Tami Longaberger’s experience leading her family’s business (she served as chair of the board and CEO of The Longaberger Co. from 1999-2015) has informed her approach to her role as head of global partnerships at C5 Capital, a specialist investment firm. In fact, she says many times she’s had to remind herself which side of the table she’s now on.
“I’ve been on the other side of the table where I was looking for that private equity money, or I was looking for a loan from a bank or I was exploring different opportunities for financial partnership,” she says. “And I think because I’ve been on that other side of that table, it informs me in a way that I can relate to our portfolio companies.”
She says it's a big leap of faith on the part of a portfolio company, especially those in the secure data ecosystem space where C5 has its focus. That’s because these companies have no shortage of financing options.
“They don’t have to take our money,” she says. “We compete for very competitive deals in cutting edge technology. And as a result we have to bring a point of differentiation to the table.”
Longaberger says she believes she’s able to help in that process in part because she’s able to communicate to a founder or entrepreneur in a way that tough-minded investment teams might not be able to do. In many cases, investors have never been founders, and so have never faced the same day-to-day problems founders typically face.
“A CEO always has to deal with the human side of the business as well,” she says. “And when you’re looking at charts and graphs and numbers, you don’t have to be that person. So I think I’m able to transfer my experience to portfolio companies with some credibility that resonates with them.”
Longaberger says, in her previous role as CEO, she would remind people that nothing happens in a company unless someone places an order. That means the company could have the perfect plan, structure, org charts, but unless someone sends in an order no one at the company has anything to do.
“That philosophy translates into venture capital, too,” Longaberger says. “What I had to learn is in venture capital your most important customers are your investors. And so I had to learn about investor relations.”
That, she says, has helped her to learn what investors need and are interested in with respect to their portfolio companies.
“In any business, knowing your customer, understanding them, listening to them is really the key,” she says.
Longaberger spoke at the Columbus Smart Business Dealmakers Conference on a range of issues including how her time as an operator informs her approach as an investor, what she’s seeing in the secure data ecosystem space, and the future of the Longaberger Co. brand. Hit play on the video above to catch the full conversation.