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Steve Cook and the Making of an Operator-First Private Equity GP



My guest today is Steve Cook, Executive Managing Director at LFM Capital.  LFM is a Nashville-based private equity firm founded by operators and engineers. Their focus is on niche manufacturing and industrial services businesses. LFM was founded in 2014 to invest in private, lower-middle-market manufacturing companies. Steve co-founded LFM Capital and brings over 29 years of operating experience, having served in a variety of senior executive and functional roles in manufacturing, supply chain, engineering, technology, and sales.

Prior to founding LFM, Steve was a Principal with TVV Capital, Chief Operating Officer of, and prior to MFG, Steve spent 11 years as a Southeastern regional Senior Director with The Dell Corporation. 

We’ll hear from Steve about how he began his career at Dell straight out of MIT and was a self-described type of brash “Iceman” character (from the movie Top Gun) when he got out of flying combat missions in the Navy, and fortunately was coached on becoming a better leader, which propelled him to his current success.  Steve talks about what he loves about manufacturing, how to identify great value and potential in companies he purchases, and what he hopes manufacturing may look like in the future.

This podcast is brought to you by Axial, (, a trusted online platform for business owners & their M&A advisors to use to safely and intelligently explore and execute capital raises, acquisitions, and exits with strategic buyers or professional financial sponsors. I am your host, Peter Lehrman, Founder and CEO of Axial. In every episode, we will explore the vast world of small business M&A. We will interview both the proven and emerging owners, operators, investors, and advisors whose strategies and methods have been put to the test. 

If you have enjoyed this episode, check out for more.  There are recorded Axial member roundtables, downloadable tools for dealmakers, quarterly lead-table rankings, and lots of other useful information. To join Axial as an acquirer, an owner considering an exit, or as a sales-side M&A advisor, you can get started for free at  Feel free to reach out to me directly at [email protected] with questions, suggestions, or show topic ideas.


Discussion points:

  • Steve Cook’s background and leadership at Dell Computers
  • Steve’s lessons learned from other Dell leaders and exec coaching, and why his career at Dell ended
  • The state of manufacturing in the global economy these days
  • The granite/gravestone story
  • What Steve looks for in leaders today – authenticity, ethics, values, coachability
  • What are you excited about in manufacturing today?
  • Competing with lead times and quality, not price
  • Interest in companies with lower CapEx and inventory requirements
  • The FECON success story
  • Steve’s take on manufacturing in the U.S. today and in the future
  • Tax policies, unions, and good leadership



Stephen Cook LinkedIn

LFM Capital Website

FECON @ LFM Capital

Peter Lehrman LinkedIn

Axial Website 

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