Trish Higgins was the guest on my very first podcast episode and was kind enough to share her time with me when I had no downloads, no show, and no website. Funny enough, that first episode is still my most downloaded episode to date. A lot has happened since then and I’m very excited to have Trish on the show for a second episode. In this episode, we cover Trish’s recent move to the operating side, how Chenmark has evolved including what’s become easier and more difficult over time, and we dive briefly into landscaping.
For those listeners interested in eventually operating your own company, Chenmark has begun recruiting future operators into existing leadership roles at current portfolio companies where they will be trained for eventually running a future portfolio company. If this is interesting to you, I highly recommend reaching out to Trish. Finally, Chenmark writes a weekly newsletter called Weekly Thoughts about their views on investing and operating small companies, behavior and psychology, and concepts from other disciplines that can be brought over to business. I’ve been a reader for years and I’ve found it extremely valuable. Go to Chenmark Capital’s website to subscribe.
Thank you to Traction Capital Partners for supporting the podcast and making it easier than ever to create new episodes. Traction acquires companies in the Pacific Northwest with between $1-5m in EBITDA and has acquired two companies to date. Visit their website or contact one of the partners, Justin Turner, directly to learn more.
In the Yale case study that I’ll link to in the description, it said that you’re going to take over as the CEO of a new portfolio company. Is that still the plan?
That has happened. That is active right now.
Excellent. How is it going?
It is going well. So we bought a… Well, this is just proof that we’re not particularly smart. We bought a tourism business on February 28th, 2020, which you could imagine didn’t really feel great by March 28th of 2020. But overall, it’s actually been good, and it’s really nice to be a longterm owner because I think longterm, the company has some really interesting characteristics and is something we are excited about owning. It’s a sightseeing, whale watch puffin kind of eco-tourism business, boat tour business based up here in Maine. It’s very, very straightforward. It takes tourists out on boats to see puffins, which some people are really, really into, as well as whale watching, harbor cruises, or scenic tours. It’s an incredibly stable business. It is a very profitable business, and those are two things we really like to see.
So it’s about an hour north of where we live here, and I’m the one who found the deal and led the deal process. The owner was very much looking to retire, and we said… Maybe we could have convinced him to stay around for a year or two, but we didn’t really have anybody internally we felt like would be a good fit for it, and I said, “Hey, I’d love to run it and have the opportunity to be in the seat and be an operator.”
It’s been super fun. So the first couple of months were really about seeing if we would be able to open up and under what circumstances due to COVID. We opened up in mid-June, and we have limited capacity. So usually, our boats take out 150 people. So they’re quite large. This season, we’re limited to 50 because of the government restriction. So I wouldn’t say it’s going to be like a banner financial year, but I think we’ll still end up being profitable, which is great. As long as it’s sunny, we sell out, which is great.
It’s been fun to just be… take everything that we do at Chenmark, but then not necessarily be the one telling people about it, but being the one just doing it myself, and I’ve got a really awesome team. Something that I stumbled into, and they’ve been really great. I feel like the fact that we stepped into the acquisition and then hit COVID, the team is probably closer than it would be otherwise because of it. So yeah, that’s what I’ve been focusing on doing and we’ll be focusing on for this season at the very least. So it’s been fun. It’s been really fun.
Yeah. It sounds like it. So with you and Palmer both now running companies, is this… I’m thinking about what this is a reflection of. Is this a reflection of you guys wanting more hands-on operating experience to just get that learning curve going, or is this more of it was hard to find candidates to replace the owner/CEO, or is there something else with the change of strategy going on?
So I think a little bit of both. In Palmer’s situation, it was more… I don’t want to say like force transition, but he was very, very familiar with the companies or things weren’t working out with the person that we’d recruited to run the company, and so we felt like we had to make a change. We didn’t feel like there was anyone internal at the company, and Palmer seemed like a really good fit, and so he stepped into the role and initially just said like for the first season and year, and then we’ll figure things out. Right now, he’s saying, “Well, I can add the most value to Chenmark in this role because I see quite a great, good, solid pathway to growth and value creation in this role.”
