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Top Tier Interim Executives Meetup: Morgan McKeown on Private Equity Firms

Cerius’s top interim executives got together to talk about how to win positions at private equity firms. Featuring: Morgan McKeown, Managing Partner of Cor Business.

Kristen McAlister:

Hi, I’m Kristen McAlister. I’m one of the two co-owners of Cerius Executives and a lot has happened over the past year and a half. But one of the things where you’ve got silver linings is the ability for us to finally connect our network like you’re seeing here. Pam and I for years have tried to figure out how do we bring individuals together? And this has been one of those definite silver linings.

What we do at Cerius is think of us as a broker or a matchmaker. We get to know incredible executives like yourselves, close to 16,000 in our network nationwide, what you do, what you are best at and what situations you excel in and can lend your expertise to the best, and we match them together.

The purpose of these and why we started them is think of this as your personal advisory board. Obviously, CEOs, business owners we talk to, it’s very common that they’ll have a board of directors or some type of advisory board, and that isn’t necessarily available to interim executives.

But at Cerius, we are actually the leading firm in the US that specializes in interim and part-time executives. And so, we’ve created situations like this where you can leverage, if you count up the number of individuals on this call, multiply it out, you’ve probably got a couple hundred business owners that you’re one degree away from, and that we’re all talking to.

So we’re able to crowdsource information, contacts, referrals in a powerful way that few others can do and especially from the perspective of an interim executive, who’s stepping in from the outside and helping them in a number of ways.

So the goal today, I always say: share, learn, connect. We want to share our experiences with each other and those hundreds of business owners that we know for others to learn on this call and to be able to better connect with each other.

With that, I always like to start off with the state of the union of interim executives.

Chris, why don’t you kick it off? Between Chris, myself and the rest of our team, we talk to hundreds of business owners on an annual basis. And we just like to share our perspective on what trends we’re seeing in the industry right now. Chris, what are you seeing?

Chris Shepard:

Yeah, thanks, Kristen.

We’re seeing a big move in finance, which is not uncommon, but literally we’re seeing controller level senior VP of finance level and CFO level jobs. There’s a lot of movement in that vertical right now. So we’re seeing a lot there.

Also some sales and marketing jobs still trickling in it’s a little early typically for that, but we do see those things happening right now.

And then, still, obviously, operations, I’ve got a couple operations jobs that are being filled right now. So definitely the most movement we’re seeing is in those markets, but regardless of your discipline there’s opportunity in the market out there for you. So that’s a good time to be an interim executive.

And I appreciate you being on the call today.

Kristen McAlister:

Yeah. Thank you, Chris. You know, one of the big things that we’re seeing is think of the pandemic. Not a lot of people want it to move jobs. You’ve got a lot of pent-up demand for movement and we’re starting to see it happen or at the very beginning of it and think of a snow globe being shaken up and not a single flake ends up where it started to be shaken up. That’s about where we’re at right now.

In fact, with controllers, I think the last four weeks has been a game of musical chairs. In one day we got, I think four or five controller requests for interim controllers. Half of them had just given notice the Friday before, and were going back to their employer that they worked with prior to COVID. A lot of movement and need for interims, as well as what Chris pointed out as CEOs and business owners are continually planning on a quarterly basis, no longer just an annual basis, realizing the expertise that they’re missing and really need in finance and operations, we’re seeing the same thing from.

Interim versus part-time, we’re seeing a lot of interim because of the movement and a lot more opportunities and engagements that are four to five days a week versus part-time one to two days a week. And all these things are going towards that movement. And a lot of leadership teams are being shaken up, moved around purposefully, not purposefully, more opportunities on the horizon.

And executives are seeing that as what’s green around the other side. Let me go and look, let’s look and see what things look like post COVID. CEOs are doing the same thing and looking to enhance their leadership team. So as Chris talks about the opportunity, we’re seeing it across the board.

With that, I would love to turn it back over to Chris to introduce our guest and subject matter expert for the day.

Chris, take it away.

Chris Shepard:

Awesome. Thanks Kristen. Before we jump in there, I had one thing I wanted to add. I just wanted to do a thank you real quick to John Brennan. I didn’t see you on the early invite list or I would’ve had this ready, but thanks for all your help with all of the referrals that you’ve been sending, we’ve been having a lot of great conversations with a lot of people. I think we’re going to be able to help some and that’s been super, super valuable. So thanks John for. Really taking that referral thing that Matt will talk about at the end. Seriously, we appreciate that.

