My guest on this episode is Sam Rosati. Sam was an early supporter of the podcast and was featured on Episode 11, which I highly recommend listening to prior to this one. In that earlier episode, Sam shares his background and how he and his brother Joey together acquired a company called Alpha Dumpsters. In this episode, Sam shares that they’ve since sold Alpha Dumpsters and have started an SMB conference in Orlando scheduled for February 3-6, 2022, which I’ll be attending.
Sam also shares with me a new incubator model they have built for self-funded searchers. I’ll let Sam share most of the details, but self-funded searchers should listen to this episode and learn about this new program. Sam is doing wonderful things for the self-funded search world and I believe the incubator and conference will both be massive successes. Now, please enjoy my follow-up episode with Sam Rosati.
Live Oak Bank – Live Oak Bank is a seasoned SMB lender providing SBA and conventional financing for search funds, independent sponsors, private equity firms, and individuals looking to acquire lower middle market companies. Live Oak has closed billions of dollars in SBA financing and is actively looking to help more small company investors across the country. If you are in the process of acquiring a company or thinking about starting a search, contact Lisa Forrest or Heather Endresen directly to start a conversation or go to www.liveoakbank.com/think.
Hood & Strong, LLP – Hood & Strong is a CPA firm with a long history of working with search funds and private equity firms on diligence, assurance, tax services, and more. Hood & Strong is highly skilled in working with search funds, providing quality of earnings and due diligence services during the search, along with assurance and tax services post-acquisition. They offer a unique way to approach acquisition diligence and manage costs effectively. To learn more about how Hood & Strong can help your search, acquisition, and beyond, please email one of their partners Jerry Zhou at [email protected].
Oberle Risk Strategies– Oberle is the leading specialty insurance brokerage catering to search funds and the broader ETA community, providing complimentary due diligence assessments of the target company’s commercial insurance and Employee benefits programs. Over the past decade, August Felker and his team have engaged with hundreds of searchers to provide due diligence and ultimately place the most competitive insurance program at closing. Given August’s experience as a searcher himself, he and his team understand all that goes into buying a business and pride themselves on making the insurance portion of closing seamless and hassle-free.
My guest in this episode is Sam Rosati. Sam was an early supporter of the podcast and was featured on episode 11, which I highly recommend listening to prior to this one. In that earlier episode, Sam shares his background and how he and his brother, Joey, together acquired a company called Alpha Dumpsters. In this episode, Sam shares that they’ve since sold Alpha Dumpsters and have started an SMB conference in Orlando scheduled for February 3rd to the 6th in 2022, which I’ll be attending.
Sam also shares with me a new incubator model they have built for self-funded searchers. I’ll let Sam share most of the details but self-funded searchers should listen to this episode and learn about this new program. Sam is doing wonderful things for the self-funded search world, and I believe the incubator and conference will both be massive successes.
Now, please enjoy my followup episode with Sam Rosati.
Thanks, Sam, for coming on the podcast. It’s great to have you again since episode 11. We have a lot to catch up on since that first episode where you had acquired Alpha Dumpsters, and there’s just endless things that have happened since then. I’d love to just start off by, since episode 11, what have you been working on?
Well, since episode 11, which I’m going to assume is almost two years ago, give or take?
I think about that. Yeah, that feels right.
I had another child. So we have a little boy. I probably lost a little bit more hair, and gained a little weight, but otherwise, just had a ton of fun getting as deep as possible into SMB ETA. Made the huge switch to being an operator from a lawyer, which was a massive change. And I think all of the comedies of error that you learned as an operator, we faced running the Alpha Dumpsters. So I’ve got endless stories there.
But then, I’ll sort of get right to the punch line. Last year, sold Alpha Dumpsters to an unnamed but very large national privately-held waste company. We were very fortunate and that was a real roller coaster especially as a deal guy diving into the belly of the beast of an operating company. Yeah, I just learned a ton. Have so much more respect for operators. Have so much more respect for the things I used to take for granted as a searcher and an investor having been on the other side of the table.
So, yeah, it’s been a whirlwind. Then COVID and essentially, returning to the search and starting what is now sort of a micro private equity firm. Had a ton of fun, just had absolute adventures, most of them sort of given us bruises on the chin and learning great lessons but happy to share and we’re open book about all that and stuff.
Yeah, that timeline with Alpha Dumpsters is pretty extraordinary forward since two years ago. I’d love to hear more about that from buying the business, operating it and then turning around and selling it.
It was a roller coaster, absolutely. It was our search deal. We bought it in June, July of 2019. I mentioned to you earlier, it was a little turnaround-y. We loved the industry and sort of back to our last chat, it was more of a broker, so we didn’t actually own dumpsters. We didn’t actually own any trucks. We were just a broker of dumpster rentals, and then so it was a little turnaround-y. It was much more of an SEO and PPC digital marketing business than it was a dumpster business.
And we felt like we had a bit of an angle on that industry and even though this turnaround-y, we got it really cheap, some great structure and the timeline was we spent probably nine months turning it around and just put an enormous amount of brain cells into improving the SEO, improving the pay-per-click campaigns, doing a bunch of other marketing techniques, building the staff up just sort of a full refresh on the business, which was a great experience and it had a lot of pain in there too.
So long story short, last year in 2020, the business did really well through COVID. You can imagine with everybody sitting at home from the end of March through May and beyond, a lot of homeowners were doing attic cleanouts, little bathroom remodel projects, and everybody needs roll-off dumpsters when they do those kind of things.
We had a great COVID period. Thank God it was very fortunate and pure luck. The only thing that might have been skill is we turned the business from an in-person business remote. I can give my brother all the credit in the world for that. So dumpster business was sold last year 2020 and I sold my way out of a job so I had to figure out what to do next. Put a little cash in the pocket, but definitely needed to go back to work. So that’s where we are today.
When you say you did a few things to turn the business around, what’s that actually look like? What types of things did you improve to that business?
Great question. I’d say if you can imagine a 60-year-old owner of a dumpster company. He’s a blue-collar guy who knows dumpsters and he knows customers of a dumpster company. But does he really know pay-per-click campaigns? Does he know advanced SEO techniques? Does he know digital marketing all that well? And so, he’s a great guy, and he knows that stuff far better than we thought he would. But we brought those techniques up to the 21st century.
And to be clear, that was not me. We hired that work. We actually found a friend’s digital marketing agency in town that that was their job to help us make those conversions and to improve the digital marketing side of the business. And we actually had them be a partner in that business. So they were a partial owner of Alpha. So they had a lot of skin in that game, which is great.
That is great. After selling Alpha, what have you considered doing at this point? Are you going to back to search for another company and what other models or business ideas sound interesting to you?
Great question. So, sold myself out of a job. Last year, thankfully, wasn’t a great year to be in the deal business. The fact that I was on the sideline still is fine. But at the end of the day, I just kind of thought, “Am I an operator or am I an investor?” And that’s definitely a distinction that a lot of searchers probably don’t think hard enough about.
I’ve a long background in M&A deals. So I thought that made me what was going to be a great operator. And I’ll admit, I was probably a terrible operator. Daily HR fire drills and a thousand tasks on your to-do list, having to prioritize all those things that operators deal with, I’ll be honest, I don’t think I was that good at them.
When we sold the business, my decision was let’s go back and build Pursuant back to what was the sort of deal sourcing engine, but let’s try and do more transactions and help other people like searchers buy businesses and operate the day to day so I can try to do a little bit more what I enjoy, which is finding, structuring, diligencing, closing, helping others learn not to make the mistakes that I learned.
You mentioned turning Pursuant into a micro PE firm of sorts. Is the goal to own businesses underneath Pursuant or on minority shares in other SMBs and through searchers or through other means?
Great question. Micro PE firm is giving me a lot of that’s generous, to put it fairly. So really, we’re just doing two things. We’re looking for businesses in Florida, just like we were a few years ago, to buy and own controlling stakes in small business. Florida-based, Florida headquarters, small, meaning $3 million of EBITDA or owner earnings and below.
But really that sort of $1 million to $2 million of EBITDA is a sweet spot for a lot of reasons, and relatively industry agnostic. We’re looking for businesses like that just like we were a few years ago, and we will do them one or two ways, either control. We’ll buy the whole business. We’ll arrange for the financing. We’ll write the equity check and then we’ll hire somebody to run that business for us. We’re actually working on two deals just like that right now that hopefully will close this summer.
