The Immigrant Advantage
Founder & Managing Partner
Irvin Gómez seizes opportunity and leverages his experiences as a first-generation immigrant to his benefit as a search fund entrepreneur.
Irvin Gómez credits his parents for instilling a winning mindset in him, as it pushed him to complete his MBA at Harvard Business School and constantly aim higher in his career.
Immigrants are major drivers of the US economy, as a significant percent of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or their children.
Immigrants as Visionaries: Valiant Pursuit of Progress
Entrepreneurs and immigrants share a striking parallel in their journeys—both are driven by a vision of a better future, often embarking on paths filled with uncertainty, challenges, and new environments. Just as an entrepreneur navigates the uncharted waters of business, many in the Mexican-American community embark on a transformative voyage in search of opportunities and brighter horizons.
Irvin Gómez embodies this spirit of resilience and aspiration, resonating deeply with the experiences of many Mexican-Americans who have made the US their home. At the tender age of 10, he, alongside his family, ventured to the US with hopes of a promising future.
“Without knowing the language, without any form of structure, my parents decided to bring my brother and I in search of a better life, but they didn't really know what that better life meant. They just wanted us to go to school and get an education,” he said in an interview with Horizon Search.
Gómez’s parents mean everything to him. In fact, it’s the values and winning mindset that they instilled in him that pushed him to always aim high.
“My parents instilled that mindset in me. This mindset of being incredibly grateful for the opportunities that we’re given, but also, at the same time, try to maximize as much as you can, and get as much as you can from those opportunities.”
Gómez did exactly that. He completed his MBA at the fourth-best business school in the world, Harvard Business School, but that wasn’t enough. Gómez’s winning mindset pushed him to aim even higher.
The mindset of a winner is the mindset of a leader
Between the first and second year of his MBA, in 2021, Gómez took on an internship during the summer as a consultant for Boston Consulting Group (BCG), a global consulting firm with over $11 billion in annual revenue. Prior to this, he worked as a senior analyst as part of State Street’s internal consulting team, and a sales strategy and operations manager for Catalant Technologies.
Though these were top consulting firms that many dream of working in, it was not Gómez's cup of tea.
“I realized that the things that really matter to me in a job came down to autonomy and responsibility and willingness to win, and as I thought about the consulting role, it didn't really provide me that,” Gómez said.
“Things that I love are selling, building teams and having the ball in my hand. That led me to realize that those are all the things that come with a CEO.”
This left him with a few different options. The first was going to a general management program and then taking up a leadership position, but Gómez didn’t want to wait for over 15 years for this role. Another option would be to start his own business, but he didn’t feel too confident with that either.
Similar to Walker Deibel, another guest with a winning mindset interviewed by Horizon Search, Gómez was introduced to a life-changing opportunity by a classmate of his — entrepreneurship through acquisition.
From that very summer, Gómez made it his goal to become a search fund entrepreneur. He finally launched his search in July of last year as the founder and managing partner of Due North Family Enterprises.
“As I thought about searching, as I thought about what came next, as I thought about becoming a young CEO, it came from the same mindset of, 'hey, I didn't come this far to settle for a job where I know that I'll do well, and I know that in 10 [to] 15 years, I'll be a partner.’ That's not the type of role that is gonna get me going. That's not the type of willingness to win, and we’re not going to feel that willingness to win every day,” Gómez said.
“In a search fund, and what I imagine during when I'm operating a business, that willingness to win is something that you come in with every day. That's how I know that that I'm in the right role, if I have that desire to continue to win, just because that desire has been the fuel since 2002 when I got to the US.”
While many hold fears of immigrants taking up their jobs, a 2022 study reveals that they act more as “job creators” than “job takers” and play a vital role in the growth of the US economy.
In fact, data from 2017 shows that immigrants are more likely to become entrepreneurs, as compared to their US-born counterparts, and over 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or their children. In 2021, these companies brought $7.2 trillion in revenue to the US economy, which is greater than the GDP of many developed countries, including Japan, Germany and the UK.
Reflecting on a year of being a search fund entrepreneur
Gómez is trying to be really careful about submitting Letters of Intent (LOI), and as a result, hasn’t submitted one yet.
“I want alignment from my biggest investors before submitting an LOI. Because I rely so much on the interpersonal relationship with the business owner, I want to make sure that before I spend more time building that relationship and digging into the business, I have an alignment for my investors so that I could optimize for close,” he said.
Gómez knows very well what it feels like to be an outsider, but instead of dwelling on it in self-pity, he uses that, coupled with his previous experience in sales, to his advantage.
“I think during my search, that has really paid off and has been really to my benefit, where I am able to make owners feel really comfortable with me even though I am 30 years their junior and I'm able to match their energy, mirror them to some extent and I think the reason why I'm able to mirror that is because as an immigrant, I had to blend in, I had to camouflage a little bit in order to not be seen as an outsider,” he said.
His first-generation immigrant struggles also inspired him to become a mentor to others. 2023 marks his sixth year volunteering with Minds Matter, an educational access program that focuses on empowering under-resourced youth from the Boston suburbs to navigate the college process, including getting into Ivy League universities.
One of the major reasons he feels so passionate about it is because he went through a similar program back in high school. "My brother and I got incredibly lucky to make it this far and one of the few things that we can do to show gratitude is to do the same thing that other folks were doing for us 10 years ago," Gómez said.
This sense of gratitude also guides his journey as a search fund entrepreneur. While others are looking into buying multiple small businesses, Gómez’s search fund, Due North Family Enterprises, is currently only interested in buying one single business in the Midwest. The primary reason for this is being able to live in close proximity to his family, whom he feels indebted to.
Irvin Gómez with his brother and parents at his graduation. (Source: Schuler Scholar Program)
According to a 2017 study of around 4,000 people in the Netherlands, people with a more positive relationship with their parents have a more positive work orientation (involvement and interest in the company’s overall success) and a stronger work ethic.
Being a search fund entrepreneur also comes with the winning mindset of always being on the lookout for a business to buy.
“I think, for me, I've gotten to know the Chicago and Milwaukee markets pretty pretty well to the point where I can walk around and if I see a little service truck, or some business sign, I kind of know whether I've emailed them or not,” he said.
After a year of being a search fund entrepreneur, Gómez is now better able to differentiate between good and great businesses. In general, he believes that the better the business he acquires, the happier he and investors will be in the end.
"I would encourage everyone to search and to bet on themselves to do this because the pitch does resonate. They see the energy that I bring to the table, and the energy reminds them of the energy they had when they started their business," Gómez said.
"Overall, in the past year, I think I'm a better searcher and I've also become a much more confident searcher and also a lot more confident in my ability to operate."
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