Then, in my case, it was… So when Palmer took that role, then I became Head of Deals. There’s two things. One is that there will be certain deals that I have zero interest in running, and then there were certain ones that I’ll be like, “Oh, this is like really… It sounds like a lot of fun, and I could see myself doing that.” So that was just more a personal interest sort of thing, and I think that given that we want to do this for a long time, we said like… I think it would be good for all of us to be in the seat at some point because it is different, suggesting versus the one doing and being able to see both sides of the coin. I think Palmer, we saw with his situation, him being in the CEO seat gives him a lot of credibility when talking to other CEOs or operators because we’re not just like investors that are out to lunch and have no idea what’s going on. So that was one part of it.
The other part is we certainly, I think over the past like two years, realized we really need to spend more time on developing talent, and what we want going forward is that we don’t want to be in a situation where… Well, there’s two situation. One is that we have a deal that we really like, but we don’t have a person to run it. Then, the other side of that is that we have a company that we own, but we don’t like the person running it, but we don’t have any options. We don’t want to be in either of those situations, so we said, “All right. How do we fix that problem?”
That’s a problem that takes a couple years to fix, and what we really want is people who come and work for us at Chenmark first and that we really get to know them, they get to know us. We develop a level of trust. Then, we have that person go and work in a leadership role in one of our companies. COO, CFO, head of sales, something like that. Then, that person, as we acquire new companies, becomes the CEO of that company. So what we want is the ability to… anybody who’s in a senior leadership role for new acquisitions that they’re people that have been trained in the way we like to think, in the way we like to run things.
That is also a part of it for us is us having the experience. But then, also, us starting to generate our own talent internally so that if I want to go off and do something else, or Palmer does, or anything like that happens, or we find a new company, that we have our own talent pipeline. We’re still building it out, but we have one person who’s come in to be COO is now CEO of a company. We’ve had one person who came to work for us now a CFO of another company, and then two people who are working here right now that I think very shortly will probably go on to be senior leaders in our company. So it’s a little bit of just… We want everybody to be able to play in both worlds.
How do you find these candidates who you think would be good eventual operators and you feel confident that if you can train them and give them some extra skills, that they have the personality and drive to figure it out and learn how to be a CEO one day? How do you find those people, and then how do you evaluate them?
Well, they listen to your podcasts, and then they email me. Then, they say they want a job. Well, seriously, it’s a little bit of everything. Some of it has been just in connecting. The two people we just hired are just coming out of business school, and they happen… One is the guy who wrote the Yale case on us. So we got to know him through that endeavor, and then…
Yeah, which is great. Then, another guy is somebody who has family ties to Maine and I had met at an event he organized a couple of years ago, and kept in touch while he was at business school, and then connected with us afterwards. So it’s a lot of more the ad hoc recruiting. I think we get people who email in all the time saying, “Hey, I’m interested in joining,” or, “I’m interested in doing something else.” That’s a little bit kind of… still business, but a little bit off the beaten path of the traditional bulge bracket experience. So we usually have a conversation with anybody who reaches out to us, and keep them in the file, and reach out to them.
For us, it’s more about finding the right people than it is about hiring one person every year or something like that. If we don’t find anyone we think is a good fit, we just won’t hire anyone. But if we find three people we think would be really great, then we’d probably try to make it work to hire all three. Right now, it’s been opportunistic, and for our size, that works because we’re only looking to hire a couple people here and there. We’re not really looking to hire 20 people or 50 people, or anything like that. So that works. It’s been working okay for us so far.
You’re now five years into running Chenmark. What’s gotten easier over the five years, and then what’s gotten harder? It sounds like talent is one that shifted back and forth a little bit.
I think the sourcing deals is easier than when we first started because I think we can approach people now more as business owners with a track record, and maybe they like our track record. Maybe they don’t, but at least we have people like they can talk to and say like, “We bought our business from that person. Go talk to them about how it went,” or, “Talk to the employees,” or any of that sort of thing. So I think we have a track record, and we’re real. So it helps for sure to be able to have conversations. Whereas before, when you’re first starting, I always tell this to searchers, unfortunately, it’s a lot easier to buy a company once you own a company. So that’s just the nature of it, and brokers or anybody, they just… It’s easier for them to work with us, and we also know what we’re doing.
