Journey to the CEO Seat
Luke Suydam, Alex Sappington - Co-CEOs Page Vault
Page Vault is the industry-leading web content collection provider enabling legal teams to capture web content for research or court evidence. In a discussion led by Pacific Lake's Hannah Barrett, Luke and Alex shared insights on their journey to the CEO seat.
Why search: Luke and Alex began their careers in investing and consulting, appreciating the intellectual rigor but yearning for the autonomy and impact that search could offer at an earlier stage in their professional lives.
Overcoming hesitations: Alex initially ruled out search because of the perception that search might lead him to a company in the middle of nowhere. However, he realized that most businesses acquired through search were in or near metropolitan areas, aligning perfectly with his partner's career needs.
Choosing to partner: Luke and Alex were already good friends from business school, but they wanted to ensure they could work effectively in a partnership. They meticulously discussed their values, set expectations, and established conflict resolution mechanisms to ensure alignment and collaboration.
Getting started: The duo started searching in October 2020, a unique time marked by the global COVID-19 pandemic. They used this period to deepen their industry expertise, utilizing an industry thesis-driven approach to become knowledgeable insiders in their target industries.
Leveraging their superpower: Luke and Alex quickly recognized their superpower—building strong relationships with business owners. This skill was pivotal in securing six letters of intent (LOIs) with promising businesses during their search.
Standing out from the crowd: Amidst the constant outreach from searchers interested in buying his business, Jeff, the seller of Page Vault, found Luke and Alex's approach refreshing. Their deep industry knowledge and industry connections helped them stand out from others. They ultimately developed a great relationship with Jeff, and they were able to sign Page Vault under LOI.
Validating their thesis: Alex and Luke aligned on the most critical areas to validate the potential they saw in Page Vault and possible growth avenues. Interviews and surveys from Page Vault customers confirmed the company's strong value proposition and made them even more excited to grow the company.
Transitioning to the CEO Seat: Transitioning to the CEO Seat was an extremely positive experience for Luke and Alex. This is, in no small part, to the founder's gracious support and deliberate approach to understanding the business before making significant changes. They acknowledged the challenge of balancing day-to-day tasks with strategic priorities, emphasizing the importance of focusing on the bigger picture.
Advice to prospective searchers: Understanding your motivations and desires is vital before starting the search journey. This long and challenging road requires commitment and purpose. However, the search experience serves as invaluable training, equipping searchers with the skills necessary to succeed as CEOs and navigate inevitable obstacles.
Want to learn more? Find additional CEO lessons here: Building Enterprise Value at Datacor, Navigating the Seas of Talent Strategy and Optimization at Predictive Index, Getting Value From Customer Partnerships at HigherMe and Eleven Software, and Scaling The Team For Growth at Banyan Software.