Hunter has spent over 20 years investing in lower middle market companies across a variety of industries including healthcare, specialty manufacturing, and business services. He wholeheartedly believes that entrepreneurs are the backbone of the world’s economy and respects the talent, skill, and risk tolerance required to start a new business. As an investor, he enjoys working alongside business founders and their families and believes it a great privilege to provide strategic counsel to the companies in which he invests. Hunter considers private equity to be a great tool which can be used to amplify the success these businesses have already achieved.
Prior to starting Skylark Private Equity Partners, Hunter was a partner at both The Riverside Company and Trinity Hunt Partners. Earlier in his career, he worked at TA Associates, William Blair & Company, and Heller Financial. Hunter received a BA in Economics, from Vanderbilt University and his MBA from The Tuck School at Dartmouth.
I enjoy learning about new businesses and meeting the founders and managers of these growing firms. No matter how many times I encounter a niche market leader, I am excited to hear their unique story of success. Every week I have the privilege of interacting with men and women who create concepts, companies, and careers for their employees. It really is the best job on earth.
Most of the companies I see are profitable, growing, and delivering a product or service that their clients appreciate. These companies and their owners typically do not need outside capital to achieve their near-term goals. However, some business owners and management teams want more. They want to grow faster, make investments that will allow them to become more profitable, and acquire or take market share from their competitors. These men and women are never complacent. They consistently extend the distance to their next goal. When I meet someone with this mindset, I get on an airplane and pay them a visit.
First, finding and investing in private companies is a marathon, not a sprint. Be patient.
Second, you cannot outsource board leadership. The founders and their teams chose you as their partner. Live up to your promises and their expectations.
Listen. It sounds so simple, but it really is a lost art.
Amy has built her career by identifying unique opportunities and finding creative ways to solve challenges. She is an experienced founder, entrepreneur, CEO, and board member. She is also a veteran and trusted advisor in the financial services industry due to her skill in digital payments, E-commerce, sales and marketing, and Customer Relationship Management (CRM). Her greatest passion is building strong teams with powerful company cultures that deliver results. This combination has earned her companies a combined 12 years on the Inc 5000 list, Best Places to work in Austin, and Ernst & Young’s 2016 Entrepreneur of the Year Winner for Central Texas.
Working with private equity partners at AffiniPay, Amy has first-hand experience of the benefits a strong private equity partner can bring. Amy’s goal is to help other founders navigate a private equity partnership to create the most successful outcome for their companies, teams, and families. Amy and other members of the Skylark team are dedicated to working with exceptional companies to provide advisory services, strategic guidance, and most importantly a trusted partner.
Outside of her business interests, Amy is a dedicated Longhorn. She is currently a University of Texas Tower Fellow and a member of the President’s Development Board.
I am most motivated when I have a challenge to tackle or giant problem to solve. I am also motivated by working with great people. Life is too short to spend with people who don’t create positive experiences in your world.
An ideal business partner is someone who brings real value to the table. They can help identify gaps and balance out areas that are not a current strength. At the same time, they are a positive force that drives the overall business forward. The best partnerships have a multiplying effect where "one plus one equals ten."
Early in my business, I was told to focus. This is such simple advice, but surprisingly difficult to do achieve, especially for entrepreneurs. Find the one thing that is amazing, special, or unique, and let that be your superpower. Build such a deep expertise that you essentially create a category all to yourself.
Most businesses are not an overnight success or unicorn. They are built through years of sacrifice, dedication, and commitment. As a former founder and CEO, I enjoy spending time with other entrepreneurs and hearing about their journey. It takes time to fully understand an entrepreneur’s business model, their industry, and their vision for the company. Having experienced both success and failure, I understand there is not just one playbook or easy button that works for everyone.
Marshall has spent his career investing, managing, and advising lower middle market businesses. Prior to co-founding Skylark, Marshall worked at ORIX Private Equity Solutions where he sourced, executed, and managed 9 platform investments in various service-based industries, including tech-enabled business services, healthcare services, industrial services, and multi-unit consumer services.
In addition to his private equity experience Marshall served as Chief Financial Officer at Rent A Toll, a business process outsourcing company providing toll road transaction services to major corporations which own or manage third-party operated vehicles. During his tenure, Marshall led initiatives in customer acquisition strategies, pricing initiatives, and contract negotiations that resulted in profitability growing more than 5x.
Prior to ORIX, Marshall worked in private equity with Trinity Hunt Partners and Lampstand Investments and as an investment banker with Harris Williams & Co.
Marshall earned a BS in Business Administration and Accounting with a second major in Economics from Washington and Lee University. He also holds an MBA from Columbia Business School.
Collaborating to find ideas and solutions that will empower my partners to be successful. Our lives are a team game, both personally and professionally and our collective knowledge is far greater than what one of us can produce in isolation. The business world is immensely competitive and an evenly-yoked team working to accomplish collective success will triumph. I love solving problems and challenges and providing support, encouragement, and resources to my partners each day and never letting the short-term challenges or tribulations overcome us.
Transparency and trust are the keys to successful partnerships. Direct communication enables everyone to set expectations so that each of us can follow through on our commitments to one another. That said, we know that businesses do not grow in a straight line and we must provide grace when the unexpected happens or if we fall short of goals. Results are not directly correlated with effort, but if we align our minds on a strategy and purpose and execute diligently against that plan, we should have confidence that progress will follow.