I think the first time we did a deal, we had no idea what we’re doing. So it’s all just made up, but right now, we have some sense of what works for us, what doesn’t. All that. So I’d say that’s easier, harder… I think it can be harder now, and this is going to be any business. The communication across, even between like James, Palmer, and myself, or the people here, sometimes there’s so much stuff going on, especially with Palmer running his own company, me running my own company, James manning down the fort here at Chenmark, and everyone that’s working at Chenmark is reporting him. All that going on, I think sometimes things can get lost in the shuffle, and so we have to be better about carving out time for ourselves to talk about things and all that sort of stuff.
So it’s not a problem, but I’d say it’s harder because when we first started, James, Palmer, and I lived together, and we worked together. James and I had no kids, and so we just hung out all of every day together. So we just knew everything that was going on. Whereas now, if I see Palmer once a week, that’s great. Things are busier, but honestly, it’s all good. It’s all good. I’d take that as a trade-off.
What systems and not necessarily just communication, but what systems did you initially implement that you’ve had to scrap and turn into something else?
Yeah. We’ve tried a lot of different things. We had one false start with Slack. Now, we use it all the time across the company. So that’s pretty much our main mechanism of communication, and then when it’s busy, that’s really how we communicate with one another. Then, if there’s something we need to talk about, we say like, “Okay. We can have a meeting about such and such at a particular time.” James, Palmer, and I try to connect like weekly for a check-in meeting. I have to admit that since I started running this company, I’ve been the one that’s been delinquent in joining those meetings because I’ve been boots on the ground in our first busy season, and so I am 100% to blame for that.
That’s pretty much been it. We have a really nice tradition of like a Friday lunch meeting where everybody at the Chenmark team and anybody at the companies can dial in. That part of it is slowly expanding. So it started off as just Chenmark people, and we stole a little bit of this from a book called Traction, which is very popular with small business operators. We went through one training session, and then we just took part of it for ourselves and adjusted it. But we go through a quarterly goal setting process of saying like… Everyone just throws out like, “What’s the most important thing to have done in the next 90 days in the company?”
We just throw things out about what are… Not even in the 90 days, but just like, “What are important things going on with the company?” Then, we whittle it down to like, “What’s the most important thing to happen over the next 90 days?” Then, we assign them to different people who make them a little bit more like a smart goal. So like specific, measurable, attainable, something else goal, and then everybody has… and they’re called rocks. So then, everyone has their rock of the things that they’re trying to achieve over the next 90 days.
Then, when we touch base on Fridays, we started off, and people go one at a time. You say one good thing that happened personally, one good thing that happened professionally, and then you give a status update on your rocks. Then, we go around the table and do that. Sometimes it takes… somebody’s update might be three minutes long and sometimes somebody’s update might be 15 minutes long, depending on what’s going on, but we found that to be a really great way for our whole team to not only keep… There’s three good things. It brings us all together. It keeps us focused on the most important thing as opposed to the little distractions, so it’s like, “Are we moving forward on our key priorities of the company?”
But then, I really love how we share something that’s good that’s going on personally because then you get a sense of what’s going on in someone’s life outside of work. It’s a really good way for us to all get to know each other. So and so is going camping this week. So and so’s kid learned how to ride a bike. So and so is trying to learn how to bake bread, and they were great. Whatever, but especially during COVID and in a difficult time like that, it’s been a nice way for everybody to be forced to think about something good that’s going on in their life and then share it with everyone. So that’s been really, really great. So if anybody is ever in Portland, we always encourage them to share, join in on our Friday meeting, be part of that because it’s becoming a big part of our culture.
What other elements of culture have you tried to drive over the last five years that you found to be really effective in beyond Friday meeting that’s keeping people together in tune with what’s going on across the portfolio?
So I’ll give James pretty much… Palmer might disagree with me, but I’ll give James pretty much 99% of the credit for moving this, prioritizing the work on this and moving it forward. I think when we realized… We started, we bought some companies, and then we started thinking about like, “What do we need to do?” James in particular was like, “We can’t hold people accountable to actions unless we articulate what the standards are.” So like I might see somebody do something that I’m like, “Well, that’s just not right,” and James I think correctly said in a much more patient way. It’s like, “Well, unless we articulate what the values and standards are, we can’t really be upset if we feel like somebody is failing short of them because we haven’t told them what the rules of the game are.”
That kicked off, and again, he did 99% of the work on this, us thinking through like, “What our are values? What are we all about?” He wrote a lot, created presentations, all that sort of stuff, and then focused on like, “Now that we’ve got this all together, then how do we communicate it to all of our CEOs? How do we include it into performance reviews? How do we share it with the team? Then, what’s the balance between Chenmark values and PORTCO…” You can’t really super impose something on a company that’s been around sometimes for a company we just bought that’s been around since the 1930s. Right? So we can’t just come in and say like, “These are your values now.” Right? So then, what’s the intersection between those things?
I think that has been a huge project that’s taken multiple years and is still something that you have to live in terms of… I think the big part is making hiring decisions, for instance, or for even termination decisions. “So and so is not abiding by our values. Is there a spot for them on the team?” So that’s been a huge, huge part of it. I think it will really set us up well for the next five and plus more years, but is something that we are… has been a huge change for us.
Core values are: Play the long game. Keep score. So we care about how we’re doing relative to other, like things have to have score to know. We can’t be ambiguous, and that’s a big part of that. It goes into how we… us focusing on working, integrating data into everything we do. Another core value is chase better, and that is basically always striving to be better tomorrow than we were today. So we just have an unwavering belief in our and our team’s own potential and our ability to always get better, and then put the team first. We try not to have any superstars basically. We’re all just trying to do what needs to be done without any ego, and so we really try to create a team environment and all that sort of stuff. So I figured if I’m going to spend five minutes talking about my core values, I should probably actually tell you what they are.
With being at Chenmark on the holding company level, and developing these core values, and learning how to build culture, now that you’re in the operator’s shoes, do you have a special appreciation now for the difficulty in implementing, and keeping those values going, and just operating a business in general?
Yeah. I think it’s hard. I think it comes into play most… It’s like everything. It comes into play most during the difficult times. So if you feel like you’re a CEO and an employee isn’t abiding by the core values, but you don’t have anyone to replace them, what are you supposed to do, or there’s an ability to make some money short-term that isn’t great for longterm sustainability, what do you do? Frankly, some of those even just like intellectual questions, you can debate. I think the problem sometimes is when you’re operating, it’s just like you’re really busy just with like a lot of things that come up. The day-to-day can sometimes… You can say you have these sort of values. But then, you just get really busy on the day-to-day, and you’re not necessarily making decisions based on those values. Then, all of a sudden then, you don’t have any values.
So I think that you have to constantly remind yourself that instead of just reacting day to day to what’s going on, it’s like you have to pause a little bit, and then remind yourself of what your core values are first, and then start making decisions on how you want to spend your day, or how you want to make decisions, or any of that sort of thing. But I think a lot of people just like they wake up, and they just start going. I think that’s probably the fastest way to erode your values. It’s usually not like one thing they talk about in a business school case study. I think usually, it’s like an erosion of death by a thousand cuts sort of thing. So I think that’s one thing. I probably appreciate a bit more now than I did six months ago.
With you and Palmer being CEOs, the incentives for you as now managers or operators of companies is pretty straightforward since you have ownership over them. But for managers who don’t have that ownership and other portfolio companies, how do you incentivize them to keep those values, and then just drive a strong company?
I mean, one is just education and just consistency of talking about these things. Then, it’s including some of those things in a performance review. Then, from a more tangible perspective, we compensate everyone based on free cashflow, which is our core metric. People have the opportunity to purchase stock in Chenmark Holdings with their free cashflow bonus, assuming they generate free cashflow. So people are only going to want to invest in Chenmark Holdings if they believe in the values, and uphold the values, and are owners as well. So over time, I really hope that everybody who runs one of our companies and beyond just running it, but down through the company are owners, so there’s not as much of a delineation between like, “Well, I’m not an owner of the company. I’m just an employee.”
