Member Profile - Jay Freund


Managing Director, Stratford-Cambridge Group

Jay on his 4-Wheeler

"Cannot wait to get back on the road to seeing people again!" — Jay Freund

ACG Member Since: 2014
ACG Involvement: ACG Cup Coach

How have you had to adapt your business model during the pandemic? What has worked and what hasn’t?

Given the nature of the PE business and the pandemic environment, we have been thinking about the three legs of the business: new deals, investor relationships, and existing portfolio companies. Clearly, going from an intensive in-person model of building relationships to something more virtual has been a huge change. We have been looking at new deals for the past two months with the opportunity to be more thoughtful and creative on valuation and structure. Often, initial management meetings and plant tours are being done virtually. While that is the best practice for today, I do have a hard time understanding the dynamics of management teams (by not seeing them in action and in one room, together) and reading the body language of sellers when discussing any aspect of the deal.

What has surprised you most during this period?

With Stratford-Cambridge Group portfolio companies, we are fortunate to have strong leaders at each business. While each team possesses many skills to operate and grow a company, what has surprised me is how quickly each team re-prioritized its near-term objectives from pre-pandemic goals to ones focused on liquidity, employee health/safety, and survivability. I knew our teams would make the transition. I did not appreciate how quickly it could be done.

How are you staying connected with your network?

I will not offer any "silver bullets." However, maintaining one’s network in the COVID-19 environment still requires hard work but in a different manner. Telephone calls and virtual meetings seem to dominate, and my experience is no different. I do seem to be more efficient with my outreach given that I do not need to travel to meetings, breakfasts, or lunches. In the past few weeks, I have had occasion to meet with select individuals in-person. What a welcome change!

Do you think we will see lasting changes to how we do business as a result of this?

Yes. From mid-March through May, we were under the shelter orders and business practices changed significantly. While the pendulum swung heavily to one side, it will swing back to some degree. I believe the companies that are focused upon

  • the health, safety, and welfare of employees,
  • liquidity/cash,
  • supply chain management, and
  • customer relationships will be the survivors (assuming the specific industry has not been devastated by COVID-19).

Also, the concept of adaptability and supply chain location will move to higher priorities in near-term and longer-term strategic plans.

There have certainly been economic winners and losers during this period. Which ones have surprised you the most?

I will stick to the winners. eCommerce has been growing in significance over the past 15 years and has certainly accelerated again recently. All of our portfolio companies are B2B industrial/manufacturing businesses. To my surprise, a few of our companies are working on eCommerce initiatives that, prior to the pandemic, likely would have been lower priorities.

Has there been a "silver lining" for you and if so, what is it?

I favor meeting people face-to-face as opposed to the telephone or email. I now truly value my friends more since that opportunity to meet at our favorite hang-outs was taken away. I did not comprehend fully the importance and simplicity of human interaction in our daily relationships. Many in our deal community are facing the same series of business issues, so anyone can help, whether by providing a solution or just being a sounding board with a similar perspective. Now is the time to create lasting bonds.

What is your favorite ACG Cleveland event and why?

The Cleveland chapter has a rich history of terrific events, from the Deal Maker Awards to the Summer Social at the Shoreby Club, and everything in-between. I am a big fan of ACG Cleveland’s participation in the Great Lakes Capital Connection. From Stratford-Cambridge Group’s perspective, this event pulls together individuals from the core geographic markets that are important to us. And, we often get to experience some of the "networking nightlife" in a different city. When Cleveland hosts, we show off NE Ohio and the amazing deal community that resides here.