And then the second bucket of work is partnering with self-funded searchers. Again, mostly in Florida though not exclusively, and helping them be better searchers and operators because of what we went through a few years ago. And we’ve done a couple of deals like that already and those have been really fun, really successful. It’s early. We closed one in February. We closed one April 30th, so it’s been a roller coaster.
How much more credibility do you think you have as a searcher or looking for other businesses to buy just generally since you’ve already owned, operated and sold a company?
That’s a great question. I don’t know if credibility is it. I just feel like I can empathize with a searcher better. I have a ton more respect for operators than I used to have, because I was the Excel guy. I was the guy sitting in the office trying to do these owning businesses on spreadsheets and remotely, and it’s just way harder than it looks. Managing people, managing that task lists and the daily fire drills, it’s just way harder.
So I have so much more respect for it. I have a lot more respect for the deal process in that when you’re trying to buy a business from a small business owner, it’s his baby. It’s her everything, and so that process, having now had a bunch of reps at it, I think I can be very helpful to others and ourselves trying to buy more of these smaller businesses.
What do you think you underestimated the most in terms of difficulty in running a business when you’re previously just looking at spreadsheets?
The people, hands down the people. I have a lot of respect again for the people’s side of the business, the HR, the kid is sick. I mean, I have kids. I had to waive that flag a handful times and stay home and take care of my kids. It’s just that when you’re trying to run a business and grow sales and improve your systems and knock off your daily tasks list, there’s just a lot of moving pieces.
I think the HR side of the business is really hard, and school doesn’t teach you one bit of anything about managing people. So, definitely managing people. I think the second piece is when you’re a searcher, there’s just only so many tasks you have to do every day, and your checklist is not all that long. But when you go in and run a business, that checklist is endless. All the decisions fall to you and yeah, I actually think I had a hard time sort of prioritizing the high level, strategic planning decisions and the daily fire drills.
And that was new to me. That was tough. I was probably a bad operator because of it. But thankfully, it worked out.
Are there any principles that you had to learn from experience or from books or anyone else on how to manage people?
I think at the end of the day, it comes back to empathy and really having a lot of respect for the fact that employees are investing their time and their lives helping you, the business owner, build your business. So the fact that some days people come in and they’re just in bad moods, that’s just a part of life.
I have two kids now. The fact that there are days when I showed up to work with two hours of sleep and I was definitely not on my B game, let alone my A game. It’s one of those things when you’re young, you don’t have the benefit of experience. You just don’t think experience is worth all that much, but when you’ve gone through these life roller coasters, you just have a lot of respect and empathy for people.
I think that’s what I learned is everybody who shows up to run a business is trying to raise a family, is trying to make ends meet, has the same problems with traffic and get into the office that you do. We’re all just living our lives, and so I have a lot of respect for the people than I might have when I was an Excel wizard.
Was there a light bulb moment or an encounter or interaction that made you think pretty hard about how you manage people or gave you a new perspective or frame for managing?
Absolutely. The experience was when you’re a buyer, you think that economic incentives drive everybody because I think they drive me and I thought that that was the way I should treat other people. For example, we had a manager there or somebody we wanted to elevate to manager. And we thought that if we created the perfect incentive package where she could go down the list and say, “If I do X, I’ll get paid this. And if I do Y, I’ll get paid that.”
And it was a perfect sort of alignment of interest between us, the owners, and her, the manager, that it would change her behaviors to do these kinds of things that we wanted as owners. We thought that was brilliant. We were geniuses and it would work flawlessly. And it was a disaster. And we had to realize that some people are just not motivated by money. And some people, if you give them the perfect transparent bonus package are going to do exactly the kind of things you want, and frankly, it didn’t work.
So that was just another one of those sort of people learning moments that either taught me I’m not all that smart or I’m a terrible operator.
What did end up working?
Work-life balance, the ability to come in late and leave late, work hours around her schedule. The ability to go work out at a gym over lunch, just things that had nothing to do with money are what motivated her.
What percentage of your workforce do you think is motivated by money versus motivated by a handful of other things? Obviously, before you can, you thought it was 100% money across the board. But as you’ve gone into the business more, what did reality start to look like?
I think people are motivated more about the quality of their life when they show up at work, that it’s a fun place to be and it’s not stressful, that one of the things is being in the direct consumer dumpster business, your customer interactions are not always that fun. So it’s one of those industries where you can kind of not do better than expectations but you can certainly do worse than expectations.
