Every morning, as the sun starts to peer through her bedroom window, Lisa anxiously reaches for her phone. For the past hour, her sleepless mind has been scrolling through the list of tasks awaiting her at the office. She has been steadily climbing the ranks of her corporation and this nonstop dedication was the price she paid for it.
As an ambitious young graduate, what kept her going was a dream of joining the top ranks of her company. She is almost there. She frequently interacts with the first line of command, who hold her in high esteem due to her expertise and dedication.
Yet, Lisa is not satisfied. She goes to bed and wakes up acutely aware of the weight of unrealized dreams resting heavily on her shoulders. Even if she were to become the CEO of her corporation, she has come to realize that her inner turmoil would persist. Because she is consumed by a burning desire for something more. That “something more” is ownership. It’s the sense of autonomy, pressure, and return on investment for her time that comes with ownership but eludes even the highest level employees in successful corporations.
While Lisa is not a real person, she represents the many individuals who share a similar longing—a desire for financial freedom and mastery over their destiny. The following narratives, while fictional, represent numerous stories we’ve heard from searchers while building Private Market Labs. We put this piece together to illustrate the very real journey many undertake to escape the rat race through buying a business that aligns with their expertise and passion.
There is nothing new about these stories.
What is new is that business ownership is more attainable than ever before. While owning and growing a business is very difficult, ample opportunity exists for people to achieve their goals through careful application of their own expertise.
Private Market Labs exists to help make this possible through the lens of entrepreneurship through acquisition. When people take the leap, they can find the leadership, independence, risk and pressure they crave. We hope you can see yourselves in these stories and feel motivated to start your own search. While it’s not easy, and success isn’t guaranteed, owning a small business can be a pathway towards personal and professional satisfaction.
Mike: construction project management to owning a contractor
Having spent most of his career in construction project management for large firms, Mike understood the real estate market and various risk profiles for different construction projects. He focused his search on construction contractors with a diversity of commercial and government projects, using his knowledge to connect with the seller and intermediary, making them feel comfortable with his vision for the future.
Angela: healthcare administration to owning an elder care facility
Angela understood the complexities of healthcare finance, insurance reimbursement rates, and negotiations with physicians groups at her job as a mid-level administrator at a large hospital system. She knew she wanted to stay in healthcare with her acquisition, and paired her knowledge of the industry with a passion for caring for others to purchase an elder care facility. She successfully navigated the negotiation process by personalizing her approach around her experience caring for her mother. After the acquisition, Angela was able to find cost efficiencies immediately, growing cash flow while maintaining the company’s standard of care.
Adrian: vehicle sales to auto parts manufacturing
As a skilled salesperson with a passion for cars, Adrian thrived working for a large local auto dealership. However, he didn’t love the variability of the commission-based compensation structure, which depended on selling cars even during periods of economic downturn. Seeking more consistency for his family, Adrian decided to move upstream and acquire a small auto parts manufacturer with consistent customers. His knowledge of cars, combined with his sales experience, helped him secure new contracts for the firm, growing revenue.
Maria: startup marketing to digital advertising
Having worked in marketing at a number of venture-backed startups, Maria was interested in owning her own success as a contractor in the space. Located in Boston with two children in school, she was location-constrained, but flexible in terms of the location of her clients. Rather than starting a marketing agency from scratch, Maria built connections with local business intermediaries and was sent a listing for a successful digital advertising firm. The acquisition allowed her to generate income for her family from the start. Her experience in the startup world was a selling point for both her seller negotiations and with potential clients as she moved into the operations phase.
James: an opportunistic buy
The son of entrepreneurs, James grew up around small businesses, though he never intended on building one himself. However, that changed when a client of the consulting firm he worked for mentioned that a friend was looking to sell her accounting practice. Intrigued, James took a closer look – he analyzed the business and also conducted a personal SWOT analysis to get a better sense of his own personal aspirations. Determining that his financial skills were up to the task, James negotiated a purchase agreement with the business owner and stepped into his new role within 6 months.
Emily: using community to find her perfect business
Emily was interested in becoming a small business owner in the food and beverage distribution industry, but didn’t have an MBA or private equity background. She learned about the search process through online resources on Searchfunder and through the Private Market Insights podcast. Knowing that it would be difficult for her to search alone, Emily joined several groups designed to support women searchers, where she found a helpful community. In fact, she ended up buying a business, a logistics firm that was originally found by another member of her community and passed on to her. She then used her connections to help new community members in their searches, sharing her knowledge with others.
Ahmed: a platform play
Ahmed, with a rich background in business services, was ready to move into a position of leadership in his career, and decided that small business ownership was the right pathway forward for him. As a father with a mortgage, Ahmed was both geographically constrained and needed to work full-time while searching. To maximize his efficiency, he turned to the Private Market Labs platform. There, he was able to conduct a targeted search based on his thesis. Within 3 months, Ahmed discovered a consulting firm in his area of expertise that was positioned for success but lacked the leadership to scale.
Sara and Tom: a partnered search
As close friends and business school classmates, Sara and Tom knew that they wanted to start a business together. They worked well as a team: Sara’s tech-savviness and analytical brain paired perfectly with Tom’s skills with sales and operations. However, they had a problem – neither had a startup idea they felt was good enough to pursue. In the fall, a professor convinced them to attend an entrepreneurship through acquisition conference hosted by their business school. There, Sara and Tom learned about ETA for the first time and made connections with large search fund accelerator programs sponsored by top tier investors. When they ultimately decided to pivot from startups to buying a business, those investor connections were ready, giving them access to tools such as Private Market Labs, along with connections and advice.
Alex: a mission-driven rollup
Alex, a mid-career professional with a passion for art was looking for a reset – he wanted to more deeply align his day-to-day work with the cause he felt most passionate about: providing access to the arts for communities across the country. Having discovered the search process through a friend who bought a business on Private Market Labs, Alex decided he was ready for a change. He started by buying a business, a small, cash-flowing theater in his local community, using his skills and hiring financial experts to grow profits over several years. He then reinvested those cash flows into an equipment rental business for theater productions, followed by several additional theaters in adjacent cities, and a regional PR agency. As he grew his rollup, Alex’s economies of scale and community impact also expanded.
Buying a Business to Escape the Rat Race
Searching for a business is deeply personal. For people willing to deal with the stress, long hours, and risk associated with being a small business owner, buying a business with existing cash flows can help maximize your chances of success. If you see yourself in these stories, we encourage you to keep exploring.
The world of search is no longer reserved to MBA graduates, as anyone equipped with the right mindset and determination can thrive as a business owner and take control of their professional destiny. Leverage your professional know-how, find your strengths and opportunities, engage with platforms that streamline your search, and find the right opportunity for your unique skills profile.