And then also, I just wanted to say thank you to Michael Fournier, who’s on the call today. He just finished the assignment for us, did a tremendous job. I wish he would’ve worked slower because he took a six-month project and turned it into 90 days, but that’s okay. The client was extremely happy and just glad to have him on the call today as someone who just finished an assignment for us.

So we aren’t super to have an accountant with us today. For more than, 35 years, Morgan has been partnering with executives to build businesses and enhance leadership performance.

He offers a pragmatic blend of senior level operating experience and leadership behavior expertise, having personally worked with thousands of executives in hundreds of companies. Clients have included Goldman Sachs, Cognizant, Applebee’s, Comcast, and a significant number of small to mid-size organizations.

In 2001, Morgan founded Cor Business, a leadership consulting and coaching firm based on CEO and executive coaching, talent management and change leadership. Morgan graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with a BS and master’s degree in management engineering. He is married and lives in Stamford, Connecticut, and has five children all spread across the country while working in education, healthcare, and wellness and media.

And if you miss it earlier, he is not a Yankees fan. He is a Mets fan. John made that mistake, but we now know who he roots for it. We’re glad to have you be on today. And Morgan, I’ll turn it over to you to kind of just give us some insight into your work and the private equity sector, what you see going on, and what our interims really need to know to really harness the opportunity that’s out there right now.

Morgan McKeown:

Thank you, Chris. And happy to help. Good to be with you today. I will say over the past year, year and a half Cerius has done a very nice job on a few assignments that we’ve had, so happy to be spending some time and talking to some of the executives here today.

And as Chris said, I think when I wrote that bio, it said 35 years, I’m probably over 40 by now. I’ve done it in in different incarnations as a head of HR, as a head of talent assessment and executive search, and also in organizational consulting the last 20 years I’ve been in my own business, Cor Business, where I work with many different clients. The headline is that in the last 10 years or 15, really more of my clients have been connected to the private equity world.

So both working with private equity firms directly, and then some of their talent, as well as working to a large degree with private equity portfolio companies. And very specifically I’ve been almost connected at the hip as a strong engaged advisor with two different private equity firms where I’ve almost been part of them.

And, and that’s true right now with Goldman Sachs, where I’m very involved as a senior talent advisor serving on an operating council for the Goldman Sachs portfolio. And just to give you a little context on that, you all know who Goldman Sachs is a huge financial services firm with 40,000 people, with investment bankers and traders and technologists, et cetera, within the Goldman mothership.

There’s a PE group of about 300 people, small, but mighty group that has great leverage and has raised external funds and raised many billions of dollars and outside money and invest that in portfolio companies across many different industries. And so just think of it like any other private equity firm it’s within Goldman Sachs. But it’s a private equity firm investing in healthcare technology, consumer industrials infrastructure. So, it’s just like you think of a private equity.

So, a couple of headlines, as I thought about what to share today and talking about private equity. Well, when I first started my career many decades ago, private equity was hardly a blip on the screen. It existed, but not, nearly to the extent and to the dominance and how it’s so present and in the press and in the business community and in the capital market world. So I would say there’s so plenty of opportunities for all of you outside of private equity.

But if you’re not somehow getting connected or covering the private equity world you’re missing a big chunk of potential opportunity for either full-time or interim work. Private equity has just become a very dominant force.

The other thing I would say as another headline is right now, there’s a huge amount of activity going on in private equity and there’s a lot of money being raised, a lot of money being funneled into private equity, big funds being raised. There are a lot of investments being made. So that money is getting put to work, big checks being written and a factor right now to be aware of is valuations are very high.

So when private equity goes in and buys a company, first of all, it’s a competitive marketplace. You have multiple bidders often for one company. And with the pace and the quality of the market right now these companies are bidding out.

I spoke to a CEO whom I coached last year, who’s selling it and now selling his company and he and I worked through a lot of stuff to get it ready for sale. I think his original target was to sell it for maybe 130 to 150 million. And he’s going to sell it for 250 million. Now, like six to nine months later, his price point has gone up by 60, 70% versus what he was expecting.

And that’s just a matter of where the market is right now. There’s a lot of money chasing, not enough deals. What does that mean? What does that mean for all of us here today? Well, it means that when a private equity buys a portfolio company, that their investment thesis is okay, we’re going to build this.

We’re going to grow it. We’re going to increase the valuation so we can sell it again.

Five to seven years they’ll look to sell it to the next potential owner. Well, with valuations being very high, it used to be, I’d say in the older days of private equity is probably easier to do some financial engineering, to do some acquisitions and they’re an increased evaluation of the company.

It’s not quite as easy as that. Now, they need to invest in the operations, make sure there’s operational excellence, bring in new talent. The bar is higher and the demands are higher in terms of how you get the valuations to increase. So as a result, there’s a bigger investment in talent. There’s a bar to change talent and bring in new talent.

And there’s also something that’s gone on in the private equity firms where they have brought in operating partners, operating talent to go along with the investment teams, to bring their expertise, to bear in these portfolio companies. So these are often former executives, maybe it’s a person who sold their company to a private equity firm.

Maybe it’s a CEO or a CFO or chief marketing officer. But people who have the capability and have the expertise to work across the portfolio and make contributions to the private equity firm. There’s also somebody like me in just about every private equity firm now. So it could be called a talent advisor, a talent operating partner, but somebody who works directly in the portfolio companies and has a network of people and also a network of talent providers, like Cerius, like to major search firms, like management assessment firms and organizational consulting firms, so that we work with resources to identify people that can add value to the product, to the portfolio companies. And by the way, no two talent partners look alike.

There are people who are full-time recruiters within the private equity firm. Some are more strategic HR people, some are more working with the management teams in the portfolio to add value to coach, to advise, to help them think about their structure. That’s kind of more of the angle I take, but I do get involved with helping them think about where do you find talent?

Who do you use? What firms? And how do you be thoughtful about where you’re bringing in; where, which roles you need to bring in new and effective talent to increase your performance and your valuation? So the need for talent is across the board in the portfolio. But I’ll echo one thing that Chris said, which is where we’re seeing need in a few areas of particular need.

One is in CFO and financial and controllership. That just seems to be a big area right now where there’s a high demand for talent and there’s turnover things, to some of the points Kristin made, that now we’re seeing people wake up. People didn’t make a lot of moves in the last year. Now there there’s more opportunity.

There’s also more tolerance or openness to people working remotely. Working virtually so where you don’t have to relocate. And so people are finding opportunities where maybe they can work on a role that wasn’t open to them a year ago. So, CFOs is one big area.

I would also say IT and digital marketing, another area, we’re seeing a lot of demand where just about every company in our portfolio, how do you be more effective digitally? How do you more from a from bricks and mortar to e-commerce and this is true, you can see it in consumer and in retail, but it’s also true in healthcare and manufacturing. A lot of companies are just looking for digital talent and digital marketing talent for different kinds of needs.

And the other area, I would say, where I’m seeing a lot of demand is human resources. Another huge area where I think because of between COVID between the demand for talent between the need for organizational savvy, the need for HR talent is also another big one that I think is worth mentioning.

Let me pause for a minute and get any questions. There are a couple of more things that I did want to cover and focus on here in terms of maybe giving some ideas and how to think about private equity for folks here on this on this video call. But let me pause there in terms of what I said so far and see if there are any questions.

John, go ahead.

John Brennan:

Yeah. So, Morgan, if I heard you correctly, you mentioned that there’s always a high demand, I suppose, for people who have the sort of experience where you might be able to help or in some way contribute to a number of portfolio companies and perhaps simultaneously I used to hear the term often in the PE world, but I don’t as often nowadays so-called “executives in residence” where you’re on a PE payroll and basically, they need you to parachute in. Oftentimes there could be companies that are underperforming sometimes in distress, and you may fly in and be there for three weeks, or you may be there for six months.

But I don’t hear about those sorts of positions as often as I used to.

Morgan McKeown:

I think that that’s a good observation, John, that they do exist in places, but I think private equity has evolved. Whereas he used to see executives in residence, people in a way that were on the bench now. Well, we may do some consulting, but we’re looking for the next opportunity that we can dive into and really go in for six months and helped management teams.

What’s happened is the evolution has become what I referenced, which is operating partners, operating advisors, and people who may go in on a full-time or on an interim basis, but more likely they’re going to kind of serve as consultants. Maybe help them find the full-time solution.

It’s not like it doesn’t happen. I’ve seen cases, just that a colleague of mine on the upper Goldman operating council who did take a full-time role, but it’s not quite as common as it used to be. It’s more evolved to being an operating partner and people who serve across the portfolio in a different way, whereas they then look for the resources to land in the portfolio companies on a more full-time basis.

Jared Northrop:

As far as pipeline for the talent advisors, is there some go-to pipelines as far as talent resources aside from maybe kind of some of the obvious, but I’m just kind of curious where you’re finding some of that talent.

Morgan McKeown:

When you say pipeline, Jared, do you mean, our sources of talent?

Jared Northrop:

Yes, sources of talent. Where did, where does some of those relationships originate? How do you feel kind of new functions and expertise and relationships with potential talent partners?

Morgan McKeown:

Every PE firm does it a little bit differently.