And so you constantly feel like you’re on the bad end of the phone call there with customers. And so I think making those experiences for our staff better was a big help. Stocking the fridge so that they didn’t have to go walk out buy coffee and snacks, it just felt like a second home to them, was a big piece of it because when you’re helping run a business, you spend a lot of time at the office. And making it more like a second home instead of a job was a big part of that. And that has nothing to do with money.
So then when you went remote, you mentioned going to a remote workforce, how did you carry over some of those benefits?
Yeah, we did a lot of stuff because as an owner, you get really concerned when you send your people home for two months that you’re just going to lose the good vibes you have when you see everybody every day. So we did little things like every afternoon, when we were “shutting down the office”, we would do a quick Zoom call with the whole team and that way everybody, at least once a day, got to see everybody’s face.
We would send Amazon gifts to people. Amazon was great. We could just go in and send little gifts to the entire team. They’d arrive and then we’d all sort of unwrap them together. We did a few evening happy hours virtually. Just little things like that to not forget that we’re all still a team and a family even though we went two months without really seeing anybody.
Moving beyond that, you’ve had a few other projects that look pretty exciting, SMBash being one of them. But I would love to hear a little bit about some of the other projects you’ve been excited about.
Again, sold my way out of a job, so I had to come back and figure out what to do next. Pursuant started as a search fund. We had this huge deal sourcing engine. When Alpha sold and I had time back again, I actually helped a friend of mine buy a business. He was a prototypical searcher and he didn’t quite know the process of talking to brokers and arranging the bank financing, due diligence.
So I’ve spent some time helping him and that was great. I had a lot of fun. It kind of gave me the energy to go back into the deal business again. Have met a ton of friends on Twitter the last six months, (inaudible), ETA Twitter, SMB Twitter that we all talk about. My wife gives me a hard time about it, but it’s real. It’s a great community of people. And everybody is willing to share in public and make mistakes in public so that the rest of us can benefit.
So I’ve spent a lot of time on there sharing war stories. And through Twitter, met my two co-founders of, we’re calling it SMBash. It’s really a non-conference. I guess an un-conference is what they’re calling it these days but we have so many friends on Twitter that are business buyers, small business investors that we’ve never met in person. Next February, February 3rd through 6th, we’re going to get everybody together in person in Orlando and just throw a big party where we also have some business done as well. Alex, I think you’re going to get on stage and possibly host a live podcast. Is that right?
Yeah. I think that will be fun.
It will be a lot of fun. We’ll do things like that. A lot of the personality on Twitter will be there, but it will be a great place for everybody who’s been in sharing notes and getting to know each other remotely, we can finally meet in person, kind of celebrate being done with COVID.
That will be awesome. I’m curious to hear if you think some of these conferences are going to, if this can be a golden age for conferences after having virtual conferences for almost a year now? I think people are probably ready to go back to in person. Do you think this is kind of a second wave for a lot of these?
Yeah, I do. It’s actually sad. I actually have a friend who is an independent sponsor, so a hybrid researcher/private equity firm. His business was tied to producing things for conferences, so that business went sideways during COVID. But if last year, if it tells us one thing, it was that we missed interacting with people and going away and sharing stories with folks doing the same thing.
So, yeah, I think it’s going to be sort of a huge second wave of in-person meetings generally. And even though I hate to call it conference, it’s just an excuse to get hopefully 100 or 200 folks together that are buying small businesses, investing in small businesses, operating small businesses, get together, share stories, hopefully stay up late and have a couple of cocktails and just have fun in person again, do this.
You mentioned it being an un-conference. Are there are few things that a lot of conferences you’ve been to do that you’re trying to avoid with SMBash or do differently?
Yeah. So there’s a, I won’t name this conference but I think most are like this. It’s a very professional, private equity type conference in Florida every year. It’s great for a biz dev, and it’s great for meeting people around the state that are buying companies and doing private equity transactions. But it’s stiff and everybody is dressed formally, and it’s just a bunch of business meetings.
And I think that’s great, but that’s not SMB. SMB is more casual and we’re low key. We’re going to do things like hikes. We’re going to have a golf tournament. We’re going to have late night cocktail hours. We’re going to do all the kinds of things that I think people wish they could do with conferences but they’re forced into sitting in conference rooms listening to a lecture.
