Entrepreneurship Through Acquisition—Carl Lundberg, Partner, Gerald Edelman

If you’re listening in to our podcast, chances are that you are the founder of your business. But, there is a whole opportunity for folks who might be interested in entrepreneurship through acquisition.  

Our guest today is Carl Lundberg, who is an expert at supporting people to become entrepreneurs through acquisition. 


Delegate to create trust with your team and operational leverage.


Carl Lundberg is a seasoned professional in the field of corporate finance and transaction services. As a Partner at Gerald Edelman LLP, Carl has gained extensive experience advising clients ranging from new entrepreneurs to large multi-national businesses, offering a wide range of business advice to nurture and promote their success. Carl has expertise in entrepreneurship through acquisition and search funds, company acquisitions in the UK, due diligence, debt funding for UK acquisitions, and management buy-ins.

With a background in forensic accounting and expert witness services, Carl has advised clients on matters such as valuations, fundraising, and M&A. He is a qualified Chartered Accountant and an associate member of the Academy of Experts, regularly engaged as an expert witness in his areas of expertise. Carl is passionate about doing deals and providing his clients with a commercial mindset to solve their problems. He is not just an accountant but an all-around business adviser that genuinely cares about his clients and their success.

For podcasts with an audience of anyone with an M&A strategy targeting UK acquisitions, Carl Lundberg would be a great fit. He has many years of experience in corporate finance, transaction services, and forensic accounting, making him a valuable resource for those navigating the complex landscape of UK acquisitions.


This episode is powered by Big Sky Franchise Team. If you are ready to talk about franchising your business you can schedule your free, no-obligation, franchise consultation online at: https://bigskyfranchiseteam.com/ or by calling Big Sky Franchise Team at: 855-824-4759.

If you are interested in being a guest on our podcast, please complete this request form or email podcast@bigskyfranchise.com and a team member will be in touch.


Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (00:01):

Welcome to the Multiply Your Success podcast, where each week we help growth-minded entrepreneurs and franchise leaders take the next step in their expansion journey. I’m your host, Tom DuFore, CEO of Big Sky Franchise Team. And as we open today, it’s very likely that if you’re listening to this podcast, you’re an entrepreneur or a founder of your business and you created it from scratch in most cases, for most people that we talk to and that listen into our podcast. However, there may be some of you who maybe either acquired a business where you purchased an existing business to get that going. Maybe you bought a franchise or maybe you thought you might want to sell your business one day to a potential suitor. Well, our guest today is Carl Lundberg and he’s an expert at supporting people to become entrepreneurs through acquisition.

Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (00:51):

Now, Carl is a seasoned professional in the field of corporate finance and transaction services, is a partner at Gerald Edelman, LLP. Carl has gained extensive experience advising clients ranging from new entrepreneurs to large multinational businesses, offering a wide range of advice to promote their success. Carl’s expertise in entrepreneurship through acquisition and search funds, company acquisitions in the UK, due diligence step funding and management buy-ins. He is an expert in mergers and acquisitions and provides a wealth of information to anyone that’s maybe thinking about buying an existing business or by finding potential partners or suitors to buy your business. So let’s go ahead and jump into my interview with Carl Lundberg.

Carl Lundberg, Gerald Edelman (01:38):

Hi, Tom. Yeah, no, it’s great to be here. Thanks for having me on. My name’s Carl Lundberg. I’m a partner in a firm of chartered accountants based in the City of London, and the firm is called Gerald Edelman.

Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (01:49):

Well, I really appreciate you being here to talk today, and one of the highlights and reasons we wanted to have you on is talking about this idea of entrepreneurship through acquisition, and we’ve had various people on talk about this over time, but I thought it was really relevant to have you on to talk about that. And at first, just as a starting point to talk a little bit about search funds and just what search funds is and how that works.

Carl Lundberg, Gerald Edelman (02:14):

It’s my favorite topic to talk about, Tom, at the moment, and I think some of my colleagues here are probably getting a little bit sick of hearing about it. But yeah, so a search fund, in fact, a search is something that was created, it was come up within in the US I think it was at Stanford University back in the ’80s. It’s the concept of, and I think the wider explanation or the wider definition is entrepreneurship through acquisition. So it’s a route to business ownership through as opposed to founding and growing a business through acquiring an established business. A search fund is a type of vehicle that’s used to employ the entrepreneurship through acquisition model.

