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The 2024 Corporate Development Professionals to Watch

Curated by Middle Market DealMaker editors based on more than 100 nominations

The 2024 Corporate Development Professionals to Watch

As with the other lists, members of the ACG dealmaking community nominated corporate development professionals who focus on identifying acquisition and divestiture opportunities for their organizations.

Middle Market DealMaker editors compiled a list of 10 of those professionals whose M&A engagements in 2023 drove positive results for their companies. The honorees represent organizations across a range of sizes and industries, reflecting the wide spectrum of corporate strategic acquirers that interact with ACG.

This section of the report originally appeared in the Spring 2024 issue of Middle Market DealMaker.

Read on to learn more about the honorees’ proudest achievements over the past year, what they’re striving for in 2024 and a piece of advice that helped them get where they are today.

Evan Shufflebarger

Vice President, M&A, HeartLand, LLC | Kansas City, MO

PROUDEST 2023 PROFESSIONAL ACCOMPLISHMENT: In 2023, HeartLand transitioned from Sterling Investment Partners to PPC. The culmination of this transaction marked the peak of four years of dedicated efforts from our entire team across the country. During the past four years, I led or assisted in the sourcing, diligence and integration of 17 acquisitions, more than doubling HeartLand’s footprint. Leveraging my data analytics experience, I helped start up what’s become a best-in-industry business intelligence team. I also managed various other non-M&A projects that accelerated enterprise value creation, contributing to HeartLand achieving its strategic objectives ahead of schedule. This successful recap not only marks my proudest accomplishment of 2023 but has also opened new doors for continued rapid growth and opportunity creation across HeartLand.

PROFESSIONAL GOAL FOR 2024: In early 2023, HeartLand closed on its largest company to date. HeartLand also went on to complete acquisitions of several other market leaders through the balance of the year. My goal in 2024 is to continue to stay flexible and disciplined in our approach to M&A. We can’t control the market. I can cultivate enough horsepower and capacity with my team to be able to work through another record-setting deal—or several at one time with various degrees of seller sophistication. Hitting a home run is great, but singles and doubles keep the line moving, too.

Alexander Curti

Vice President, Strategic Growth, Odevo | Atlanta, GA

PROUDEST 2023 PROFESSIONAL ACCOMPLISHMENT: In June 2023, I set off to learn a new industry for the fourth time in my career and became Odevo Group’s first U.S. hire. I was reminded how energizing (and difficult) it is to build relationships in a new organization while at the same time learning the ropes of an entirely new industry. By August, I was running full speed on three simultaneous acquisition processes, one of which has since closed. I am most proud of the momentum we have gained as a team against our ambitious U.S. growth plan and the acceleration I have added to those ambitions despite the steep learning curve. I am also proud of the relationships I built in 2023 and the growth I experienced from those connections, both personally and professionally.

PROFESSIONAL GOAL FOR 2024: I am proud of what our team achieved in 2023 and my main focus will be to continue that momentum in 2024. More specifically, I hope to continue welcoming fantastic companies to the Odevo family, continue refining our U.S. M&A strategy and continue fine-tuning our process. We have a high rate of deal conversion because we have a great team and an efficient process. That said, I am a firm believer that we can always be better and should step back periodically to reflect and find ways to improve.

Ian White

Vice President, Corporate Development, Enpro, Inc. | Charlotte, NC

PROUDEST 2023 PROFESSIONAL ACCOMPLISHMENT: Starting in 2019, Enpro embarked on an intentional portfolio transformation with the goal of becoming a leading industrial technology company. Since then, we have completed 13 divestitures and five acquisitions to reshape the company’s portfolio, resulting in a substantial increase in profitability. At the same time, we have positioned the company for future growth. In 2023, I am most proud of the announced acquisition of Advanced Micro Instruments. This acquisition adds test and measurement capabilities to our portfolio of products that safeguard critical environments in applications that touch our lives every day.

PROFESSIONAL GOAL FOR 2024: In 2024, I plan to continue positioning Enpro to be an acquirer of choice for high-quality businesses in the industrial technology space. Since I began leading Enpro’s corporate development function in 2021, we have designed our acquisition process to deliver the speed of private equity with the closing certainty of a strategic buyer.

Alexander Fries

Director, Corporate Development, Progress Software | Boston, MA

PROUDEST 2023 PROFESSIONAL ACCOMPLISHMENT: I am proud to have played a leading role in our acquisition of MarkLogic. Over the last few years, Progress has been executing on a total growth strategy where most of our revenue growth is inorganic. This deal satisfies every aspect of our financial and strategic criteria, while being the largest, most complex acquisition in our history. Besides adding $100+ million in revenue, MarkLogic’s NoSQL database and semantic metadata management offering perfectly complement DataDirect, our cloud and on-premises data connectivity solution. MarkLogic brings outstanding net and gross retention rates, along with a loyal blue-chip customer base. Additionally, our team made great strides coaching the Progress talent bench on all things M&A, improving our sourcing efforts, diligence processes and integration practices.

PROFESSIONAL GOAL FOR 2024: In 2024, I look forward to capitalizing on the current M&A environment by continuing the execution of our total growth strategy. As we move away from the peak markets of 2021 and 2022 and valuations reset to a more normalized level, I am excited to play a leading role as we continue our financially disciplined approach to M&A. PE firms have a surplus of portfolio companies and need liquidity, while VC firms continue to triage their portfolios. Slower technology spending and the higher cost of capital have both contributed to a shrinking gap between buyer and seller valuation expectations. I expect M&A activity to pick up in 2024, and I’m thrilled that Progress will remain an active acquirer of choice.