So, what kinds of folks is this conference meant for? And then what kinds of activities or presentations or talks do you have planned for the event?
We think that it’s designed for anybody that’s buying, operating or investing in small business. If you can think on the one hand, there’s private equity and bigger companies and more formality to it. That’s probably not for folks coming to the Bash. That’s not our world. We’re definitely like capital E in ETA, entrepreneurship and small business, smaller, hairier sort of family owned businesses. So, anybody in that world, anybody who’s on SMB Twitter, anybody who’s on search funder and is a searcher or a soon-to-be searcher, that’s the place for you, is to come to the Bash.
This is going to be hopefully a lot of off the record conversations. There’s a lot of folks that are trying to get into this world and trying to figure out what’s it like to actually own a business and run a business and invest in the business. I think this will be a great chance to have that random conversation with somebody you’ve been talking with for a year on Twitter, and do it at 11 o’clock at night in a hotel lobby after two or three drinks, and the filter will come off.
I’ll get myself in trouble for saying that but all the conferences I’ve ever been to in my life, it’s the after-hour stuff that you really learn and have fun with. So, we’re hoping to sort of bring the after-hours kind of conversation to the during-the-hours conversation.
Are there some other ways to do that? Like you mentioned clothing, I’m curious if even banning suits, for example, would make people more comfortable to share more? But what are some small elements you might be able to do to get sharing going a little bit faster?
It’s a great question. I think we definitely want to limit the size. We’re not in this to make money. We’re not in this to advertise that we got 200 people in a hotel conference room. I think that’s lame and there’s a bunch of those. We’re in this to have fun with our friends that we met on the internet. And that’s crazy, but it’s really the only reason for doing this because like you, Alex, I’ve never met you in person. I’ve never met literally any of the people you’ve had except for one on your podcast in person.
And I want to meet those guys and girls in person and have fun. I want to play golf with a lot of the … There’s a bunch of people who play golf on SMB Twitter, which was to my surprise. And it would be so fun instead of going and sitting in a formal conference room with them and talking about EBITDA multiples to go play around the golf with them and to stay up late and catch up and hear the real version of what they’re doing. Because conferences are formal, and we don’t want to be.
I’m curious about this other incubator idea that you’ve been working on for a little bit. I’d love for you to explain just a little bit about what that is and who the target audience is for that. It sounds like a pretty exciting next step for Pursuant. I’d love to hear a little bit more about it.
On the one hand, the Bash is just for fun. It’s to scratch a personal itch of mine and Brandon’s and Matt’s. And it’s meant just to be fun and to build friendships hopefully forever. If we’re doing this for the next 30 years together, the thousand or so of us that are doing SMB, M&A, and search funds. Personal story here, my dad has an annual golf tournament that he’s run for 35 years. Can you imagine that? So, it’s kind of sad now because these guys are in their 70s and they’re slowing down. And suffice it to say, those after-hours cocktail parties are definitely taming down a little bit for them.
But to think that they’ve known each other for 35 years, and they’ve gotten to know each other’s families, and they have vacation together, and they’ve invested with one another. Different guys have run different businesses in that group of friends. That is what I want to have 35 years from now, and it just takes the first one to get started. So that’s the Bash.
But to your point about helping self-funded searchers, buying Alpha Dumpsters was a prototypical self-funded search deal. It was small. It was a hairy deal. It was in a blue collar industry. And it is amazing how popular self-funded search has gotten and how many people, the idea of buying and owning a company, how that resonates with them.
The problem is it’s really hard and most people who do a self-funded search don’t have any reps at it. They’ve never bought a business before. They’ve never done a deal. They’ve never done a transition. They’ve never run a small business, and I’ve had the fortune and the adventure of doing all the above. So, we want to share that process with self-funded searchers.
And in the last three months, we’ve helped two self-funded searchers buy companies and we’re their partner. We’ve done everything from help sourced the deal to help sort of send me operate it after close. And now that we’ve had a lot of reps of doing this, we think that we can offer that to a lot more searchers. So we’ve got an incubator and happy to share detail or we can wait until later to do that.