I really hope that we are able to… It’s not just Palmer and I. It’s a lot of other people who are saying like, “Oh, we’re all trying to build this together.” That’s starting to happen, and it will take a long time for that to really play out, but I think that that’s really going to be a big factor like, A, why somebody wants to come and work for us is because they have that opportunity, and then why someone keeps working for us is because they’re invested. They’re part of something that’s bigger than just their one individual role or company. They’re part of something that’s bigger, and we’re all trying to build it together.
How do you incentivize managers to send free cashflow back to Chenmark if there’s no good use for it internally? Is there a bonus like a percentage of free cashflow sent back, but then there’s also an incentive for them to invest in their company if there’s some project internally that has good prospects? How do you balance the two of those?
What we do is the free cashflow is based on the amount of equity that was invested in the business initially, and so as people kick cash back up, then the yield on there… Then, it’s like they’ve returned capital to us, and their ability to then have a higher split goes forward. Yeah. We basically have incented people to kick the cash back up. By doing so, they’re able to generate a higher bonus for themselves.
So with this travel company, you now have the dough company, travel, and then a few landscaping companies. You originally set out with the idea to build a diversified holding company under Chenmark. Is the landscaping focus just a comfort level with that industry, or is there some thesis you’re driving with landscaping companies?
So for landscaping, that happened I’d say partly by accident. Like we bought one company because we just liked the industry and we’re okay owning one company. But by owning one company, that generated deal flow towards us because people then knew like we bought companies in that space, and we got to know other people in the space, and we ended up getting opportunities that we wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. I think every one of our companies, we would be okay if that was just the only company we owned in landscaping.
Now, obviously, since we have more of a footprint, you start talking about, “Should we do more on landscaping? Should we not? What sort of synergies can you get between the companies?” All that sort of stuff, and we’ve taken a fairly decentralized approach because each of our companies is the top provider in their local market, and there’s value to that. So I think the worst thing we could do would be to take away that local market feeling from the company, and so we’ve really let every company run fairly independently, and then we do a lot of work on the backend to standardize like credit cards, and insurance, and banking, and some tech things, and whatnot.
We still look at landscape companies. I think that our bar, our standard for landscape companies is quite high now because we know a lot about the space and we know very specifically what we’re interested in and what we’re not, which is the benefit of having a couple of years of experience of owning the companies. We are a lot better at evaluating them than we were when we first bought them, and so I think we’re still, certainly would purchase more in that space, but we do really like the idea of building a diversified portfolio.
I think COVID really shows why that’s important. It’s like you never really know what’s going to happen in the world. Obviously, this tourism business we bought isn’t doing great this year. I do think it will do well over the longterm. But if for some reason we had been like super concentrated in tourism businesses, that would be really, really bad. Whereas right now, between a couple of these different sectors, we’re generally doing okay. So I think we like to look at everything along the lines of like, “Would we be okay with just owning this one company? If we just own that, would it be okay?” We don’t really like to say like, “Oh, well, we could buy more or we could consolidate it with something else,” or whatever. It might not be the most sophisticated way of thinking about it, but for right now, we just like to look at things on a case by case basis. The concentration in landscaping is just because there happened to be a couple of good deals that came along that we felt like we needed to make work.
With your bar now for landscaping being very high, what elements in any new landscaping deal do you look for now that you have lots of experience in this space?
We wouldn’t really look for anything that’s not in our area. So if we were going to buy something, we would want it to be contiguous with a region we already service. So that eliminates most of the country. We would be looking… and it gets nuanced. So there’s all the classic things, like one, you want like an actual org chart, not just a guy running around, doing a lot of work. For landscaping specifically, we’d really be looking at the contracts they have, and the structure of them, and how many years left are on them, like how are they actually pricing the work, how that’s all working.