I will tell you in my role at Goldman, which has only existed for a couple of years, we’re developing this capability and developing the advisory capacity and even developing our own pipeline more effectively, where we’re coming up to speed.

Goldman has a huge network. I have peers on the council. We have people we’ve spoken to in these operative for different roles. So we’re trying to capture and build that pipeline and do a better job of having access to it. There are some PE firms that have done that for a while, and so they’ve already built their pipeline. But in addition to having our own source and our own pipeline and database, we do use executive search firms.

We do use interim search firms, we do network, there are different ways that we go at it, but we use other kinds of advisors. Sometimes we are bringing in firms that I don’t know if you’ve heard of, firms like Notch Partners or Skills Capital. These are firms that have networks of advisors.

GLG is another one where they have more like industry experts that sometimes we’re using those people for a diligence process, as opposed to being on the management team. So there are multiple pipelines.

My coaching or counsel to the folks here is the name of the game is always networking, right? It’s covering all the bases. How do you get to know operating partners, talent partners in the PE firms, obviously getting to know search firms, interim search firms, these firms that the two talent advisor, how do you elevate your presence on LinkedIn? The search firms and some of even the PE firms are leveraging the world of LinkedIn and other social media access like that to find people.

So, you want to cover all those bases, but I say the short answer to your question is talent is in demand. So we need to find every route we can to find the right people.

Gail Ruopp:

So which industries do you feel are hot, will stay hot? Is that industrials tech or software services? What do you see?

Morgan McKeown:

Yeah, in a Goldman, in my world, it’s pretty broad. So we focus on a lot of industries. I would say it’s been pretty even across the Goldman portfolio, so there’s a lot going on in tech.

Healthcare’s active, consumer and retail, especially from a digital and there’s no marketing and transformational side where we have a lot of activity going on. And as much as you can look at industrials, some people look at that as not as exciting and or as sexy as some other areas, we have a lot going on in industrials and we have a very active industrial investing team and they are getting into some interesting niches in terms of how do you leverage technology in the industrial world? So a lot going on is in there as well.

A goal is raising a new fund that focuses just on an ESG. So sustainable realty. Environmental is an area that Goldman is heavying up.

Their investment in Goldman had also been raising a fund that focuses the relationship with China. And that’s been an interesting fund, but investments they show opportunities both from a sourcing and from a Chinese market standpoint. So it’s another area Goldman identified as a big opportunity area.

Bill Franch:

Just wanted to know how much of influence on the advisors the PE firms have. Are portfolio companies willing to hire a full-time role, in IT, for example, like a CIO or a CTO role can you talk about the process?

Morgan McKeown:

Again, there are different processes, I’d even say even if it was in the portfolio.

So within right now I’m probably touch 40 plus portfolio companies within the Goldman portfolio. That’s just domestically, probably another 20, 25 globally. And by the way, that’s just in corporate equities; the companies we buy out, there’s all a whole other unit within Goldman that grows equity and tech companies, 200 companies where we don’t have a controlling interest, but we do have requests sometimes coming in for talent.

But of the 40 companies I work a lot with, there were some where I’m very closely aligned and they will let me know everything they need and what’s going on. And others where there’s a strong CSRO, they have their own pipeline, which we encourage them to do. We don’t look to control the portfolio companies.

They have their own management teams. We’re here as an advisor or as a support to them. And that’s usually the way it works. There are some PE firms that are a little bit more prescriptive or they have more of an established playbook where they say comes through us.

But it varies. So, I would see opportunities and know of opportunities in some of the portfolio companies, but I honestly don’t know everything that’s going on in the portfolio. It gets back to my point about, you need to cover your bases in different ways.

Canetta Reid:

How do you see the PE firms addressing some of the diversity equity and inclusion issues that a lot of the corporations are dealing with recently?

Morgan McKeown:

I’m very happy and proud to say on the operating council that I serve on for Goldman, we just brought on a colleague, a fellow advisor whose focus across the portfolio will be DNI.

So she’ll be like me in terms of serving the portfolio. And like I had a pent-up demand. I already knew while we were looking, we interviewed a number of people, but very happy with the person we brought on and with her and on the team I’ve already introduced her to a couple of companies where there are needs, and we’re helping the portfolio both in terms of talent, thinking about and from a talent perspective, but also how they think about it from a marketing and a customer facing perspective.

Are you being savvy enough in thinking about your product offering or your service offering to appeal to different diverse communities? So we’re very active in that area. I imagine given all the activity in the last year, you’re going to see that in other PE firms as well, but I can tell you the Goldman’s on top of that.

