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The 2024 Private Equity BD Professionals to Watch

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

The 2024 Private Equity BD Professionals to Watch

This year’s Private Equity Business Development Professionals to Watch list was curated by Middle Market DealMaker editors based on more than 100 nominations from the ACG dealmaking community.

From those nominations, we selected 10 private equity honorees who we feel are standout representatives of their profession and who reflect the diversity of the field. We compiled the list after carefully reviewing all the submissions and the nominees’ achievements during 2023.

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

We then asked each of our 10 honorees to discuss their proudest professional accomplishment from last year and to share a goal for 2024. The following features their responses, along with a memorable piece of career advice from each honoree.

Heather Lewis

Vice President of Business Development, WILsquare Capital | St. Louis, MO

PROUDEST 2023 PROFESSIONAL ACCOMPLISHMENT: I am most proud of the relationships I have made. My achievements in 2023 reflect my commitment to building and sustaining meaningful relationships and contributing to the continued success of WILsquare in the lower middle market. I focused on cultivating strong connections with key professionals, including investors, lenders, intermediaries, business owners and other industry influencers. Through strategic networking and relationship-building initiatives, I played a pivotal role in enhancing the visibility and reputation of the firm. These efforts, in conjunction with the work of Andrew Scharf, John Curry and Jack Randazzo on the WILsquare team, resulted in the closing of four add-ons and one new platform for the year. I am fortunate to work alongside a fantastic team that allows me to succeed.

PROFESSIONAL GOAL FOR 2024: In 2024, I hope to continue building on the remarkable relationships I’ve made while growing personally in the industry. As a member of the investment committee, I want to keep adding value in generating, enhancing and executing new investment theses. The quality of our pipeline will continue to be a strong reflection of our partnerships across the firm and our commitment to businesses that value strong cultures.

Joe Solano

Principal, Garnett Station Partners | New York, NY

PROUDEST 2023 PROFESSIONAL ACCOMPLISHMENT: My proudest professional achievement in 2023 was the progress Garnett made in the continued development of its thesis-based investment process. Garnett’s founders, Alex Sloane and Matt Perelman, have ensured that Garnett has consistently taken an offensive stance, actively identifying promising sectors where the Garnett playbook can exert maximum influence. In the challenging deal environment of the past year, our intensified efforts in this area bore fruit, resulting in seven new platform investments. Notably, four of these were directly linked to internally cultivated theses. I take immense pride in our firm’s dedication to this formalized process, underscoring our commitment to strategic foresight and proactive investment practices.

PROFESSIONAL GOAL FOR 2024: In 2024, I will further Garnett’s existing reputation as a preferred partner for top-tier founders and entrepreneurs in our core verticals—consumer, business services, and health and wellness. Our track record of 27 platform investments speaks volumes, with each founder/CEO serving as a reference to future partners. This reputation is built on delivering on our promises and being reliable collaborators. Moreover, my focus extends to nurturing and expanding our external relationships. Building trust with referral sources, brokers and advisors is crucial.

Scott Morrison

Vice President, Business Development, Banyan Capital Partners | Toronto, ON

PROUDEST 2023 PROFESSIONAL ACCOMPLISHMENT: In 2023, my proudest moment was spearheading the launch of Banyan’s Operating Partner Network. This initiative partners us with industry leaders to find and acquire businesses in their areas of expertise. With partners in the industrial safety and food service/retail sectors, we’ve generated significant market awareness, established valuable industry relationships
and sourced deals from both intermediary and proprietary channels. Heading into 2024, we are well-positioned to continue leveraging our gained knowledge and connections to convert these opportunities into successful platform investments.

PROFESSIONAL GOAL FOR 2024: Upon being selected as co-chair of ACG Toronto’s DealSource North, I was honored by the opportunity to lead one of the industry’s most anticipated and popular events of the year. In 2024, one of my professional goals is to continue deepening my role in the private equity community. By actively contributing insights, collaborating closely with key market players and positively representing the market, I hope to further elevate Banyan’s reputation in the market and position private equity as an attractive partnership and exit option for middle-market business owners across Canada.

Jenna Schlageter

Director, Head of Business Development, Bow River Capital | Denver, CO

PROUDEST 2023 PROFESSIONAL ACCOMPLISHMENT: 2023 was a challenging year for new platform deal flow. To help offset decreased volume, I thought creatively about how we could leverage technology. During 2023, I sourced and implemented a new tech-enabled tool to help drive proprietary opportunities. As a result, our team saw 50+ new deals and signed three add-ons. It was rewarding to have conversations with sellers that we would not have reached otherwise. I am also honored to have been nominated to serve as the chairman of DealMAX 2024. Face-to-face interactions remain important in my role, and this is the ultimate dealmaking event to increase connectivity. I am so proud of the committee and look forward to working alongside such an esteemed group of peers.

PROFESSIONAL GOAL FOR 2024: My goal this year is to work with my team to close three new platforms. We have refined our investment themes so that when we see the right assets, we can move forward with conviction. To achieve this, I will aim to convert more IOIs to management meetings. Since we typically invest in founder-backed businesses, meeting the management team is our top diligence item. The team is what gives us conviction to be the right partner to drive growth. Partnership with strong management teams drives value creation and is definitely the most exciting part of our jobs.

Nick Irion

Principal, Head of Business Development and Capital Formation, L2 Capital | Philadelphia, PA

PROUDEST 2023 PROFESSIONAL ACCOMPLISHMENT: L2 has a very team-oriented culture in which we all move forward together. I’m a believer that we all win or fail together and that everyone needs to pitch in and share responsibility. Our firm was born out of the motto of our founder, Bob Levine, that L2 is “building legacies like family,” and our team really pulled together in 2023. While 2023 had its challenges, it was probably the most productive year in our history. We completed three platform investments, one add-on, exited one company, had a second closing on our fund and did some amazing work with our portfolio companies.

PROFESSIONAL GOAL FOR 2024: When I joined L2 on the investment team, we didn’t have a dedicated origination function. L2 has a long history of investing in private companies, but historically everyone shared responsibility for business development. That ultimately pulled all team members in a lot of directions. I took the reins on professionalizing and building our origination systems and processes for the long term. And while L2 has always had a great reputation in the market, we have not always been the most vocal about our success. In 2024, I’m putting a lot of effort into communicating the value of the L2 brand and our competitive differentiation through both origination and fundraising as I also lead our capital formation function.

Matt Stranz

Managing Director, Head of Business Development, Great Range Capital | Mission Woods, KS

PROUDEST 2023 PROFESSIONAL ACCOMPLISHMENT: I’m most proud of initiatives that led to numerous proprietary opportunities across select industries in specific markets. With a focus on building organic new relationships and deepening those already established, origination efforts can be curated to the characteristics of the specific market. Each market and each culture is unique, and this is no different than any business. The mindset of “relationships drive transactions” underscores the business development approach every day.

PROFESSIONAL GOAL FOR 2024: At Great Range Capital, we are investing in the Midwest. I look forward to working with and expanding upon our Market Ambassador Program in select markets. Scaling these requires significant time and investment in the relationship. To enhance this, we will leverage data platforms in new ways with predictive analytics to help drive our sourcing efforts. Broadly, we expect the market this year to rebound. We look to enhance our presence across the Midwest and, all the while, cover our current traditional and nontraditional sources of new opportunities.

Alex Ray

Director, Business Development, Comvest Partners | West Palm Beach, FL

PROUDEST 2023 PROFESSIONAL ACCOMPLISHMENT: Coming into 2023, we developed a new go-to-market strategy for our business development team built around industry verticalization. As a result of that strategic shift, we saw a huge improvement in our capture across our key verticals, as well as inclusion in more limited and bespoke processes. We’ve been pleased with the outcome and attribute those early wins to the deepened relationships we’ve developed with key industry contacts. We also saw our deal volume and market share grow in 2023 and were very active with several closed transactions, which our team is proud of, especially given the challenging M&A environment. I’m grateful for the efforts of the entire Comvest team who made that possible.

