Deal Connect: A Pre-Filled Dance Card For M&A Professionals

‘But perhaps the most important value-add that Opus Connect provides its members is a basis for relationships that result in transactions.’


Deal Connect: A Pre-Filled Dance Card For M&A Professionals

Opus Connect hosts frequent Deal Connect events in various cities throughout the country for M&A professionals. On March 19, 2019, Opus produced an Investment Banker Deal Connect, hosted by Buchalter in Downtown Los Angeles. Over 50 lower middle and middle market M&A senior executives attended the event, which was sponsored by Avant Advisory, Sapient Investigations, USI Insurance, Lawrence Financial Group, GemCap Solutions, First Republic Bank, and CohnReznick. The day began with a panel on how relationships play a significant role in today’s highly competitive market, followed by the Deal Connect portion of the event in which attendees were paired up for multiple one-on-one meetings that were carefully curated by Opus Connect to facilitate meaningful and relevant connections. Matches were mostly between capital providers and investment bankers and were based on criteria such as industry and asset classes. In addition, each individual was pre-qualified by Opus Connect prior to the event.

According to OFS Capital’s Michelle Rogers, the Deal Connect portion of the event is like getting a “pre-filled dance card” of relevant connections. For Carrie DiLauro, “usually our selection of who we are meeting with is pretty well vetted towards what we actually do and the deal we would actually partake in.” Having so many meetings in one afternoon is also an “efficient way of meeting new potential investors,” according to Isaac Palmer, Founder and Managing Partner of Qualia Legacy Advisors. Qualia is a boutique investment bank based in Los Angeles that focuses exclusively on entertainment and media. For Palmer, Deal Connect is a great way of getting on people’s radars who are specifically interested in these industries.

“The unique regional nature of these events” is also attractive to participants, according to Jeff Parent, Vice President of Insight Equity, a middle market majority equity buyout firm based outside of Dallas, Texas. It “enables us to meet people we wouldn’t ordinarily be able to meet.” For Michael Grenier, who was attending his first Deal Connect, the draw was to network and meet relevant contacts face-to-face. Grenier, the sole member of Ballard Canyon Capital, lower middle market- focused investment bank based in Santa Barbara, CA, spoke of the importance of face-to-face meetings like those at a Deal Connect which foster a level of comfort and trust, an invaluable aspect of a transaction.

Attending a Deal Connect is also a great marketing opportunity. For Britt Terrell of Backbone Capital, a capital raising advisor in the lower middle market, a huge value-add from attending Deal Connect events has been the ability to speak on or lead panels. Terrell believes that these opportunities have helped build his brand and increase his firm’s exposure. This could prove especially useful for newer or up-and-coming firms, such as G2 Capital Advisors, a boutique investment bank and restructuring firm. Ben Wright, G2’s COO claimed that Deal Connect events have helped him “get our name out” as well as provided “great marketing and opportunities to go to new geographies.”

But perhaps the most important value-add that Opus Connect provides its members is a basis for relationships that result in transactions. Ben Wright shared that “there is one firm attending today that is currently bidding on one of our assets.” Wright had met this firm at three previous Opus Connect events and was “hopeful that this will lead to a closed deal.” Indeed, several attendees described their successes due to Opus Connect events. Stefan Okhuysen, a Principal at CVF Capital Partners, a lower middle market mezzanine financing and private equity group based in CA said that he’s seen a number of deals come out of Opus Connect events. Okhuysen shared that he was attending this Deal Connect because his firm currently has a $200 million fund that it needs to deploy and was hopeful that the event would help them do that.

On the investment banking side, Cary Hurwitz of West Cape Advisors mentioned a deal that he closed through Opus Connect. Several years ago at another Opus event, he showed Michelle Rogers of OFS Capital a transaction in the transportation logistics space. Rogers referred an asset-based lender for the deal that turned out to be the perfect fit for the company. She introduced Hurwitz to three other people and one of those connections led to a closed deal.

One of the challenges of having such a full dance card is how participants can still stand out and be memorable. We asked some of the participants how they use their “personal brand” to differentiate themselves at Deal Connect events so that they create memorable, lasting relationships. AJ Somers of Arrowmark Partners starts by trying to figure out who he is talking to first, so that her can target it the conversation in a way that it will resonate. “I usually start out by asking people, what would make this day successful for you? I’ll try to figure out what they are actually after, and then I can talk to it.” Michelle Rogers uses a more “personal touch,” asking questions such as where the person went to school or whether they have kids so that when she sends a follow up she can speak to more than just the professional overlap.

Upcoming Deal Connect events are taking place in San Francisco, Denver and Toronto this May. You can find more information about these events as well as many others on our website. Contact us today to sign up or to become a member.

