is helpful here? I would love new ideas. What is the cost of grata? What is the best resource for scrapping PPP data?

- For folks working FT, how are you approaching your website and LinkedIn? I don’t want my employer to know I’m searching. I’m thinking I just use my first name on my website and email and create a company page on Linkedln instead of personal. I realize that’s not ideal.

- Any website recommendations? I used wix in the past but my old domain name has my last name in it, so I need a new one.

- What is the optimal CRM and automated email software? I used outreach.io in the past for a short stint and felt like it had a simple CRM and reply.io like features alongside functionality that improved email delivery. However, Im reevaluating and would prefer a cheaper route. Is there a CRM that has capabilities of drip / automated email campaigns? I don’t understand why all the historic posts suggest add-ons like reply.io are required for Hubspot and Pipedrive. It seems like this would be a fairly simple feature to include in###-###-#### Do either of those CRMs have email verification and email warmup? What about domain reputation and email timing restrictions based on your domain provider? How about legal document processing? It would be nice if we could execute NDAs digitally through the CRM.

Thanks in advance.