Cordell Jacks has bigger plans than just mitigating exploitation—he is proactively transforming society, the economy, and the environment through regenerative entrepreneurship and systems change. Founder and CEO of Regenerative Capital Group, Cordell has ambitious goals for the future of society.
With an indomitable spirit, Cordell is working towards making the stability of search funds just as fashionable as the riskiness of startups. He’s saving time and talent by letting young purpose-driven entrepreneurs make socially impactful decisions with their acquired and managed SMEs.
Cordell's tireless career-pivoting journey taught him the value of the big-picture networks that come with steep learning curves. As a leader, he embraces his imposter syndrome by backing his team of diverse experts from behind.
Regeneration for Amelioration
Cordell Jacks, founder and CEO of Regenerative Capital Group, has his eyes set on businesses planting more figurative (and literal) trees than they chop down and cultivating positive footprints. Or simply put, participating in regenerative business.
“‘Regenerative’ is maybe somewhat of a new term for many folks in the audience, but regeneration really begins with the recognition that the economy, business, and society don't sit apart from nature, but within it.”
Cordell himself is immersed in his roles as a community member, father of two, family member, and impact maker. He co-founded Regenerative Capital with his mentor and business partner Mike Miller, and the fund was born out of a social impact thesis. The thesis concerned how Miller, who had been shaped by the entrepreneurship community in his career, could give back to it. They quickly discovered entrepreneurship through acquisition (ETA) and search funds and were officially introduced to those worlds despite Miller spending his career working with those concepts. ETA and search funds became the basis for Regenerative Capital’s mission to “utilize the largest business ownership transition in history” and help the older generation’s purpose-driven successors to acquire and operate SMEs without the disorienting fluctuations of startups. Using the search fund model, Regenerative Capital invests in, mentors, and trains ambitious CEOs-in-residence in regenerative leadership.
The central idea of regenerative business models is raising the bar for a business’s self-expectation from damage reduction and restoration to value creation for itself, people, the economy, and the environment. Aligning itself with the systems the business operates in is crucial to achieving this.
Social Impact Through Entrepreneurship
Despite its growing presence, most people are unaware of the search fund model and its advantages. In fact, Cordell’s business partner had spent 20 years hiring and training ETA entrepreneurs and, despite adopting the model in his work, had never officially heard of it during his career. However, Cordell has noticed that once people discover the search fund space and overcome the initial surprise of such a model, they get involved right away. Cordell thinks this has to do with North American and Western society's emphasis on entrepreneurship in venture launches and scale and the echo chamber that such mature ecosystems create. The high-stakes excitement of these firmly established areas outshines the relative stability of ETA and dilutes the legitimacy derived from a "hero's journey" startup narrative.
“Oh, you're taking someone else's business and growing it. They're the ones that really had the idea and took it from 0 to 1. And yes, it takes a very certain person to go from 0 to 1. And as many of us know, going from 1 to 100 takes a whole other mindset.”
The juicy orange that is venture capital cannot be compared to the crisp apple that is search funds, as they are in different categories in terms of impact potential, according to Cordell. He is proactive about not wasting time and talent in a time that requires urgency and efficiency. Search funds and ETA have the power to achieve more monumental goals by placing a capable new generation in existing SMEs to progress beyond the status quo. Cordell’s mission is to make stability fashionable by transitioning the current economy into a regenerative one.
“This isn't just about taking businesses and making more profit. It’s about taking something good and making it great.”
But the journey ahead takes work. One of Regenerative Capital’s challenges is design, as there are currently no best practices to follow in the regeneration and ETA fields. While the ETA and search fund models are reliable and already fleshed out, the blueprint for a project like Cordell's is still in its early stages. He and his team are building a plane while flying, but they have the support of a great ecosystem of partners and confidence from bright minds. This means that those who wish to be involved must have an aptitude for exploration and a hunger for learning.
The Next (Re)generation
The word “regenerate” literally means “to become formed again” (Merriam-Webster, n.d.). And so, nothing could be more intrinsic to the idea of regeneration than reintegrating the space held by former leaders with the next generation. In pursuit of supporting the ETA ecosystem, Cordell set out to learn what the ETA landscape was like by checking in with the Canadian business school network. He was surprised to learn that there was no involvement with ETA at any of the business schools at that time (as of now, two schools have launched ETA courses at the MBA or executive education level). This realization led him to spread the influence of ETA and search funds within a network of business schools to embed regeneration into curricula and use the network to leverage ETA.
“If we're not training our business students, let alone any of our students, and taking a regenerative approach to solving the biggest issues of our days—then what are we training them in?”
And the younger generation needs no convincing. Cordell believes Gen Z displays purpose-driven career pursuits and wishes to take wilful action against the poly-crisis of mental health issues, climate change, pollution, etc. As he attended ETA conferences and search fund boot camps and furthered his learning in the US, Cordell commonly heard the complaint that traditional search investors and the people currently seated at the table are not taking on a social impact lens. There is a consensus that social impact needs to be integrated into discussions and decision-making more. Cordell is ready to collaborate with the youth to fulfill their professional lives and create change.
“This next generation of folks are really looking not just to be personally and financially satisfied and abundantly successful. They're looking to use their life's path and looking for meaning in their career to tackle some of these big issues that are facing all of us, whether it be climate change or pollution or mental health.”
Unsurprisingly, Cordell is looking for entrepreneurs whose aspirations stretch beyond self-interest, career, and wealth to being a part of active solutions. Cordell’s hope is that the first cohort, potentially consisting of 4 to 6 individuals, will not only successfully grow and profit their businesses but also demonstrate the promising potential of taking a regenerative lens to a business’s growth.
Career Pivoting and Impostor Syndrome
The immersed and involved individual that he is, Cordell has walked in all directions. His rich career history contains pivots that have brought on steep learning curves—and a lengthy relationship with impostor syndrome. But being a constant beginner in new industries requires intensive learning as you climb your way to stable ground and see the bigger picture. Orienting himself to new environments has made Cordell pick up a myriad of information he can access, connecting pieces of different puzzles together to form a unique image of interconnected industries. Once the line between the new and daunting, old and familiar, gets blurry with time, skills feel more easily transferable.
“I've come to embrace what is an important skill for many people; not just myself, but the searchers and entrepreneurs that we're going to be working with—which is a generalist capacity to see networks, to just seed ideas and bring them together.”
Cordell has also discovered the solution to the challenge that is leading a team of experts. He likes to participate in what he thinks of as bass-player leadership. As a leader, he sets the background tone and backs the vocals and instruments but lets his rockstar team members take front stage. Embracing this kind of management makes it possible to support the diverse strengths of his team members without being an expert in their specific domains and allowing those strengths to create a greater whole. While a symphony is tougher to orchestrate, it is grander than a single instrument.
“You want to go quick, go alone. You want to go far, go together.”
Cordell Jacks, founder and CEO of Regenerative Capital Group, is revolutionizing social impact through disruptive innovation. As a relentless optimist, Cordell Jacks is redefining what it means to be a good business. He champions the addition of societal, economic, environmental, and self-improvement to traditional profit objectives. He adeptly utilizes a mix of search funds, ETA, and regeneration strategies to equip the future leaders with the indispensable tools they need to transform the world. Cordell is no stranger to imposter syndrome and values the network of transferable knowledge that pivoting careers in pursuit of his true purpose has granted him.
Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Regenerate. In Merriam-Webster.com dictionary. Retrieved June 20, 2023, from
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