Revenue Recognition for Private Equity

The Pine Hill Group
Opus Connect NYC Private Equity Chapter Sponsor


Revenue Recognition for Private Equity
How an accounting standard can impact your deal

The new accounting standard for revenue recognition (ASC 606), which goes into effect early next year for privately held companies is just an accounting change, right? Not at all. It could prompt private equity firms to adjust the way they project the growth of portfolio companies and revise the way they market those companies for sale. The goal of the standard is to create a comprehensive revenue recognition model that is agnostic to all industries and capital markets and increases comparability of companies’ financial statements. To do so, it ties the recognition of revenue more closely to when control of a product or service is transferred to a customer. Depending on the type of company, that could mean big changes to key financial metrics and ratios, including EBITDA, and could impact the financials in ways that could have an impact on debt covenant compliance, taxes, mergers and acquisition activity, and other exit strategies such as IPOs.

You may feel an impact whether buying or selling

On the buy side, it’s important that private equity (PE) firms understand the standard well enough to evaluate the impacts during their due diligence. If a target hasn’t yet implemented the standard, the PE firm needs to understand what the financials will look like in the future once the new rules become effective for all companies.

On the sell side, PE firms need to make sure their portfolio companies have implemented the new standard or be able to provide an explanation of why they have not and their action plan to do so in due course. This is especially important if the potential buyer is a public company that has already complied with the new standard.

The new standard offers two transition options – modified or full retrospective. Under full retrospective, an entity can choose to apply the new standard to all its contracts – and retrospectively adjust each comparative period presented in its 2017-2018 financial statements if it waits until the mandatory effective date.

Under the modified approach, an entity can recognize the cumulative effect of applying the new standard at the date of initial application – and make no adjustments to its comparative information. However, the company will need to report under both legacy and new accounting rules during the year of adoption.

The choice of transition option can have a significant effect on revenue trends. For example, if a company elects modified retrospective, i.e., cumulative catch-up, it may not be appropriate for a sponsor to look at trends from 2017 – 2019 because the periods will be presented on different accounting bases. Buyers may discount the offer price because of the lack of comparability. Therefore, to maximize value, private companies that may be involved in potential sale-side transactions might want to strongly consider adopting ASC 606 on a retrospective basis.

Take a SAAS company that has $9 million in revenue over a period of years, and the contract has two deliverables/obligations that are distinct from each other. Under the standard, depending on the obligations outlined in the contract, some of the revenue may now be recognized upfront, and some revenue may be recognized over time. The result is that revenue will temporarily increase, creating a temporary blip in profitability or EBITDA.

Or consider a pharmaceutical company that currently recognizes revenue only when their distributor sells to the end customer. Under the new standard, the company may be able to recognize revenue earlier based on when “control” has transferred, or when the product is provided to the distributor. Further, certain contract-related costs like sales commissions, which were previously expenses when incurred, may now have to be capitalized and amortized over the life of the contract, which would increase EBITDA in certain periods.

Under legacy GAAP, some companies didn’t expressly disclose their unbilled receivables – a very risky account which represents revenue recognized, but which can’t currently be billed to customers under the terms of the contract. Under ASC 606, unbilled revenues are now captured as part of a “contract asset” account, the balances of which need to be clearly disclosed in the financials. Prospective buyers should scrutinize this account during their due diligence process as it carries significant risk if the target’s estimates of contract profitability, or the customer’s ability/intent to pay, turn out to be different than initial expectations.

The bottom line is that even if a company’s total revenue doesn’t change, the “timing” of when the revenue is will likely change which may have an impact on key metrics during the acquisition and divestiture processes. Private equity firms should understand how to tell the story as to why revenue year over year is different even if the overall profitability is the same.

The value creation story may change

When a company implements the new standard, private equity owners may need to rewrite the value creation story they tell potential buyers. PE firms use financial modeling to identify and project revenue streams, then devise a strategy for improving those numbers with the goal of exiting the investment in a set number of years. These growth projections are the heart of their story.

Under the new rules, the whole model may be impacted as a result of the revenue numbers reported in your financial statements changing. It will make it harder to tell your story to attract buyers even if nothing actually changes in the performance of the company. You need to be smart about how you tell the story and how the financial statements reflect that story. Given the complexities of ASC 606, implementation will require a carefully planned methodology and an experienced project management team. Unlike some previous standards, ASC 606 requires significant effort, knowledge, and judgment to ensure that disclosures in the financial statement are accurate, complete, and timely. The new guidelines also add significant new disclosure requirements that may vary across different companies based on their operations. It will be very difficult to use boilerplate disclosures to satisfy the requirements in ASC 606. Most businesses will need to seek outside advisors since in-house ASC 606 expertise is few and far between.

Time is running out

As the effective date of ASC 606 is imminent, implementing ASC 606 should be a high priority for portfolio companies. If an acquisition is in your future, you may have to modify or normalize the information you receive from the target company (seller) to compare apples to apples to get a good sense of the impact on key metrics, ratios, EBITDA.

