On a plane last week, I read the book Raising the Bar by the founder of Clif Bar, Gary Erickson. Great book — particularly good at ideas around long-term investment.
Erickson wanted to manage his company in a way that was not aligned with traditional financing sources (banks, venture capitalists, private equity, etc.) and it was amazingly difficult for him to find financing that would allow him the flexibility he wanted. I wish my investment fund, Greybull Stewardship, had been around when he needed capital because we would have been a great fit for Clif Bar. Erickson uses the analogy of a road map of Switzerland with the large roads colored red and the much smaller roads colored white. The red roads are about the destination — the way he felt that banks and venture capitalists were focused on the exit. White roads were focused on the journey, which is how he preferred to manage his company so that they were focused on success today and over the long-term and not toward some magical moment of exit. He writes, “I believe that many people sell because they think they have to.”
Ultimately, Erickson never sold his company or took venture financing and retained 100% ownership. This allowed him to pursue an unconventional path of tremendous business growth. He has a clear and articulate voice for a different way of looking at business, at investment, at business growth, and exit that is worth listening to. To Erickson, “shareholder value is long-term stewardship or sustainability.”
If you find yourself in a similar situation, my investment fund Greybull Stewardship is a good answer. We can provide financing and funding without forcing a particular growth rate or exit strategy, but allow you to pursue the path for your business that makes sense for you.