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CRE Insights Blog

Saved by Eagle Scout Angle & Deal Structure


Richard C. Wilson recorded this video at a Family Office Conference he attended in Phoenix AZ recently. Hello. It’s Richard Wilson for the Family Office Club. I just wanted to share with you a bad thing that just happened to us in the business. I think people often like to brag about good things and you think like, “Oh, everything just must be going amazing for them all the time and they never make a big mistake or nothing really bad ever happens,” so I just want to share some of the bad stuff as well and kind of just document what we’re doing at the Family Office Club instead of just sharing best practices and things to emulate. Basically what happened is we made an investment in an operating business. It grew. We actually got in there inside the business owning a big chunk of the equity, tripled the size of it in under a year. And then for personal reasons, our counterparty, the other person that held the rest of the equity, basically had a life meltdown. Not sure how else to put it, but they just had completely stressful things happen to them personally and they just could not operate the business any more. So that was a bit of a painful lesson. But a couple couple of things have come out of that. One is … Some of you might know I’m a third-generation eagle scout, and just treating people the right way and being somewhat humble and just appreciative that everyone’s a human being and that things happen that you didn’t plan for helped in this case. You know, treating the partner right from the very beginning, and then every turn being able to look at them in the face and say, “Hey, we’ve never cut a corner. Never lied to you. We’ve never skipped on something that we told you we’d you. We’re always transparent and honest. We ran into a challenge along the way,” has allowed us to be treated well at this juncture, because there was a point at which we were potentially starting to not be treated well. I said, “Hey, look, I understand you’re going through a tough time. Please just keep in mind we still wish you the best and we’re here in case you want to work together in the future or work together on a future project or another company that you run or the same opportunity down the road even though we’re unwinding the current investment and company because of the personal situation,” they’re going through. That’s really helped us in getting our money back out of the investment. We’ll actually end up getting probably a 20%, 25% return on our money over just a six-month holding period. So obviously it could have gone a lot worse, but I think it came close to us losing 75% of our investment if it wasn’t for that kind of eagle scout just-be-a-good-person angle. And also the second point I want to get across: when we came into the partnership we very carefully structured it so that we had a strong position on the cap table and we were an equal equity holder with the founder of the business. Fortunately, the business was early enough on … just a three-year old business that hadn’t been highly formalized, so the person needed a lot of business intelligence, business navigational help. And because of that, we’re able to help establish, form a new LLC, and get in there at an equal level in forming documents for the company. That’s pretty rare. Usually family offices and myself are looking at companies that … This next deal we’re trying to get done is a 17-year old business. It’s much more highly formalized and doing millions a year in revenue. That’s not always an opportunity, but when you can, to get on equal footing with the other people in the cap table and be treated seriously as a partial partner or owner of the business is very critical.

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Richard Wilson