Brent Johnstone, Co-Founder & Managing Director, Quarry Capital Management
How did you end up in your line of business?
Like many private equity professionals, I started my career in investment banking (real estate and technology), but it was at Thomson Financial, a financial information company, that I started dabbling with more advanced analytical tools that went beyond traditional Excel-based financial modeling. I was then approached to co-found Quarry Capital, a private equity firm that would create value by coupling operational strategies with powerful analytics to drive sales growth and margin expansion. We have since derived so much value from our investment in analytics at Quarry Capital that just last fall I decided to co-found a sister company, Granite Analytics, to help us partner with others (private equity firms, lenders, investment banks, and the companies with whom they collectively work) that want to create and capture value through advances in analytics as well.
How did you first get involved with ACG Boston?
I first got involved with ACG Boston when I realized that as a new entrant to private equity, I needed to rapidly build a network of deal flow professionals (business brokers and investment banks), capital providers and service providers (attorneys, consultants, accountants, etc.). I continue rely heavily on ACG network for deal flow and capital partners (either to seek co-investors in our deals or to offer capital and/or analytical firepower for others’ deals). In addition to building out my Boston network, ACG also has regularly provided key educational forums that have kept me up to speed on trends in M&A.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
The best advice I received from a mentor is not just to measure, but to benchmark, benchmark, benchmark. I’ve found benchmarking so valuable that it’s become a core component of what we do at Granite Analytics and Quarry Capital. Companies that benchmark customers (and share the results with customers) establish domain expertise, improve customer loyalty, attract new customers, and increase pricing power. Companies that benchmark suppliers foster competition which leads to lower product costs. Employee benchmarking drives intra-company competition and serves as the basis for effective incentive plans. Product benchmarking helps eliminate underperforming skus, improves inventory turns, boosts fill rates and increases cash flow. Using today’s analytical tools, benchmarking has never been easier or more powerful.
What is something people don’t know about you?
My close friends know that I enjoy performing on stage, but most of my professional peers don’t. I was in an a cappella troupe in business school and a comedy improv group in college (both terrifying to me at the start). I can do a mean karaoke!
What is your most satisfying professional accomplishment?
My most satisfying professional accomplishment was Quarry Capital’s successful sale of Royal Pet Supplies, a pet supply distributor that serves retailers from Maine to Florida. After a dip during the recession in our first year of ownership, I stepped in as interim CEO (the then CEO had resigned). Without having been CEO of a distributor before, I worked with management to help the company dramatically boost EBITDA over the next two years, largely through analytical strategies and associated projects (strategic pricing, logistics/fleet optimization, product sourcing cost reduction, sku and inventory management strategies, customer acquisition/retention initiatives, customer/supplier benchmarking and sales force optimization). I was amazed at how coupling analytics with the industry insights of the management team helped drive performance.
What’s on your bucket list?
To perform in a band. This one may happen!