With the wrap up of 2015 and the start of 2016, I took a few moments to reflect on not only this past year, but on the past 15 years, since the beginning of Evergreen Advisors. This year marks Evergreen Advisors’ 15th Anniversary, and I couldn’t be more thrilled about where we have come over the years and the exciting future that lies ahead.
Rick Kohr, CEO, Evergreen Advisors
1. This year we celebrate Evergreen’s 15th Anniversary. What thoughts and emotions come to mind when you think about that?
We have developed a unique business model that works with companies throughout their life cycle. We recognize how hard it is to build a business and the key elements needed to attain success. You overlay that mindset to what we have accomplished, while enduring a major economic downturn from 2008 to 2012, and you have to be appreciative of the individuals who have helped build a meaningful business over this time frame.
We work in a business that allows us the window into an owners mind – learning about the financial details of their business and their issues in a first meeting. It is a privilege we take seriously. There are few professions that have that honor.
2. What made you start Evergreen Advisors? Where did you draw inspiration in order to start and build this incredible business?
I saw the needs of early stage and middle market companies who lacked true CFO and Finance skill sets at the executive team level. What do the numbers mean, what is my company worth, how should I finance my company, what are the costs of that capital, where do I find this capital – all questions that often times went unanswered. Worse, they didn’t even know what questions to ask.
It is the blend of strategy, finance, psychology and relationships that intrigued me enough to want to create this business model.
3. What were your visions in 2001 and how have you met them or even surpassed those visions?
It was the desire to succeed and prove out the model to myself and the marketplace. I wanted to build a meaningful, high-reputation business in this region. I don’t know if we have really surpassed the vision, as one always finds things to improve on. Having said that, the size and scope of the firm, the quality of our team, the reputation, and purpose, all create a high level of satisfaction.
4. In what different ways have you grown Evergreen over the past 15 years?
The most important growth has been in the team. We have grown from 3 employees to 20 – more importantly, the talent is markedly better than at the outset. We are able to have access to and hire the best people in the region. This has a dramatic and positive impact on the business.
We co-founded the first Angel Fund in the Maryland region in 2001. This fund had 47 investors and allowed us to invest in 11 companies in the region. The fund had 7 successful exits and has 2 remaining in the portfolio.
The deal flow and quality have improved tremendously over this period. The size and sophistication of the client is much greater too.
The outsourced CFO practice has more than 30 clients focused largely, in the technology space. This practice did not exist in 2007.
We now have offices in NoVa and Maryland … I could go on and on.
5. What do you see as the biggest accomplishments since your start in 2001?
Building this business which evolves, largely, around relationships and tombstones. We had good relationships at the outset but had to grow the network significantly. There were no tombstones then as there are now!
6. How have the three practice groups of CFO Advisory, Investment Banking, and Business Valuation evolved over the years and how do they now fit together even better than they used to?
The CFO Practice was essentially a restart in 2008. The focus is solely on early stage, fast growth technology companies. This feeds very nicely into our capital raise skill set and creates work for our valuation team. The alignment of the client base around certain industries has been a focus for us in the past six or seven years.
The Valuation area has grown significantly in the past two years in both size and the complexity of the work. The client base ranges from early stage to publicly-traded companies. The referral sources are some of the best companies in the country. We are very proud of that area.
The Investment Banking area is the fastest area of growth for us. The size, complexity and number of transactions completed. 2015 will be the third year of significant growth. We completed are two largest transactions this year and have several similar size opportunities in the works today. The banking team is extraordinarily talented and experienced. This has helped us drive results for our clients in markets we want to focus in prospectively.
7. What is your favorite part about your job? What excites you most?
Working with closely-held businesses that are growing and fighting through issues to get to the next stage in their life cycle. Also, meeting new connections that can add value to our clients is a great experience too. It never ends.
8. What other CEO’s do you look up to and who has inspired you to have the work ethic that you do? Who is your business role model?
I have a couple of people that I admire – my dad who taught me hard work, integrity and building a great reputation.
Blaise Cooke, former owner of Harkins Builders who accomplished much in his 60 years, including building a great company and giving back so generously to the community.
9. What is the best piece of leadership advice you have received?
The Big Six come to mind:
- Face reality as it is, not as it was, or you wish it were.
- Be candid with everyone.
- Don’t manage, lead.
- Change before you have to.
- If you don’t have a competitive advantage, don’t compete.
- Control your own destiny, or someone else will.
But at a vision level – it probably centers on servant leadership and creating something that gives more than it receives. If you can do both, success will usually follow.
10. Where do you expect to go in the next 15 years? In what ways do you expect to grow?
We have clients in Chicago, Raleigh, Dallas and Tahoe today. We expect to open new offices in other growth markets over the next decade. However, our focus will continue to be on the three areas of finance offered today. There is more than enough work in these areas and expertise required to keep us grounded at this point.