This month’s Core Connections Feature profiles Jim Bolduc, Senior Managing Director of JPB Capital Partners. With nearly 20 years of experience at JPB, Bolduc holds a BBA from the University of Notre Dame and an MBA from the University of Virginia. He resides in Annapolis, MD with his wife and three boys.
Where are you seeing the best traction when it comes to originating deals?
Networking, networking, and more networking. The best deals are the ones that come to you through a trusted source for the seller. Typically, it’s someone that they have worked with for many years: an accountant, a lawyer, a financial advisor, etc. The sale of a business is a very emotional and intimidating venture for most family-owned businesses and entrepreneurs, so getting past the initial “trust” phase of the relationship is critical.
What’s your take on delivering post-deal value? Where are you seeing positive trends? Negative ones?
It’s imperative. There’s too much money these days chasing too few quality deals. If you are not creating value post-ownership (growing EBITDA, add-on acquisitions, increasing profit margins), generating attractive returns is challenging. Financial engineering can help, but it can no longer be the only tool in your playbook.
How are you seeing low interest rates impact acquisitions? What about impact on owners’ perception on valuation?
Cheap money means higher prices. And when higher prices are made public (or disclosed), potential sellers raise their expectations of valuation. I would guess we are still 1–1.5 times too expensive (versus historical lower-middle market multiples) for quality deals.
How do you lead differently now than you did 5 or 10 years ago?
I have to be much better organized and focused. Technology has increased the speed at which you gain access to information, the speed at which you are bombarded by new information (and white noise), and the speed at which your competition executes. Being able to sift through that mountain of information and focus on what is important is critical.
How do you stay competitive?
Read, read, and read more. Read articles. Read books. Never stop learning and thinking of new ways to challenge yourself.
Is the customer always right?
Yes, always. We focus on investments in the consumer marketplace and they are the ones that create the revenue. While you may believe their current complaint to be unjust or unfounded, they are always telling you something about your business and how you can be better. We always say, “Ignore the tone, but listen to the message.”
What’s the best lesson you’ve learned from a mentor?
You can sleep more after you die. Sleep one less hour per day and that’s 7 hours a week you picked up on the competition. Do that for one year and that’s 365 hours (or 15 days). Do that for 25 years and you are one year ahead of the pack. Make that 2 hours a day and you can gain one year in 12 years. That’s a huge difference.
If you could have lunch with one leader in the business world, who would it be with? What one question would you ask?
Mark Cuban. Yes, he is loud and eccentric, but he is also bluntly honest and a visionary. I would ask him what his vision of the world and technology is 20 years from now.
What keeps you coming back each day? What’s the best part for you?
The fun and challenge of something new every day keeps me coming back. No two days in PE are the same. The best part is being a part of a team that can create value for our employees, our portfolio companies, and our investors.
What’s the biggest change or shift in your industry you’ve seen in the last 10 years?
The maturity of the industry. From the early 1990’s where GPs and financial engineering ruled the day, to today where LPs are in charge, pushing transparency, co-investment rights, and operational value creation.
If you could time travel, what would you want to say to the college-age you?
I’m not sure about college-age, but certainly for the MBA-age me, I’d say to actually read and prepare for that Organizational Behavior class, because success in business is all about culture and people.
What’s a lesson that you had to learn the hard way?
When you first think you have a management problem, fix it – immediately. Waiting and hoping that it will get better is a fallacy. In almost all of our deals that have been sub-par, we were too slow to move on management that we knew was not going to succeed.
If you suddenly had to start over with a new career, what would you pursue?
Direct business ownership. I’m not sure in what space, but I would buy a small business and look to run/lead the organization forward.
Droid or iPhone? Mac or PC?
Droid and PC. I was raised on Microsoft Office and have never been able to move away (or learn new tricks).
Coke or Pepsi?
Neither – coffee and iced tea. Every day seems like less sleep and more caffeine!
What’s on your iPod right now?
Everything. I run a lot and need variety based on whatever mood I am in that day. Lots of country, old school rap, 80’s tunes, and even some comedy sketches. I find running can get boring when it is the same songs/playlist over and over again.
Best place to vacation?
Any place with my family. The best form of stress release for me is watching my kids laugh and have fun.