About 200 IVY members came out to Baruch College in NYC last night to hear Marc Leder, the co-CEO of Sun Capital Partners, a private equity firm whose portfolio has more than $45 billion in revenue. Many of the attendees were entrepreneurs, like Liz Entin, who started her own fashion company, Runway Passport. “My background is in fashion,” Liz said, “but I have to have business skills to make it work.”
However, not everyone there was looking for the secret to success. For example, Holly Morris goes to an IVY event a week, and even though she also started her own company, luxeFIT, that wasn’t what compelled her to attend last night. “I just love these talks,” she said. “Even if they’re not in my industry, I always think they’re interesting.”
Marc Leder with IVY Co-Founder, Beri Meric
In his Q&A, Leder explained how he was able to go from a one-room office with one other employee, his co-founder, to an international firm that’s invested in over 340 companies. For anyone starting their own business, Leder offered the following advice:
Find your niche in the market.
Leder, a newcomer essentially working out of his basement, was competing against giants in the private equity world, and, “for the first two years, no one trusted us,” he said. So, he and his co-founder targeted a market segment that no one else would touch: broken and dying companies. With no one to emulate, the duo created their own strategy, which, 20 years later, has become the Sun Transformation System.
Yes, culture does really matter.
At business school, Leder dismissed “culture” as wishy-washy nonsense. Today, he think it’s “always a problem with broken companies, but it’s never the only problem.” When something’s wrong with another part of the business, like management, it seeps into the culture, which Sun measures using a confidential questionnaire from a third-party company called Denizen. Leder emphasized that Sun employees take the survey every year (and the company has one of the highest scores at Denizen).
Remodel the bathrooms.
When Sun acquired Dreams, a mattress company in the UK, it was on the verge of being liquidated. Leder and his team studied the 180 locations they had purchased and identified a consistent point of departure for customers: the bathrooms. Buying a mattress can be a lengthy process, and once store visitors visited the not-so-stellar facilities, they often left immediately after. Though Sun made other, more difficult improvements, this relatively small change, derived from studying his customers’ behavior, made a huge impact. Today, Dreams is one of the UK’s leading bed and mattress specialists.
Thirsty for more entrepreneurial advice?
– On Monday July 24, learn how to work your side-hustle, embrace the mess, and form great relationships with Ann Shoket — author of the much-talked about new book, The Big Life, and the former editor-in-chief of Seventeen magazine.
– On Tuesday, July 25, learn how to tackle society’s hardest problems by creating market-leading businesses with Joseph N. Sanberg, Co-Founder of Aspiration.com and serial investor.
– On Wednesday, July 26, learn how you can play a role in shaping the future of the global economy with William Rhodes, world-renowned economist and former Senior Vice Chairman of Citigroup.
– On Thursday, July 27, learn how to craft a killer PR strategy and get meaningful press for your brand with Jennifer Bett Meyer, Founder and President of Jennifer Bett Communications.