Founder and Managing Director
Believing in the power of mutual gain, Martine aims to grow businesses that benefit from her leadership style and experience, focusing on her own improvement and the success of the investors, the company, and the people in her life.
She emphasizes the value of openness and transparency within the search fund community, sharing knowledge and supporting newcomers to foster continued growth.
Martine’s experience with leadership and rejection has taught her that some challenges support self-growth and direct you to your purpose, the importance of confidence and understanding how things work, and the priorities of a leader beyond dollars and cents.
The Search Fund Space
Martine Legault believes in mutual success through leadership. A process engineer by trade and currently a “searcher” through Novastone Capital Advisors, Martine didn’t initially know the specificities of her professional goals – all she knew was that she wanted to run a business with her hands-on approach. Fortunately, she found her professional calling in the search fund space and has been collecting valuable insights on mentorship, rejection, and what it means to be a CEO throughout her journey as an entrepreneur.
"I had a very entrepreneurial family. My parents had their own business. I think that had a really profound impact on me. And then I kind of figured out this is really what I wanted to do. I wanted to run a business, having no idea what was involved, having no idea what that business would be, and then came across a really good opportunity to purchase a business that was essentially in bankruptcy."
Having successfully acquired, grown, and sold a business, Martine felt ready to leverage her past experience and newly-earned MBA to venture into another enterprise. This desire led her to apply and gain acceptance into the rigorous and prestigious NCA entrepreneurship program, which served as a springboard for her involvement with search funds. A search fund is an investment vehicle through which an entrepreneur raises funds to acquire a small to medium-sized company, which they manage and grow through their leadership before selling (Stanford Graduate School of Business, n.d.). Essentially, it allows individuals lacking in experience but demonstrating the knowledge, drive, and ambition to practice leadership as a CEO. It will enable them to diversify their portfolios, resulting in a more meritocratic leadership system.
Martine found the search fund space surprisingly open and transparent, and some of the more experienced searchers were honest about the problems they encountered and what solutions they implemented. Martine felt supported and had a clear vision of what her life in a decade would look like through these people. And to pass on the scroll of valuable information given to her by others, she does her best to make time for newcomers.
"I feel like I came to the community to give back, which fuels the process. Everybody has to do their share and take their time to promote it and to reassure some of these new searchers that are coming in."
Learning and Leading through Search Funds
Martine’s current focus lies within the distribution and light manufacturing industries. As with any search, she narrows her scope to a specific geographical area, expanding or zooming in based on her success. Martine’s network of brokers has been able to fill her pipeline, but if she’s having trouble finding a good fit, she sends out mass emails for proprietary deals instead of broker deals.
When evaluating acquisition targets, Martine considers financial criteria, business size, profitability, and other logistical aspects. She also considers growth potential and how quickly she can create value for the business, and create efficiencies, while potentially ensuring a seamless transition from incumbent CEO to incoming CEO and, more importantly, transferring business knowledge. According to Martine, sharing business knowledge not only empowers the company but also benefits the next leader.
Given the transparency within the search fund community and Martine’s hands-on leadership style, it’s not surprising that honest collaboration is an essential criterion for her. Which means honesty with oneself is just as important.
Navigating the Winds of Challenge
In an era characterized by abundant knowledge and accessibility, confidence stems from understanding and expertise, acting as a stamp of legitimacy. One of the most valuable skills to master in business and any other industry is the art of persuasion.
But the rickety bridge of learning that hangs between beginning a practice, and being skilled in it, sways as you tread cautiously, building as you go, and it paradoxically only becomes stronger the more confident your steps become. Such was Martine’s experience with processes such as fundraising and using sales practices on her investors. As with most things, Martine threw herself into those calls to investors, and it was difficult not to take so much rejection personally. But she later realized that the conditions of her bridge were not necessarily a result of her craftsmanship alone.
"People are kind and willing to help. It made the process a lot easier when I reached out to some other searchers. It is tough because you receive a lot of rejection at the beginning, but you realize that rejection is a part of the process."
Once she realized she was merely part of an equation, she objectively viewed the challenge it raised and even began liking the practice. She understood that the formula was having confidence and understanding how everything worked.
But that was after she found her sense of belonging in the search fund space. In the beginning, Martine had to be honest with herself. Her initial goal before she realized she wanted to enter the job market, but her professional coach made her do some soul-searching and realize that she really wanted to have a business. Oftentimes it can seem challenging to face the facts of what your soul desires, especially if it’s going to be a new venture for you. But challenges like that are good, and the people who put them in your way act as guiding winds to direct you to the place you’re meant to go. And even after all her successes, Martine was challenged, and learning how to overcome them made her stronger than ever.
The Essence of a CEO
Mutual gain is at the heart of Martine’s philosophy. The biggest lesson she learnt as a CEO was that a business is as good as the loyalty of its employees, the people who choose to spend their time working for it.
"If people don't want to get up in the morning and they're not motivated to come and work for you, it will be difficult to achieve. Employees can build your business, but they can also destroy it.
Martine also aims to grow businesses that will benefit from her leadership style, her experience, and her skills. She also believes in the power of mutual gain, focusing not only on how her work can improve her own life but also on all the other players involved: the investors, the company, and the people in her life. Her personal goal is to retire in 10 years and spend more time discovering the world
Martine thinks that search funds might be the future of business. She has faith in the search fund community for putting value on soft skills and focusing on the legacy of the business rather than just the “dollars and cents.” Overall, Martine feels the search fund model fits well with her personal and entrepreneurship goals and that it might also be a good calling for other entrepreneurs.
"If you have an aspiration to do it, then you should just really go for it because there's a community out there waiting to support you."
The search fund space is an innovative way of equalizing the world of leadership through meritocracy. As a "searcher" through Novastone Capital Advisors, Martine Legault has been able to benefit investors and companies with her hands-on, collaborative leadership, the results of which have also benefited her. While the learning process is never easy, Martine has picked up some valuable lessons about overcoming challenges in pursuit of finding your purpose, giving back, and mutual gains. Martine hopes the future of business is filled with pragmatic, balanced and purpose-driven, rather than merely profit-driven, leaders.
Stanford Graduate School of Business. (n.d.). Research on Search Funds.
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