No, let’s do it. That’d be great. I’d love to hear a little bit more about that because you talked about experience before being deceptively valuable and how when you were young, you might have undervalued it. Now that you have that experience, how helpful can that be for the right searcher who’s ready to truly learn about running a small business and take over a new company and work with the seller and all those different things?
I think at the end of the day, what we’re really trying to do is help self-funded searchers get in the driver seat quicker into better deals and so that when they’re running that business, they have somebody to call that’s always going to pick up and say, “Hey, we’ve seen this a few times. Here’s what we would suggest.” But it’s still your business.
And so just to start to decipher between the traditional search fund and the self-funded searcher, we’re only going to work with self-funded searchers who are, they’re not being paid to search. They are not a hired gun for big investors. What they are, is a soon-to-be-owner operator that’s going to own a controlling interest in their business. So, we’re only going to incubate self-funded searchers to the philosophy of flexibility and control that business for the searcher, that’s the framework for the entire incubator.
Only self-funded searchers, they are going to retain control of their business and they’re going to have the flexibility to buy whatever kind of business that they’ve dreamed of buying. We just want to help them do that.
If you have a new searcher coming into the program, what do the multiple steps look like for them joining in and then eventually acquiring?
Keep it simple, stupid, is the way I try to remind myself to be. Step one … And to be clear, there is no cost to this. In the world of SMB, whenever you’re trying to sort of sell a product or a course or whatever, I think we went down that road and realized that it just isn’t a good fit for small business world. This is a no cost, no fee. We just want a reason to partner with more self-funded searchers and help them be successful.
Step one, application. We are going to preflight self-funded searchers with our investors and with our SBA lenders because we think it’s important before people get started that we know that they can be successful getting an SBA loan. So these are our SBA loan deals.
And then step two is where the fun starts. We’re going to have a boot camp. We’re going to have folks in our incubator come down to Tampa, Florida. We’re going to open up the office. We’re going to put all this in the room together, and we’re going to spend four days going through the entire search fund process. But really with an emphasis on that first step of, I found the deal I like through closing because for the folks who want to work with, this might be the first time they’re doing an M&A transaction. So that’s the scary part.
And then we’re going to mix in there the very front end how to search and on the very back end, how to transition a business away from the owner. But the core emphasis is how do you get a deal done. So that would be the boot camp. And then we are actually going to provide self-funded searchers with a deal team. We think back to when we were self-funded searchers, the idea of having to hire a lawyer, a banker, an insurance agent, a quality of earnings provider and a tax accountant, it was mind-blowing how to do all that.
So, we’re teed it up already. We have the folks that we already worked with on our transactions. Already teed up, they’re going to be here in person and they’re going to be very searcher friendly in their pricing and their terms so that when our searchers leave the boot camp, they’ve got a deal team. And then they go home and they continue their self-funded search.
So eventually, of course, there is an economic component to this. Where does that initial investment get recouped in the Pursuant model?
It’s really simple again. We do not want to take a dime from a searcher until he or she closes on a business because until you close on a business, having been there, you just don’t feel like you’ve had success as a searcher. And it’s such a binary outcome that it wouldn’t make sense for us to have any economic benefit unless searcher has a closing.
The way we’ll do it is very simple, two ways. We’re going to take a fee at closing, as a percentage of the closing purchase price and that will recoup our time, our resources, what it cost to run the boot camp and the incubator. And then two is when we write an equity check into the searcher’s deal, we’re going to get a two and a half times step up on that investment. And it’s actually fairly normal in the search fund world for that step up to exist, so this is really not a whole lot more of an economic benefit to us. Again, we just want to partner with more self-funded searchers. It’s selfishly a way for us to do more transactions.
Yeah, absolutely. Is there a fund behind this or you’re going to fund it just through other business proceeds and cash flow?
Great question. So, our intent is for Pursuant to write a $50,000 check into every one of our searcher’s deals. So that’s cash out of my pocket. But I’ve got to keep it relatively name-free for now but we’re really friendly with a lot of the folks who are investing in self-funded searchers around this country. I’ve had the benefit of sharing deal flow and notes and war stories with … There’s probably four or five folks that we’re really friendly with. They are investing in a lot of self-funded searchers domestically.
And so obviously, we’d love to bring them in. Those conversations aren’t that far along yet, but we also think that with our self-funded searchers that we could be the entire equity check in their deals. Now, that might not be Pursuant but I think we can facilitate that at raise for them.
