Jeff Totten began feeding his entrepreneurial drive in high school, when he took photographs at sporting events and sold the pictures to parents. Rather than buying typical teenager swag, he used his earnings to buy stock in public companies.
Now, at 27, Totten is founder and CEO of Evergreen Services Group, a family of managed IT service providers backed by the private equity fund Alpine Investors, at which he began working right out of college. He eventually advanced to the post of vice president, and is grateful Alpine took a chance on him.
“As soon as I got to Berkeley I realized that if I wanted to be an investor, I should start my career in an investing role,” he says. “That’s why I was so happy to find Alpine–it was a company looking to recruit people out of undergrad and to give them opportunities to do things one might expect to do only after getting an MBA.”
Totten’s vision for Evergreen, launched in 2017, is based on long-range thinking. Rather than a typical investment approach of buying a company, making quick improvements, and selling it for profit, Evergreen seeks to build its businesses over 10 or more years, increasing their value and impact. It has added five companies to its group since its inception and now has 250 employees.
He may be a young CEO, but that doesn’t mean Totten is any less qualified to lead a company.
“We are often limited more by what we are allowed to do than by what we are capable of doing,” he says. “You can develop much faster as a leader if you partner with people who give you responsibility early.”