I have been authoring an annual narrative of my businesses since age twenty two. I started the process with my loan officer in mind. The audience quickly morphed to include my future self. I wanted to address the anticipated question: “What were you thinking?!”
I launched Little Engine Ventures in the summer of 2016 and began a quarterly update cadence with partners. I also send partners a lengthy annual letter. Sometimes I send irregular memos. Obviously, I blog.
This year, I will send a twelve page, narrow margin, single spaced annual letter answering the same “What were you thinking?” question for my co-owners. It will dive a bit further into qualitative nuances that surround our financial statements. We had another good year. At some point we will miss the mark… and it will be my fault. I am trying to brace and condition partners for a bumpy ride.
A few colleagues in the private investment industry publish their Annual Letters to the public. I do not. Why? I emphasize the “private” nature of our methods, processes and competitive edge. We are not a public company. We are a private partnership. And, I don’t want the whole world knowing exactly how and what we are doing. I don’t want competitors emulating us or sellers becoming disenfranchised with our brand. (yes, we intend to make a profit after buying a business.) I also don’t want to inadvertently make a public offering. Yet, I want to be very specific with actual partners.
Do I lack confidence to compete on a national stage? Perhaps. Is it confidence that wins the game? No. Discernment, self control and accurate judgement acted upon swiftly pile up victories. Our edge is in deal flow, not fund raising.
I’m not sure we will win. (We defining winning as being the best option available to partners.) All I can be sure of is my own perseverance bolstered by individuals I know and trust. I will do my best. Thus, my letters are aimed at specific people with the objective of helping us become more effective together.
So, I have squelched another year’s temptation to publish. I like to write. This blog post will suffice. I did not publish on purpose. What was I thinking?
“Anyone who says extra capital won’t hurt returns is selling” – Warren Buffett
I have taken counsel and decided to keep it private. And besides, the Fund has sufficient capital… for now.