The best part of Greybull Stewardship for me is working with the people at the portfolio companies once the investment is done. The initial discovery process is fun — meeting the management for the first time, understanding what has made the company successful, and exploring the future possibilities. That is great.
Co-owners follow the investment
Then, there is the step of making the investment that is like crossing the desert to reach the promised land.
The investment process is just a means to an end — I am not a “deal guy” — not like some people who thrive on the intensity of the deal itself. The deal is a lot of working with lawyers, thinking about worst case scenarios, “trusting but verifying” during the diligence process, spending silly money on things to just cover your bases that you know are not really big risks (but you don’t want to be the idiot who didn’t double-check something), and being on the opposite side of the table from the management I respect and can’t wait to work with.
These last few months have been heavy on the deal side for me. One investment was made and announced (Murphy Business), one made and not yet announced, and three more to close in July and August. Frankly, that is too many at one time for me. However, I am doing it because they are all nice businesses with people who I enjoy. This is the “investment” part of the job for me — putting in the time and money to get to the good part.
Co-owners — the good part
After the investment is made, working with our co-owners of these portfolio companies is the most fun of all. The Greybull portfolio companies are excellent businesses which means there are many more positive surprises than negative surprises. Don’t tell the management of these companies, but there is nothing better than seeing awesome financial results roll in (my only role was the easy one of cheering on these all-stars)! Even the larger decisions are fun and interesting. Smart people around the table bringing their life and business experience to the challenge at hand is enjoyable.
When I bought the National Holistic Institute in 2003 with my good friend and business partner, Tim Veitzer, we quickly realized that the best part of that business is the people. Many excellent, talented, and inspiring people work at NHI and have worked there over the years. One person who has a large impact on NHI over the years is Jim O’Hara. His personality and insights are stamped through the organization from his wisdom that has become part of the culture such as his “Tell the Truth with Compassion” and his phrase that “NHI is everybody’s dojo” space where we all learn life lessons. His calm, grounded influence has played a very important role in NHI’s success and growth over the years. The school and its graduates would not have fared as well without Jim’s presence.
That is why I read Jim’s memoir as soon as it was published last month. In the Land of Shiva is about his seven years in India and Nepal setting up a new endeavor for an order of Catholic Brothers. It is a wonderful book full of entertaining stories and large and wise observations about people and life. It is rare to find someone who can observe life’s happenings, place them into a larger, thought-provoking context, and write well to convey them to others. With Jim, we have all of the above. If you are up for an opportunity to learn from a wise man, you cannot do better than reading Jim’s memoir.