Adam Ullman:

One of the things that I’ve heard about getting into the PE executive Rolodex is that it’s very difficult to do, and maybe that’s shifted with the amount of demand for executives they have these days. From what you are seeing, are they looking more for somebody with specific skills to plug into a company or more of a generalist that they can kind of plug into their portfolio of companies that might be able to help them manage their overall assets?

Morgan McKeown:

Good question, Adam.

And that’s a great segue. Something I was going to mention: so, in PE firms or where they’re trying to find somebody for a portfolio need, they’re really looking for somebody for a specific need usually for that portfolio company. So we need a controller here, we need a head of digital marketing. We need a chief people officer or somebody who can serve that on an interim basis or somebody who can go in.

I’ve got one situation where we’re looking for a talent acquisition specialist for what probably will be a three to six months engagement to focus on talent acquisition for that portfolio company.

So generally speaking, we’re looking to help the portfolio company and the management team fill one of them, as opposed to, we’re going to have somebody who works across the entire portfolio. We as talent partners or operating partners might work across the portfolio, but more of the needs we’re trying to fill are specific to that specific company.

Appreciate the point about it can be tough to get your foot in the door. I think it was like that for years. You just wanted to get PE on your resume because then that opened up other doors. It is still the case that PE firms and portfolio companies will look at have you worked for another PE backed company.

Because there are differences which I’ll come to in a minute. Then given the demand, I would say that that requirement, while people ask about it, they may not be as stringent or as restricted. If you do bring a specific skillset beyond, go back to the example, if I found somebody who has done great talent acquisition for a company that’s not PE backed for Taco Bell, and now I’ve got a need as Zaxby’s, which is a new Goldman portfolio company, I probably don’t care as much if that person’s had a PE experience. I want to know that they can find a talent for the stores and store managers and help us staff the stores for the Zaxby’s organization.

So it’s getting to be less of a requirement. But still, you’ll find people ask about it, but if you have a specific skillset, I think that’s more important right now. What I would say, just extending the response and talking about in a different way. What is different for PE firms? And look, every company wants to succeed, wants to grow, wants to deliver, but PE firms, there’s always a time window.

There’s areas of a holding period there. We’re going to hold this for five years, seven years, we’ve got an investment thesis. We’re going to grow it, or this is what we’re doing in the first hundred days. This is what we want to get done in year one. So time is money and there’s a certain amount of focus. There’s a certain amount of efficiency. There is going to be an ownership transition over time. All of that adds up to a sense of urgency. A sense of efficiency and a focus.

So what PE firms do look for and what the PE backed portfolio companies look for is who meets the value demand, who fills a very specific niche, like even within a role like chief people officer, or chief financial officer, you may find that that portfolio company wants a CFO who’s really been M&A focused and that’s the need.

So then just a chief people officer who is built to HR operations and build systems and processes as opposed to somebody who’s a compensation. So, you might find more targeted needs within functional areas and you definitely find the companies that we work with we’ll want to see who’s done what I need before, because I have a shorter time window.

So it does create more need. There is a demand for talent, but I would say when you’re talking to a PE firm or a talent partner, or when you’re interviewing, and I want to talk more about this, I’ve had situations where we need an interim CIO for six months, and that’s another area where there are going to be specific CIO needs, as opposed to just a generalist CIO, how do you target and how do you find out what they’re looking for and be more precise on what you bring and really tune in.

So, It’s always important to have good interviewing skills. I would say even more important in these kinds of PE situations where you want to be more concise, where you answer the question directly, where you err on the side of being briefer in your answers, be careful not to ramble, not to give your life history; answer the question based on what that hiring manager is looking for.

I would also say that PE executives and PE management teams probably have less patience. They’re more results oriented. They want to get to the answer. They’re not going to tolerate if you take them through a 10-minute answer. It is more about, do you fill my needs?

Well, some of this is interviewing one-on-one, but I would say it’s interviewing one on one on steroids when you’re in a PE situation in terms of remedy, accuracy engagement, and really tuning into what they’re specifically looking for.

Kristen McAlister:

That’s a really great takeaway. Morgan, any other topics you want to address before we transition to the breakout part of the call?

Morgan McKeown:

I think I’ve covered most of it. I I’ll pose this one more for you to cover in the breakouts. I’ll bring it up because there’s a situation that I’ve thought about, and I’ll even say struggled with, when I’m looking for an interim need and thinking about hiring an interim executive or been on a call with my hiring manager and the portfolio interviewing interim executive.

