“Many of us go into this business as takers,” said Leon Brujis, a partner at New York City-based mid-market shop Palladium Equity Partners, steward to a portfolio valued at close to $3 billion.
“We want to make a splash. We want to do our deal. So we push, and we take. I was like that early in my career too. Over time I learned that if you focus more on what you give to people, if you focus on surrendering to your curiosity, trying to show sincere interest, trying to make a connection…good things happen, and over time success will follow.”
Origination professionals such as Brujis confront the industry’s central paradox every day. And that is, in order to buy a company in an auction, they often have to sell their firm’s virtues to owners, who can be quite choosy when deciding on a winning bidder.
Brujis, who took on the role of head of originations at Palladium Equity Partners about three years ago, recognizes that it takes a lot more than deep pockets to acquire the best companies these days.
It takes strong relationships forged with deal intermediaries and, often, with the business owners themselves. To be sure, every successful BD professional, consciously or unconsciously, develops a set of relationship-building principles to adhere to.
But Brujis’s are distilled from an especially colorful mix of sources. They range from adages passed on by his Peruvian father to scenes remembered from favorite movies to lessons learned from his own experiences as an investment banker at Lehman Brothers and later as a deal and origination professional at Palladium Equity Partners.
Here are Brujis’s top four tips for relationship-building:
- Take advantage of technology. “A key asset to our sourcing practice is the technology stack that we have built,” said Brujis. Salesforce, for example, “helps us capture all of our firm’s knowledge in one place. And clearly it’s far more efficient than the spreadsheets and Google searches that we used to use.” He added: “We were also early adopters of the Sutton Place Strategies platform, which allows us to benchmark ourselves with the market and know where to shore up relationships and develop new ones.”
- It’s not about you. It’s, what can I do for you? “There’s a great scene in the Wolf of Wall Street,” said Brujis. “Jordan Belfort, the movie’s anti-hero played by Leonard DiCaprio, is now a motivational speaker. At one of his seminars he challenges members of the audience to sell him a pen. Everyone simply pushes their agenda and oversells. A few months later after the movie came out, the actual Jordan Belfort was being interviewed by Piers Morgan and he asked Belfort to sell him the pen. Belfort responded, ‘Are you in the market for a pen?’ It sounds obvious, but I find that most people don’t stop to really think about and to be curious about the other side.”
- Resist the urge to speak first. “My Dad always said, ‘You are the prisoner of what you say and the owner of what you don’t say.’” Paraphrasing motivational speaker Simon Simek, Brujis added: “The skill to hold your opinion to yourself until everyone has spoken does two things. One, it gives everyone else the feeling that they have been heard. It gives everyone the ability to feel that they have contributed. And two, you get the benefit of hearing what everyone else has to say before rendering your opinion.”
- Don’t be so transactional. “Most deals don’t happen,” observed Brujis. “But every busted deal and every conversation is an opportunity to show who you are, and that starts with how you treat people.” Last summer, said Brujis, he met the owner of a very attractive business at a conference. They had a good conversation, but it was clear the owner wasn’t ready to sell. Brujis made a point to check in every quarter, reminding him of his interest in buying the company. Brujis even bought the company’s products so that he could provide some useful feedback. “Finally, a few weeks ago, this founder is ready to sell his business, and he wants to work exclusively with us,” said Brujis. “I believe if I had been more transactional and efficient about this relationship the outcome would have been very different.”
Last week’s deals today
May 2 – May 8
~210 deals traded
Deal of the week
Clearlake Capital Group closed a pair of healthcare related deals. iProcedures LLC, a Tampa-based provider of anesthesia documentation and perioperative data management, and PatientPing Inc., a Boston-based provider of collaboration software enabling healthcare providers to engage on shared patients. The latter included Insight Partners as a co-investor. Deutsche Bank Securities acted as the sell-side financial advisor on PatientPing, while Raymond James acted as the sell-side financial advisor for iProcedures.
Most active subsectors
- IT – Software & services
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- IT – Services
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Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures