Steve Lebowitz discusses his journey since graduating from Harvard and his passion for investing. He graduated from law school at HLS. He practiced law for around seven years but decided it wasn’t for him. He developed a passion for investing and joined a private equity group, where he worked for 17 years. Then,four years ago, he launched a private equity firm called Brand Velocity Group. The firm focuses on consumer-focused middle market expertise and marketing. He believes that private equity often overlooks the human side of the equation, which is critical for founders’ businesses. He believes that founders should focus on employee well-being and culture, giving 10% of their carried interest to the employees of their portfolio companies, not senior employees. This approach is not only about money but also shows that employees matter and that founders care about people. Steve and his firm wanted to make a difference and align their firm with human nature and what successful businesses do, focusing on the important role employees play and not merely reduce them to a number on a spreadsheet. Steve and his team have been working on various initiatives, such as coaching, training, and acts of kindness, to bring their company closer to human nature. He found the current culture of private equity firms is dated and wanted to change how their company operated.
Building Company Culture and Employee Loyalty
The company is focused on building goodwill and treating their own and their client’s employees well, not just financially. They are implementing various strategies, such as coaching, democratizing coaching, and offering discounts to employees. They are also phasing coaching to 20% of their company’s employees, which is a significant portion of their company’s earnings. Another example is offering gift cards to employees affected by hurricanes. This gesture shows that the company is committed to helping employees during difficult times. They also provide various Disney perks, such as VIP tours and tickets, in partnership with Barbecue Guys. The company’s approach to interacting with frontline employees is based on a mix of in-person and virtual interactions, introducing themselves and discussing the company’s goals. However, this can be challenging due to the large number of companies and the distance between them. The company’s goals depend on the management team, who can help disseminate the company’s values and goals. They maintain an open door policy to allow employees to share feedback and questions.
Screening Companies as a Private Equity Firm
Steve talks about his investment process and how he filters companies to determine if they are a good fit for his firm’s approach. He starts by looking at companies with at least 10 million earnings minimum, but the firms typically come in at around 20 million. His background as an investor comes from his father’s interest in investing. Steve began by focusing on consumer opportunities, sometimes with a sports angle. His partner has spent his career in the world of sports and brings that knowledge to the firm. He looks at companies with a differentiation that gives them a competitive edge, a reasonable growth trajectory, and a decent history, and if they have those characteristics, they are interested in investing in them. The fit with the owners is also important, as is the price. Cultural factors, such as the company’s culture, are also considered. His team brings a range of expertise, including financial analytics, business development, marketing expertise, and relationships in the consumer market. Steve talks about the clients his firm serves and what his firm proves in addition to capital, such as additional support advice, services connections, and connections to the portfolio companies. They bring financial analytics, marketing expertise, advice on acquisitions, and a strong network of contacts to help companies succeed in their respective industries.
The Changing Landscape of Private Equity Firms
Steve talks about the changing landscape of the industry and the importance of focusing on attributes other than acquisition price. He explains that sellers now focus on price versus legacy, which is crucial for the success of their business after sale. He envisions private equity to be more human-centric and less focused on numbers and numbers. He hopes that the idea will spread, and that the business model will be successful in terms of financial success and the message it sends. He emphasizes the importance of focusing on attributes other than acquisition price in private equity deals. He believes that the future of private equity will see a more human-centric approach to the industry, with a focus on promoting kindness, common humanity, and financial success.
Influential Courses and Professors at Harvard
He also mentions his time at Harvard, where he took a course called East Asian Studies with Professor Washburn, which was a Japanese literature course. The class was small and interactive, with a personal touch, making it memorable. He also mentioned that he was not the most serious student and often skipped classes.
01:47 The launch of Brand Velocity Group
06:48 The importance of putting your money where your mouth is
12:27 Sharing the growth and helping employees
15:32 How Brand Velocity Group connects to employees
18:22 How Brand Velocity Group screens companies
25:43 What it takes to compete for deals now
92-73. Steve Lebowitz
Steve Lebowitz, Will Bachman
Will Bachman 00:01
Hello, and welcome to the 90 T report conversations with members of the Harvard and Radcliffe class of 1992. I’m your host will Bachman and I’m here today with Steven Lee woods. Steven, welcome to the show.
