The second time’s the charm

Seven years after his first company went south, Toronto accountant Brad Nathan is the owner and founder of a private-equity firm specializing in small businesses whose owners are retiring.

When Brad Nathan founded his company as a young accountant, his very first deal went south and he lost everything he owned overnight. He had left his role as a vice-president at Rothschild Canada Ltd. in Toronto to set up a business doing what he loves — making people money — and he wasn’t about to disappoint his investors or employees. It took seven years to dig himself out before Nathan founded Lynx Equity, a private-equity firm with a very different model than his first business attempt: buy 100% of a company from owners who are retiring.

Lynx Equity focuses on smaller, family-run businesses. “The most important thing is that the seller cares about the integrity of the business and how it’s run,” he says. Nathan’s one non-negotiable is his employees will never ask an owner to step down or question retirement plans. (His model allows the founder/owner to run his or her business until he or she is ready to pass the management on to someone else.)

“With that very first deal, I ignored what I learned in my training and I now know I got everything that was due to me; I took too many risks,” he says. “Now I really pay attention to understanding the balance sheet.”