Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Entrepreneurship: If You Wait Until You're Ready, You'll Never Do It

Vern Cushenbery of Cush Capital says that entrepreneurship is a lot like parenthood: “If you wait until you’re ready, you’ll never do it!”  So dive in, entrepreneurs.

Vern Cushenbery,
Cush Capital
Just before he was leaving for the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholders Meeting in Omaha with clients, I caught up with Vern Cushenbery, chief executive officer of Cush Capital Management, LLC.  As an owner of his own capital management firm, a finance guru, and a big thinker, Cushenbery has launched a successful business after a decade of experience in investment analysis and research.  So how did he do it?  Read my Q&A with Cushenbery himself: 

TBP (Think Big Partners): What ignited the spark to start Cush Capital? 
Vern: I majored in finance in college because I had an interest in the way the stock market works.  I had an attraction to thinking about investments in terms of relative advantage.  One of the common traits of investors like myself is that we are attracted to solving problems.  I thrive in that environment.  Putting the puzzle pieces together in finding that next great investment opportunity is what keeps me going.

TBP: When did Cush Capital launch?
Vern: Cush Capital launched in August of 2008, but our performance dates back to my prior firm beginning November of 2007.  It’s a meaningful date because it was within 2 weeks within the absolute peak of the market.

TBP: What types of success have you seen so far at Cush Capital?
Vern: So far we’ve been able to make it through the second worst downturn in 100 years.  That’s pretty remarkable in itself.  During that period we’ve been recognized by MorningStar as a standout manager.  They awarded us their 4 star rating.  That’s significant.  We are one of only two managers in our category that can make that claim over the past three years.

TBP: Explain to me what makes Cush Capital different than any other capital management firm.
Vern: We are a research organization—that’s what we specialize in and thrive on.  We market ourselves based on a better brand and a better caliber of research.  Most of our competitors in the registered investment advisory space are in the business of identifying and recommending a diversified lineup of mutual funds.  Each mutual fund has a portfolio manager based out of New York, Chicago or LA.  The client never gets to meet the person making the decisions with their money.  We use a different model because we’re a research organization.  We do the research here in town and we can back those decisions up and sit down with our clients and tell them why we are making the moves we are.

TBP: What is your main goal for Cush Capital?
Vern: Our main goal is to grow the firm through better research.  We have goals and price targets for every investment we make, we have milestones for every client we do business with.

TBP: What is one piece of advice that you would give an entrepreneur looking to start a business?
Vern: The first thing that comes to mind is the same advice I would get from parents when my wife and I were thinking about having children, which was ‘if you wait until you’re ready, you’ll never do it.’  That’s also applicable to entrepreneurship!

TBP: How do you Think Big? 
Vern: My biggest aspiration for this firm would be to accumulate enough assets to influence the management teams of companies we invest in.  We want to do business with morally-minded, ethically-minded people of extremely high integrity.  To the extent that we see certain companies engaging in practices that are less than admirable it would be nice if, on the basis of our size, we could influence their behavior for the good of the financial marketplace and for the good of society. That would be tremendous.

Written by Allison Way.

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