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”One search on Axial allows me to be a bona fide expert on the current market landscape.“

Goals Results
Find a buyer for private healthcare education company Closed deal in 75 days
Build comprehensive buyer lists Won client with list of 140 prospective buyers in 2 hours

“I describe it as eHarmony for business transactions.”

Jim Cumbee


Firm Overview

Jim Cumbee built Tennessee Valley Group to “help business owners fulfill their dreams for life after business ownership” – a mission he committed to seven years ago. In his 25+ year career, Jim had been a buyer, a seller, an entrepreneur and a broker, not to mention an attorney and a Harvard MBA. So in 2007, he used his M&A experience to take a strategic look at the market to see where he could “add the most value and have the most fun.” The opportunity became the Tennessee Valley Group – a retainer-based business brokerage and transition mediation firm outside Nashville, focused on businesses throughout Tennessee and Kentucky with revenues between $2 and $20MM.

The Group is a small company, and they like it that way. “The smaller we are,” Cumbee says, “the more selective I can be about my clients.” Jim describes the companies he works with as “businesses below the radar of middle market investment banks, but above the radar of most business brokers.” By focusing on this range, the team can offer perspective and professionalism without requiring the overhead a larger bank might. They have even built out a public set of articles on the deal process, including the real-world “Three Reasons Most Retiring Baby Boomer Business Owners Will Not Be Able to Sell Their Business.”

Buy-side clients “run from very specific to very general, but the principle is all the same.” They are growth companies without the resources for in-house M&A. “Generally, they’re looking to do one of three things: buy a specific company, increase revenue a certain amount by buying in one industry, or roll up a set of companies. Cumbee brings the buy-side and sell-side goals together saying, “Ultimately, when all is said and done, it’s about helping business owners maximize their balance sheet to achieve their goals.”

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Ultimately, when all is said and done, it’s about helping business owners maximize their balance sheet to achieve their goals.

Jim Cumbee


Why Axial?

The Axial platform gives Tennessee Valley Group industry-level expertise and comprehensive buyer and contact lists, putting them on a level playing field with more experienced firms. In 2014, this “speed and specialization” helped Cumbee close a transaction for a healthcare education company and compete with investment banks to win new clients.

In February, Cumbee posted a recommendation for a company that provides seminars for continuing education. The private firm was solid with good economics and good growth – “all the right metrics you would want.” There were so many responses that Cumbee spent hours in his office, “days on end, just replying one after another. We couldn’t keep up with them.” The deal moved forward, funneling down from a large list to the best suited partners:

  • The team received hundreds of pursuits when the deal was posted.
  • Of the responses, roughly 150 fit the recommendation.
  • Within two weeks, they had 55 requests for an NDA.
  • 50 NDAs were signed and returned.
  • Of those signed, 25 requested phone calls, about 20% of which requested calls with the seller.
  • 10-12 meetings took place in Nashville with the Tennessee Valley Group, the seller and potential buyers.
  • Four LOIs were submitted.
  • The final deal was closed in May – 75 days from the initial recommendation.

In September, another private business approached Cumbee looking to sell.  In just two hours, he walked into the prospective client’s office with “a list of 140 companies looking to make acquisitions in his space.”  “One search on Axial allows me to be a bona fide expert on the current market landscape.” He said, “he could have hired Goldman Sachs, but I’d have better access to the buy side.”

In the old days, he says, he would have had to pitch himself as a nice, trustworthy banker and project his likelihood for success from a personal track record. A lack of specialized experience in a particular sub-industry could hurt him. But now, “those days are over.” Axial gives him instant credibility with platform access to a comprehensive list of buyers and contacts.. “Axial is the great democratizer in the deal world. I describe it as eHarmony for business transactions. People get it.”

Member Type


Focus Areas



Franklin, TN

How The Platform Has Been Used

Jim engages the network to find buyers for sell-side clients. When pitching new business, he peruses the network to analyze the market and find buyer lists in specific markets. “My greatest use of Axial has been, when I already have a client on the sell side, and I’m finding buyers.” To close one transaction, the platform allowed him to:

  • Create an opportunity – “I was impressed with the quality on the buy-side. I didn’t feel like I was wasting my time. It allowed me – in the case of a lot of interest – to be efficient.”
  • Auto-respond to interested parties with company teaser
  • Analyze requests for NDAs for best fits
  • Further pare down list for phone calls and meetings, some of which included the seller

Jim and the Tennessee Valley Group plan to continue using Axial because “It’s expertise, it’s credibility, and it’s speed. It’s charcoal to the fire.”

It's expertise, it's credibility, and it's speed. It’s charcoal to the fire.

Jim Cumbee