Ideas in the Wild: How Kelley W. Powell is Helping Founders Find the Courage to Lose Sight of the Shore

At some point, founders of successful companies must answer the same question: is a private equity investment the best route to grow what we’ve built? Assuming it is, what’s the right timing and how do we find the ideal partner, one whose values and expectations align with ours?

Kelley W. Powell works every day to grow the portfolio companies of private equity firms. Now she wants to give founders the confidence and clarity to move forward by sharing an honest account of what to expect when you pursue private equity. Courage to Lose Sight of Shore offers readers a greater understanding of their company’s story and themselves as a leader so they can decide whether private equity is right for them. I recently caught up with Kelley to learn about what inspired her to write the book and her favorite idea she shares with readers.

Published with permission from the author.

What happened that made you decide to write the book? What was the exact moment when you realized these ideas needed to get out there?

No matter what my role has been over the last twenty years it has in some way, shape, or form, involved merger and acquisitions. After being on the management team at Royall & Company, I was able to see, firsthand, what can result when an investor is truly investing.

Ultimately, those experiences led to me working with founders of small to midsize companies who want to continue growing their businesses, and with private equity firms that invest in founders. In 2018, Jim Headley, Alan Williamson, and I co-founded the MacLaurin Group.

Through our work, I have realized how opaque the process can seem from outside. Our founder clients say they wished they had known earlier how to better prepare themselves for future investment. So I decided to write a book geared toward founders. By advising founders on how to better prepare, I also serve any private equity clients who may acquire these founders later.

The exact moment? It was one of my business partners who lit the spark and put the crazy idea in my head. He made the suggestion after one of our client meetings. I laughed it off at first and then began to write down what I call “Bill-isms.” I started to get excited putting pen to paper, so I asked Bill Royall to meet to talk about this “maybe not so crazy after all” idea.

I met with Bill at his art gallery for a cup of coffee to ask for his advice. With his blessing and belief in me, I left that meeting with a spark turned full on fire.

What’s your favorite specific, actionable idea in the book?

No one achieves anything alone. That truism should come as a big relief. It is about the people in the boat with you. When Bill first started, he was alone. But he knew eventually he would be surrounded by incredibly talented individuals who would represent something greater than just Bill. So he added the “& Company.” Ultimately, the “& Company” was a fundamental component of his success, as well as a part of his values, which he cultivated in others.

The theme of the book is figuring out the right-fit partner, with whom you can grow your business in ways you couldn’t have done without them. If you want to have that wonderful experience, you must position yourself to be their right partner on the other side of the table.

Published with permission from the author.

What’s a story of how you’ve applied this idea in your own life? What has this idea done for you?

It really is about building something special with the right people in the boat with you: mentors, partners, clients, and employees. I spoke with many of our clients six months before starting MacLaurin Group, calling and asking advice from my existing private equity relationships to be their right partner on the other side of the table.

I never would have been exposed to a wider network of world-class specialists whom I now call friends, if it had not been for my private equity relationships. I feel fortunate for the opportunity to speak with so many people and receive the gifts of their input and contributions for writing a book to pay it forward for others. The voices and honest accounts throughout the book are what makes it special for me—all of the private equity partners, investment bankers, CEOs, founders, team MacLaurin Group, my mentors and those willing to be in the boat with me.

It is their collective wisdom. And as for collective wisdom, I am thankful for the team at Scribe Media for their creativity, patience, dedication, and guidance to navigate the journey of publishing my first book. For anyone with a “maybe not so crazy after all” idea: do not wait.