In business, you exist to serve your customers, and your profit should come from serving them well.
Peter Brockway is a senior adviser at Blue Sea Capital with 30 years of experience in private equity investment and firm management. Peter serves on the board of directors of MD Now Urgent Care Centers and the Crisis Prevention Institute, along with other growing middle-market companies. A dedicated philanthropist, he has served as a trustee of Wake Forest University and a board member of Boca Helping Hands. Peter lives in Boca Raton, Florida.
Where did the idea for your company come from?
I have been in the private equity industry for almost 30 years. Upon receiving an intriguing offer from a recruiter, I joined Trivest (http://www.trivest.com/), a small buyout fund based in Miami, Florida, in 1986. I was attracted to the excitement and intellectual stimulation of deal making, and I wanted to help build companies for the typical five- to seven-year holding period common among the private equity world.
I, along with a number of colleagues, started our own fund in 1998; we raised three funds with that group. A subset of my colleagues just finished raising another fund in 2014. Additionally, I have formalized my family office, Brockway Investors, to make investments for my personal account in a variety of business types. My passion is investing in promising companies that can be built into bigger enterprises over time.
What does your typical day look like, and how do you make it productive?
My typical day is not that typical. I have a wide variety of activities: board meetings, both for companies we own and for nonprofits; supervising partners and senior associates in one private equity firm I am associated with; and attending investment committee meetings and other meetings at another private equity firm I am associated with. I also regularly assess my personal investments.
I try to make it productive by focusing intently on matters before me until I transition to another activity and by working with high-caliber professionals who can effectively execute the mission at hand.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I bring ideas to live with passion, relentlessness, and focus. It’s tough to make ideas happen, and one must be persistent if one is to succeed.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
It’s amazing to see how technology changes everything and how our economy prepares for each new technology. Look at autonomous vehicles — self-driving cars alone will change the automotive industry, the insurance industry, the healthcare industry, and many others.
What was the worst job you ever had, and what did you learn from it?
I had a job in college processing account receivables for a business. Quitting time could not have come fast enough: It was terribly routine and boring. I learned I needed intellectual stimulation and some creativity in my work to be content.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I think I might be entrepreneurial earlier in my career. Once you have the requisite expertise, it’s nice to have the latitude and ability to build a business from the ground up.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I strive to continually improve by learning from my mistakes. One can always get better, and experience is the best teacher.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
I believe in treating each customer as you would want to be treated. Solicit their advice and be receptive to their needs. In business, you exist to serve your customers, and your profit should come from serving them well. This win-win approach is the best approach.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and what did you do to overcome it?
I once worked with a company that made accessories for a product that was in lesser demand due to hot new technology. I leaned from this experience to always be cognizant of the ebb and flow of technologies. Be alert to technology threatening your product in any way.
What is the one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I believe we’re going to see new businesses spring up and thrive around the up-and-coming autonomous vehicle market. For example, manufacturing of parts used to control various systems within autonomous vehicles will increase. New ridesharing services for autonomous vehicles will spring up and grow.
What is the best $100 you recently spent?
It was a bit more than $100, but I recently bought wine and beer for our oldest daughter’s birthday reception with at least 20 of her friends. It was a beautiful night on a very scenic balcony.
What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?
OpenTable is fantastic for planning a dinner out. StubHub is effective for selling or buying event tickets — a very efficient marketplace. Weather radar apps let you easily predict what’s around the corner. All make life better.
What is the one book you recommend our community should read, and why?
Howard Schultz’s “Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life without Losing Its Soul.” It’s a great story of a wonderful business with a passionate founder who brought a company back to financial health and its core values.
What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?
I respect Howard Schultz for his above-mentioned book. Ronald Reagan has also influenced me: I appreciate his ability to focus on important issues and work with leaders he might not agree with.