To have a further discussion regarding the revenue recognition standard, please contact:

Dan Rudio
Managing Director

William Andreoni
Senior Director

© 2018 Pine Hill Group llc. This document is for general information purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for
consultation with professional advisors.


Mergers and Acquisitions events

Accountability is another way to ensure that you are making the most out of your personal business development strategy. In this article, I discuss three different techniques that you can employ to create accountability.


Mastering the Art of Business Development Blog Series
Article 12: Accountability

In my recent series of articles, we’ve been working on developing our own Personal Business Development Plans.  A personal plan is like a roadmap, and having one makes it much easier to conduct business development in a way that is meaningful, enjoyable and ultimately, successful. As you may recall, the final step in creating a personal business development plan is to set up a system for tracking your progress and goals. However, there is an additional tool that can help ensure that you are able to get the best results out of your plan:  accountability.

A good analogy is a dieter. People go on diets all the time. Some go to a group like Jenny Craig, others see a private nutritionist, and others buy a book or read up online. In most cases, these people start out with a plan. So what is the difference between those who succeed and those who fail? Some of it is certainly about will-power, but another big factor is accountability. When dieters are held accountable for whether or not they stick to their plan, they tend to see better results. Accountability in this situation may take its form in having to report to other people, or to the motivation created by virtue of a financial investment.

Like a dieter, you might start out with a great Personal Business Development Plan.  But if you don’t stick to the action items and time budget that you’ve created, then it isn’t worth much. Additionally, sometimes these plans may need to be altered based on circumstances and also based on trial and error. If something isn’t working you likely need to adjust it.

So how do you create accountability in business development?  Here are three tools you can use:

  1. Hire a personal business development coach: Why do people use personal trainers instead of just going to the gym? Firstly, they get a more tailored approach to their personal needs. And secondly, it’s a lot harder to skip a session that you’ve paid for, whereas if you simply have a membership to a gym there is no penalty for deciding to stay in bed or head to happy hour instead of pumping some iron.  It’s the same with personal business development coaches.  A coach can help you create your personal plan, including identifying things that perhaps you wouldn’t see on your own. And because you are committed to paying for sessions (or at least to showing up since it is one on one), you will be more motivated to make progress between meetings.
  2. Establish a “chavrusa”: Chavrusa comes from a Hebrew word which means a learning partner. Your chavrusa should consist of you and one other person who is also working on improving his or her business development skills. Your partner should be a peer, but not a competitor. For example, a corporate lawyer and an accountant would make a good team because they both understand the subject matter of each other’s professions, but are not in direct competition. The most important thing is that you meet consistently and that you hold each other accountable. When you meet, in addition to discussing new action items or contacts that you might add to your personal plan, you must go over your existing goals and action items and explain your progress (or lack thereof) to your partner. Even though there is no punishment for failing to deliver on an action item, your chavrusa will psychologically motivate you to accomplish your goals because it creates a sense of accountability not just to yourself, but to another person.
  3. Joining a mastermind group: A concept created by Napoleon Hill 100 years ago in a book called “Think Big and Grow Rich”, a mastermind groups offer a combination of brainstorming, education, peer accountability and support in a group setting to sharpen your business and personal skills. It helps you and your mastermind group members achieve success. Participants challenge each other to set powerful goals, and more importantly, to accomplish them. You can create your own mastermind group, or you can reach out to us at Opus Connect and we can try to place you in one that is appropriate and meets your needs.

To sum this up, accountability is an important factor in the success of your ability to implement your Personal Business Development Plan and achieve maximum results. We’ve discussed three tools you can employ to create accountability. I would suggest that you use at least one of these, if not more.


Lou Sokolovskiy
Founder/CEO, Opus Connect


Tracking the Success of Your Business Development Plan

No good plan comes without a way to track success. By creating your own personalized matrix tracking system, you can ensure that you are optimizing your personal business development strategy.

Mastering the Art of Business Development Blog Series
Article 11: Tracking the Success of Your Business Development Plan

We’ve spent the last few months developing our Personal Business Development Plans, and by this point, you should have a clear mission, goals and a well-defined action plan. The seventh, and final step involves setting up a mechanism to track your progress. Why is this necessary? You might have an incredible plan, but you need a way to determine whether it is working, and how well it is working. Many people need to make adjustments along the way, but how will you decide what those adjustments should be? Step Seven is designed to address these issues by helping you create an easy-to-use and effective tracking system.

What are you tracking?

Before setting up your system, you need to define what it is that you are trying to track. There are many different aspects of your business development strategy that you can and should track, the specifics of which are unique in each case. Common things you might want to consider tracking include number of new contacts, number of new clients, number of returning clients, amount of income, number of publications, etc. If you need help figuring out what to track, start by looking at each of your action items as well as your overall goals and identify what would qualify as success in each case.

