Taking the leap from a blue-chip institution to a search can seem intimidating to say the least. I found my job at Morgan Stanley fascinating, stable, and restricting, nonetheless. I was surrounded by CEOs who were leaders in their industry, had access to some of the best equity research on the street, and was surrounded and supported by teams of brilliant people, who lived, ate, and breathed the companies we were advising and taught me endlessly. On top of that, I was very well paid, and had great health insurance, and a slew of benefits. I felt comfortable - outside of the normal strenuous banking hours which I had grown accustomed to over time.
But my path led me elsewhere - the walls inside Morgan Stanley began to feel small - I didn't have the autonomy I craved and felt many of my creative ideas fell to the wayside. I wanted a seat where I could have a real impact, at a company level as opposed to advising senior executives as an outsider on one-off transactions. So I applied to business school, in hopes of moving to an operator, and in early conversations with alumni, I found search.
Discovering search was a harrowing experience for me. I had never been so excited about an opportunity in my life, and at the same time, I had never felt so lost about where to start. I had looked at financials on a page but knew nothing of what it would take to run a team. I had worked in Media, Telecomm, and Tech, and felt dead in the water when it came to services businesses. And most of all, I had never worked on the ground at an operating company prior. I knew I was smart and capable, and yet, felt lost.
I told my family how excited I was to pursue this life-changing opportunity, would chat with friends about what seemed to be my wild and crazy ideas for what industries to focus on, dream of autonomy, creativity, and financial flexibility, and still find myself making no tangible progress towards my goal. This lack of progress was not due to a lack of desire - but what at the time felt like so little guidance. I started to wonder if search was for me and if I could take the leap from the well-oiled global financial machine of Morgan Stanley to doing something brand new entirely on my own. And then I made a radical decision to be as vulnerable as possible and ask for help from my classmates - and they answered.
Through follow-up calls, countless coffee chats, and a few mutual connections I was connected to a network of people rooting for my success. Mentors came out of the woodwork, sending me materials including HBR Guide to Buying a Small Business by Richard S. Ruback and Royce Yudkoff and pointing me to Searchfunder, inviting me to conferences, and importantly giving me tactical and tangible playbooks on key items to consider and how to start my search. As a part of this journey, I connected with and joined communEtA, where I’ve gotten the opportunity to evaluate countless independent search deals at the acquisition stage, and get hands-on experience around sourcing, evaluation, and expanded my search network.
Suddenly, my dreams of creativity, impact, flexibility, and financial freedom feel in range. I feel grateful for the leap I took leaving Morgan Stanley daily because of it, and even more thankful for the community that has supported me along the way.
communEtA has been an essential part of that support and was built to reduce the perceived risk of search. communEtA is first and foremost a community of like-minded searchers, investors, and students, that support self-funded searchers. We act as a sounding board throughout the search process, make relevant introductions, provide diligence and closing support, invest from our committed fund, and can even fully close equity gaps through co-investment.
The concept of communEtA mirrors my journey to search in a lot of ways. Though search seems daunting, risky, and at times lonely, I found once I reached out to colleagues, classmates, and friends, I was never alone. If you are pursuing a search or are considering it, please feel free to reach out to me to connect. I'd be happy to help and continue the legacy of the utmost support the search community has shown me.