Provide, a fintech finance company for health care businesses, was acquired by Fifth Third in 2021. But before that, the bank was a partner and an investor. It was part of a Series A round Provide got in 2018, according to Provide Chief Business Officer Andrew Bennett, then developed a loan purchase partnership with the company in early 2020.

"It was a great partnership from the beginning, and we were seeing that we could not just originate attractive assets in terms of the practice loan, but also build banking relationships with these doctors," Bennett says. "It was a win-win. Going into the acquisition — certainly a scary thing to sell your company — but having the confidence that the partnership has gone so well definitely made it less scary than maybe it could have been."

The decision to sell the business, rather than take another approach to grow, came down to what determining the right home for the company.

"And I think we felt like a bank, especially a bank of Fifth Third's caliber with very forward-thinking leadership and the success of the partnership to that point, it just made sense," he says. "There was incredible alignment, not just around that sort of strategy and vision, but culturally as well. And the notion that we'd have the chance to operate with autonomy and continue to build greater technology and preserve our culture and all the things that make startup life great, while also having the stability and the durability of being part of a top-10 bank, I think that combination of things made it clear that that was the right move."

Preparing for the deal involved a lot of diligence, Bennett says. But while that's going on, he says business leaders can't lose sight of running the company and staying on a growth path. Going through a process for the first time can be stressful and there's a lot of uncertainty. That's why it's important to focus on the goal of the outcome.

"I think we felt so good about what the outcome was going to look like, makes it a lot easier to go through those challenging months of getting the deal finalized and closed," he says. "Certainly Fifth Third was a great partner throughout. There is no playbook, I don't think, if you've never been through it before. We're fortunate to have great investors and advisers and all kinds of folks helping us, so that certainly makes it easier as well."

For those yet to go through a process, he says it's important to remember why you're doing what you're doing while you're building the company, as well as the mission and how it ties into it.

"It's helpful to anchor to that and keep that as your North Star throughout a process that is this intense and emotional at times because now we are able to serve practice owners in ways that we couldn't as an independent company," Bennett says. "That's one of the great benefits of the merger is the things that we can deliver for these customers now. So, it's easy when your head's down and you're in the thick of the process to forget those things but to draw inspiration from that I think is helpful."

Bennett spoke on the Smart Business Dealmakers Podcast about Provide's sale to Fifth Third.