So here’s the dilemma. You’re an interim executive. You have great project management, interim skills. Maybe you’ve been doing interim work for a couple of years and the need is posed as we have an interim need, but then sometimes they say, well, if it’s a full time, if it morphs into a full-time role, I’m interested in that too. So you kind of think about, well, I’m trying to solve interim needs.

So I want to show, even on my resumes that I’ve done six interim engagements, then somebody is thinking about you for a full-time role. And they say, oh, well, this person’s hopped around all over the place. So, how do you appeal to both sides of that? It’s an interesting dilemma.

I think sometimes you have two different or multiple versions of your resume and how do you close it? Because now I do coach my management teams, you said you wanted interim, maybe we’re doing a full-time search and you want interim. So you want somebody who’s done six interim assignments in five years because they’re a quick study.

They know data, add value. They know how to focus as quickly. They’re efficient. So think about how you change your calibration when you’re thinking about an interim exam versus a full-time hire. But here’s a PS, not everybody’s a great interviewer. So it’s something interesting to be sensitive to.

I close it as a dilemma, but I just throw that out there as something I’ve thought about that might be interesting to talk about in your breakouts.

Kristen McAlister:

No, that’s great, Morgan. I really think that is the heart of what these three breakout questions we’ll get to. I think I think that’s where we’ll end up.

So very great transition. Thank you for everything that you’ve put into to your presentation. I know I’ve taken a ton of notes, so I’m sure everyone else has too. So thank you for that.

We’re going to transition to the breakouts. Those of you have been on these calls before, or are familiar with this, those of you who might be newer. This is one of the things we say consistently is that we want Cerius to be a collaborative network of top tier interim executives. And this is the collaborative part. This is you working together in small groups working through the various situations and struggles that Morgan has just kind of pointed out.

So the first question in the first breakout group, just spend a few minutes you know, kind of introducing yourself to each other. Cause I know we do have some newer people on the call, but spend the rest of that time sharing with each other, what your experience has been with PE firms? We all have a varied experience. Some have worked with lots of PE firms. As Morgan mentioned, there are lots of different types of PE firms focusing on different things. So let’s share what your experience has been.

And then we’ll do kind of a report out at the end and pick from your group.

So question one, what is your experience with PE firms?

** BREAKOUT SESSION **

Chris Shepard:

I hope your breakouts were super helpful. So we had a pretty varied level of experience in our breakout. We had Bill who had one private equity experience, which sounded like it was on an episode of the Sopranos.

We had Dean who is in Denver and has really just started to get his feet wet. And there’s a private equity scene popping up there. And he’s just kind of getting started there, but Gopi in our group had a lot of PE experience. Gopi, if you don’t mind just sharing a little bit of that with the group.

Gopi Suri:

Absolutely. I have worked for a couple of portfolio companies in the past, PE owned as CIO/CTO. So I have that side of experience. I also have sort of consulting advisory experience with the PE firms that are looking to do M&A activity, mostly acquisitions.

So you can say, I have both sides of that experience there. I really enjoy working with the PE firms. I was telling the group that I think they’re kind of unique, they’re different and much more fast paced compared to maybe some other industries. The requirements seem to be very specific and focused on the top line – that may not be hugely different from other companies in general, right. Everybody’s focusing on top line, but the pressure here is much higher, in my opinion, in my experience, compared to some of the other companies that I work for.

The portfolio companies, you know, you always have to prove every penny. It’s always the ROI model. And it’s very hard to do that, especially in the IT space as some of you know. So that was a challenge that I had doing the assessments and in advisory consulting, that’s a different ball game. That’s more kind of looking through an investor lens, putting an investor lens into everything and assessing the value but it’s a different lens that I’m putting out.

So a bit harder to penetrate in my opinion, compared to other industries that kind of only hire from a group of people. It seemed kind of close knit from that standpoint in my experience.

Mark Leigh:

So our group we talked about the expedience of private equity and quick decision-making and how different private equity firms might react a little bit differently. Out of the three of us, Morgan was also in our group, so, he was more moderating for us, more than providing some insights, but out of the three of us, we’ve all had different private equity experience.

And I think that just in terms of the expedience in which decisions are made, how it differentiates from say family run or maybe corporate environments, private equity is a lot more focused, kind of echoing what Morgan had said earlier that they’re going to make decisions directly and also decisions regarding talent.

So I shared a story where they basically told me that I was being evaluated for whether or not I would keep the job that I had because it was part of the carve out. And that those types of engagements are very performance driven and you need to be executing successfully towards whatever the investment thesis is.

And communication is a big part of that. So what I learned that I didn’t share with the group, but maybe just now is communicating upwards is really helpful in kind of negotiating those experiences.

