E&Y Study Shows Private Equity Backed Companies Crushing Public Markets

A new study released by Ernst & Young examined 539 Private Equity deals that exited from 2006 to 2012.  These are my key takeaways from the study:

  • PE backed firms crushed public companies and have done quite well in spite of the recession.  The PE exits from 2006 – 2012 outperformed investor returns on publicly held companies by a multiple of 5.4 over the same period.  For PE exits from 2010 – 2012, many of which were entered into prior to the recession, annual EBITDA growth averaged 11.8% compared to 5.5% in public markets.
  • Organic revenue growth is increasingly the primary driver of growth in EBITDA.  For PE exits from 2010 – 2012, organic revenue growth (as opposed to EBITDA growth through acquisition or cost-cutting) accounted for 45% of the growth in EBITDA versus 39% in the pre-recession years of 2006-2007.  In 2010-2012 alone, organic revenue growth accounted for over 50% of the growth in EBITDA.
  • Multiples, which were depressed during the recession, have rebounded.  For PE exits from 2010 – 2012, EBITDA growth accounted for 70% of the PE returns with the other 30% being from increasing multiples.
  • Holding periods are up.  For PE exits in 2012, the average holding period was 5.1 years, up from 3.4 years in 2006.

Here is the link to the full study: EY PE Study 2006 to 2012

How the CFO Can Become the CEO’s Collaborator in Growth

How the CFO Can Become the CEO’s Collaborator in Growth

Great article by Robert Sher in CFO magazine about how CFO’s at fast growing middle market companies should spend less time on accounting and more time building the leadership infrastructure to allow the firm to scale.  For the full article, click here.

Communicating Financial Info to Non-Financial Folks

Clear communicationMany highly intelligent employees who are skilled and passionate in their area of expertise will glaze over like Jessica Simpson listening to Robert Plant when you try to talk to them about financial information.  The following tips will help you talk about finances so non-financial management and staff will listen and understand.

  • If there’s a bustle in your hedgerow, don’t be alarmed now.  It’s just a spring clean for the May queen.  No idea what I’m talking about?  That’s what we sometimes sound like when we are talking financials to non-financial people.  CFO’s are so accustomed to abbreviations like EBITDA and ROI; or to phrases like Working Capital and Discounted Cash Flows; or even to words like Accruals and Amortization, we forget these words sound like gobbledygook to some of our non-financial peers.  Do not assume they will ask for the definition of terms they don’t understand as they may be too embarrassed.  By keeping your jargon in check and stopping to explain the meaning of confusing terms, you will keep them engaged and win their trust.
  • Speaking of trust, build it, ’cause you know sometimes words have two meanings.  Non-financial people are often intimidated by financial discussions and they may feel you are trying to fool them.  Once you have built their trust, they become far more interested and responsive in financial discussions.  Getting to know your audience will help you build their trust.  Go to lunch with them or activities outside of work.  Give them credit for their accomplishments in front of others.  Admit something self-deprecating like your love of Led Zeppelin.  Most importantly, don’t do anything to erode their trust.
  • Numbers are intimidating, but with a word she can get what she came for. Most CFO’s can look at a page of numbers in a detailed financial statement and quickly extract all the important information.  Non-financial people do better with words and, better yet, graphics.  The ability to create easy-to-understand graphics is a skill CFO’s need to master.
  • Yes there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run, your message will be better received when you use consistent metrics.  If you are constantly changing the metrics or not reviewing them on a consistent and frequent basis, they may not spend the time to figure out the message.  When they see the same metrics over and over on a routine basis, they become comfortable with them, they learn how to quickly absorb the key information and they will review them as part of their regular routine.

Following these tips may not help you climb the stairway to heaven, but they will make you a more popular CFO.  More importantly, it will help you keep your company’s non-financial employees better informed so they can do their jobs more effectively.  If you want an idea of how nonsensical financial jargon can sound, check out this hilarious random financial phrase generator.  If you like this blog post, please share it with your connections and discussion groups on LinkedIn, or on Twitter or Facebook using the icons below.

Management By Dumpster Diving

ManagementByDumpsterDivingI met with a middle market company last week.  It was owned by two charming brothers who had grown it over 20 years into a successful $30 million manufacturing business.  We were discussing preparing the company for outside investment.   If you ever listen to the NPR radio show Car Talk hosted by the venerable, Peabody-Award winning Tappit Brothers, Click and Clack, you have an idea of the type of guys who owned this business and how much fun I had talking to them.

While touring the facilities, one of the owners was talking about their differing management styles and said his brother practiced what he called ‘Management By Dumpster Diving’.  Each morning, he would tour the facilities and each time he passed a dumpster or waste can, he would poke his head in to see what was there.  It was a 24-7 operation, so this was his primary way of determining the waste and efficiency of the operation the night before.  The dumpster diving brother claimed he learned a lot of interesting information about his company and employees over the years.  The other brother claimed he was preparing for a future life on the streets!

This highlights what I love about entrepreneurs and why they need to make changes when they bring in outside investors.  Entrepreneurs are there everyday, doing whatever they need to do to grow the business, taking risks, getting dirty if necessary, inventing their own methods and solutions that fit their unique business and personal management style.  Private equity groups are not going to go dumpster diving to determine the previous day’s waste.  Larger companies with offsite ownership need systems and policies in place to measure and report KPI’s such as raw material usage analysis and production efficiency.  It’s not necessarily better or worse than the dumpster diving approach.  It’s just a good example of how a management process that works for a company at a particular stage of it’s development will not work as effectively as it grows and the ownership structure changes.

As an interim CFO for companies like this, I can help identify the necessary changes and implement them, before or after the change in ownership.  Please contact me directly if I can help your company or private equity group in this capacity.  For 7 tips on being successful as an interim CFO at private equity portfolio companies, click here.  And feel free to share any interesting management techniques you’ve come across and post them in the comments below or tweet them to me @middlemarketCFO with hashtag #ManagementByDumpsterDiving.

Seven tips for interim CFO’s of private equity portfolio companies; tip 6 of 7 – Be a do-er

This is part five of a seven-part series of tips for interim CFO’s at companies in the portfolio’s of private equity groups.  These tips are intended for financial professionals who already have the skills and experience to be a successful CFO at a typical mid-market company.  They specifically address the differences between being a CFO at a typical mid-market company and being an interim CFO at a growth-oriented mid-market company in the portfolio of a private equity group.

Tip #1: Be an ambassador

Tip #2: Be the advance team

Tip #3: Understand the exit strategy

Tip #4: Get to know the portfolio

Tip #5: Be an agent of change

Tip #6: Be a do-er

Think of yourself as more than just a consultant.  You are not there merely to assess the situation and make recommendations.  You are there to get things done and you may have little help so you need to roll up your sleeves and get to work.  Not only is this often the only way to get the job done, the client will like and respect you for it.  If you follow tips 1 through 6, you will have the foundation to be effective as an interim CFO at a private equity portfolio company.