Mr. Crawford is a Co-founder and President of Coltala Holdings. He has over 15 years of experience in investing, asset management and building operating teams.Mr. Crawford was a Vice President at Goldman Sachs where he spent seven years as an advisor to numerous CEOs, institutions and private company owners. As a U.S. Naval Intelligence Officer, Mr. Crawford served with Special Operations Command South in Latin America. From 2012-2013, he was deployed to Afghanistan as the Tribal and Political Adviser for SEAL Teams Two and Four as part of a Special Operations Task Force. He was awarded the Bronze Star for his service.
Q: How did you come to work where you do right now? How do you believe your faith intersects or integrates with your career?
I work in a private equity business focused on building community by acquiring and buying businesses. For the past 20 years, I’ve been interacting with real businesses and real people. I desired to have a purpose driven private equity approach. My co-founder had spent time at Harvard, I had spent time at MIT, and we spent some time in Boston together. We started Coltala to make an impact through a purpose driven approach, leading with people trying to create value, helping people, and serving people to make them better. The second goal was a larger one of acquiring businesses with a more evergreen approach. We were operations guys so we wanted to build them and manage the systems and structure. We wanted to train people and put our employees and all the people involved in the processes. With this in mind, we formed Coltala and capitalized it with three faith-based good people who were in it for the long term.
We built a list of people who had built billion dollar businesses, and got into the streets to find out who had the best reputation for being the most honest and reputable people of faith. We found the top two and when we pitched them the idea, they liked it and came on board
Q: How do other people in your field operate and how do you feel like your life of faith sets you apart in the workplace?
Jesus Christ is, in my opinion , the best model of leadership in the world. He served others and led by serving. The best leaders are the ones that really serve their people and be with them. For me, whether it’s been in the military or in the Peace Corps, I’ve always tried to focus on service. A couple of weeks ago, I had an emergency that had the potential to take my life. I took it as an opportunity to really think through my life. As I did, I focused on the categories of faith, family, business. Sometimes you forget where these categories lie in importance, but these moments get you to look at your life and you really wonder what your life is about. Here, you ask the real questions: Did I spend time with my family? Did I love others? Did I serve others? Sometimes it takes a little crisis to jog us back sometimes.
I try to lead a life modeled after Christ. When you take the approach of building something larger than yourself, truly authentic people will tend to trust you in building a partnership or making a sale—any dealing. The drawback (and I haven’t experienced too many drawbacks with faith) is when others wear their faith on their sleeve to judge, intimidate, or come at others. However, if you are someone that loves and serves others, you end up being in a place where you want to be with the people you want to be with. By being in faith you are not trying to openly judge and spurn others. If you’re not accepting of other people and other codes, you’re not loving like Christ did. He surrounded himself with people not like himself, but those from different creeds and classes. We ought to do likewise and love like He did.
Q: On a larger level, what do you think the role of faith in one’s vocation is? What should it be?
People are motivated by a lot of different factors. Some are motivated by impact, some are motivated by doing good in the world, some are motivated by building a business that generates ‘profit’, some are motivated by status and materialism. There are many that are motivated by greed and those things are difficult and hard to satisfy. However, even those motivated by impact can never help enough people, and in our business there are many people that are motivated by short-term and medium-term profit
In the private equity world there are people that just look at the P&L and just try to bump up the bottom line, but we subscribe to a more conscious capitalism approach where we look at the workers’ top benefit. Our motto is people build businesses and with that mission brings in margin, whereby you have truly sustainable organizations.
The role of faith in vocation right now in many respects is to put your head down and not talk about it at all. Others fight that by pushing their faith on people. I believe it’s best to that you’re a Christian by your love and refer to faith in business not overtly but do the right thing by others. When they ask why you’re happy and why you’re at peace, that becomes a window to talk about Christ and the grace he’s given to all of us. There’s a role for us in any profession to be a light to all in any role we may fulfill.