John Brennan:

So we were in a different group and, and I’ll point this to Morgan, if you folks don’t mind, because we have had experience on our team was kind of swooping it or being in a contract with PE firms to quickly try to identify potentially hidden flaws in, you know, during due diligence for pending acquisition, where We’re your essay.

Everyone knows you’re in there working with the leadership team, but in essence, to try to identify areas where perhaps the team might’ve exaggerated either certain the status of certain projects or in some instances I know I’ve been brought in at times to try to find hidden liabilities not as a forensic accountant, but just to talk to people in the organization, understand in what ways they’re interacting with vendors, with attorneys, and others elsewhere in their relationship of trying to build their company’s value.

And if you ask for the right questions, you can identify perhaps a few other hidden flaws, including unrecorded liability. So of course, PE firms will at times do that to try to reassess the valuation or potentially identify something serious enough that they might want to back out of a deal.

So, we have had that sort of experience. And, I would think by the way, I’m going to pitch quickly for a series. I’ve met already dozens of people at Cerius, and I’m fairly new to the team. People who would be fabulous at that jumping in and in two or three weeks, identifying the true state of affairs, as opposed to what companies might want to imagine is what their value statements would be.

Chris Shepard:

Thanks, John. I really appreciate that.

Kristen McAlister:

Canetta and I had a great conversation and hers is an interesting one. Morgan, you talk about how you’re an interim or full time, or you’re her background in all shapes and sizes from fortune 100 to startup various industries, various situations of ownership.

And rather than trying to explain what she does by the year, make and model doing it more of the situation and where she’s able to lend herself or position herself for portfolio companies, especially once they’re being bought, issues an attorney with a strong emphasis in talent, and she’s able to take whatever that thesis is, translate it into a business strategy and then align the talent whether they need to build, make or buy in order to deliver on that while mitigating the risk and using her law degrees. So it’s just a matter of framing the story versus calling off the stats I just do myself.

Morgan, you got a spot for her, right?

Morgan McKeown:

Yeah, no, I like that. You do need to tune into the need and then be creative in how you really focus in, and there are different ways to tell the story.

Canetta Reid:

And what I was going to say is that we talked about in our group that I previously have worked for a PE backed company that was also family owned. And the PE firm was really more of a silent partner, if you will. And so in that instance I feel like we didn’t really get the true benefit of having that PE backing where you would have a true advisor that would come in and offer you the benefit of having those additional resources where I feel like we probably could have benefited from having more voices that could have contributed to the organization.

Chris Shepard:

So I’ve had that experience as well. So we’re good. Thank you for that. And that was the goal of the first breakout question obviously, was to see that on this call today, we have a varied array of different experiences and just to be collaborative, to be able to talk through them and plenty of note-taking seeing how each of you have different experiences and how that can help us moving forward to try to land those roles.

In the second breakout, we want to specifically address how we got those roles.

How did you make those connections? How did you get on staff or on the team for those specific PE roles and just share with each other. And then at the end of that, we’re going to drop the third question. I’m going to reach back out to Morgan, just to summarize everything back up, but during this 12 minute breakout, if we could just kind of talk about, based on the experience you’ve had, how did you land that role?

What was the introduction that you did? Was it direct? Was it through someone like a Cerius, was it through another firm? And then we’ll just kind of share a couple of those when we get back out to the big group.

** BREAKOUT SESSION **

Chris Shepard:

Is there anyone who kind of wants to take just a few minutes and talk about some success that you’ve had in finding PE assignments and how you got on them? Just raise your hand and we’ll go around the room.

Bob Kramer:

In my case, I was in an accompany that was the number two player in in a film manufacturing – packaging, film, manufacturing company. And I was fortunate enough to be kind of the seller and the representative of the company going on the road show and doing the PowerPoint presentation and really talent talking to the eventual buyers what value we would bring to the company.

And so you got a chance to sell the company, but you’ve got a chance to sell yourself. And you’ve got a lot of exposure during that. And when they did end up the eventual winner of the purchase they find a home for me in a senior sales and marketing role pretty quickly when they acquired us.

Gopi Suri:

So in our group, we had varied experiences I think all three of us, primarily, jack-of-all-trades, I focused on a specific industry. So it was an interesting conversation.