Steve Lebowitz 00:14
Thank you for having me really appreciate you doing this.
Will Bachman 00:17
So Stephen, tell me about your journey since graduating from Harvard.
Steve Lebowitz 00:23
So since 1992, obviously hard to summarize more than half of life but I ended up getting married with someone from my hometown named Gretchen Bucholtz, now, Gretchen Liebowitz. I have three boys. Currently, their ages are 2119 and 16. I live in Larchmont, New York, which is in Westchester County, which is a suburb of New York City. And from very, very happy with all that have lived in Larchmont pretty much for think about this point 25 years almost so long time there raise their kids there. In terms of professionally, I went from college, the law school at HLS. I practice law for about six, six or seven years wasn’t really for me, I gained a passion for investing. And then, so I ended up getting a job at a private equity group and really helped to grow that group really founded a sort of private equity effort within this group which which had started more as a venture group and and I was there for about 17 years. And then after that went to a launch a private equity firm called Brand velocity group we launched a little over four years ago, consumer focused middle market a lot of expertise and marketing. A lot of relationships in the in the athlete world, Eli Manning is always a partner in our firm, we had invested through one of our deals, and I’d say the most exciting thing from a about our firm is, is I think private equity misses the boat. In terms of the human side of the equation, private equity doesn’t focus a lot on employees and employee well being and culture. And in my mind, that’s just critical. And I think founders businesses understand that. So we lean in a lot on that side of things. We give 10% of our carried interest, which are like our stock stock options from our investors, we give 10% of that to the employees of our portfolio companies, not senior employees, the ones that don’t participate in the regular incentive equity plan so that everybody’s got skin in the game. And and since it’s coming from us, as the general partner, it doesn’t even cost our investors anything we call that share the gains. And we think that’s sort of a wave of the future. It’s certainly not all about money. But it’s important, it’s a way to put your money where your mouth is, in terms of in terms of showing that you you that employees matter and that you care about people, they’re not just cogs in a wheel to make you money. So that’s very important to us. We do a lot of coaching and training with employees as well. And we’re really in the early innings. We think that the world of private equity has to change. So it makes it very exciting for us. So in a nutshell. That’s that’s what we’ve been doing. I should also mention we have three pets, actually five pets. We have two ferrets, two cats, and a dog. So
Will Bachman 04:04
that is quite the menagerie. Tell me a bit more about employee well being and kind of how your your firm you said I think it’s brand velocity, kind of the approach that you take just I’d love to dive deeper into that.
Steve Lebowitz 04:21
Sure. So it’s, it’s our firm and like if you do something entrepreneurial, it’s like I did it in my late 40s Which actually the average age of of first time entrepreneurs, entrepreneurs, 45 People think it’s much younger, it’s actually not. But nevertheless, it does feel like a strange time in life to be embarking on a new invent and venture. And because it was our firm, we just want to do it our way. You know, I did it together with a fellow I knew named Drew Shaman. And then another fellow who had worked at we had my old firm named Austin Ramos. And the thought was, we can do what we want to do. It’s our own firm, we don’t have to be imprisoned by whatever the expectations are and what private equity usually is. And I wanted to be proud of what I did, I had spent enough time just kind of feeling that the job was, at best morally neutral and, and I really wanted to do something that had more purpose to it. And making money is great, and everyone wants to make a profit. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. But we want to make a difference as well. And in my mind, the biggest gap and the job I’ve been doing for whatever 17 years at that point was that the employees were basically an afterthought, they were a line item in a spreadsheet. Other than like the senior management teams, there’s basically no interaction between the private equity and the employees. And it just didn’t fit my understanding of what human nature is like, people are more complicated than just money machines. They’re complex. So you can see examples of it in the tribalism in our society. That’s a negative example. But the flip side of tribalism is community. That’s a big part of what human nature is. And like private equity has nothing to do with that, that doesn’t get into that at all. And incentivizes people expects that they’ll behave according to the incentives. That’s called the scientific management model. That’s a 19th century concept. And so I found it to be very dated. So we want to do