The FORT Podcast: Sanjay Chandra

Sanjay Chandra serves as Principal and Managing Partner of Trinity Private Equity Group and its affiliated companies in a variety of roles. He also serves as a Board Member for American Leather, which he co-founded in 1990, and where he was formerly president and CFO. Chris and Sanjay discuss Sanjay’s life as a founder, his family’s immigration to the United States, pivoting into real estate, and his experience in the world of private equity.

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02:17 — Sanjay’s Story
05:53 — How did you turn your engineering background into founding American Leather?
09:28 — How does system and process design play into the company?
12:47 — How does process affect the growth of a business?
14:37 — How do you encourage people to take ownership and make processes better?
21:16 — Is there a weekly or monthly meeting where you continuously try to improve your processes?
23:02 — Sanjay’s Entry into Private Equity in 2006
31:20 — How get your start in the real estate community and convince people to do deals with you?
34:12 — Did you always want to focus on residential?
35:25 — How can you be a really good operator in multifamily?
41:19 — If I were a business looking to take on private equity, what things would you tell me to think about?
43:49 — Are your time horizons with private equity the same as your real estate deals?
45:42 — What is the mentality of a founder who takes on private equity? What does the transition to life with a board look like?
48:12 — What is it like to live under the guidance of a board?
49:04 — How does a business go from being founder-run to not?
50:45 — What would happen if you bought a business and realized the founder is the issue?
54:48 — What is a question you ask before investing in a business today that you wouldn’t have when you first started?
57:42 — What was the biggest challenge in your career?
59:37 — Advice to Your 21-Year-Old Self
1:04:54 — What will the world look like in 2030?
1:07:52 — Do you have a favorite interview question?

Episode Summary

The dialogue navigates through Chandra’s entrepreneurial journey, his foray into real estate, and his profound insights on business operations and investment strategies.

Sanjay Chandra brings a wealth of knowledge from his tenure at American Leather, a company he co-founded, which burgeoned into a leading furniture manufacturer under his aegis. His narrative is rich with anecdotes and lessons from this period, emphasizing the indispensability of optimizing manufacturing processes and fostering a culture of continuous improvement. Chandra elucidates the vital role of streamlining operations and eradicating inefficiencies, drawing parallels to his subsequent venture in real estate.

Delving into the intricacies of the 2006 financial landscape, Chandra recounts the strategic move to recapitalize American Leather entirely with debt, a pivotal decision that marked his transition from daily operations to a more strategic role, eventually leading him to real estate investment with Trinity Private Equity Group. He articulates the allure of real estate, highlighting its predictability and stability compared to the volatile nature of operating businesses. This segment of the conversation is particularly illuminating for those keen on understanding the subtle dynamics of transitioning across industries and the strategic considerations involved.

Chandra’s insights extend to the operational aspects of Trinity Private Equity Group, where he plays a pivotal role. He delineates their unique approach to raising capital, partnering with developers, and meticulously selecting real estate projects. The conversation also touches upon the criteria for investing in operating businesses, underscoring the necessity of organized financials, efficient processes, and a committed management team.

Drawing from his extensive experience, Chandra shares valuable advice for entrepreneurs and business leaders. He stresses the importance of being attuned to market trends, citing American Leather’s success in capitalizing on the growing popularity of leather in the U.S. as a prime example. His commentary provides a masterclass in strategic thinking, emphasizing the need for adaptability, foresight, and a deep understanding of market dynamics.

In a more reflective segment, Chandra opens up about his personal journey in business, sharing anecdotes from his early years of self-employment and the daunting challenges of raising capital during a recession. He offers a glimpse into his thought process and decision-making during those formative years, providing a rare and invaluable perspective for aspiring entrepreneurs.

The dialogue also ventures into the realm of talent acquisition and employee evaluation. Chandra elucidates his approach to assessing potential hires, focusing on their long-term vision and alignment with the company’s objectives. He emphasizes the significance of understanding an individual’s motivations and aspirations, shedding light on his personal strategies for identifying and nurturing talent.

As the conversation draws to a close, Chandra and Powers engage in a thought-provoking discussion about the future of real estate and furniture. Chandra asserts the enduring relevance of these industries, reflecting on their intrinsic connection to human life and the unwavering demand they continue to enjoy. This segment serves as a poignant reminder of the timeless nature of certain industries, despite the rapid pace of technological advancement and societal change.

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