Then, the big part. Not really so much in Maine, but in other areas particularly as you get further south, looking at the workforce is really important in terms of all the proper documentation, paperwork, and all that sort of stuff. It’s not necessarily people are doing things wrong on purpose, but there’s a lot of HR DOL paperwork that needs to happen, particularly when you have large entry-level workforces and a lot of that. Sometimes companies just… It gets lost in the busyness of work, and we don’t really want to spend our time doing that or cleaning that up, and so we really make sure that if we’re looking for companies, they really have good HR processes in place, they actually have an employee handbook, they have or doing things properly.
It doesn’t sound like those are really high standards, like have profitable contracts and employee records, but in landscaping, that’s not necessarily always the case. That part of it is just us. Finding a landscape company that has all of that is a little bit few and far between, particularly once you’re looking slightly larger companies. Right now, we’re not really looking at smaller companies because it’s a lot more effective for us just to grow into a new area than to buy contracts.
So then, you don’t roll up smaller companies underneath current landscaping companies?
So we have done some of that, and so I’ll make the… distinguish between landscaping and lawn care. So lawn care is just doing like fertilizer treatments to your lawn as well as like tick and mosquito control, and that’s mostly residential people’s backyards. That’s the company that Palmer grows, and that company can be quite inquisitive because it makes a lot of sense to buy contract in that space. In the landscaping space, which is more like mowing lawns, planting flowers, pruning trees, all that sort of thing, those businesses we have are much more commercial-focused and a larger customer size. In those ones, we have found generally, it doesn’t make us much sense to buy contracts. But in lawn care, it does. So lawn care will probably grow quite a lot through acquisition. Landscaping is really where we’re like it makes more sense for us to grow organically.
So why in landscaping is it not as advantageous to acquire contracts? Is there something specifically about landscaping vs lawn care that makes it more challenging?
Yeah. So lawn care is very, very standardized. So it tends to be… You’ve got five treatments a year for your customers are going. You’re doing the same thing every time pretty much. Everyone who works for you is a licensed technician. It’s a very standardized process, and what you really care about is the density of your route. So like you can have one guy do eight properties a day instead of three properties a day because he had to drive so far between them. So just buying some small operator’s client list in like an adjacent zip code makes a lot of sense.
In landscaping, contracts are really not standardized. They can really be wildly different. Typically, you’re better off just waiting to bid a new contract because often, people want to sell the contracts that aren’t profitable. Often, a smaller entity in landscaping will tend to have one owner/operator who’s doing a lot of the work and not necessarily paying himself or isn’t paying himself on the books anyways. So then, the amount that they want for you to purchase the contract is… The contract is actually worth more to them than it is to us. We’ve done it a couple of times. It just tends to be quite messy, and I’m not sure we’ve really added any value by doing it as opposed to just going to a new area and saying like, “We’re here now,” and go out, and try to win contracts ourselves.
Last episode, you talked about the Chenmark Carwash and a little bit of your playbook there, if you will. Within landscaping and lawn care, how has the playbook evolved, and is there a certain set of software systems that have become standardized across all your companies and any new landscaping companies you would acquire?
So the carwash hasn’t really changed much. It’s pretty much tech, finance, HR, marketing. So all those things are basically the same. In terms of systems, not really. I don’t remember the specifics of what we had when we talked. But right now, everyone is on the same HR system. So everyone gets up and running on that. We now have a director of technology, someone who works with him, and so I’d say our tech onboarding process is much more streamlined and standardized than it has been in the past. So that’s much more centrally managed now, which is really great.
Finance. I wouldn’t say we have any systems necessarily that are off-the-shelf type systems for that. We thought about trying to get everyone on the same system. I think, to be honest, the idea of that created more trouble than I think it’s worth. What we care about is just the output, not necessarily the system because some people might have a great system using QuickBooks Online. Somebody else, like the company I run, we use Xero. They’re both perfectly fine systems. We don’t need to be on some same system. What we really need is an Excel of the financial reports that gets output, and then we’ve created our own system where things get aggregated. So we haven’t really standardized financial reporting systems or anything like that across the board because it just doesn’t seem worth it.