Typically my experience is that the PE firms kind of look for industry specific expertise. But I think in our group we have collectively good success being generalists. And we talked about personal experiences, specifically me, I was introduced to the PVR to an executive recruiter and then I was working for a portfolio company as a CIO and then, through Cerius, I did another engagement as a CTO as well, and in the recent past and then kind of built my own network from there on and have gotten consulting, advisory roles, to my own acquaintances and things like that directly approaching the PE firms. So that’s been the kind of experience we’re talking about. And I think, being a generalist kind of focused on the PE firms’ objectives, the business goals, and keep a focus on ROI at the end of the day. Even if you’re getting the foot in the door with a smaller engagement, I think it can lead to a much larger engagement down the road.

Chris Shepard:

That’s super helpful. And our group, just to kind of wrap up, Morgan, we agreed that there probably does need to be a second resume specifically for interim private equity assignments.

That even if you’ve been at one role, one job for a number of years, many people have had different projects within that five- or six-year period. It’s important to point that out. So that stands out that you can see that this is a person who can affect change and move on. So, to your earlier point, Morgan, I think they’re definitely being targeted, what specific PE companies have portfolios of which you could be a value to and then writing your resume, tailoring it to stand out for those interim assignments in which you can make change quickly.

Morgan, I’m going to turn it over to Matt to close out. But before that, I just wanted to give you an opportunity to put the finishing touches on anything or post anything to the group that you wanted to add before we get off the call.

Morgan McKeown:

Sure. The first thing I’ll say is just to reinforce the point you just made. I used to coach people even 25, 30 years ago that your resume is a selling tool. It’s not a life history. And I’m sure you know, I know when I call the Cerius folks, it’s like, here’s the mandate. Here’s what we’re looking for.

You are who you are, but if there’s a way just to emphasize, in a more direct way on the piece of paper, that would be helpful. And then when you get in the interview, like I said, we’ve all talked about this big theme was PE firms and management team professionals deal with faster paced, bigger senses of urgency. And that also goes just in terms of how they manage their time. They’re all way too busy and have too much on their plate. So they get into these interviews and you’ve got a half hour with them and you need to be on target.

So the more preparation you can do, really think about your message, what you want to get across, how you want to answer the questions. That’s what I’d advise to increase your batting average here.

Chris Shepard:

That’s really great advice. Well, we appreciate you being on the call today. It’s been super helpful.

I’ve got a ton of notes. I know everyone else does too. I’ll hand it off to Matthew Sauer to close this out.

Matt Sauer:

Thank you, Chris.

Morgan, thank you again for your time. We really appreciate you being with us as well as everybody on the call. Thank you all for being here. We really appreciate you taking time to, to be with us to hopefully to learn a little bit more about PE this particular time.

I would ask that if you have other topics that you would be interested in us presenting at these monthly meetings, please send me a note and let me know the things that you would be interested in seeing so that we can try to get those on a future meetup. That will be great to give you the information that you are seeking. So I look forward to that.

At the end of this call probably about an hour or two, Christine will send each of you a follow-up thanking you for being here. She will share with you each others in links, so that if you all would like to connect with each other after this, please do, that’s part of this, is that the fact that we’d like for you to get to know each other better, as well as getting to know Cerius and what we can do to help you.

So please, if you don’t want to share your information, although most of you could probably find each other on LinkedIn, but if you don’t send us a note, let us know that you’d rather we didn’t share your LinkedIn link.

Additionally I want to remind everybody that we will send you a copy of our referral program. And a couple of you when we were in the breakouts, talked about how you got assignments, you were referred by someone else to go in and get an opportunity. So Cerius is asking on a regular basis, we’ll provide you with compensation if you provide us an interim or an open position that you know of, and we fill that open position with your referral, we’ll give you a $300 gift card and there’s no limit, as many as you send and as many as we fill an open position with, you get that gift card. The other thing that we do is that if you send us business, if someone comes to you and asked you if you would engage with them and it’s not your area of expertise, and you send that business to us and we land that business, we will pay you 5% of the gross revenue from that opportunity for up to a year, for as long as it goes, up to a year.

So obviously there’s a way for you to make additional income, but for us, it’s also a way of continuing to promote our interims. As we talk today about PE firms, we’re continuing to try to grow our business and get more PE opportunities for all of you and for all of our interims and so that we can continue to create more opportunities for all of you.

With that, I don’t have anything else, Kristen, anything from you?

Kristen McAlister:

Thank you, Morgan, for being so gracious with your time and your information. You realize how rare it is for everyone here to be able to hear your perspective and all that you share and succinctly shared it.

And want to thank everyone. We know that there’s a lot that you could be doing with this hour and a half, and that you came and shared it with us, we appreciate that. Really helps us get to know you better. And the more we get to know you, the more we’re able to get you the right assignment. Thank you all again, have a wonderful rest of the day.

And we do look forward to talking to all of you again in the very near future. Thank you.


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