Top Advice for Junior Business Development Professionals

What makes a junior business development professional exceptional and how can they develop into an outstanding senior originator?

That’s the question we took to Jeremy Holland, managing partner, origination at The Riverside Company, where he oversees one of the industry’s most prolific deal-sourcing operations. Below are the top nine tips from Holland, edited for length and clarity:

  • Learn from colleagues at every opportunity. And make sure to ask questions that Google can’t. For example, rather than asking a senior colleague how to calculate working capital, ask her opinion of the deal and what risks she sees in it. That’s the kind of intelligence you won’t be able to research yourself.
  • Don’t feel obligated to jump in and contribute to every sourcing call that you’re invited to. It is ok to just listen and learn if you don’t have something additive to share.
  • That said, always be prepared to contribute. Offer to take notes on such calls and related meetings. While it may seem like make-work, it will radically increase the number of meetings you are invited to attending and it enhances your focus and retention.
  • Support your senior team members. Has one of the senior partners set up a series of 15 meetings with investment bankers in Minneapolis? Prepare brief dossiers for each meeting that includes a summary of relevant past transactions, conversations and questions to ask.
  • Build your own network. Be proactive and creative, especially with your age-group peers at investment banks, many of whom will actually be the ones creating the bidder lists. Don’t wait for your boss to tell you to do it. It is never too early.
  • Even if not asked to present at an investment committee meeting, still prepare as if you were. Write out the commentary you would present. You can then either offer it up to the senior originator to demonstrate your understanding of the deal and readiness to present at committee.  Or keep it to yourself as a way to compare and contrast your ideas with those presented and the comments from the committee members.
  • Be proactive. When you have some extra time, prepare reports that show a different view of deal flow, or try your hand at direct outreach to companies. Don’t wait to be told everything to do. Give a shot at what you would do, if you were sitting first chair.
  • Always go beyond what’s expected. Rather than simply logging information in the CRM and preparing internal memos, think through the next step that wasn’t requested.  So, as an example, if you are reading through materials on a plumbing business, go back and look at your notes from the prior half dozen plumbing deals. Provide context to compare profit margins, revenue per technician, etc.
  • Think like an investor, rather than a deal finder. Rather than simply passing along a CIM to a senior professional, write up a short list of pros and cons and a recommendation on whether to pass or investigate further.

Take some or all of these measures, and you’ll be well on your way to rising-star status in the world of private equity origination.

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