Careers as Asset Classes
.. a repost from 2020 with some thoughts on bringing sexy back
We recently read a LinkedIn post from Scott Galloway, Professor of Marketing at NYU Stern School of Business, who opined “careers are asset classes – don’t go where it’s over-invested…. if a sector becomes overinvested with human capital, the returns on those efforts are suppressed.”
When we started Chenmark, we wanted to build a self-sustaining organization that generates plentiful free cash flow and provides excellent, uncorrelated financial returns over the long-term. But, we didn’t want to compete with all the super smart, super well-funded people doing start-ups in Silicon Valley or Private Equity in New York. There’s no way we would win that game. We figured if we focused on acquiring small operating businesses in unsexy spaces (like landscaping in Maine), at the very least, we wouldn’t have a lot of competition. For us, that means we have the potential to truly be best-in-class and enjoy the benefits of that position along the way. It’s akin to recognizing that it’s probably easier to go to the Olympics playing field hockey than swimming, but at the end of the day, you still went to the Olympics, and that’s all that matters.
Apart from thinking of careers are asset classes, Galloway’s post also included a graphic that proposes fulfillment is inversely correlated with the sexiness of any given job. The premise of the graphic is simple: jobs that seem on their surface to be the sexiest are, in reality, the furthest from being fulfilling. Fulfillment is a multifaceted word–one that likely means different things to different people. For some, it is the reward of personal achievement, for others, it is the accountability and accomplishment of teamwork. Whatever it means for you, it is important to find it in your work.
Sometimes people think of Chenmark as an investment firm and think that working with us means sitting in an office doing financial analysis all the time. While that is a component of what we do, the reality is that the vast majority of the value add at Chenmark comes from the operations that fuel our free cash flow generation. Whether it is troubleshooting errors in your ERP system, handling an unruly customer, counting inventory parts by hand, or updating depreciation schedules ahead of insurance renewals, once on the ground, few confuse the hard work we do as being sexy.
But we’re ok with that. Working at Chenmark has been the most professionally fulfilling thing we have done in our career to date, more so than the “sexy” jobs we have had previously. In fact, we find fulfillment in bringing the sexy back to the unsexy, and we enjoy working with those who do too.
Have a great week,
Your Chenmark Team