Carl Lundberg, Gerald Edelman (02:53):

And effectively what it is is an individual or two people sometimes, which is known as a partnered search, who are searching to acquire a business to move into and usually to run as CEO post acquisition, but they’ll raise a pot of money, effectively their search fund prior to doing that, which is there for them to live off during the search period, and also to fund legal fees and other overheads that they might incur during that search phase. So that’s a search fund as the traditional model would be, but there are also self-funded searches out there who don’t raise the money until they find the deal and there’s sponsored searches as well. So I use the phrase ‘searches’ to cover all of them.

Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (03:40):

I understand. Excellent. And so for someone that’s looking to get into entrepreneurship through acquisition, they want to create their own search fund for this. Just curious, how does that come about? Is it normally through their own network? Are there groups that they’re able to tap into? Will you talk through that a little?

Carl Lundberg, Gerald Edelman (03:59):

Quite often the individuals who set up a search fund will be MBAs coming out of grad school. In the US I often joke, and I’ve been told that it’s not too far from the truth actually, that if you come out of Harvard with an MBA, on your way out the door with you just taking your mortarboard off and there’s a queue of people with big bags of money waiting to fund your search. But I think that raising the equity actually unusually probably for private equity space is the easy bit. Lots of people like to invest in these deals, they can provide a really good return for investors. So usually it would be done through a network. You’d be networking, talking to people in the space. They’re normally quite close-knit communities, particularly in the UK there’s quite a small search community.

Carl Lundberg, Gerald Edelman (04:49):

Everyone knows each other. There are some websites as well, so there’s a website called Search Funder, which connects people. And so you’ll be put in touch with investors from other searches. There’s a group of investors who commonly invest in traditional search funds and then there’s others and some of them are small institutions like family offices and things who will invest in the equity gap in a self-funded search. So someone finds a deal and brings it to them and they’ll fill the equity piece. So there’s lots of people out there. There’s also some programs out there, so there’s a business based out of Switzerland called Novastone Capital Advisors as well, and I think they’re effectively funded by a collection of family offices and they run a program where you can effectively interview to go and get a job as a CEO and then off you go, they’ll fund you to go and find a business and buy it. So there’s lots of routes into it, but really the best thing to do is start networking within the space.

Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (05:45):

Let’s say someone is either going to self fund or they’ve been able to find the money, like you said, and that has generally been my experience as well, is sometimes it’s easier to find the money. Now that you have it though, what do you do with it? And so how do you start assessing with due diligence and sourcing and finding that right acquisition? Would you talk through that process?

Carl Lundberg, Gerald Edelman (06:07):

Yeah, I think the ideal situation here, and I think it’s probably getting harder and harder to do in the UK, obviously the UK is a pretty small market compared to the US but then search funds and entrepreneurship throughout acquisition is far more mature in the US so there’s probably a bit more competition out there. But the ideal situation is a proprietary search. So particularly if you’ve set up a traditionally funded search, you can have interns, you can get systems, you can get data, and you can troll through lots of information and find suitable candidate companies and do a proprietary outreach. And the ideal situation then is that you become in touch with someone who’s potentially interested in selling who isn’t on the market. So you find an off-market deal, and that’s where you can get some real gems. Often I find as well, the searches, they do really tend to be really nice people and they use that well.

Carl Lundberg, Gerald Edelman (07:04):

And so they’ll get to know the potential sellers and they’ll talk to them about their business and they’ll spend a lot of time meeting them and talking to them and effectively dating before the big day, being the transaction. And so look, proprietary outreach is obviously the perfect situation because you save on fees on the sell-side, you save on the buy-side search fee that you might have paid, and of course there’s less competitive tension there from the buy-side. More often than not now though probably you’re going to be receiving some deals through from brokers, so from agents or M&A advisors. And I think most searches will have a multi-pronged approach to this because realistically, it’s a numbers game and you need to kiss a few frogs unfortunately before you’re going to find the right deal. It’s very unlikely that it’s going to come along super early.

Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (07:53):

When you work with your clients and others that you may work through this process, is it common to have, for example, a business broker or some other similar type of representative? Is that something for example, you might offer?

Carl Lundberg, Gerald Edelman (08:06):

Yeah, so our corporate finance team at Gerald Edelman is broadly divided into transaction services and M&A lead advisory, what we call deal advisory. Our deal advisory team do take some buy-side mandates, but most of what they do is sell-side, so sell-side mandates. So they’ll assist usually owner-managers to sell their SMEs. And so we’ve got, as a result of that, we’ve got a list of live sell-side mandates that we’ve taken that we share with our buyer contacts regularly. And so other firms like us will also have similar lists of sell mandates. And then there are other more agent-y broker-y type businesses out there as well that have huge lists.