Kenneth Bond

Head of Corporate Development, Cetera Financial Group | San Diego, CA

PROUDEST 2023 PROFESSIONAL ACCOMPLISHMENT: We were able to close the two largest deals in our company’s history with the carve out of Securian’s wealth management business and trust company, as well as the take-private transaction of Avantax.

PROFESSIONAL GOAL FOR 2024: We are focused on providing our affiliated advisors with compelling full and partial succession offerings. We’ll need to scale our diligence, contracting and integration processes for the corporate development team to accommodate 25+ deals per year.

Joshua Lavorato

Director, Corporate Development and Strategy, Rocket Software | Denver, CO

PROUDEST 2023 PROFESSIONAL ACCOMPLISHMENT: I co-led strategic reorganization efforts and facilitated the signing of two carve-out transactions (one closed, one pending in Q2 2024) for two separate organizations.

PROFESSIONAL GOAL FOR 2024: I’d like to help my current organization close one to two more deals in 2024 while laying the groundwork for 2025. In addition to deal execution and pipeline development, I plan to continue building out my organization’s strategy practice while mentoring junior members of the corporate development team.

Emily Blue

Co-Founder, Managing Partner, Hue Partners* | Kansas City, MO

PROUDEST 2023 PROFESSIONAL ACCOMPLISHMENT: It was another exhilarating year for M&A in financial services! I am proudest of the deep relationships and personal connections that I developed throughout the year. This led to wonderful opportunities to speak about M&A in the press and serve as a thought leader in the industry I love. A real high point was being invited to speak on an M&A panel at an exclusive event for elite wealth management founders. Helping entrepreneurs navigate the journey of M&A is something that I am deeply passionate about. I am also proud to share that I became one of the youngest board chairs for Girl Scouts of NE Kansas and NW Missouri. This is such an honor for me, as our council is among the largest in the country. I’m excited to take the reins in navigating Girl Scouts toward their mission of being the leading organization for building girls’ confidence.

PROFESSIONAL GOAL FOR 2024: I live in awe of the amazing entrepreneurs I work with on a daily basis, and I have always dreamed of becoming a founder myself. 2024 is finally my year! Launching Hue Partners with my co-founder, Ryan Halls, has been the ultimate corporate development dream come true. Hue was specifically designed for founders, by founders, who appreciate the power of trusting relationships, because what makes the wealth management industry special is the deep and personal trust advisors build with their clients.

*Editor’s note: Prior to launching Hue, Emily Blue served as head of corporate development at Caprock, leading the firm’s inorganic efforts.

Jay Warner

Vice President, Corporate Development, PDI Technologies | Atlanta, GA

PROUDEST 2023 PROFESSIONAL ACCOMPLISHMENT: One of our several acquisitions in the year included a carve-out of an ERP software business from a large payments company. Several variables complicated the deal’s execution, including a competitive sale process, aggressive timelines, intertwined commercial relationships, competing corporate priorities and an employee base that was sensitive to being acquired for the third time in three years. Our team at PDI stacked hands from top to bottom—chairman to analyst—to navigate all these dynamics, close the deal and successfully integrate the business into PDI, which the team can now consider its “forever home.”

PROFESSIONAL GOAL FOR 2024: At PDI, we provide software to the convenience retail industry, which is rapidly evolving amid macro trends, including the energy transition, consolidation and consumer behavior. My goal for 2024 is to select the right PDI initiatives to help meet our customers’ needs as they navigate these trends, whether these initiatives relate to acquisitions, product improvements or internal operations.

Melanie Busst

Corporate Development, M&A, Harris Computer | Waterloo, ON

PROUDEST 2023 PROFESSIONAL ACCOMPLISHMENT: Seeing two acquisitions close, as well as having a few LOIs issued, right at the end of 2023 was the perfect way to close out a somewhat tough year. Harris likes to build ongoing relationships with software companies that we believe would be great additions to our existing portfolios. I focus most of my time looking for opportunities in the broadcast/communications/ telecom sectors, and my two acquisitions grew our telecom portfolio to six companies. I worked in the telecommunications industry for almost a decade, which has enabled me to have knowledgeable conversations with company owners. I leveraged my network to help connect me with some of the more elusive executives.

PROFESSIONAL GOAL FOR 2024: 2024 is all about keeping the momentum going. Q1 started with a couple of companies in the early stages of due diligence, which is a fantastic way to kick off the year. I would love to see five of my opportunities close. I have also been offered the chance to become a mentor to other team members at Harris, which is an exciting opportunity to help share best practices and experiences with others.

Ryan Bradbury

Founder, Chairman and CEO, Rockit Pest | Tampa, FL

PROUDEST 2023 PROFESSIONAL ACCOMPLISHMENT: In 2023, we were able to really take Rockit to the next level. We made two platform buys in January and more great deals from there. We also welcomed and developed a world-class executive team with the addition of highly qualified individuals in the CFO, COO and business development areas. We also continue to outpace our competitors with organic growth, and that is extremely valuable for us as we continue to acquire quality firms.

PROFESSIONAL GOAL FOR 2024: More of the same! But in doing so, we will aim to improve our margins and systems and add efficiencies to our current geographies. We’re building a culture internally with a staff that is here for the long run. It is a very exciting time at Rockit Pest.


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