The Business Development Funnel

As I mentioned above, one of the most common things that people need to track in business development is your contacts and whether and how those contacts translate into revenue. In order to show you how to do this, I first need to define a key concept: the business development funnel. Many of you are probably familiar with the term “sales funnel”, which is a list of the steps that a salesperson takes from lead generation all the way down to a conversion or sale. The funnel is a tool you can use in order to determine how many leads you would need to generate in order to end up with a certain amount of sales, on average. For example, a salesperson might email 100 leads, out of which 50 will respond. Out of those 50, 25 will be interested in setting up a demo, and out of those 25, 10 will move forward with a free trial of the product. Perhaps 5 of the leads that use the free trial decide to sign up as paying clients. In this way, the salesperson can determine how many leads he or she must contact in order to get X number of paying customers, as well as determine the monetary value of a lead at each stage in the funnel.

The sales funnel is pretty straightforward, and therefore, salespeople are great at using it. Professionals who are trying to do business development, on the other hand, do not use funnels as frequently. Yet, it is an integral part of creating an action plan that can be tracked and adjusted for maximum success.

A classic example of a business development funnel looks something like this: Alex knows 1,000 people. Out of those 1,000 people, he is in touch with about 250, 100 of which he maintains a meaningful relationship with. Out of those 100, 50 attend one of Alex’s events each year. 20 of them end up being clients, and in addition, 10 more of them become referral sources which then leads to another 10 clients.

Here is another example that is slightly more complex. Let’s revisit Jackie again. While bringing clients into the firm is obviously great, her main long term goal as you will recall is to pivot into an in-house counsel position at a tech start-up company. In order to do that, she needs to make connections in the tech industry so that when she is ready to make the move, she has people to turn to who can connect her with job opportunities. Here, the funnel is not necessarily linear, but might look something like this: Jackie joins the Bar Association’s Tech Division and goes to 2 networking events each month. At each event, she talks to 10 people, and follows up with 8 of them. Of the 8, she sets up a coffee or lunch meeting with 5, and forms a close relationship with 1 of the 5 over time. This would mean that Jackie meets 2 people per month with whom she forms a close relationship over time who work in the tech industry. After one year, Jackie has 24 meaningful business contacts, approximately 10 of whom work at companies that Jackie would like to work at, and 5 of whom are at companies that are currently hiring.

How Do You Track These Things?

The tracking system I like best is a matrix in which you can follow your goals and/or action items over a period of time, and compare performance from month to month, and year to year.  You can use a program like Excel or Google Sheets for this purpose. There are also many professional tools out there to help with tracking, such as CRM systems like Salesforce.

How you set up your matrix will depend on what your specific goals and action items are, meaning that your matrix is unique and should be customized according to your personal business development plan. The matrix will appear different depending on what it is that you are trying to track. If you are tracking a business development funnel, each step of the funnel should appear in the tracking matrix:

Contact Follow-up Meeting Continue Followup Becomes Client
Mickey Mouse X X X X
Donald Duck X X X
Cinderella X X
Barack Obama X
Warren Buffett

You might also track something like finances: For example, if one of your goals was to increase your revenues by X% over the course of a year, each month you can actually see what the percentage of increase is. You might need to engage an accountant to help you track your finances, or you can use an accounting software with reporting tools.

This wraps up our series on creating your Personal Business Development Plan. You now have the tools you need in order to build your own. But your efforts shouldn’t stop there, as there are many other tricks and tools that you can use in order to optimize performance of your personal plan.  Next time, we will take a closer look at how other accountability systems can help you succeed in your business development efforts.


Lou Sokolovskiy
Founder/CEO, Opus Connect

Lights, Camera, Action!

Step five in creating your personal business development strategy is to create an over-inclusive list of all possible action items that can help you achieve your objectives. Then, in step six, you can whittle down those objectives to those that are reasonable and most efficient.


Mastering the Art of Business Development Blog Series
Article Ten: Lights, Camera, Action!

Over the past couple of months, I have been going through the steps that you should take in order to build your own Personal Business Development Plan:

  1. Perceive Yourself as a Business of One
  2. Create a Mission Statement
  3. Perform a SWOT Analysis
  4. Develop a Personal Brand Strategy
  5. Determine Action Items
  6. Create a Time Budget
  7. Track Your Progress

Step Five: Determine Action Items

Steps One-Four should have given you a pretty clear picture of what your goals are (short term and long term), as well as what your assets and deficits are. In Step Five, you need to synthesize that information into action items. In other words, what are some specific things that you can do in order to achieve the goals you’ve identified? Think about how you can use your strengths and opportunities, and possibly improve upon your weaknesses and threats. Consider what you need to accomplish in order to build your personal brand. Keep your mission statement in mind and ensure that your action items fall in line with that purpose.

You should begin by being overinclusive. Write down all action items that come to mind, regardless of how easy they will be to accomplish or whether they are reasonable right now. Be as clear and specific as possible and make sure your items are measurable by converting them into weekly or monthly deliverables. You should also include things like quantity or the specific type of audience you are trying to engage.

To illustrate this Step, let’s go back to our example of Jackie, the corporate lawyer who eventually wants to go in-house at a tech start-up. Please note: this is not a complete list of possible action items (that would simply take up too much space) but this should give you the idea of how to do this step. Here are some things we know about Jackie:

  • She works at one of the top firms in Los Angeles in corporate law
  • She is shy and has a hard time meeting new people
  • She has a good network of existing contacts from Cornell and UCLA.
  • She is a wine connoisseur.
  • She recently got into art and frequently visits the LA County Museum of Art (LACMA)

Some of Jackie’s action items could include:

  • Join the Los Angeles County Bar Association’s tech division and attend two events or meetings per month.
  • Join the Young Professional Board of LACMA and attend monthly board meetings.
  • Create a monthly newsletter for best values on wines and send to a “club” of relevant contacts, including college and law school friends as well as business relations.
  • Create Business Development Real Estate™ in the form of a quarterly wine tasting event, hosted in one of the nicer conference rooms at the firm, and invite colleagues from the firm, law school friends and firm clients.
  • Sign up for a bi-weekly public speaking coach.

Step Six: Create a Time Budget

Step Five should produce a list of all possible action items you could take to achieve your goals, and in Step Six you need to create an executable plan by whittling down that list to those items that are reasonable and beneficial for you to engage in at present. In other words, just because you can do something doesn’t mean that right now you should. Your time is precious and limited, and a time budget will ensure that you are using it for the most impactful items on your list. You can always re-evaluate your list in the future, and should plan to do this at least annually, if not more often.

So how do you determine which items you should focus on now? You need to assess the cost-benefit ratio of each item. Think about things like monetary expense, opportunity cost, how much time you actually have to spend on business development and still complete your job, and your personal happiness. You should ideally be looking for the low hanging fruit – the action items that will cost you the least but yield the highest results.

Let’s say that Jackie decides to spend 10 hours per month on business development. While she could do all of the things on her action item list above, that’s quite a lot to perform all at once and frankly, would be difficult to accomplish with her 10-hour time budget. Perhaps she might start out with the two networking events per month and the monthly newsletter. The former is likely to yield relevant results quickly, whereas the latter is easy to accomplish, involves Jackie’s hobby, and is a great way to test the waters before jumping into creating Business Development Real Estate, which is a much larger time commitment and expense.

Another example of creating time budgets might include honing the number of leads you want to add to your sales pipeline or the number of networking events you want to attend. Jackie could attend two meetings of the LA County Bar Association’s Tech Division each month, with a goal of meeting at least ten new contacts at each of those events. If she sees that she is unable to meet twenty new contacts in the course of only two events, she could consider adding another event to her time budget or finding a different action item to make up the difference so that she still gets to twenty new contacts per month.

Spend some time creating your action item list and time budget. In the next article, we will discuss how you can track these action items so that you can ensure maximum success.

Lou Sokolovskiy
Founder/CEO, Opus Connect

Building Your Personal Brand Strategy – Part Two

Your personal brand is a key component of your personal business development strategy. Some tips for building your brand include being a thought leader, acting as a “matchmaker” for your contacts, and developing a signature style, among others.


Mastering the Art of Business Development Blog Series
Article Nine: Building Your Personal Brand Strategy – Part Two

Welcome back. We’ve recently been discussing the seven steps to creating your Personal Business Development Plan. Step Four is to develop your personal brand strategy, which is how you communicate to others in the marketplace who you are and what your value is. Today I am going to explore tips and strategies for building your own personal brand.

Be a Matchmaker
Of note, nearly everyone that I interviewed about this topic incorporates goodwill or helping others in some way into their personal brand. One of my colleagues and friends, Steve Sahara, is a Director at Stout who engages in a high volume of business development. When I asked Steve what he thinks his personal brand is, he explained that he is friendly and is always thinking about what others are trying to get out of the time they invest and how he can he be helpful to them. This quality leaves people with a favorable impression. One way you can generate goodwill is by matchmaking, or acting as a connector. If you can provide value to someone by connecting them with a potential client, referral source, or expert on something they need done, you are helping two people at once and ameliorating yourself to them. Perhaps in the future, one of them will refer you a client, or become clients themselves. To be a good matchmaker or connector, you should be constantly building and maintaining relationships. Organize get-togethers, attend events, and get involved with things that you care about and that are relevant to your career and industry.

Offer Brownies
Another way you can generate goodwill is by occasionally offering free advice. Steve Sahara, for example, is big on delivering results to prospects before they even hire him. Selwyn Gerber explained to me that he often waives fees on a bill or sponsors a presentation that he knows will not directly generate revenue, but that adds value to his clients and prospects. By offering people these “brownies” in the form of connections, free advice or other types of value- add, you will enhance your personal brand.

Be a Thought Leader or Expert
Another common and important component of personal brands is expertise, or thought leadership. Jeri Harman is a great example of someone who incorporates this into her personal brand: Jeri speaks on M&A and private equity panels around the country, and co-chairs conferences and boards. By highlighting herself as an expert in her field, she has built a reputation as a high level industry participant and influencer, as well as a subject matter expert in private credit and M&A. Indeed, taking on leadership roles in your field and becoming a spokesperson or authoring a content-rich publication (a monthly newsletter for example) can go a long way in helping to communicate your expertise to others.

Play to Your Strengths
Review your strengths from your SWOT analysis. Consider how you might highlight or develop them further. For instance, if one of your strengths is public speaking, you should incorporate that into your personal brand strategy.

Build Trust Through Authenticity
When people know they can trust you, they are much more likely to turn to you when they need something. A good way to build trust is by being open and authentic with people. Let them get to know you. For instance, Robert Derbabian shares his Instagram account with business contacts and allows them to see photos of his personal travels. And make sure that you are reliable by doing what you say you are going to do and following up with people appropriately.

How Do You Stand Out?
How are you different from the competition? Can you say it in one sentence? For instance, Selwyn Gerber’s CPA firm uses the motto “Beyond Bean Counting” and his wealth management firm uses the catchphrase “Providing Peace of Mind”. These short statements not only communicate what is different about these companies from other competitors, but they also directly tie into Selwyn’s own personal brand, which is someone who really cares about the people he works with and who listens to their specific needs.

Develop a Signature Style
I mentioned this in my last article, but Robert Derbabian is known for his big personality and he is always wearing a suit, tie and cufflinks. This “signature style” helps Robert stand out in a crowd and enables people to remember him more easily.

Be The Poster Child of Your Brand
To build a personal brand, you must be consistent in your message. You should apply your brand and message consistently through any text you put out there, your website, the way your office looks, and in the conversations you have with people.

Have an Attractive Digital Presence
Your professional profile should be impressive. You should also use social media (LinkedIn, Facebook, or even Instagram).

Be Great At Your Job
While building a strong personal brand is important, at the end of the day you need to deliver a product and back up your brand.

Hopefully these tips can get you started on developing a personal brand strategy that is consistent with your skills and identity. Next time we will delve into creating a plan of action to take advantage of this information.


Lou Sokolovskiy
Founder/CEO, Opus Connect

Building Your Personal Brand Strategy – Part One

Developing a personal brand is the next step to creating a successful personal business development strategy. Your personal brand is how you communicate to others in the marketplace who you are and what your value is.


Mastering the Art of Business Development Blog Series
Article Eight: Building Your Personal Brand Strategy – Part One

My recent articles have been focusing on how to create your own Personal Business Development Plan, and today we will be discussing Step Four of this process:

  1. Perceive Yourself as a Business of One
  2. Create a Mission Statement
  3. Perform a SWOT Analysis
  4. Develop a Personal Brand Strategy
  5. Determine Action Items
  6. Create a Time Budget
  7. Track Your Progress

There is a lot of debate about what the term “personal brand” means, especially in the context of business development. In order to clarify the concept, I reached out to a few colleagues whose personal brands are particularly strong and interviewed them on what “personal brand” means to them and how they use it in their business development strategy.

Interestingly, I got a diverse range of answers. There were, however, some common driving factors, and some great tips that I will share with you in Part Two of this article. But first, I want to explain how the concept of personal brand might be be applied differently depending on who you are and what your role is. For instance, the founder of a company sees things differently than an employee of a company. Likewise, someone who does business development in order to promote his own services views the concept of personal brand differently than someone whose primary role in a company is business development.

In my article about Step One of creating your personal business development plan, I quoted my friend and colleague Robert Derbabian, who often uses the example of a professional basketball player to explain business development. A professional basketball player wears a jersey with his team’s name on the front, but with his own name on the back. In some ways, the player is representing the team’s brand. But people are truly interested in the individual player. If he were to be traded, for example, the colors and the name on the front of his jersey would change, but the back of his jersey will always remain the same.

Robert is the Senior Director of Business Development at Marcum LLP and embodies this principle. There are several key aspects to his personal brand: People know him as a connector. He also has a reputation for being reliable and trustworthy. His personality is fairly gregarious and friendly, and he is always wearing a suit and tie. Robert hasn’t always worked for Marcum, but I can tell you that his personal brand was exactly the same in his previous positions. Like the basketball player, Robert’s job may be to represent the Marcum brand, but what he is known for in the market is his individual brand.

In contrast, another one of our interviewees felt very strongly that you must seek unification of your personal brand and your business’s brand. Selwyn Gerber is a CPA and founded both Gerber & Co., Inc., an accounting firm, as well as RVW Investing LLC, a wealth management firm. According to Selwyn, his personal brand conveys one, holistic, and consistent image: he is attentive to his clients’ needs and listens to them with genuine concern – so too, the brand of his companies communicates that same idea.

A middle perspective was offered by another one of these powerhouse interviewees, Jeri Harman. Jeri is the Founder & Chairman at Avante Mezzanine Partners, a lower middle market private credit investment fund. According to Jeri, your personal brand can help you build your own career as well as a firm. To her, personal brand is not just about promoting oneself, but about taking the brand one has developed and using it to the firm’s benefit. Jeri also differentiates between micro and macro personal brand: Your micro-brand refers to your reputation within your firm, whereas your macro brand deals with your broader, more global reputation.

As you can see, people view the concept of personal brand differently depending on factors such as what their role is (service provider vs. business development professional) and whether they have an ownership interest in the firm/ company. But still, there is some common ground in how these three professionals define the overarching concept: How people know you (Robert Derbabian), what reputation you have (Jeri Harman), or what image you convey (Selwyn Gerber). My synthesis of these interviews, along with my own opinion, leads me to posit the following definition: Your personal brand is how you communicate to others in the marketplace who you are and what your value is. Whether this ties in with the brand of the company you work for depends on what your job is and how closely tied you are to the company.

Now that we have a clearer idea of what I mean by personal brand, in Part Two I will share tips and strategies that will help you develop your own personal brand.


Lou Sokolovskiy
Founder/CEO, Opus Connect

How To Perform A Personal SWOT Analysis

Performing a SWOT analysis on yourself is step 3 in your process to create a personal business development plan. A SWOT analysis will help you identify traits and situations that you should take into account when crafting your personal brand and action items.


Mastering the Art of Business Development Blog Series
Article Seven: How To Perform A Personal SWOT Analysis

Welcome back. We are working on creating our own personal business development plans, which includes the following seven steps:

  1. Perceive Yourself as a Business of One
  2. Create a Mission Statement
  3. Perform a SWOT Analysis
  4. Develop a Personal Brand Strategy
  5. Determine Action Items
  6. Create a Time Budget
  7. Track Your Progress

As a business of one, you can use the same tools as any other business to create a business development strategy, including the subject of today’s article: a SWOT analysis. SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. As human beings, we all have qualities that fall into these four categories and the goal of a SWOT analysis is to develop a comprehensive list of these qualities. This list will then be used to help you develop a strong personal brand and create an action plan.

Let’s look at an example of a SWOT analysis together: Jackie is a junior associate at one of the top law firms in Los Angeles. Jackie makes a great salary at this firm while getting a good deal of experience working in corporate law. However, Jackie’s true passion lies in technology start-ups, and her long term goal is to become in-house counsel at such a company. Jackie went to Cornell undergraduate and UCLA law, and has significant debt from these two schools. She became a wine connoisseur while at Cornell, and belongs to several private wine clubs in addition to being a certified sommelier. She also recently got into art, and loves to visit the Los Angeles County Museum of Art on the weekends. While Jackie had some good friends in college and law school, she describes herself as an introvert and can be quite shy among people she doesn’t know.

Here is an example of what Jackie’s SWOT analysis might look like:


●      Does excellent legal work

●      Diligent

●      Good at dealing with existing clients

●      Well-organized

●      Manages time effectively


●      Is shy and has social anxiety

●      Not very technologically savvy

●      No current system/plan for business development

●      More than $150K in student loans


●      Wine-connoisseur (Business Development Real Estate?)

●      Network of friends from college and law school

●      Could join the young leadership board of an art museum

●      Frequent contact with angel investors and venture capitalists through current job

●      Firm provides budget for client development



●      Competition from other associates

●      Difficult job market (few in-house positions available)

●      Instability of working for a less established company (start-up)






You should spend an hour or two performing your own SWOT analysis. Here is a list of guidelines and things to consider:

  1. What are you good at?  What are you bad at? List skills, personality traits, hobbies and passions. Examples: Time Management, public speaking, organization, social skills, etc.
  2. What are some of your past business development efforts? Were they successes or failures?
  3. What organizations are you involved with? What organizations or boards can you join?
  4. What resources do you have to help you with business development? Some firms will reimburse you for meals or give you tickets to sporting events. Some companies have events that you can invite clients to. Or perhaps your alumni or bar association has events that you can attend.
  5. How good are your contacts? Think about people you went to school with, friends, family, etc.
  6. Who can you ask to be introduced to?  Who can you introduce to each other?
  7. Can you create Business Development Real Estate™ or something unique?
  8. Are you engaging in some type of marketing? Examples are a monthly emails to friends, a blog, or posting content on your LinkedIn profile.
  9. How do you compare to other colleagues?
  10. How have others in your field been successful in business development? Can you find a role model/mentor? Set up an informational interview(s) and learn what worked for them.

