About Us

Cognitive Capital Partners, LLC (“CCP”) is a private equity firm focused on investing in businesses in which human, organizational and intellectual capital are critical factors for success. We seek investment opportunities in the lower middle market in manufacturing, business services, marketing services, data analytics and consumer sectors. Founded in 2006 and headquartered in Chicago, we currently manage a portfolio of companies with an aggregate equity value of approximately $160 million.

Our differentiation is that we invest our time managing a fewer number of high quality investments, allowing us a greater focus on assisting management and creating value. Our truly unique approach provides a deeper partnership with management, generating a more collaborative and productive relationship and alignment of objectives between employees, management and investors.

We bring significant operating and management experience to the lower middle market to support management and drive growth and value creation. Our experience includes operating, managing, growing, developing and advising companies ranging in size from family owned to the Fortune 500, enabling us to leverage a deep understanding of the challenges and issues facing the companies we invest in and provide valuable assistance to our management partners.

Investment Criteria

With a concentration on active management of and partnership with our portfolio companies, we operate as lead equity sponsor in our investments.

Business Model: Proven/Sustainable Business Model with Strong Management in Place
Transaction Type: Management and Leveraged Buyouts
Role: Lead Equity Sponsor
Company Size: Enterprise Value: $20 million - $150 million; EBITDA: $3 million to $15 million
Equity Investment: $5 million to $50 million
Business Location: United States

Investment Strategy

CCP seeks to achieve superior returns for its investors through pursuing a majority position with significant equity participation by existing management in successful, established businesses. We employ an investment strategy that focuses on the quality of the company and the industry, the growth prospects of both, and the management team in place. Our strategy of investing our time managing a fewer number of high quality investments allows us to dedicate more time and attention to the unique needs and opportunities of each business, developing a cohesive strategic plan with management by focusing on and dedicating resources to those areas identified as offering the greatest growth opportunities and return on investment.

Our approach provides a dedicated 2-3 person team to every investment. At CCP, we identify opportunities in the lower middle market to create value by guiding companies through a process of development and maturation, creating a legacy and lasting value for current and future stakeholders.

Our Process Is:

• Identify companies with a proven track record of success operating in the lower middle market, and which have a concentration of human and organizational capital within a relatively small group of leaders, which can be supplemented by leadership development to identify, attain and manage the next phase of growth;
Collaborate with management to develop a 3-5 year operating plan, broaden the management and support team, and align interests of employees, management and ownership;
Pursue corporate development, through identification and development of existing product and service offerings, strategic lift-outs and acquisitions; and
Create value through diversifying and supplementing human and organizational capital, developing the next generation of organizational leadership, aligning incentives of employees, management and ownership, and institutionalizing enterprise value for stakeholders.

Specific activities vary for each investment, depending upon the strengths and capabilities of the company, and include the following:

Periodic Involvement

• Board of Director Participation
• Strategic Vision and Planning
• Identification and Implementation of Structure and Controls
• Design and Implement Incentives for Common Goals of Employees, Management and Investors

Opportunistic Involvement

• Identification, Closing and Implementation of Acquisitions
• Capital Raising
• Relationship Expansion
• Talent Identification and Procurement
• Ongoing Resource
• Innovation Management
• Financial Analysis
• Manage Banker and Investor Relationships and Communications
• Operational Improvement

Investment Focus

We focus on industries in which we have direct management experience and unique relationships, where we have been active and our expertise and longstanding relationships provide access to attractive opportunities for us to add value.


• Auto
• Aerospace
• Tooling
• Machinery

Business Services

• Engineering and Technical Services
• Telecom
• Security Services
• Healthcare Consulting
• Non-bank Financial Services

Marketing Services

• Brand Strategy and Development

Digital Marketing

• Consumer Engagement

Data Analytics

• Consumer Services
• Pain Management Services
• Physical Therapy Services
• Entertainment

Current Investment Portfolio

Tower Engineering Professionals, LLC

Tower Engineering Professionals (“TEP”) is a full-service, multi-discipline, turn-key engineering and consulting organization focused on the wireless telecommunication industry. Since 1997, TEP has performed work on over 50,000 cell towers, broadcast towers, water towers, elevated signs, roofs and telecommunication sites.

