John Slater and Focus Investment Banking LLC
John: “I’m a native of Memphis and have practiced my professions since 1970. I started getting in the colleges then I went to law school. I got professional training in law at University of Virginia, economics degree at Princeton and for about nine years I practiced law here in Memphis. I finally concluded that I was more interested in building things and actually being an agent of change in the world so I got into the investment banking business opportunity.
I’ve always been interested in entrepreneurial business, the growth of businesses, helped start the industrial revenue board here and played a role in downtown revitalization back in the 70s. I spent a little time at Morgan Keegan which of that time was a major regional investment bank. I was a fifth guy in their corporate finance department at that time with James.
And then in 1985 I started my own company it was called Asset Services. We served middle-market business owners, entrepreneurs typically who have started a business or were at a point where either they needed to raise money or they were ready to exit for whatever reasons. Every situation is different so there’s no one, one time that makes sense for that.
So we spent actually about 20 years as a local regional firm here in Memphis, dealt with clients all over the mid-south as well as some more for our firm. About 2005, the world had changed and since what we do is basically– you’re given the trust of business owners of what in many cases is the most important thing in their lives, the fact that I was a bright guy who had a good smell sometimes weren’t enough. They wanted to know if they’re going to trust their business to my company and me that in fact I had backups. So we merge with a company in Washington, D.C. called Focus Investment Banking.
Focus does the same thing I’ve done for a long time which is Middle-market, M&A, and Corporate finance transactions. I’m a partner in the firm. We are a national company, headquarters’ in Washington with offices in Atlanta and Los Angeles as well as satellite offices in Couture Memphis, Florida and Bend Oregon. I never have figured out how those guys got to do that. They seemed to have a little bit of buzz in the environmental plus and actually seem to be doing pretty well out there.
We are focused primarily on helping business owners with business sales. That’s about 60% of our practice. Business acquisitions is another 20% or 30% and our corporate finance which is 20% or 30%. Again depending on which year and so exit planning and exit is a major part of our practice and the services that we’re providing for business owners.
I also personally head our corporate finance team which is called the capital finance team and they tend to be assisting business owners who either have a need for growth capital or capital for some other purpose, maybe buying out a partner. A lot of that is debt finance which is very hot these days and a lot of resources on debt that didn’t use to be there in the past. So we help entrepreneurs locate that capital, sometimes equity capital, recapitalize. I guess the other piece of my practice over the years; I’ve done a reasonable amount of what I called turnaround or distressed M&A or if companies that have had some financial issues really need a guide to get them through tough times, maybe there dealing with the bank has entered into foreclosure, what we’ve found is that M&A can often serve as a superior exit in difficult situations to the other alternatives which are bankruptcy and liquidation in many cases. So that is not a type of fun, it’s highly stressful but once you accomplish it and save a couple of hundred jobs at the particular business… it’s incredibly rewarding, yes.”
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