Why I Joined a Public Company Board

 

I recently joined the Tandy Leather (TLF) board of directors. A few people have asked, “With your focus on private company acquisitions, why would you spend time working on a public company, especially one you don’t have an investment in? How did you get involved in the company?” Those are great questions.  

To answer the second question first, Jeff Gramm, whose fund owns about 30% of Tandy, asked me. Jeff and I first met through Twitter about a year ago and have become good friends. For those that don’t know Jeff, he breaks all the molds for a “hedge fund guy.” I try to background check new relationships and asked a handful of mutual friends about Jeff. Without exception, he is referenced as a “great guy.” People described him as smart and highly successful, but also humble, sincere, and kind — the type of person I want to spend more time with. 

Adventur.es hosted Jeff earlier this year in Columbia, MO for a series of events around his book, “Dear Chairman,” and we got some windshield time to talk investments. Through the course of conversation, Tandy came up and I remembered the company from his book. Jeff graciously let me pound him with questions about the company’s history, trajectory, and capital structure. Shortly after the trip, Jeff asked if I’d be interested in joining the board. 

While I was initially hesitant for obvious reasons, Jeff was persuasive. With a healthy amount of net cash, a great footprint, an under-levered balance sheet, and new leadership, the company is in a fantastic position to build a prosperous future. While it’s no secret that retail is under pressure, Tandy has a delightfully strange niche. Its customers are loyal and rely on Tandy to help them pursue their hobby projects, as well as small business opportunities. It’s a great company and fits closely with what we love at adventur.es. 

I’m a nerd and always on the lookout for learning opportunities, especially in business. I relish exploring the nuances of different business models, incentives structures, and team dynamics. While adventur.es has looked at a lot of retailers through the years and has a small retail operation through our investments in Arizona, I’ve never experienced retail in depth. Selfishly, I hope Tandy is my MBA in retail. The board recently added two experienced retail operators in Vicki Cantrell and Sharon Leite, as well as investor Sejal Patel, all of whom impressed me greatly. 

In fact, I was thoroughly impressed with the entire experience. I read about awkward board dynamics, either a group of rubber-stampers, or tension-filled and combative, and had prepared myself for the worst. But much to my relief, Tandy’s leaders, Shannon, Mark, and Tina, patiently helped get us newbies up to speed, and the decision-making process was rigorous, thoughtful, and quite enjoyable. 

Why join the board? Because I get to spend time with a great group of people, experience a new facet of business, and hopefully help a friend in the process. It’s a win-win-win and I look forward to being a small contributor to Tandy’s success. Cheers to Twitter for connecting friends and opening new doors. 

- Brent