Let me be more specific: you have to close the fund and give the money back to the LPs. Out of all the companies that you invested in, there are some that are cash flow positive but don’t have tremendous growth and there is no possibility to sell the company, and for sure they will not go IPO. I am talking about a situation in which it is clear that it's a lifestyle business and the founders probably want it that way. They don’t want to play the VC game anymore. A situation in which the alternative is receiving dividends for the next 15 years to get your money back. How do you deal with this situation?
A slow growth company with stubborn founders is very frustrating and all too common; I've been an investor with a couple of these and it's like pushing a boulder up hill - they often just don't get it.
However, companies likes these often have unlocked assets within them that should be set free. If the founders own a majority it's difficult because they want to continue to control the company and keep their salary/lifestyle going. They also just lack the DNA to accept risk and challenge. Sometimes their goals get scaled back due to fear, etc.
A couple of things I try to explain:
1. Running a business at no or low growth is very precarious - it's hard to keep it from slipping into negative growth and losing that salary and value.
2. Let others share the risk of failure, hire outsider that can try something new without risking the entire business. I've taken this role many times with pretty good results.
3. Sometimes the problem is that the founders don't want any change that would make them look weak. Subconsciously they will let the company fail before they'll let someone else look better than them at building their business. In this case there isn't much hope, just walk away.
The bottom line is that venture funds are supposed to have a few of these, counter balanced by big winners. That's the game - focus on the winners.