About

Jim Sharpe is a Visiting Executive at the Harvard Business School. Jim has been with Harvard Business School since 2009 as a Senior Lecturer in the MBA and Executive Education programs, an Entrepreneur in Residence, and now as a Visiting Executive. He has taught the first-year course on entrepreneurship (TEM), a second-year elective on turnarounds (EMTE), and launched an elective course on running small enterprises (RSME).

His interests are in the areas of search acquisitions, manufacturing, operations, B2B niche marketing, pricing, leadership, family balance, dual-career couples, large/small company differences, ethics, exit strategies, and employee empowerment. As an investor, he has ownership positions in more than 50 entrepreneurial companies.

Extrusion Technology, an aluminum extrusion fabricator owned by Jim, was sold to a private equity firm in December 2008. The company was purchased in 1987 after an 11-month self-funded search. Taking on substantial debt and securing 100% of the equity, Jim transformed the second-generation, family-owned business by growing it from $4MM to $32MM. He developed value-added products in the Datacomm/Telecom electronics market and established a second factory in Xiamen, China. A focus on quality led to qualification for ISO-9000 in 1992, and emphasis on lead time reduction resulted in a Bronze Shingo award in 2008.

The family focus has been a high priority for Jim, who hired his wife, Debby Stein Sharpe, HBS'81 and MIT'76, as CFO in 1988, contrary to advise from his Advisory Board. Debby and Jim adopted their daughter at age 5 while their two boys were in elementary school.

After graduating from Harvard Business School in 1976, he joined GE, where he occupied a series of Product General Manager positions. After 5 years, he left to run 3 turnaround situations, which prepared him to strike off on his own in 1987.

www.linkedin.com/in/jmsharpe

Posts – Most Recent

Posts – Contemplating a Search

Posts – Launching a Search

Posts – Conducting your Search

Posts – Being CEO/Owner

Random Quote

45-“Strategic partners” are very important to the business searchers.You want to rely on some trusted providers to support your business, you can’t do everything yourself!(See Blog Post-Strategic Partnerships)

42-Start early on legal documents, they often delay closings while under LOIBoth the searcher and the seller are plowing new ground and it takes a while to comprehend the meaning of all of the legal details .(See Blog Post-Getting to closing)

63 Searchers make promises they can meet to build trust with sellers. It is important to provide incremental opportunities to show that you can be counted on to deliver.(See Blog Post-Building Trust with Sellers)

34 Searchers who get access to employees before closing are more likely to close. Once the seller begins to confide in their employees about the sale of the business and introducing you as the “new owner”, they are more likely to proceed to finalize the transaction than to change their mind at the last minute.(See Blog Post-Getting to Close)

07-You are not a PE firm, don’t act like one!
Potential sellers resonate with your taking over their legacy, a PE firm is simply adding to their portfolio. Make sure your website looks personal and non-intimidating.

04-Fight Seller Fatigue in Due Diligence!
Sellers get worn out in this process. It is highly emotional for them, probably their first time at relinquishing their “baby” to someone else. During LOI stage, make it a practice to communicate with them, in person or by phone, every 2 days.

53-Holding monthly “all-hands” meetings indicates your transparency. Trust employees with what is going on with the business and they will trust you more .(See Blog Post-Communicating with Employees)

06-Use metrics to drive decisions
Track what is most important for your search – getting in front of prospective sellers to make offers to buy their business. Track the number prospects, IOI’s, LOI’s and set goals for yourself! If you measure it, you can improve it.

22-When in conflicts arise, remind professional advisors they work for you.
Inevitably, you will disagree with some advice you are getting. After checking multiple sources, do what feels right to you and move forward. You will have to “live” with your own choices, not the professionals!(See Blog Post-Professional Support)

18-Every day that goes by during Due Diligence raises the chance that you won’t close!
Time is of the essence when it comes to moving from a signed LOI to closing on your business. Seller fatigue sets in as the closing date gets extended and the seller constantly re-evaluates their motivation to sell. Only you can push the process along.(See Blog Post-Due Diligence)

44-Plan ahead, give thought to the small details of how you present yourself as the new owner. The first introduction to the employees of the business has a huge impact so you want every word to be rehearsed!(See Blog Post-Taking over the business)

50-Don’t expect immediate “loyalty”, the previous owner earned it, it takes time. You will need to earn the trust of your employees by your actions, not your words. (See Blog Post-Seller Tranisition)

35-Searcher CEO’s need to be prepared to walk away from volume orders if margins will decline. It takes a forward thinking CEO to seek out higher margin, value added opportunities to grow profits, not revenue.(See Blog Post-Wearing the sales hat)

09-Learn from others – read case histories
Over 40 case histories have been written about funded and self funded searchers in a variety of industries and historical settings. Each have great “lessons learned” and are worth the $10 cost to read them. Searchers are learners!

39-The business seller is “hiring” you to run their business. The owner trusts you enough to turnover the “legacy” of their business to you. (See Blog Post-Searcher Profile)

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