When it comes to evaluating different sponsors, David Sheffer, Chief Growth Officer at MyEyeDr, says the company’s needs have been different at every stage. The business was founded in 2001 and had no institutional capital up to 2012. Over a decade or so, the founding entrepreneurs grew it to 35 eye care practices all in the Washington D.C. area. It was mid-teens of EBDITA, so it was a great business but cash accounting on Quickbooks, no audit, family run.

“And so the partner we needed at that time was someone who was going to professionalize the business and do some of this sort of middle-market blocking and tackling,” Sheffer says.

Since then, the company has had three transactions. It had a recap with Charlesbank Capital Partners in 2014, sold a majority of the business in 2015 to Altas Partners, and then just sold a majority of the business last year to Goldman Sachs Merchant Banking.The company has since grown from teens of EBDITA and 35 locations to 600 locations and a couple hundred million in EBDITA.

The Charlesbank and Altas deals, he says, were one-off negotiated transactions based purely on relationships and trust. For the management team, those are great because there's much less disruption in running your business.

“A process is exhausting,” he says. “It takes you away from your family, it takes you away from your business and it may not maximize the final penny on the valuation, but it's certainly a better experience for everyone if you know them going into a sale.”

When they decided to sell the business last year, they hired Jeffries Finance as a banker to lead a sponsor-only process. He says they were looking for another private equity fund, but the company’s needs were much different than they were back in 2012.

At this point, the company was looking for a bigger fund that could help them accelerate strategic initiatives because they had spent the last seven or eight years heads down on M&A and getting the team together. So it came down to access to resources, relevant experience, and culture and fit.

“Everybody's money is green,” Sheffer says, “and so ultimately having that right partnership matters a ton.”

Sheffer, along with Falfurrias Capital Partners Principal Chip Johnson, Pamlico Capital Principal Jay Henry, Moore & Van Allen PLLC Member Rick Bange, and Frontier Growth Founding Partner Richard MacLean spoke at the Charlotte Smart Business Dealmakers Conference about how M&A needs change at different stages of a company’s lifecycle. Hit play on the video above to catch the full conversation.