So within landscaping and lawn care specifically for routes and project management, what kind of software do you use now? Is there a software that you take a picture after the work is done and that gets sent to the client? What systems have you found to be really effective?
So in lawn care, we use a company called Reel Green, but that’s an industry-specific system. You do routing, customer communication. All of that sort of stuff. Landscaping. We use a company called… All of our companies are on the same system called Aspire that let you do proposals in there, labor hour tracking, all of that as well as customer communication. I’m not sure how much is actually being used on the customer communication side, but that’s really how people are… everything in terms of operating the business is going through that. For the tourism business, we use a company called Fair Harbor for all of our ticketing and reservations. They’ve been great, so I’ll give a shout-out to Fair Harbor. They’ve been really good, so.
Centralizing back office functions, it sounds like, with accounting software, at least as an example, there’s benefit to keeping that stuff at the company level rather than standardizing it all in one central location. Is there some element of just control or behavioral benefits to letting companies have control over their systems rather than you taking that away from them and perhaps taking it off their hands, but they don’t have as much transparency into that system as they would if they control it themselves?
I’d say we’re pretty big believers in decentralization. So I feel like if I took over landscape company somewhere else’s back office processing, I probably wouldn’t do a very good job at it. I think they can do a better job at it than we could. It might mean inefficiencies in the sense that maybe you have two people doing some of the same things, but we feel like unless people are in the field owning the system, then we can’t really hold them accountable to it. I might have a different opinion if all we owned was landscape companies, but we don’t. If we wanted to own 20 companies that were all in different spaces, how would you do that? You can’t centralize the back office processes for all of those things. I think you have to leave it to the companies.
I think that, honestly, the people who want to run those companies want to own that as well because they want to own the process and be held accountable for the results. So we don’t really ever foresee the Chenmark team, like at HQ for lack of a better word being that big because we don’t really want to do a lot of that work. We want the companies to do that work because then, they can own the results, good or bad. I think that’s what talent wants is they want ownership, right? Yeah. That’s how we think about it, and nothing is really changed. That makes us feel like we should do anything that differently.
Is there a challenge for the next five years of Chenmark in terms of just scaling or improving that is the number one or number two challenge you see over the next few years?
I’d say the number one priority is talent, and this sort of talent pipeline we’re trying to build is continuing. I think that’s the most important thing for us. It will be a challenge, but it’s also opportunity. That same thing. So getting people in to work with us out to the companies, find new companies, have those people lead the companies, have them do a good job at that, and prove that cycle I think will really be what the next five years is all about. I think that if we can really build that, I think we’ll have something that is really cool because I think a lot of people will want to do that because I also think that as we build something like that, it doesn’t necessarily mean like, “Oh, you’re going to be the CEO of X Company for the next 30 years or whatever.” Maybe you can go from being the CEO to that, and maybe you want to go be the COO of something else or maybe a CEO of another company that pops up or whatever.
So I think we can offer… As we grow, we can offer more flexibility and a really, I think, interesting career path for people, especially younger people who are looking for something a little different. But doing that and building that, I can guarantee, will be a messy process, and I’m sure that there will be some things that we do that seem to work really well, and there will be other things that we do that fail really miserably and we’ll learn from. Either putting the wrong person in the wrong… Well, really, we’ll be putting the wrong person on the wrong seat. I think that’s really the most important thing we have to do for the next five years. Our biggest challenge, but biggest opportunity for sure.
Thank you for sharing again for a second episode. This was awesome. I’m glad I got to do a followup one.
Yeah, absolutely. Thanks for asking me. I feel like it’s been a while since we chatted in Boston in the cafeteria section of where we’re at, the Hancock Center. So hopefully, another couple of years from now, we can do another update one, and all these things will have played out. Look forward to… Maybe we’ll get you at the Friday meeting next time we’re able to travel and be normal again.
That’d be awesome. Definitely looking forward to that.
Trish Higgins was the guest on my very first podcast episode and was kind enough to share her time with me when I had no downloads, no show, and no website. A lot has happened since then and I’m very excited to have Trish on the show for a second episode.