Paul Lufkin is a fourth-generation entrepreneur and a small business advocate, as well as being an expert in mergers and acquisitions and exit planning. He spends his days identifying opportunities to consolidate small businesses and their owners into larger organizations, thereby making a healthy profit for all parties involved which brings him great joy and satisfaction. During the course of his career, Paul Lufkin has founded, purchased and/or sold 38 companies.
Why did you decide to create your own business?
I’m a fourth-generation entrepreneur. It’s in the blood on both sides of my family. I grew up in a family business with my father. I earned $1.50 an hour and got my first paycheck when I was eight years old. He taught me to take half of my earnings and buy shares in the company. That was the beginning of my MBA career growing up in the family business. That’s where the entrepreneurial bug started.
What do you love most about the industry you are in?
It gives me a chance to be creative. Being an entrepreneur helps people, and that’s where I really have fun. Helping people find a way to monetize their businesses and advising them on how to build up to the next level. Those are important things to me. Seeing something come from an idea all the way through to a product or a business—that really gets me going.
How has your company grown from its early days to now?
I took one business and added on ten more. That’s how the process begins, in helping all these small entrepreneurs monetize their businesses and be part of a bigger story. If I help people get what they want, I will eventually get what I want. It’s all about bringing in people that want to participate. When I go into these types of transactions, I’m always raising capital. Learning how to raise capital, finding the sources of the capital; that’s almost an art form unto itself. Capital likes to go in big chunks, so the bigger the idea, the bigger the plan, the more capital you need, the easier it can be, ironically. Raising a hundred thousand dollars is harder than raising a hundred million.
Who has been a role model to you and why?
One of my favorites is an author named Stuart Wilde. He is a great author who writes about a lot of esoteric thinking. Another author, Patrick Lencioni, is also a great model on building corporate culture.
But my father is role model number one. He is at the top of the list because he was the ultimate entrepreneur. He started three or four businesses in his career. And he also taught me how to keep a work-life balance and how to be a good father. At 92yrs, we still get online once a week, pour some scotch, and play online cards.
How do you maintain a solid work life balance?
It’s a challenge. Especially when I’m immersed in a transaction, people want me to do certain things and my time is constantly in demand. But at the end of the day, it’s about having a balanced, successful life. I work a lot and that’s sometimes what is needed to make things happen but spending quality time with my children and my spouse is very important, too. That’s something my father taught me.
What traits do you possess that makes a successful leader?
Empathy. Being able to listen to people and be calm. I’m a very calm person so I tend not to react. I absorb the situation and then react. That’s probably my greatest strength along with resiliency.
What suggestions do you have for someone starting in your industry?
If someone is getting started as an entrepreneur, you want to make sure you are surrounded by lots of trusted advisors. That’s number one. Then in addition to a great idea you have access to capital.
Next, if you’re talking about being involved in the mergers and acquisitions industry, go learn from somebody. Get some teaching from folks who have done it before and been successful.
Number three, if you want to get into the cannabis industry, specifically, which is an emerging market, guess what? Go back to rule number one: Surround yourself with people who have done it before and done it well. That’s the key. There are enough of us around now that have been in the cannabis industry that we can help with spitballs.
Outside of work, what defines you as a person?
I guess I’d have to call back to being empathetic, being a good listener, and remaining calm. That defines me. When people ask, “Who is Paul?”, they will say he’s one of the most positive people you’ll ever meet and he always remains calm, even in a crisis.
Where do you see you and your company in 5 years?
That’s a good question because my youngest son is just entering high school. In about four or five years, he’ll be out of high school, which I think would allow my wife and I to explore more places we can live throughout the year. We could choose to spend part of our time in one climate and another time of year in another climate. And with the kind of work that I do, I could live anywhere.
With the business opportunities and growth potential we currently have, we will be able to travel and work anywhere. And since Cannabis is just starting to gain international acceptance –we could end up anywhere in the world.