There’s only one way to write a symphony
When we started Chenmark, we were urged to talk to those with more experience to get help and insight. We did the right thing and conducted some of those meetings…and promptly did exactly the opposite of what many told us to do. We started a business as a husband-wife-brother-in-law team when no investor would touch us. We decided to build a portfolio of small businesses when that was considered unwise. We decided to do a C-Corp despite being told it made no sense from a tax perspective.
We also hired a big-business person into a small-business setting (it didn’t work out well). We put together a compensation structure that incentivized EBITDA, not free cash flow (yes, that was dumb). We rationalized red flags heading into deals and were then disappointed when those red flags led to real issues (that didn’t feel good). We forgot to account for the heavy seasonality of working capital in our initial deal model (yes, that hurt). We were seduced by the siren song of a low acquisition multiple for a messy business (that really hurt).
We are not perfect. We have made myriad mistakes. So many mistakes. Fortunately, none of them have been fatal. And they were our mistakes. Although at times deeply painful, these experiences shaped our beliefs and helped us hone in on what works for us. Today, those beliefs underscore all aspects of our approach to business, from underwriting to hiring to asset allocation to holiday parties and everything in between.
Along this line of thinking, we enjoyed this (likely entirely fictional) story of Mozart that has made its way around the internet:
A man asked Mozart how to write a symphony.
Mozart replied, ‘You’re too young to write a symphony.’
The man said, ‘You were writing symphonies when you were 10, and I’m 21.’
Mozart said, ‘Yes, but I didn’t run around asking people how to do it.’
The only way to write a symphony is to write a symphony. Nobody can do it for you. Furthermore, if you ask other people how to write a symphony, your composition is unlikely to be original; it will probably just sound the same as the person you asked to do your job for you.
We are clearly not Mozart. But we are firm believers in the immense value that comes from simply doing as opposed to endlessly analyzing. Mistakes we will inevitably make are the underpinning of our experiences — and therefore, the underbelly of our own unique composition that is Chenmark.
Have a great week,
Your Chenmark Team