Be authentic. Do what you say you are going to do.
John has more than 22 years as both an operator and an investor in companies across the Technology, FinTech and Life Sciences industries. His experiences lend to a unique understanding of the difficulty entrepreneurs have operating a successful business, as well as the complexity of finding and evaluating potential investment opportunities. He believes that true success is always deeply rooted in the people who found and operate businesses. He also believes that while investment theories change over time, the core tenant of value originates with an entrepreneur's idea and that entrepreneur's ability to grow, adapt, and scale their business as market forces change. The founding of Skylar Private Equity Partners was based on the belief that entrepreneurs and companies in the lower middle market hold the greatest potential to embody these characteristics.
Prior Skylark Partners, John was most recently President and CFO of AffiniPay where he was responsible for the financial accounting and core technical operations supporting the Companies payment services to the professional service segment. In addition to AffiniPay, John is also the Chief Investment Officer for the Porter Family Office. In this role he is responsible for all investments, services, and accounting for the family. Prior to AffiniPay, John had served in many operating and investing roles such as a CFO for a NASDAQ listed company, co-founder of a lower middle market investment bank, and business development executive for a Life Science Technology Company, which led an IPO in March of 2000. Following the attainment of Masters degrees in Business and Physical Chemistry, John was first employed by Salomon Smith Barney in New York where he held the role of Senior Equity Research Analyst.
The idea that I may come across something extraordinary.
Time and time again, I find that it is easy to become enamored with a great business, product, or service. However, at the end of the day, all of the successful entrepreneurs I know had two special skills in common that cannot be taught or learned in school. The first one is trustworthiness, and the second is grit.
A great management team can be successful creating value with a mediocre product, while a poor management team can destroy value of a great product.
I am an entrepreneur. Generally, I find that listening (more than talking) is a good first step. Investors have a bad habit of assuming they know everything about a particular subject or business. In my experience, the best investors build a relationship with an entrepreneur by listening and learning about the entrepreneur's story and strategy for success. It is the investor's job to understand what helps drive an entrepreneur to success. Armed with this knowledge, I find that you can generate better outcomes by tapping into the entrepreneur’s strengths and creating an encouraging environment for the mutual success of the business.
Chase has spent nearly 10 years focused on empowering lower middle market leadership teams with executing transformative growth. Prior to co-founding Skylark, Chase served as Vice President at The Riverside Company. While at Riverside, Chase completed 14 acquisitions and exits. With a focus on advising high growth businesses, his partnerships included franchising, healthcare, business and outsourced services, and education technology.
Chase has been a guest speaker to Financial Executive International forum, focusing on topics ranging from the maturation of a Chief Financial Officer in lower-middle-market companies to the importance of real-time business insights to monitor strategic execution.
Prior to Riverside, Chase began his career as an Investment Banking Analyst at William Blair & Company. Chase received a BS, with honors, in Business, Finance from Miami University.
I love learning from entrepreneurs, and I welcome the daily challenge of matching their focus, energy, and drive to succeed. Watching a vision manifest, from initial concept to detailed strategy, is inspiring. I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to support great leaders in growing their talent, systems, and processes to take advantage of market demand.
Engaged people. When people are engaged, their company’s culture will flourish. People create a positive culture, and a positive culture is fundamental to long-term success. Ideally, a team has established a culture of open and honest communication. These attributes, when mixed with talented and empowered individuals, can yield transformative results.
Showing respect for their time and achievements. An entrepreneur’s free time is valuable and often short-lived. It is a privilege when entrepreneurs choose to spend time getting to know Skylark.
Makena has spent her career leading teams to solve complex problems by developing and executing practical, actionable solutions. Prior to Skylark, Makena worked in Bain & Company’s Private Equity Group where she advised large private equity clients with underwriting diligence and portfolio company transformation strategies across retail, healthcare, industrials, and building products sectors. Prior to Bain, Makena served 8 years as a Field Artillery Officer in the United States Army, leading teams of Soldiers in Afghanistan, South Korea, Kentucky, and Alaska.
Makena received a BA in Economics from The University of the South (Sewanee) and her MBA from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth.
I enjoy working with entrepreneurs to help them solve their most important and challenging business problems. In lower middle market companies, these challenges are very diverse and always require clever solutions. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing the work of the team make a difference in the strategic direction of an organization.
The first step is to develop a clear, strategic vision and identify key initiatives to support that vision. The second step is to ensure these key initiatives are resourced properly with the right people, systems, and knowledge to make the strategic vision a reality. The third step is effectively communicating the expectations of each initiative, so all stakeholders understand their critical role in the success of the organization.
I aspire to make every interaction collaborative an ensure everyone has a voice at the table. Trust is built when all stakeholders feel they are valued and respected members of the team. Equally as important is being able to admit when you are wrong or do not know all the answers, but are willing to ask questions and learn from the individuals with more experience in that given industry, sector, or business.
Danny has spent his professional career focused on investing in lower middle market companies across a variety of industries. Prior to joining Skylark, Danny served as an Associate at ORIX Private Equity Solutions where he was responsible for analyzing potential investments and monitoring portfolio companies with a focus on financial modeling, industry research, and various due diligence activities.
Danny received a BBA in Finance from the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin.