Member Highlights

Can a Sales Rep Become a Business Development Director? One Man’s Story

An interview with Carter Owen, Director of Business Development at Petra Capital Partners


The journey from sales rep to business development director is not a typical one, but Carter Owen has made it look easy. Shortly after graduating with a B.A. in philosophy from Duke University, Owen started his career in sales at Oracle Corporation, a multinational information technology corporation. He worked out of Burlington, MA, selling software to large enterprises.

But after spending two years in sales, Owen received a surprising message from a recruiter on LinkedIn, asking if he’d be interested in a private equity role at Gemini Investors, a lower middle-market private equity firm based in Wellesley, MA.

“I think the subject line was a private equity company looking for Oracle Sales Reps,” he recalled in a recent interview. “I was like: this guy must be lost. There’s no way I can do this.”

But he soon learned that many of the skills he had acquired as a sales rep – relationship building, understanding customer needs, and negotiating – were transferable to private equity.

“I think my background is a little bit unique in the sense that I had no corporate finance background when I first started,” he said. “But the money is the money. Sellers are ultimately going to make their decision based on who the people are. To the extent that you can bring people skills to the table, that’s going to be beneficial in this business.”

He credits his success in private equity to several things, including his willingness to learn and adapt, and, perhaps most importantly, his ability to build relationships.

“A good salesperson is going to be the person who closes as many deals as possible. I think a good business development person is the one who can make as many friends as possible,” he added.

In 2020, Owen landed a more senior role at Petra Capital Partners, a Nashville-based private equity firm investing in healthcare and B2B services. He is the Director of Business Development, a role in which he is responsible for leading the firm’s marketing efforts and executing its business development strategy.

He offered the following advice to aspiring private equity professionals:

“Ask lots of questions,” he said, adding that he remembered he didn’t know what EBIDTA was when he first started in the industry. Being humble, coachable, and asking questions can take you far, he added.

He also added that newbies should try to find their own voice and not be afraid to share their own ideas.

“Don’t be afraid to stand by your opinions as it relates to certain investment opportunities, he said. “I think people are always looking for folks that are ultimately going to bring their own opinions, their deals, and their sort of their point of view to the table.”

Tell us what you think on LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter! @opusconnect.

By Lou Sokolovskiy, Founder & CEO at Opus Connect
July 2022

Victor Masaya: A Pioneer in Private Equity

An interview with Victor Masaya, Managing Partner at Presidio Investors and pioneer in the private equity industry.


Victor Masaya has been a pioneer in the private equity industry for nearly two decades. He is a managing partner at Presidio Investors, a lower middle-market private equity firm in Austin, Texas. He is part of the founding team at Presidio which was formed in 2017. I recently had a Zoom call with Masaya to discuss his career journey and what it takes to be a successful private equity investor.

“I wear very many hats at Presidio,” Masaya told me when I asked him about his day-to-day responsibilities, explaining that he is responsible for all aspects of the business, from fundraising and deal sourcing to portfolio management and exits. Masaya said that his experience in sales, banking, accounting, and the mortgage industry has been invaluable in his current role.

“Each of our team members, including myself, has a mix of both investing and operating experience,” he said. “From the third-party feedback that we’ve gotten, including for myself, [it’s] really just being able to have frank operational conversations with management teams, especially during initial management meetings,” he added.

He places a lot of importance on Presidio’s team dynamic and culture.

“We have a very thorough recruiting process,” he said. “If we just kind of start from the top of the organization, with our three managing partners, and one of our MDs, we’ve evolved, we’ve worked together in one capacity or another for over a decade. We know and respect each other styles. We’re not all similar as well, which is quite helpful. And I think just seeing that kind of interaction at the top of the organization is very helpful for anyone else that we bring in.”

Beyond finding the right team members, Masaya said that it’s also essential to have the right mix of people with different skillsets. But what guarantees success in private equity? He believes being “genuine and open” with portfolio companies from the start is critical.

“It’s really just coming down to being honest, transparent, and open with folks upfront, regardless of who the constituency is,” he said, providing a lesson he says he has learned over his career: “If you treat people well from the outset, they tend to treat you well later.”

Tell us what you think on LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter! @opusconnect.

By Lou Sokolovskiy, Founder & CEO at Opus Connect
June 2022

How A Massachusetts-based Company is Helping to Revitalize American Manufacturing

An interview with Anthony Manzo, Co-Founder and EVP of Corporate Development at Re:Build Manufacturing


In 2020, as the world was reeling from the Covid-19 pandemic, Anthony Manzo and colleagues launched their idea: build a company that would buy up small and medium-sized manufacturers and drive excess growth by deploying cutting-edge enabling technologies.

Re:Build Manufacturing, based in Massachusetts, was born. In just two years, the company has raised $425 million in committed capital and is well on its way to becoming a major player in the American manufacturing landscape.

I recently talked to Manzo via Zoom about his company, its strategy, and where he sees the future of American Manufacturing headed.

He started with the people that have been the force behind the company’s success.

“We are a group of individuals with expertise in engineering, operations and private market investing” he said, adding that this mix of skills and experience is key to the company’s success.

“[We] saw an opportunity to pursue a strategy of acquiring industrial technology companies and domestic manufacturing businesses, supercharging the manufacturers via infusing the technology to make them more competitive globally,” he added.

Manzo says Re:Build Manufacturing is not a “typical private equity” firm that just wants to buy companies, make short-term changes, and sell them off in 4-5 years. Instead, the goal is to make structural changes that will help them continuing growing for decades.

“Our businesses work with customers in a lot of different ways,” he said. “We can design and contract manufacture components. We can build plants for them. We have multiple automation offerings that can build one-off bespoke equipment to full-scale automation processes and even entire plants for companies.”

It’s this kind of thinking that has allowed Re:Build Manufacturing to thrive while other companies have struggled. Manzo says his company has closed nine acquisitions in the last 13 months and is on track to do more.

“We’re investing more into the cost structure of those businesses than what they had to date because we’re positioning them to accelerate growth,” he said, adding that his company is focused on the long-term. In 5-10 years, he said, “these companies are going to grow at a much greater rate than what their underlying markets are [doing].”

Tell us what you think on LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter! @opusconnect.

By Lou Sokolovskiy, Founder & CEO at Opus Connect
May 2022

Amanda Kim, A Rising Star in the Private Equity World

An interview with Amanda Kim, Vice President at Avante Capital Partners


With venture capital firms largely being a “boy’s club” for years, it’s refreshing to see a woman like Amanda Kim in such a high-level position at Avante Capital Partners. As Vice President, Amanda is responsible for all aspects of the investment process. This includes sourcing, due diligence, transaction structuring, and portfolio management.

In a recent Zoom interview, Amanda explained how she ended up in the finance world, what her day-to-day looks like, and her thoughts on the current state of the industry.

“I had initially wanted to either be President of the United States or a pastor or a high school math teacher,” said Amanda with a laugh. While she didn’t end up becoming president (or any of the other things on that list), she did find herself drawn to the world of finance and investing, where she says, “I like to think that I get to employ different aspects of that in my job.”

Prior to joining Avante, Amanda worked at Goldman Sachs in the Alternative Investments & Manager Selection group. It was there that she first developed an interest in environmental, social, and governance (ESG) investments, which are increasingly shaping the landscape of the finance world.

She says what surprised her was how critical soft skills, such as communication and emotional intelligence, are in the industry. “I think the first surprise is that soft skills are much more important than I would have thought,” she said.

“You spread the numbers. You have your financial observations, but when you walk into a management meeting, you don’t say, why was your business down 15% last year, and your margins got cut from 25 to 15%? This is their baby. We’re normally working on founder-owned businesses. They have invested their hopes and their dreams, and you need to have the [emotional intelligence quotient] EQ to understand that,” she added.

She says a woman can be herself and still succeed in the private equity world, but it’s essential to be aware of the challenges that come with being a minority in the industry.

“A lot of people in private equity have worked hard to get to where they are and feel like they have to be tough on the outside,” she said.

“But I’ve taken the opposite approach, where I think life is hard enough, particularly as a woman, particularly as a mom, this is not an easy industry… The last thing I want to do is spend time trying to come up with a fake persona and be tough on the outside. I’m just going to tell you what’s going on with my life, which may work for some people and may not for others. But that, to me, I think has helped. That’s just my natural inclination, but I think it has also helped in my relationship building because people can see that I’m genuine,” she added.

Tell us what you think on LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter! @opusconnect.

By Lou Sokolovskiy, Founder & CEO at Opus Connect
May 2022

Charles Scripps on Managing a Successful Private Equity Firm

An interview with Charles Scripps, the Managing Partner at Black Lake Capital.

Charles Scripps is the Managing Partner at Black Lake Capital, a Colorado-based private equity firm that invests in technology and innovation-enabled businesses. With over ten transactions under his belt, Charles knows what it takes to succeed in the private equity space. In a recent interview, I talked to Scripps about what makes Black Lake Capital so successful.

“It’s a big number. It’s been a lot of work,” Scripps said of the ten completed transactions since 2013, when the firm was founded. Scripps attributes the company’s success to several factors, including the quality of its team, the flexibility of its investment strategy, and the focus on value creation.

“We as a team focus on keeping that pipeline full, even when you have a deal that’s under [Letter of Intent] LOI,” he told me in a Zoom call, adding that deals can always fall through. “You’ve been doing due diligence for a month, and everything looks great. You still have to focus on the pipeline because it can die tomorrow.”

Scripps, a McKinsey and Wharton-trained investment professional with two decades of private equity and long-short hedge fund experience, said that Black Lake Capital sees nearly 500 deals a year, with only a small percentage making it to the firm’s active deal queue.

“I try to meet at least one new management team a week, hopefully, two,” he said. “And we try to keep that kind of level of engagement, even when we’re in the middle of a process. You know, hopefully, those conversations are turning into our next opportunity. It can take more than a year from when we meet that team to when we close the transaction,” he added.

Scripps placed an enormous value on his firm’s flexible investment strategy, including the ability to do substantial minority recaps that provide an exit for other investors while still allowing the company to maintain a controlling stake.

“That flexibility can be really important to sellers,” he said, explaining that it allows sellers to maintain some ownership in the business and have a vested interest in its continued success.

“We are comfortable with a lot of different structures…You just never know what’s going to happen. But being creative in terms of trying to meet the sellers’ goals of overall value while protecting our investors with a structure that doesn’t pay too much if the business performs at a low level or doesn’t hit the owner’s expectations,” he added.

While many private equity firms may have a myopic focus on financial engineering and achieving short-term gains, Scripps said that Black Lake Capital takes a more long-term view of its investments.

“We’re trying to sell ourselves as partners just as much as they’re trying to sell their business to us,” he said. “You know, what, what are we going to bring? What’s it like working with us? Everybody has horror stories about working with private equity? How can we sort of allay those fears?”

Tell us what you think on LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter! @opusconnect.

By Lou Sokolovskiy, Founder & CEO at Opus Connect
April 2022

Frank P. Turner, Turnaround Expert: 2022 Trends and the Covid-19 Pandemic


Frank P. Turner is a turnaround expert with more than three decades of experience in  commercial and investment banking. He is the managing partner at Interpeak Consulting, a New Jersey-based firm that provides turnaround services to small and medium-sized companies. In this interview, Frank shares his insights on the 2022 trends in his industry and how he believes the Covid-19 pandemic has made companies rethink their businesses.

Turner loves using anecdotes to explain his points. In a recent Zoom interview I had with him, he talked about Las Vegas’s buffet businesses to illustrate his point that many companies in 2022 will face a solvency crisis, not just a liquidity one.

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, he noted, there were about 30 buffet-style restaurants in Las Vegas. That number has now dropped to five.

“What a lot of these casinos and hotels realize is that those things always lose money,” he said, explaining that the pandemic made the casinos rethink their priorities.

“You have a pandemic that forced everyone to close. And then you get to reevaluate your business and then make real assessments of what’s needed and what’s not. So, in some ways, the pandemic created some opportunities that were pretty unique for businesses to rethink their business,” he added.

Over the past two years, many businesses borrowed heavily to stay afloat during the lockdowns. This has led to an increase in corporate debt levels, even with the PPP loan forgiveness, which could cause a solvency crisis down the road, Turner said.

“The liquidity will eventually dry  up, the money that was available gets finally used; there’s going to be a question whether the business is really viable and therefore solvent,” he said.

Turner expects that in 2022 access to capital will continue for companies that managed to raise money during the pandemic even though the debt levels are high and interest rates are low.

“It may be more expensive, just because base rates will be higher,” he said, adding that the prevalent view among investors is that risk is not adequately priced in the market. Turner believes this risk/return tradeoff will seek a balance.

In respect to investors seeking higher returns, Turner cautioned on the various structured vehicles created to synthetically create yield.  “People who  are investing in these  structures aren’t necessarily getting compensated for the risk they believe they are  taking. But we’ve kind of seen this before, where you start yield chasing,, and depending on the structure of the fund, the yield never develops.” he said.

“I think, if anything, maybe 2022 could be a year, where maybe the profile between risk and return starts heading back to a more traditional normal state. It’s not going to happen overnight. It will happen over many quarters, but maybe the high watermark will  have been reached sometime in 2022. And then people will start evaluating their investments and whether they’re getting compensated appropriately,” he added.

Tell us what you think on LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter! @opusconnect.

By Lou Sokolovskiy, Founder & CEO at Opus Connect
April 2022

Three Tips from a Leading M&A Expert on Selling Your Business

An interview with Sharon Heaton, CEO of sbLiftOff, a lower mid-market M&A advisory firm.


Sharon Heaton is a leading expert in the traditionally male dominated M&A industry. As the CEO of sbLiftOff, she has more than thirty years of experience in M&A and banking. Her experience also includes time as a lawyer, business executive, and senior Senate staff member.

Heaton has been dubbed one of the “50 Most Influential Women in M&A” by BDO, and she is a well-known national thought leader on mid-market acquisitions. I recently spoke with her about the growing M&A market and what businesses can do to prepare for a potential transaction.

It’s “a seller’s market” she said of the current boom caused by record-low interest rates and high valuations. Heaton offered three critical pieces of advice for business owners who are considering selling their company:

Try Not to Get Emotionally Attached

Emotional attachment is something that Heaton sees happen time and time again. Business owners spend years, sometimes decades, building up their company. They can be understandably attached to it and have a hard time letting go, or feel insulted if an offer comes in that is lower than they think it should be.

“Every company has challenges,” she told me via Zoom. “Sometimes business owners have a hard time seeing the challenges of their company and kind of get their ego hurt when a buyer comes in [and starts pointing out some of the challenges].”

She added that sellers must try to see their business from the buyer’s perspective. “Why is it a good idea for them to buy your company? What can they do with it? And you know, it’s got to be a good transaction, not only for the seller but for the buyer as well.”

Buyers Don’t Like Sudden Upticks

Heaton also warned business owners against expecting a “hockey stick” graph when it comes to the sale of their company.

“Don’t count on the hockey stick,” she said, “don’t count on I’m going to keep my revenues pretty much flat for three or four years. And then I’m going to jump them and jump my profitability in the year before I go to market. And then somebody will pay me on that hockey stick. Buyers don’t like hockey sticks. And they question whether or not that’s going to be repeated.”

Instead, Heaton used a baseball analogy for sellers to keep in mind: “It’s a little bit like when Babe Ruth hit a home run and basically went up to the plate and said, ‘I’m going to hit it over there,’ and then knocked it to exactly that place. If we can basically have sellers who are identifying, ‘we’re going to be at this level in two years and this level in three years.’ And then they do that. That is an incredibly solid story.”

Buyers Need a Path to Growth

If you want to sell your business for top dollar, Heaton said, it’s crucial for sellers to at least have a vision of where they want to take the company in the years ahead. Having a clear vision, she said, allows M&A advisors like herself to create a story for buyers that outlines how they can grow the company.

“It’s very important to buyers, who are paying a multiple of EBITDA for the seller, that the seller understands that the buyer is giving away profits for the next several years, they need to see a path to growth because otherwise, it doesn’t make a lot of sense. Sellers are often in a better situation to help buyers see where the growth can come from,” she said.

Heaton’s years of experience and national prominence have made her a go-to authority on M&A. When it comes to selling your business, following her advice could help you get the best possible outcome.

Tell us what you think on LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter! @opusconnect.

By Lou Sokolovskiy, Founder & CEO at Opus Connect
March 2022

Meet the Woman Driving IMB Partners’ Successful Business Development with Empathy and Resilience

An interview with Farrah Holder, Managing Director at IMB Partners, a lower-middle-market PE firm in Bethesda, Maryland.


If you’re looking for someone who knows how to drive success in business development and marketing, Farrah Holder is your woman. As a Managing Director at IMB Partners, a lower-middle-market private equity firm in Bethesda, Maryland, Holder has spearheaded the company’s marketing and business development initiatives for more than six years.

During that time, IMB Partners has invested in and helped grow several businesses in various industries, including utility services, food, IT services, and cyber security.

Holder’s background is just as diverse as the companies she works with. She was born in Guyana and moved to the United States when she was six. Her family was evacuated by the US military during a time of political turmoil in Grenada more than two decades ago.

Holder’s success can be attributed to her interest in understanding people and their motivations, as well as her innate ability to build relationships.

“I’m genuinely interested in people,” she told me in a recent Zoom interview. “And I think I’ve always been this way, my whole life.”

As the only child in her family, Holder learned how to navigate and connect with people of all backgrounds at an early age. This has served her well in her professional career, where she’s had to develop relationships with potential clients, partners, and employees.

“I had to show a lot of resilience,” she said.

“We were now an immigrant family here, and I went to seven schools by the time I was in sixth grade. I had to easily learn how to navigate different groups all the time, different people, and quickly learn ‘how am I going to make friends in this new situation?'” she added.

She explained that as a child, she learned, for example, that sports and activities were a common interest that could help her connect with others. From cheerleading, track, and basketball to lip sync contests, plays, and choir, Holder can draw a straight line between her extroversion and involvement in school to her market-facing role today. However, she doesn’t want to discount the impact her father, a tech entrepreneur, had on her path to private equity. Her father bought the business he worked for and, eventually, sold it to a strategic buyer.

“He and the CFO orchestrated a management buyout,” she said, referring to a US-based technology firm that belonged to a European conglomerate. She explained that she saw her father work hard to pivot the business to new markets, grow the service offerings, and build successful teams globally.

“When I am sitting across the table from the family-owned businesses that we talk to today, I always feel a connection to them. I’m not the entrepreneur, but I know the gravity of what a pending transaction could mean to their families and potentially what it means to them because I watched my father go through it,” she said.

Tell us what you think on LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter! @opusconnect.

By Lou Sokolovskiy, Founder & CEO at Opus Connect
March 2022

From Asset Manager to Business Development Fundraiser: The Journey of Bill Bymel


You may know Bill Bymel as a successful real estate investor or author of “Win-Win Revolution.” But did you know he’s also a powerhouse fundraiser? Bymel’s journey into the world of business development fundraising is not one you hear about every day. He started his career in real estate, flipping homes in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. From there, he became a managing director at Spurs Capital, a New York-based investment management firm focused on residential mortgage loans.

But last year, Bymel decided to make a more significant career change and establish First Lien Capital, a private equity firm investing in the nonperforming and sub-performing mortgage space.

How was his journey from asset manager to business development fundraiser? I recently had an opportunity to speak with him and find out.

“The switch from being an investor, asset manager, portfolio manager to a business development fundraiser has been a jarring experience,” he told me in a Zoom call.

“It’s like speaking a different language,” he added, explaining that while asset managers dictate what they buy, fundraisers need to read the tea leaves and try to divine what a potential investor might want or need.

“As an investment fundraiser, you are really an employee of the investment community. And our job is to answer to their needs. I spend a lot of my time taking the successes of our fund, and trying to translate that into returns, telling the story to investors, and then catering to what the investor’s needs [and] expectations are,” he added.

What Lessons has he Learned?

Bymel has learned a great deal in his time as a fundraiser, but two lessons stand out, he said.

The first is being “consistent” and not rushing things. “You’re never going to raise a million or $10 million on your first meeting,” he said before adding that there might be a 0.1% chance of that happening.

“The capital raising is a relationship business that takes time. And many of my investors this year are people that I met four or five years ago and who I’ve nurtured relationships with kept apprised of what I’m doing and my successes in my existing investments,” he added.

The second lesson is the willingness to walk away from a potential deal if it’s not the right fit for your investors or the company.

“Asking the questions to know is this the right investor for you? I’ve also had to be willing to walk away from offers. I’ve had a lot of money offered to me, that just whether it’s too expensive or the deal comes with catches, so to speak, being willing to say no, to some of the offers that are offered to you,” he said.

What About his Book? Has it Helped?

Though it has not been a New York Times best-seller, or at least not yet, Bymel’s book, “Win-Win Revolution: An Insider’s Guide To Investing In the Secondary Mortgage Market,” has been well-received by the industry. It has nearly three dozen five-star reviews on Amazon.

“It works on so many levels,” he said, explaining how it has helped establish his credibility with potential investors. And writing a book is more than just a vanity project.

“It’s the best time and money ever spent because it’s a legacy,” he said. “It’ll never go away. It’s not just a calling card, but it’s a legacy. It’s something that your family will say, Oh my God, we had a father, a grandfather that wrote a book, even if it’s corny. Even if it was only business-oriented.”

Tell us what you think on LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter! @opusconnect.

By Lou Sokolovskiy, Founder & CEO at Opus Connect
February 2022

From Endowment to Wealth Management: The Mindset Shifts of Peter Newman


Peter Newman, the president and founder of Peak Wealth Planning, has seen it all in the world of finance. After spending nearly two decades working in endowment investments, he switched to wealth management in 2014 and never looked back.

Leaving a stable, well-paying job in endowment investments was a big decision, but it was one that Peter felt compelled to make. And the reason was more than just the allure of making more money.

“There’s a lot easier ways to make money than being a wealth manager or living,” Newman told me recently in a Zoom call.

“The relationships you have with people and finding out later that they think you did a good job, and you help them solve an issue and gave them peace of mind or help them save time or found them that banker they needed to get a real estate deal done that they didn’t know about. That feedback is the reward,” he added.

Newman’s journey from the endowment to wealth management wasn’t without its challenges. He outlined three fundamental mindset shifts that he had to make to succeed in this new field.

Shift #1: From Being Reactive to Proactive

In the world of endowment, you are constantly reacting to what the market is doing. You have managers buying and selling stocks and bonds, trying to outperform a benchmark. Or, you shift your asset allocation to earn more on cash or to outperform your peers.

“The biggest mindset change I had to make was that you’re moving from a reactionary role to a proactive, trusted advisor role,” he said, explaining how his new role involves anticipating the needs of his clients and helping them plan for the future.

Shift #2: Every Family is Unique

When working in endowment, you invest in a particular asset class to achieve a specific goal. For example, you might be investing in venture capital to help support a university’s research initiatives. That is what Newman did at the University of Illinois, where he helped grow the endowment from $250 million to more than $700 million, according to his LinkedIn profile.

However, when you’re a wealth manager, you can’t take a one-size-fits-all approach. “The second mindset shift you have to make is [that] every family is different,” he said. “And what it means to be a trusted adviser to a private equity family might be different for a second generation real estate family. There are also commonalities. Being adaptable, flexible and willing to continue learning, as a financial advisor, I have found to be really important.”

Shift #3: From Organizations to People

When you’re working in endowment, your focus is on the organization you represent. You’re not necessarily thinking about the individual people who will be impacted by your decisions. But as a wealth manager, you are constantly thinking about the people who are your clients.

“This is a really personal business,” he said. “If you’re doing wealth management for families, you’re sitting across the table from a husband and wife, and the most important thing they’ve accomplished in their life is what you are talking about.”

“So, some of the conversations I have with people are: what’s your philosophy on money? What are your family’s core values? And oftentimes, they don’t question this level of engagement. But once in a while, I have to explain that I’m asking all these personal questions so I can put myself in their shoes and deliver the most relevant planning advice.” He added.

If you are interested in learning more about Peak Wealth Planning, LLC check out Peter’s website

By Lou Sokolovskiy, Founder & CEO at Opus Connect
January 2022