something we thought align more with human nature, more with what successful businesses do what successful founders do. And so we want to try to bring that to our companies. And we certainly don’t pretend to have all the answers. We’ve we haven’t been around that long as a firm, but we feel like we have found something that is very important. And so, you know, as I mentioned earlier, it’s very important to put your money where your mouth is, because there’s a lot of happy talk, in terms of excuse me, in terms of perks, and pizza parties, and that sort of thing. And like, what’s so important is your intention, like people are smart, they’ll figure out your intention and what you’re doing. And so for us, it was important to like, put a marker in the ground and say, Look, with all the various things that we want to try to do, whether it’s coaching, or training or acts of kindness, we can talk about examples of the sorts of things we have in mind. You know, you have to put your money where your mouth is. So we were like, let’s just do it out of our own pocket. Like, it’s our way to try to make a difference. So we’re like, just take 10% of whatever we get, not unlike a tithe, like in a biblical concept, and share it with the employees, the ones that don’t get the incentive equity, like, can it completely change their life? I don’t know, it depends how successful a deal is. But the money can be meaningful. You hear stories, from employees about like, what every day people go through, and I think it’s someone who people go to Harvard tend to have higher incomes, like, we can be quite, quite isolated away from what what goes on. And we’re quite fortunate in that regard. And you hear stories about people. And like everyday people, and what they go through just employees a company at the company, and like, you know, if they got 25,000, you know, if we, as I mentioned, we call our program share the gains. So if we sell a company, then we as the general partner, we get a share of the profits of our investors 10% of whatever we get, we then contribute back to the company and to the employees. Like let’s say, if it’s 25,000 per employee, like for a lot of people wouldn’t make a difference. But for a lot of people, it can make a difference. And you hear stories about what people go through in their daily lives and what the money could mean to them. It’s like there was one person who said that they that they had a condition with their leg and was getting worse, and that would enable them to have surgery. There was another employee who said they were a cancer survivor, and, you know, single mother, and that would enable her to pay off all of her debt, another person that said it could enable and make a down payment. And it’s just like, it’s heartwarming, and it’s heartbreaking at the same time. And so you feel like you want to do something, and on top of it, we believe it’s going to be good business, because if you treat people well, they will appreciate it. They’ll be more loyal. There’ll be happier to work at the company, you’ll have better culture, better culture It leads to better outcomes for the company. So we just think it’s a virtuous sort of cycle and a better way to do things. So I’ll pause there because I could just go on.
Will Bachman 10:12
Yeah, so you mentioned beyond sharing the gains, which is awesome. You mentioned that you kind of take some additional approaches like you, because you said, it’s not all about the money. Tell me about the either the training or the coaching or some of the other things that you do to try to really, you know, build goodwill and treat employees, right, maybe maybe an example of some policy that you changed after after buying a company.
Steve Lebowitz 10:37
So a couple a couple of things there. And again, we’re in the early innings. Like we don’t have all the answers, it’s we’re learning as we go, we just feel like it’s important. And what we’re doing is the right thing. But some other examples, like in terms of coaching, like we’re big believers in coaching, we get coaching ourselves, we started having senior management get coaching, and basically we have the company pay something and then we pay for a portion of it out of our carried interest. So again, out of the GP share review is something that we as a general partner should be doing and out of our own pocket. So we do that we want to democratize the coaching, though. So we started with sort of coaching for senior management and, and we wanted to make it more broad than that, and we’re not doing it, we’re really kind of phasing it into our companies. One of our companies a business called barbecue guys is one that does it a lot. And they’re probably the farthest along with it. And so in that case, like we’re like, Well, how can you provide coaching not just to the senior management, but how about to 20% of the employees of the company, or 25. Like we don’t have the model yet where you can do it for everybody. But we do want to democratize it. And the value of coaching is everyone can benefit from having someone giving you being a sounding board or giving you suggestions and such, it’s good for the company, it’s good for the employee, it’s also good because the employee understands that you care about their personal development, their career development. And again, you’re not just looking to use them like that they matter to you. So to us that is important. And something we anticipate doing more of and expanding. And as we share the gains. And we’re calling this share the growth, this particular program. And that one, we do envision expanding it more overtime. Another example would be and I don’t know if you call it a program, but it’s taking some so we get like, the way that we keep the lights on is our companies pay us basically what’s called a monitoring fee, on an annual basis, and it’s a percentage of the company’s earnings. And we do that just so we can pay our salaries, health insurance, and all the various expenses we have as as a general partner. So we we will use some of that to do I’d say just acts of kindness on behalf of employees. So as an examples, like we’ve had a couple of companies that have had hurricanes, and so we have sent gift cards to all the employees, like we’ll send $250 gift cards to all the employees that are in the geography that were impacted, so that they can buy groceries or whatever. And you know, it doesn’t necessarily change their lives. But it is us as a general partner, like doing something to show that like we’re thinking and it matters to us and we want to try to help them out difficult time. And another sort of example just in terms of the mindset is, like I’m somewhat of a Disney fanatic. And so I get these various Disney perks and so we’ll give a couple of VIP tours and tickets and then we do this in partnership with one of our companies called barbecue guys and barbecue guys will pay for the airfare and then provide a stipend and for the daily expenses and and hotel and so together will basically surprise to employees families that are very deserving wouldn’t otherwise be able to go and send them to Disney for a vacation with their families. And so like that’s sort of examples of the things we have in mind like founders of businesses do things like this but private equity doesn’t. We want private equity to do things like this We men again, we think it’s not just good thing to do. We think it’s good business.
Will Bachman 15:01
You mentioned that often the frontline employees, everyone except for the senior executives rarely have interaction with private equity firms. Tell me about how your firm and your general partners interact with them. Do you? Is there like an all hands call? Or you’ll kind of introduce yourself? Or, you know, video that gets sent out? Or do you walk the floor and get to know people one on one? Or how do you kind of go out and get to know the the employees?
Steve Lebowitz 15:32
Well, I would say that would be an aspiration, the reality is that it’s hard because we have lots of companies. And we’re not there every day that companies are spread all over the country. So what we’ll usually do is we may, when we buy a company, we may then speak to the employees of the company, and they’re not all going to be in one place at one time. So it may be a mixture of in person and zoom, or whatever, and you try to introduce yourself and just talk about what your firm is, and what what we’re about and share the games. And then maybe along the way, we’ll have another call or two. But we don’t see everybody and we don’t see them all the time, it’s just it’s, it would be a challenge. Just given the number of people and given how spread it out is, so we do our best. But all of our goals that we want to achieve a lot does depend on the management that actually works every day of the company, like if the CEO of the company is a real believer in what we want to do, that’s very powerful, because then the CEO, basically kind of imparts that onto their management team who in turn kind of, you know, imparted onto the the folks who report to them, and so on and so forth. So that’s the way it works. culture works like you can’t just have the it doesn’t just automatically flow through. So you really do need to have the management there as being the ones that kind of can help disseminate it through, then you want to maintain an open door policy as a private equity to make sure there’s a way people can get up with feedback, questions, et cetera. And again, we’re in the early days, like one position that I really do want to hire for our firm, we haven’t done it yet is to hire someone who kind of handles the day to day of interacting with the management and helping to push whatever in terms of culture the company’s forward. Just because like my intentions are divided between working a lot of deals, raising money, all these different things, and it’s hard to have enough time. And we really do need someone who focuses on it all the time. So that would be a goal for us to hire someone who could focus on that that title TBD.
Will Bachman 18:03
Talk to me about how you screen companies, as you’re looking to go buy companies. What are the maybe just tell us a little bit more about the types of companies you buy? And how do you apply a filter on determining if they’re going to be a good fit for your firm’s approach?
Steve Lebowitz 18:22
Sure. So I’d say first of all, we’re looking at companies of a certain size. So for us, the company has to have at least 10 million of earnings in terms of just how we want to focus our attention. So the companies we’ve been looking at usually are kind of in about the 20 million earnings range, but they can vary a decent bit, but 10 million is probably the minimum of it. We’re focused on consumer. That’s just my background as an investor. When I was starting as an investor, I read a book called one up on Wall Street by Peter Lynch, which was lying on my father’s desk. My father was really interested in investing, he was a doctor, but notwithstanding that he was actually a good investor, reputation doctors. They he was a good investor. And sadly, he passed away last year, but really got a passion for investing through him read the book, one up in Wall Street that says invest in what you know. And so I kind of started investing in consumer things way back, the beginning is just in the stock market, because that’s what I knew better. And it just carried all the way through and into private equity and such. So I always kind of just stuck with consumer. And so at our farm, we’re looking at consumer opportunities. Sometimes there’s a sports angle to it. When I partner Drew has spent his whole career in the world of sports, of course, Eli Manning, very successful athlete. Very well connected in the world of sports. So we do I have a lot we bring to the table on the sports side. So we like to look at some sports oriented things. And consumer things. And sometimes the consumer things have a sports angle. Like what we have, like a youth sports uniform company has one of our portfolio companies, but it doesn’t have to have a sports angle. And so if it has those criteria, then like, what are you looking for in terms of the company is some form of differentiation, like what makes the company special? Is there something if you can’t come up with anything about why the company is special that shouldn’t invest in it. So there needs to be some sort of some aspects that makes it special gives it some sort of competitive edge that you think can be sustained over time. So if it has those things, and there’s like a reasonable growth trajectory doesn’t have to be hyper growth, but it’s had like a decent history, not just up and down, up and down. If it has those things, then we’re probably going to be very interested in it. And then of course, the fit with the owners matters. Does the trying to think other factors, we would we would look into price, of course, like the price has to be right, because it could be a great company. But if the deal doesn’t make sense, you got to pay the right price for it. So that also matters. I’d say the sort of cultural, I’d say we’re in the infancy and that’s an example of something where there’s not really a lot of science, like in terms of PII on the sort of culture side, but that’s something we really do want to develop and take that more into account. We’re not looking at the company doesn’t have to be perfect. There’s no such thing from a cultural perspective. You know, but what is the culture of the company? It would be good to know going into it, is it something we feel like it would be reasonably compatible with us? That how we want to spend our time we have to think about not just is this going to be a great investment for our investors. But is this something we want to do for the next five years of our lives? Are these people we want to spend time with for the next five years, because the time is precious, obviously, as you get to our age class 92, it becomes more important how you spend your time. So all those things kind of go into it. And then no assurance that makes us right, but that’s what we would do to try to decide whether we want to invest in something.
Will Bachman 22:26
Can you you mentioned a couple barbecue guys and they use sports uniforms. Can you share a few more examples of the type of companies that you’ve brought into your portfolio?
Steve Lebowitz 22:37
Sure. So we bought a women we invested in a as the founders retained the significance stake in this women’s apparel brand called sink assets. It’s a great brand, very fast growing brand. They sell sort of department stores doing very well great management team great track record of growth. We have a great person we work with in the fashion sector named Gary Rosner, he’s he’s been in the industry for almost five decades, very well connected. So he helps us assess opportunities and work with us on those. So that’s another one. We have, as I mentioned to you sports you a uniform company that’s called score sports. That’s a great business. Doing very well. We can bring a lot to it just to our sports network, we can bring a lot of new potential customers to the table. We have a military and tactical footwear brand called original footwear. And then we have a smaller grill company, which is called magma, which sells grills on boats, they dominate the category, they’re expanding into RV and camping as well. It’s it’s sort of a nice, smaller, niche business. So that’s where we are today. We have we have five company
Will Bachman 24:01
beyond putting in capital, what what value does your team bring? Like what sorts of additional you know, support advice, you know, services connections do you bring to the portfolio companies?
Steve Lebowitz 24:17
So, I’d say in addition to sort of the standard financial analytics, which all private equity should be providing some companies we provide a lot I would say on the business development side, our networks are very strong. So we bring a lot of that to the table business development. We have a lot of marketing expertise. I thought that was an area that private equity did not bring a lot to the table in and it’s something that consumer brands need a lot of so my partner drew another fellow we brought in named Russell Dubin, who used to work with Drew and endeavour. They focus exclusively on marketing and business design. All right. So we bring that to the table a lot of relationships in that area to help the companies with their their branding, and business development. The culture side has mentioned like sort of coaching, that that’s an area that we focus in on a lot. Like other private equity, we would help in terms of acquisitions, finding acquisitions for the companies to do and helping execute on that. That’s a more typical private equity thing. So it’s kind of all those things together, I’d say you also just kind of play a role in terms of being almost like a business coach to the CEO of the company, as well, like you keep in touch with them, and you’re a sounding board for them. My experience, you don’t just tell them what to do. We’re not one of those firms that says, Okay, here’s our plan and management team go execute on it. Like, that’s just not how we function. We we view ourselves as more bringing a lot to the table, but then work in partnership with management to get it done. But it is a collaborative, it’s not something where we tell them what to do, they do what we tell them to do that, that just doesn’t work. In our minds. It’s just not how we want to live anyway. So
Will Bachman 26:12
I think if I got my math, right, you’ve been doing private equity for 17 Plus for five years. So 2223 years, what sort of changes have you seen in what it takes when you’re competing for deals is, are the sellers of companies now, you know, you see them focused on attributes other than just the you know, the acquisition price.
Steve Lebowitz 26:38
Certainly the deals that we are involved in that is the case like we we do not spend time on what’s called an auction deal, where it’s basically an investment Baker will, will bring the company out to a couple of 100 potential buyers, and it’s really based off of price primarily. That’s not going to be a great usage of our time. All sellers care about price to some extent. So it’s not realistic think they don’t, but there is a continuum in terms of how much focus on price versus legacy, what’s going to happen with your business after you sell it. To us that fit side is very important. And all the deals that we’ve done, it’s been very important for us and for the sellers, whether or not they stay in the business, because sometimes they stay in sometimes they cash out entirely. And we’ve done both types, but the ones that we work with always care a lot about what their legacy is, and what’s going to happen with the business. So I can’t say from a statistical standpoint, how the industry has changed in that regard. I can just say where where we focus. That that’s very important for us.
Will Bachman 27:59
Talk to me about building a life in Larchmont. And did your boys pick up on your take after you in terms of your interest in investing or? Or what are their interests.
Steve Lebowitz 28:11
They’re all anyone with kids knows that each kid is so unique and different. And you can see the little bits of them and your spouse, little bits of yourself and your spouse in them but but they still end up being so unique. And so the three boys, my oldest boy recently graduated from University of Vermont. He loves it up there lives in Burlington, he is either deciding between whether he’d rather be a teacher or a professor. And so he’s working up there, postgraduation and he’s he’s just a wonderful human being very kind, very gentle. He’s not like a business, the person that’s not his thing. He loves the environment was hiking. So he’s doing great. And so that’s his name is Andrew. My my middle son, who’s soon to turn 20, but 19 at the moment. That’s Josh. He is a freshman at Fordham in which is in New York. And Josh is very interested in investment and stuff. He’s probably the most sort of overtly similar, like he’s, he’s definitely interested in investing. He also likes sports quite a bit. He’s a big fan of MMA. And so he’s doing well. Our youngest son is Matthew, he is a going to be starting his junior year at the local high school and math. He’s very kind. He’s a very kind fellow. I wouldn’t say he’s particularly ambitious in any any particular way, he’s just he’s very kind he he, you know, he loves video games. He, he, he’s pretty athletic, although he doesn’t really like sports. So that’s interesting. And at the moment he’s at, he’s enjoying his final year of summer camp. So those are the boys. And then that’s kind of what we’ve done. My my wife Gretchen, she stays at home, she she had stayed home, right, raising the kids. Prior to that she had a career in science, she was also a teacher. She’s an avid cross country skier. She competed in college, she didn’t go to Harvard, she went to St. Lawrence. And she competed back then. She graduated college in 95. And even to this day, she still is an avid endurance athlete, she couple of weeks ago, were participated in what’s called the rag Bri, which is the cycling event across the state of Iowa that lasts a week and you tent camp and you go about 80 miles a day. And contrary to what people would think it’s actually not flat. So it was quite challenging, but she likes those challenges. So she does, does that. And obviously, it’s very busy with with our boys.
Will Bachman 31:30
You seem very reflective and thoughtful about you know, professional development and your your goals in life and what’s meaningful to you. Talk to me a bit about how you reflect about the next, you know, couple of decades of what your aspirations are.
Steve Lebowitz 31:49
So first for sure is, you know, I don’t have a ton of control over it, but really, obviously want my children to be healthy and happy. So much more important than anything else is having your kids feel good about themselves and be healthy. So that’s certainly number one. Hopefully, 20 years from now, they’re doing great, and they are happy with their lives. So that’s the first thing. In terms of, you know, from a career perspective, I think that this notion like I would love to have private equity look a lot different 20 years from now than it looks today and for our firms have been a real part of changing how it looks. And that you know, the way it would look as being much more human centric, realizing that’s part of the science, it’s not just, you know, it’s not all just about numbers and crunching numbers. And so hopefully, the idea will have caught on, there’ll be a lot more firms doing something like share the gains. More kindness in the world, we need more of it’s less focus on red and blue and more focus on common humanity. Those were things I’d certainly like to see. And certainly from a professional perspective, if we’re successful, we’ll help push that ball forward and hopefully have the message get out more and, and of course, you know, have our firm be successful in terms of doing that, and then being financially successful in the deals that we do. So that we can show that the business model is a good business model. It’s not just something to feel good about. So hopefully all those things, hopefully, a lot of travel with my wife, a lot of cross country skiing and biking and that sort of thing and good health. For everybody. Those would be the things I probably hope for 20 years from now.
Will Bachman 33:52
What’s your own fitness routine?
Steve Lebowitz 33:57
You know, I am like not of my my wife is like a serious endurance. I’m not. I spend my wife actually hosts spin classes in our house. So I’m her best student. So I go to her spin classes to her or three times a week and I lift weights and stuff. And that’s pretty much it. So probably nothing too fancy, but certainly want to stay healthy.
Will Bachman 34:23
You host to spin classes.
Steve Lebowitz 34:27
Why in our living?
Will Bachman 34:29
What’s the setup? Is it like BYOB, bring your own bike or do you guys have
Steve Lebowitz 34:35
to have a half dozen in our living room that has been repurposed into like a mini spin studio. So we have a half dozen spin bikes in there. And she my wife loves to spin and so we have it. There used to be a studio in the town unfortunately just It was tragic, actually the person who hosted the class and ran Rana pIot passed away very suddenly, and she was in such good health. So just a terrible situation and just you get these reminders when you get to our age of like, just your mortality, and you just want to enjoy every minute and not postpone everything. And so anyway, she missed my wife message. She’s like, you know what I’m gonna do? Do you mind if we do the spin in our house? And I’m like, it’s fine. So she bought some of the spin bikes and put them in our living room. And so we have people come to her house, she does a couple classes on Tuesdays and couple on Thursdays and one on Sunday. And and that’s so it’s, it’s fun. And the boys don’t seem to mind the noise from the music. So
Will Bachman 35:47
it sounds like a very soft,
Steve Lebowitz 35:49
it’s outside. Right outside, we have to close the door. Otherwise, the dogs come in dog sits right outside the door and looks at everybody.
Will Bachman 35:57
Sounds also like a kind of more personal more social kind of fitness class than just going into a studio is going to go into your living room. That’s pretty neat.
Steve Lebowitz 36:09
Yeah, no, it’s awesome, right? It’s like, it’s like, it’s so important to capture community and in whatever way, you know, people need it, like our society is so atomized and it’s just good to capture the good parts of community, not the tribal parts, which aren’t so good. But yeah, so it’s definitely good for the soul.
Will Bachman 36:30
You mentioned travel, tell me a bit about, you know, the travel that your family has done over the years. When did you start with your with when your boys were young? And what kind of places have really stood out to you?
Steve Lebowitz 36:45
Oh, I such it’s such a great question. I’m sure everybody loves to travel. I always love traveling just we and our boys have traveled a lot of places. I’ll say that we have been to one particular place like an undue amount of times Disney World, like as I mentioned, I’m just kind of kooky about Disney. I don’t know why maybe it’s the innocence community feeling whatever. So we’ve been there more times than I will share. But But we got we’ve been a lot of places. Lately, we’ve been doing a lot of sort of nature type trips. So like this year, we went to Alaska. Last year, we did a safari in South Africa the year before we did Belize the year before we did the Galapagos. So we really are enjoying those sorts of nature type trips. But we’ve done a lot of different stuff. We’ve been to Japan, a lot of places in Europe, sometimes involving my wife’s skiing. So we’ve been a lot of different places, and it’s just you get one life and, and travel is just such a special experience. So
Will Bachman 37:56
what’s one place I also just
Steve Lebowitz 37:58
can’t sit around. I have like ants in my pants like I just can’t sit. So
Will Bachman 38:03
what’s one place on the bucket list that you still haven’t been to yet?
