My biggest lessons from COVID - Mark MacLeod

July 18, 2023 - Mark MacLeod

My biggest lessons from COVID

Back in March 2020, I was still running my investment bank, SurePath, and Q1 was a whirlwind. Fresh off a fantastic year, we were charging full steam ahead into 2020. It seemed like my airline status would once again soar (a dubious perk of being busy…).

Little did we know what was about to unfold. News reports started trickling in about something brewing in China. Corona-something… (By the way, I can’t drink Corona beer anymore, but I digress.)

At first, we probably brushed it off, thinking it wouldn’t affect us. But the news persisted. Uncertainty grew. Fear spread like wildfire.

Before we knew it, our generation faced something unprecedented: a lockdown.

In just two short weeks, the world came to a standstill. The bustling activity at SurePath vanished into thin air. Within ten days, deals worth hundreds of millions went up in smoke as stock markets crashed, causing public buyers to hesitate and private buyers to retreat.

The beginning of an opportunity

In some ways, I was an unwilling banker. My true passion lies in advising CEOs and closing deals. The burdensome regulations and fee structures of the investment banking industry were not my cup of tea.

By the end of 2019, I knew that if I had a second chance with SurePath, I would skip the banking and compliance headaches (we were a small team with an 88-page compliance manual) and focus solely on coaching and advising.

The lockdown presented a golden opportunity for me to make that leap. With no ongoing deals to walk away from, leaving clients hanging, I could gracefully wind things down and chart a path to become a coach.

This story carries two profound lessons:

Time is the enemy of all deals

This is not a newfound revelation. It echoed like a mantra throughout SurePath. The team heard it daily. Our progress was measured incessantly. Every single day mattered.

In the world of deals, you can never predict what might happen. Will the buyer back out due to a poor quarter and a plummeting stock price? Will they shift direction or leadership? Will your executive sponsor be promoted and lose interest in the deal?

What if the company set to acquire you gets acquired itself? Believe me, this happened more than once.

Some of the deals we were handling were running behind schedule. Had they closed on time, they would have dodged the market’s halt.

For fundraising, time is also the enemy. While there may be fewer variables and uncertainties, building momentum is crucial, especially in early-stage deals.

Everything unfolds FOR you, not TO you

I firmly believe this. Even the most challenging moments in my life, like the end of my first marriage, ultimately served me. I grew and reaped immense benefits from those experiences. The same holds true for COVID.

Running an investment bank was a relentless struggle to keep up. Countless deals hanging in the balance. An office in San Francisco. Clients in Europe. If I was awake, I was working. Even my dreams were productive, prompting me to keep a notebook by my bedside to capture ideas. I bet many of you can relate.

The most gratifying aspect of SurePath was the one-on-one conversations I had with the CEOs I served. COVID allowed me to shed everything else and focus solely on the part I cherished the most.

No more travel. No more never-ending diligence conference calls. No more hustling.

Zero stress and every day filled with deep fulfillment.

I stayed in touch with many CEOs whose deals collapsed in March 2020. Looking back, almost all consider it a blessing. They’re grateful they didn’t sell and have since grown their businesses.

What an extraordinary time it was! Amidst the pain and uncertainty that plagued the world (may it never happen again), I am grateful for the opportunity it afforded me to transition into coaching.

Photo by Javier Allegue Barros on Unsplash

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