Got you. You would syndicate each search deal among the group of investors who know Pursuant and want to work with you.
That’s right. It’s no guarantee. I want to be clear about that. I still think that every self-funded searcher needs to have the energy and the willingness to go raise equity for their deal but we will be alongside them for that process and help them do that.
How large do you imagine usually these cohorts would be?
Three to five, three to seven people. I think five is the right number for a lot of reasons. I think it’s small enough to be … We don’t want this to be a course over four days. We want this to be interactive and then selfishly working with five people at a time is about the limit of our capacity over here. And then lastly, these cohorts, that’s a fancy word but there’s got to be a reason of benefit to them besides having work with us. I think there was a benefit to them all being similar in some way.
So our first cohort would be just Florida searchers. People either based here in Florida or targeting companies in Florida if they live elsewhere because that’s a really big benefit to them to all be kind of working in the same geographic area for deal flow and for all sorts of reasons.
I love also the fact that it’s in person instead of all over Zoom calls or something like that. It’s kind of actually SMBash, there’s a very positive benefit to being in person with people, and I think some of that has started to show through COVID. And so it’s nice to see leaders pull those folks over into Tampa to run that in person. I think that’s going to be pretty fun.
It will be, can’t wait. Lots of after-hours dinners, and just getting to know each other personally too. There’s just a lot of benefit to having these groups of people working together doing the same things. I think everybody knows there are so many small businesses out there that the idea that we might be tripping over one another, it’s just kind of comical.
Yeah, I do have a sense for just from the deals you’ve worked with and Alpha Dumpsters, the true scale of the SMB world.
I’m not sure. It’s hard, right, because all I ever do was search in Florida and all I ever do was search for small, sort of old economy businesses. But I think only once or twice did I ever run across a business that another searcher was also looking at. So to me, that says the scale is enormous. What’s really interesting is how popular search has become. Two years ago, I think those of us searching were kind of considered crazy for having been doing it but now, it just seems like everybody wants to leave their corporate gig to come buy a small business. And to be clear, it’s hard. It’s all I have to say.
You talked about that before how much more challenging running a small company is. That is so true that it’s so much harder than you think it is. And I’m not running a small … You could consider the podcast to be a business. I think the IRS and my accountant would say that, but I still don’t have employees. I don’t really have a huge customer list, a lot of vendors, team to manage. It’s a very, very, very simple business.
But just running the podcast and hearing from other owners about their businesses, you can quickly figure out that this is so much harder than you think it is. And I’ve definitely gotten an admiration and respect for owners as a result of running the podcast.
Me too. I wouldn’t do yourself a disservice by saying it’s not a real business. It really is. But I think when you have other people to manage and a team and a culture to build, that’s a lot of the challenge of running a small business that frankly, I don’t know if I was any good at.
And people who go from corporate careers and maybe even being in the sort of M&A deal community and they become small business owners, that’s the big change I think they struggle with because I did. It’s a totally different job. Nobody ever teaches you how to do it. And so I think selfishly, we’re trying to partner with in incubate searchers who have a fundamental leadership quality and leadership background whether it’s military, whether it’s consulting, whether it’s sort of core operations in a business.
I think there’s just a lot more value than you can bring having done those things in your background, and we can figure out the deal part of it. We can help with that. But knowing how to manage and lead, you’ve had a lot of folks on your podcast who are unbelievable managers and leaders, I tell you what, that is a skill.
It is definitely a skill.
This has been a really fulfilling couple of years. So, we’re really just trying to pay it forward by helping a lot of other people, other searchers do their own transactions to get in the driver seat of their small businesses. We got really lucky, so paying it forward on that advice and experience. It’s been fun to be able to do that a couple of times the last few months and just trying to help more folks do the same.
Yeah. Well, thank you for sharing a little bit of an update on … Actually a lot bit of an update on all your projects and businesses. I’ve been excited to have you again on the show. I’ll have to keep doing this periodically so we could get updates as the incubator grows and SMBash is held. And I presume it will be a successful one, and all these other things. I’ve been excited to have you again. I’ll look forward to having you again.
In this episode, Sam shares that they’ve sold Alpha Dumpsters, started an SMB conference in Orlando scheduled for February 3-6, 2022, and have started a search incubator.