What is Marrow?
There is an old (p)leather couch in my office. A few times each week, a friend, colleague, or employee will show up unannounced and make themselves comfortable. The common thread between this rotating cast of characters is that they are leading teams and organizations. Usually, something is eating their lunch and they just need some space to talk about it. This weathered piece of furniture has been privy to more than a few honest conversations about the difficulties that come with entrepreneurship.
I am definitely not a therapist, and “expert” is an adjective that will never grace a sentence with my name in it. Most of what I know I have learned from others, most often in the form of great mentors who have been willing to give me their time, energy, and experience. On a personal level, failure has been my most profound teacher. Years ago, I even came within a few inches of losing everything important in my life. To call that season “self-destructive” would be putting it lightly.
Thankfully, life is an iterative process, and what felt like the end was really just the beginning.
Nowadays, I wake up feeling like I have won the lottery. In utter contrast to that previous season, I have a wife and kiddos who love me and want me around, deep friendships with good men, work I believe in, and colleagues I enjoy building and creating alongside.
My experience has taught me that entrepreneurship can be a lonely path, and that a flawed and rigid business plan is a death sentence. I am generally skeptical of any economic model that helps the rich get richer, and I believe businesses that don’t prioritize financial performance won’t be around very long. Big picture, I’m all in on SMBs as platforms for transformation in communities, homes, and the human beings that inhabit them.
I know a few things about starting a business, have an extraordinarily high-risk tolerance, and believe in my bones that an organization is only as good as its people.
Marrow is an adventure in entrepreneurship, generosity, friendship, and the impact that having a damn good time can have on performance. A good 90% of who we are and what we do is forever in flux, while 10% is bolted to the ground and untouchable. We hold ideas loosely and question best practices till we find the simplest, most durable solution possible.
Our commitment to profitability is exceeded only by our convictions about the preservation and celebration of human dignity. Get-rich-quick schemes are repulsive, and good work done in the shadows is rewarded. We are irrationally optimistic about the future, and we absolutely insist on enjoying life. We embrace tension, believing in both/and, not either/or.
Driven by these commitments, we are going to start, acquire, and launch 100 SMBs over the next two decades marked by Substance, Dignity, Simplicity, and Durability.
In order to do this, we’re making three important bets:
1. Entrepreneurship is better with friends.
Marrow gently de-risks the entrepreneurial ride, giving individuals (and ideas) a better shot at flourishing. This opens up access for us to a pool of aspirational entrepreneurs who may not be able to take the leap because of resource limitations, risk tolerance, or both. We surround them with other entrepreneurs and business leaders, give them access to capital, and in most cases a salary so that they can focus on building something special.
2. Shared services accelerate growth and drive focus.
We have centralized HR, IT, Finance, Brand, and Marketing so that our business leaders can focus on their people, customers, product, or service. We want the individuals at the helms of our businesses working on them, not in them. By centralizing operations and back office support, we free business leaders up to drive growth and optimization without getting bogged down in the weeds. These increased efficiencies improve margin performance, decrease burnout, and serve as the connective tissue between businesses.
3. Financial discipline precedes impact.
Clear financial controls and ferocious margin protection afford us the opportunity to reinvest in our businesses, communities, and people. Without fiscal discipline, we can’t do the things we are called to do or be the kind of businesses we are called to be. At the same time, we don’t burden our businesses with overly-ambitious return profiles, impatient capital partners, or foolish debt. With a few exceptions, we aim to hold and cash flow businesses long-term.
Profit with purpose and margin for the marginalized: this is the whole game.
We are under no illusion that some of these businesses will fail, and a few will implode. We will bet wrongly on a few leaders, and there will be days that we are not having very much fun. There are macroeconomic headwinds we cannot control, and there are internal fissures we are not yet aware of.
We are compelled to give it a go anyways.
Why? Because hard work and solid business are the substrates and engines for real transformation. Because humans working with humans– the building, creating, negotiating, challenging, growing– is the good stuff, even when it is the hard stuff. Because failure is not the enemy and opposition is an invitation to think differently and pivot when necessary. Because vision is enduring and business is an infinite game that we’re excited to keep playing with friends. Because we don’t take ourselves too seriously and in the end, this is one grand adventure.
Want to join?