Carl Lundberg, Gerald Edelman (08:53):

Often I find, and I’m sure others will have found the same, that those brokers who aren’t necessarily technical advisors will sometimes be slightly unhelpful in that they may have set an unreasonable valuation expectation on the sell-side from time to time. And then on the TS side, the transaction services, we tend to provide the buy-side, what we call handholding, the buy-side support through the deal, but also then we’ll scope out and do financial and taxation due diligence and review things like SPA and the tax and other matters and deal mechanics that are in the SPA. And then ultimately often help with the completion accounts as well post deal depending on whether that’s part of the mechanism.

Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (09:39):

And I understand you have a new entrepreneurship award that you are offering. And so I’d love for you to talk about this award. I think it’s really exciting with what you have going on, and it is a first of its kind.

Carl Lundberg, Gerald Edelman (09:52):

It’s something that I’m very excited about at the moment. It’s actually coming up this week, the award’s event. And this came about for me, we as a firm will go and attend events, deal-makers events and things like that. And I remember thinking earlier this year when we attended one of the deal-makers events, so it’d be really good to find an event that focuses on the search space and it would be really good to go to that because I really enjoy talking to people about search. I know a lot of people in the community in the UK, and it should be really good to attend something like that and maybe even become involved. And so I looked it up and I just couldn’t find anything. And my initial thought was, that’s a shame. Someone will come up with this at some point and then we can maybe get involved.

Carl Lundberg, Gerald Edelman (10:33):

And shortly after that I thought, do you know what? It doesn’t exist. Let’s create it. So one of the things that, and I’ve said this quite a bit recently, is that actually I started training as a chartered accountant in 2010, and in all the years that I’ve been doing this, I’ve never been involved in something that I find so exciting and inspiring. And I think that when I were younger, if I’d have known about this, it’s probably something I would’ve really aimed to go for. So I just love being involved in it. And so what I find as well is that actually these people are taking a pretty big risk and they’re really betting on themselves to do well.

Carl Lundberg, Gerald Edelman (11:12):

And off the back of that, investors do well. The lenders get to deploy cash and sellers get an exit. They get an exit and a succession solution that maybe in some cases wouldn’t have been there just with traditional PE or just with trade buyers. So I just thought, actually we need to celebrate this. We need to have an event and to hand out some awards. And so we created the Entrepreneurship Through Acquisition Awards. It’s being held on the 2nd of November, probably in the past by the time people are listening to this, but I’m sure it will be a really good event. And we’ve got a number of awards categories. Yeah, it’s just something to get quite a big group of the community together in London.

Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (11:53):

I like that you’re creating an award and offering some recognition for sometimes what can be an overlooked part of entrepreneurship. My career has been spent in franchising, and so there are international franchise association and lots of awards and recognition and things that are broadcast about it. But when I think of entrepreneurship through acquisition, it’s pretty quiet in terms of how that looks for a traditional founder startup. There’s lots of exciting things for an entrepreneur there or even some for franchising. What are some of the criteria that you look for in giving out some of these awards?

Carl Lundberg, Gerald Edelman (12:29):

What was quite interesting when we were setting this up was that having spoken to a few people, some people were a little bit cagey about being too involved in the awards and I understand why. The approach in an entrepreneurship through acquisition type transaction is more gentle, more subtle than perhaps a traditional private equity type deal where it’s meant to be more collaborative. As I said earlier, the buyers will often become quite friendly with the sellers, it’s more of a process they go through together. Often there’s a succession piece. And so I think that people were quite reluctant to be seen too much on the side of, look, I’ve done a great deal because if one party’s done a great deal, it tells us that the other side probably hasn’t done such a good deal.

Carl Lundberg, Gerald Edelman (13:21):

And so what we’ve done, the way we’ve put together the criteria is to say, “Well, actually look, what we believe is a great deal is creating value for both sides.” And that’s financial value, but it’s also unlocking potential in a business that’s not necessarily achieving its full potential because often these businesses are run by people who have been doing it for 30, 40 years. And have, by their own admission, not had to sweat the asset, they’ve been doing enough and that’s good for them. So it’s about deals that have created value for both sides, provided a succession solution.

Carl Lundberg, Gerald Edelman (13:57):

We are considered ESG in each of the awards and in fact, we’ve got an ESG excellence award on its own just to look at the various deals and see which one is really focused on that. So some of the awards we’ve got, we’ve got self-funded and traditional categories, and we’ve got over 10 million enterprise value and under 10 million for each of those. ESG excellence, as I said, we’ve got a lender of the year award and we’ve got an investor of the year award, and we’ve got an intern of the year award as well, which is really who’s the next star coming up in this space. So yeah, I think it should be really good fun, but I think also there’s some really good deals that we can celebrate and dish out some awards to some very deserving people.

Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (14:42):

Wonderful. Well, and what’s a website for someone to take a look at to just gather some information if they’re interested in learning a little bit more about that?

Carl Lundberg, Gerald Edelman (14:49):

It would be Gerald Edelman, G-E-R-A-L-D-E-D-E-L-M-A-N.com/awards, and I’ll take you straight to the awards website.

Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (15:00):

Well, Carl, this is a great time in the show where we make a transition and we ask every guest the same four questions before they go. And the first question we ask is, have you had a miss or two in your career, and something you learn from it?

Carl Lundberg, Gerald Edelman (15:12):

I’ve been pondering this question and everyone makes mistakes, but I think some of them are not worth dwelling on. A lot of the mistakes that seem like a big deal in the day that it happens you very quickly forget about. I think there are one or two things that it was a miss, but actually it was a good miss. I’m glad it happened. So I qualified as a chartered accountant in 2013, and I actually trained at Gerald Edelman and I decided when I qualified that actually what I should do is go out and “see the world”, in inverted commas there and go and experience something else. Because I knew actually that I wanted to be a partner, or at least I thought I wanted to be a partner in a firm like Gerald Edelman. And I thought, well, before I do that, let me go and see what else is out there. And I went to Deloitte, so I went to one of the big four firms and had a really good experience from a learning perspective. Unfortunately, because of my nature, I overworked probably and didn’t stop working.

Carl Lundberg, Gerald Edelman (16:11):

My wife, although she wasn’t my wife at the time, and she probably wouldn’t have been if I was still at Deloitte, she wasn’t particularly keen because I spent a lot of time away from home and working around the clock. So I learned a lot in a short space of time, and I think it was valuable, but it was not the right place for me. And so I ended up in less than a year after leaving, I actually came back to Gerald Edelman. And so looking back, it wasn’t the right thing for me to do, but I’m glad I did it because I had the experience and I got to realize that no, I was right. This is the place that I want to be. And you know what? Since then I’ve come up through the ranks, I’ve become a partner, I’ve become an equity partner, I’ve joined the exec board, and from the 1st of April next year, I’ll actually be becoming one of the two co-CEOs of the firm. So it seemed to me that overall it’s worked out fairly well.

Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (17:02):

Let’s talk about a make or two, a highlight to share.

Carl Lundberg, Gerald Edelman (17:07):

I think highlights of the career, one of the things I did when I returned to the firm here at Gerald Edelman was to formalize the transaction services team. So we used to do a little bit of corporate finance work and transaction services, mostly due diligence work when it came about from an existing client. And so it was fairly ad hoc and there wasn’t a great deal to it. We didn’t have a focused department. When I came back, I was effectively employee number one of the transaction services team, and that was in 2014. By 2022 probably, we had about 11 people in that team and another 11 in the deal advisory team. So corporate finance as a whole has grown, and actually whilst we’re around the top number 50 in the top 100 firms in the UK, our corporate finance function is well above that level in terms of comparing it in itself against other firms of our size.

Carl Lundberg, Gerald Edelman (18:07):

So it’s been a great experience to grow something. And I think what’s been brilliant is that I’ve been empowered to effectively take that and build it up as a business. I’ve said to some of my younger colleagues who are coming up through the ranks themselves that what I did and how I did it, I woke up every morning thinking, if I don’t go out and make some stuff happen, I’m not going to be able to pay the mortgage. Of course I could because I had the support of the firm around me. But if you don’t have that mindset, you’re not going to be out there driving for it. And you have to think, I’m out on my own here and I’ve got to look after myself. And I think that’s been a really good experience.

Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (18:45):

Well, let’s talk about a multiplier that you’ve used to grow yourself or business personally, professionally.

Carl Lundberg, Gerald Edelman (18:53):

You get a very broad range of answers on this one. And mine’s quite simple, really. It touches on the point I just made about the people around me. As I’ve developed in my career and my role has changed, that’s only capable by being able to delegate. And I think the key here, the multiplier is operational leverage. If there’s one of me, there probably needs to be four others around me for me to do what it is that I need to do to move the firm forward or to move a department forward or whatever that might be. Having a structure of quality people, and I’ve often listened to a fair amount of leadership stuff over the years and people say, “You should never be afraid of hiring people who are better than you.”

Carl Lundberg, Gerald Edelman (19:41):

Right? Well, look, that’s the ideal. That’s the ideal because if you can give stuff away and know that it’s going to be looked after and dealt with… Look, everyone makes mistakes of course, and people still need to learn and develop themselves, but if you can parse stuff out, know it’s in a safe pair of hands, it frees you up and just not having to hold those things in the back of your mind and worry about them constantly, just having that head space is invaluable. And so I think building a structure and operational leverage is the multiplier for me.

Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (20:11):

The final question we ask every guest is, what does success mean to you?

Carl Lundberg, Gerald Edelman (20:16):

This has probably changed over the last, I would say, at least the last seven years. So I’ve got two young children, a son who’s just turned seven, and I’ve got a daughter who’s four and a half. And I think when you’re younger, there’s different objectives that you have, right? So particularly when you’re in professional services and you’re training in a professional qualification, whatever it might be, and I think they start with fairly almost hygiene factors from a professional, which is you need to qualify, you need to get your professional qualification, you need to be able to do your job.

Carl Lundberg, Gerald Edelman (20:52):

And then it moves on to, okay, you want to progress up and get some soft skills and become a manager, or you want to be able to do business development and grow a network and build a client base. And ultimately you think, right, you want to be able to manage well, earn well and be successful as it would appear. I think as I’ve got older and perhaps progressed through more of that and had children, your objectives and your priorities change. Often I think to myself, actually, I would love to sell everything and go and live in the woods in Scotland and never… I would be bored within about 15 minutes. I couldn’t do it but you think that, but I think it’s just the balance. It’s the balance of, you know what? The work piece.

Carl Lundberg, Gerald Edelman (21:41):

But actually the reason that I’m at Gerald Edelman and not at Deloitte, is that there is the balance. You could go, and I’m not saying necessarily that I would’ve made it to partner at Deloitte, but even if I had, you earn a lot of money, you’re very successful, great. But you miss out on everything else, and there’s not that balance. So I think for me, what’s really important and how I measure success is having a really good balance of home life, family life, social, sports, whatever it is you want to do outside of work and having a meaningful job that you enjoy, and the rest will come. So the financial benefits, the happiness, whatever else it is, it will come if you find the balance.

Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (22:31):

Wonderful. Well, Carl, as we bring this to a close, is there anything you were hoping to share, get across that you haven’t had a chance to yet?

Carl Lundberg, Gerald Edelman (22:37):

Only really that, as I said, I’m sure my interest in entrepreneurship for acquisition, search, but also transactions and M&A generally, and business has come across. If there’s anything in the UK, any of the listeners want to discuss in terms of a transaction or some financial aspect of a deal or any other matter that an accountant might be able to help with, we are here. Anyone that wants to attend or find out more about the awards, which will be run again next year and hopefully annually thereafter, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. Look, we really enjoy having conversations with people about transactions, about business. We are here and very happy to have those chats.

Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (23:25):

Carl, thank you for a fantastic interview and let’s go ahead and jump into today’s three key takeaways. So takeaway number one is when Carl just talked about the concept of entrepreneurship through acquisition. I thought there was a great phrase and just great way to discuss it. And I love that they’ve launched this new award that they’re offering for these great entrepreneurs that acquire brands and businesses. Takeaway number two is when he talked about search funds and that they’re often set up by family offices, capital advisors or investors. And the place that he suggested is a great way to start gathering information and finding potential partners is through a website called searchfunder.com. I was not familiar with that so that was a nice little nugget and takeaway there. Takeaway number three is when he discussed the miss that he had where he worked at Gerald Edelman, the firm that he’s currently a partner at, and then he decided to leave, and he did that early on his career.

Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (24:25):

And then about a year into leaving to go work for a big four accounting firm, realized that the big four lifestyle and what he had really wasn’t for him, and that this place he started was the best fit and the right fit for him. So I thought that was a great takeaway that sometimes leaving what you have is a great way to recognize and realize how great maybe you really had it and to go back to that. So I thought that was a great takeaway and now it’s time for today’s win-win. So today’s win-win came when Carl shared with us his multiplier and his multiplier was operational leverage through delegation to great team members. And I thought that was great, gaining operational leverage by hiring great staff and team and then delegating to that staff and team. And I really liked how he said, “Don’t be afraid to hire people that are better than you”, to delegate things to because they can do great work for you.

Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (25:26):

And I thought that was great, and that’s an avenue that I know I’ve often struggled with is delegating to my great team members. We have great team, trust them, delegate to them. And I know I’ve seen that struggle in other entrepreneurs and successful founders that I’ve worked with over the last 20 years. So that’s a great win-win. And that’s the episode today folks, please make sure you subscribe to the podcast and give us a review. And remember, if you or anyone might be ready to franchise their business or take their franchise company to the next level, please connect with us at bigskyfranchiseteam.com. Thanks for tuning in, and we look forward to having you back next week.

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