Steve Lebowitz 38:09
Um, I would like to go I mean, there are a lot of places that I’m wanting to go to. I like to get to Australia. I haven’t been there before. No, no. I mean, there’s some European, I’d like to see some big weak Island stuff. But I feel like we’ve we’ve hit some of the bucket list ones over the last couple of years, I really wanted to Safari. And I highly recommend that it’s just so incredible of an experience. I think I’d like to do a trek in the in Nepal. Also, I think that would be a very special one. But that one you need a lot of time so you can acclimatized so I don’t really I don’t know what I have three weeks yet straight. So that one’s still on the list. But
Will Bachman 39:03
I want to turn back to Harvard. What were any courses or professors that you had at Harvard that have continued to resonate with you in some way?
Steve Lebowitz 39:15
When I think back i The truth was is I was not the most serious student I didn’t have the maturity back then I used to skip class a lot honestly. Law school even worse in that regard. Like obviously, like the students were so smart and interesting and impressive. So like that was probably the best part of the experience. If you’re talking on the academic side, like I didn’t get out of it as much as I could have. I think like now if I look back I made a little piece. So interesting. Do this map. I just didn’t have maturity then. There was one class that I took. I was East Asian Studies. I think the professor’s name was Washburn. He was a visiting professor. And it was a Japanese literature course. And I don’t remember a lot of the specifics of the class, I remember there was only probably four or five of us in the class. And that’s why it was so special. It was such a small group. The one I can remember Ming Chen was in the class, I can’t remember who else was in there, but she was like, just as a nice person. And, and that class was just, it was great, because it was so small. So it was so interactive and discussion that I really felt like I got into it, it was really because you had that sort of personal touch, and it became more personal and the back and forth, as opposed to some big lecture or something. So for me that was that was the most memorable, probably because it was just very personal.
Will Bachman 40:52
When you were skipping class or hanging out, how did you how did you spend your time, you must have done decently well to have gone to Harvard Law School, but you know how to do. How did you spend your time?
Steve Lebowitz 41:06
I sometimes I wonder sometimes, like, of all the time I had back then, because like now, like you always feel oppressive time, right? Just things are so busy. And I wish I had some of that time. I mean, I spend time with the fellow students and my brother also went to, especially when I was in law school and kind of the senior year of college my brother was in town, he went to Brandeis. So I spent a lot of time see movies and stuff, but you know, I honestly wonder where all the time. Like I wish you could bank it. I spent quite a bit of it sleeping, I’m sure. Like now like, you know, like get older. It’s hard to sleep like if I get seven hours. So it’s a really good night asleep nowadays. And like back then like you could sleep for like 12 hours. And it’s like, man, where’d all that time go? I wish I could have bottled some. I’m sure I wasted a lot of
Will Bachman 42:03
bottling time. Stephen classmates would like to follow up with you or find more about your private equity firm. Where would you point them online?
Steve Lebowitz 42:16
My email, certainly we’d love to hear from people. My email is s Liebowitz s l Ebow. I tz at Brand velocity group.com. Our company the website is brand velocity group.com. So those are the good ways I guess. To get in touch.
Will Bachman 42:43
We will include those. We’ll include those links in the show notes. Steven, it’s been so great speaking with you and very cool hearing about how you’re building a different kind of private equity firm. listeners. If you go to 92 report.com That’s nine two report.com. You can find the entire transcript of this episode and every episode and you can also sign up for a newsletter to get a get notified when new new episodes are published. Steven, thanks so much for joining today.
Steve Lebowitz 43:14
Thank you so much. This was so awesome. So awesome that you took it upon himself to do this, but what a neat thing. What a neat passion. Thank you