PROFESSIONAL GOAL FOR 2024: Most importantly, we want to continue the momentum of 2023 into 2024, further optimizing our marketing systems and processes, as well as enabling our team members across the firm to support and enhance our sourcing efforts. Building upon our culture of business development is important, given every member of the team participates in BD to some degree, and we consider it the lifeblood of the work we’re doing.

Mike Alberts

Principal, Head of Business Development, Cohere Capital | Boston, MA

PROUDEST 2023 PROFESSIONAL ACCOMPLISHMENT: In 2023, I spearheaded a tech-enabled services industry event in the Northeast that included a curated 1×1 deal sourcing portion with a broader networking reception to follow. We had a strong turnout of investment bankers and private equity investors for both portions of this inaugural event with an almost 2-to-1 ratio of investment bankers to private equity investors at the reception. This event and my other efforts throughout the year were focused on cultivating meaningful relationships within the broader M&A community and finding ways to collaborate with not only investment banks but other private equity firms, to provide value to my industry counterparts while driving value for Cohere.

PROFESSIONAL GOAL FOR 2024: In 2024, I plan to lean into the technology solutions we’ve invested in over the past few years to free up my time for more impactful interactions with intermediaries, founders/management teams, our portfolio companies and our team at Cohere. Leveraging repeatable systems and automation to help the firm (and myself) stay organized and free to be present in all of our day-to-day interactions is paramount to continued success in this role.

Katie Noggle

Partner, Business Development, Align Capital Partners | Cleveland, OH

PROUDEST 2023 PROFESSIONAL ACCOMPLISHMENT: I’m proud of our firm’s growth and the role I played in achieving key milestones. As the head of business development, I am very happy that we hit a new record for the annual number of unique intermediaries (445+) who showed us a potential platform opportunity in 2023—despite the overall decline in transaction volume across the industry. I also helped execute the launch of a new strategy (Align Collaborate) focused on providing equity capital to independent sponsor transactions. I was in a unique position to leverage all the marketing and deal sourcing experience gained since joining Align at inception in 2016 (back when our brand was not yet established in the crowded PE industry).

PROFESSIONAL GOAL FOR 2024: My number one goal always needs to be centered on supplying our team with the best possible selection of new deal opportunities to help reach our pace of investment and return targets. To further support that effort in 2024 and beyond, I am involved in several projects related to improving our firm’s foundational data sets. My goal for 2024 is to help design and build the right infrastructure, so that over time we’ll have a larger and more refined dataset to provide increasingly differentiated insights into the lower middle market.

Sean A. Healy

Vice President, Head of Business Development, Keswick Partners | Charlotte, NC

PROUDEST 2023 PROFESSIONAL ACCOMPLISHMENT: Keswick had a busy year in 2023. We expanded our team, implemented a new CRM and closed three platforms in our first 12 months of operation after having raised our inaugural fund in the fall of 2022. These successes came despite a challenging market environment. Market deal flow was reportedly down 25%-40% from the prior year, driven by interest rate hikes and widespread market uncertainty. Despite the headwinds faced, we managed to hit the ground running. The volume of deals we sourced, actioned and closed exceeded industry standards for a firm of our size, according to SPS Bain’s 2023 benchmarking report. I’m proud of the role I played in having laid the foundation for such a solid BD function here at Keswick.

PROFESSIONAL GOAL FOR 2024: With our presence in the market now well established, we can shift our attention to focusing on what I enjoy most, which is building quality relationships with like-minded professionals. We recently instituted several upgrades into our CRM that are designed to illuminate the value of the relationships we maintain with all forms of M&A stakeholders, including intermediaries, lenders and service providers alike. I look forward to leveraging these insights to inform our future efforts as I anticipate them translating into improved deal quality and conversion metrics in 2024 and beyond.


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