Headquarters: Raleigh, NC
Industry: Engineering Services/Telecom
Acquired: 2014
Website: www.tepgroup.net

Realized Investments

Tooling Technology Group I

Tooling Technology Group (“TTG”) provides unique tooling design, manufacturing, and engineering capabilities to a wide variety of original equipment manufacturers (OEM’s), Tier I and Tier II automotive suppliers and contract molders. TTG was acquired in 2006. In February, 2012 CCP fully recapitalized TTG and reinvested with management to buyout the original financial investors.

Tooling Technology Group II

In February 2012, CCP and management recapitalized TTG, buying out the investors who invested in the 2006 acquisition of TTG. In July of 2014, TTG was sold to a private equity firm, with CCP exiting TTG.

VSA Partners Holdings, LLC

VSA Partners Holdings, LLC is one of the premier integrated marketing services firms in the country, providing a compliment of digital and brand strategy, design, and consumer activation strategy.

Prospect Mold Holdings, LLC

Prospect Mold, Inc. designs and manufactures tooling primarily for the automotive and aerospace industries as well as manufactures carbon fiber and metal production parts for the aerospace industry. Prospect Mold also serves other sectors including housewares, appliances, trucks and building industries.

Meet the Team

Chester A. Gougis

Chet co-founded CCP in 2006. Chet’s professional experience includes over 25 years advising and consulting with family and employee owned companies, and broad experience in both mergers and acquisitions and capital raising. Chet is the former president and CEO of Duff & Phelps, a financial advisory and investment banking firm, growing revenue from $4 million in 1998 to $225 million in 2006. Chet co-founded Duff & Phelps/Inverness, an entity created to make private equity investments, sponsored Hispania Capital Partners, a $125 million private equity fund, and served on the investment committee of Hispania Fund.

Chet is on the Board of DePaul University, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, The Terra Foundation for American Art, The Santa Fe Symphony, and is a member of the Economic Club of Chicago and the Commercial Club.

Chet has a B.A. from Harvard College, and an M.B.A from the University of Chicago.

Ron Yokubison

Ron co-founded CCP in 2006. Ron’s background includes 10 years of operations and finance experience with General Motors Corporation and Connor Sport Court, where he served as Chief Financial Officer and SVP of Operations, where he was responsible for all operations, finance, and acquisition activities and integration. Ron also was previously a Managing Director at Duff & Phelps, with over 7 years of investment banking experience, with broad and diverse experience in mergers and acquisitions.

Ron has a B.S from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and an M.B.A. from the University of Michigan.

Billy Smith

Billy is a Vice President who joined CCP in 2009, with 4 years of investment banking experience and 3 years of direct private equity experience. Billy is a former Senior Associate at Duff & Phelps, where he worked on a number of highly complex transactions in the valuation and investment banking divisions of the firm.

Billy has a B.A. from Illinois Wesleyan University, where he was the captain of the golf team.

Jeff Behrens

Jeff is a Vice President who joined CCP in 2011, with 6 years of investment banking experience and 1 year of direct private equity experience. Jeff is a former Senior Associate at Duff & Phelps, where he worked on a number of high profile family-owned and closely-held client engagements.

Jeff has a B.S. from the University of Illinois.

Mike Marek

Mike is Chief Financial Officer, who joined CCP in 2009. Mike is the former Chief Financial Officer for Duff & Phelps, and has over 35 years of experience in a variety of financial and operational roles and industries, ranging from a Fortune 50 company to a family-owned asset management firm.

Mike is a Certified Public Accountant with a B.S. and M.B.A. from DePaul University.