By understanding your strengths, weaknesses, threats and opportunities, you will be able to build a personal plan that optimizes your potential. In the next few articles, we will be discussing how you can build a personal brand strategy based on your mission and SWOT analysis. Stay tuned.


Lou Sokolovskiy
Founder/CEO, Opus Connect

Developing A Mission Statement

Crafting a personal mission statement is step two in creating a personal business development strategy. Your mission statement should be global and broad, but also encompass your identity, values and long-term goals.


Mastering the Art of Business Development Blog Series
Article Six: Developing A Mission Statement

In the last article I laid out the seven steps for creating a Personal Business Development Plan. We discussed the first step, which is simply to perceive yourself as any other business, which means that you have a clear strategy that includes things such as goals, action items, your brand, valuation, diversification, contingency plans, and much more. As a “business of one”, you can also leverage existing tools and techniques that are widely used by businesses when formulating their strategies and translate these to your individual needs. Step Two is one such tool.

Step Two is to create your own personal mission statement. Most businesses will have some kind of a mission statement and/or vision. As a business of one, a mission statement will help you focus your business development strategy. Most people immediately think of goals when they hear “mission statement,” but your mission statement is much more (and much less) than that. A good mission statement is a broad, global description that encompasses your identity, values and long-term goals. It should be no more than 1-2 sentences. It should be something that you can refer to in any situation or when making decisions, to evaluate whether you are acting in line with your true purpose.

Sounds easy right? That’s what I thought until I sat down to write my own mission statement. Suddenly, I found myself a bit lost. How could I boil down my entire career, and even more than that, my entire existence, to one or two sentences? It took a bit of soul searching and guidance, but ultimately this is what I came up with:

My mission is to create positive impact for people and causes that I am passionate about by leveraging my expertise and network, while building ethical, balanced and successful businesses.

This mission statement contains all of the key elements of a good mission statement. It is broad and global, short and to the point, and expresses my values and motivations. For example, my values tell me it is important to make an impact in the world. I am philanthropic by nature and get involved not just with charities, but also with my individual contacts and friends. I am a born networker and am good at not only building connections for myself, but for others (like a matchmaker). I know that I want a career that is lucrative enough to give me financial independence but that also includes some degree of balance, as I value health and family.

Perhaps you already know what your mission statement is. For those of you who don’t, here are some questions to ask yourself that can help you figure it out:

  • Who are you?
  • What are your personal and professional goals?
  • What do you enjoy doing?
  • What are you good at doing?
  • What are your core values?
  • What are you passionate about? What do you care about?
  • What motivates you?
  • When you retire, what do you want to have accomplished? (If this stumps you, consider writing yourself a letter from your 80-year old self to your present self).
  • What would you like your tombstone to say?

Take some time over the next couple of weeks to start thinking about these questions and crafting your mission statement. In my next article I will discuss Step Three, which will also help you define your mission.


Lou Sokolovskiy
Founder/CEO, Opus Connect

Become A Business of One

The first step in creating a successful personal business development strategy is to perceive yourself as a “business of one.” Just like any business, as an individual you can take certain actions to optimize your profitability, brand recognition and strengths.  


Mastering the Art of Business Development Blog Series
Article Five: Become A Business of One

We’ve recently been discussing how you can use business development to boost your success and improve your quality of life. I’ve given you several tips and tools, including suggesting that you develop “business development real estate™”. These tools are part of a larger strategy that will help you optimize your performance and results: A Personal Business Development Plan.

There are 7 Steps to creating your personal plan:

  1. Perceive Yourself as a Business of One
  2. Create a Mission Statement
  3. Perform a SWOT Analysis
  4. Develop a Personal Brand Strategy
  5. Determine Action Items
  6. Create a Time Budget
  7. Track Your Progress

Today we are going to discuss the first step, perceiving yourself as a business of one. Most companies have a business plan or strategy. This helps them set goals and targets, and creates a framework in which employees execute tasks in order to reach those goals and targets. Business plans contain comparisons to previous years and to other companies, strategies about branding, optionality and diversification, valuation, and track record. In addition, business plans usually contain contingencies, in case things don’t work out in the expected timeframe or order. Having a clear and well-thought-out business plan is crucial to a company’s success.

And yet, most individuals do not have a formal plan or strategy for their career. Some have not even given thought to the aforementioned elements, such as short and long-term goals or branding. This lack of insight, planning and organization can have a tangible impact on your success.  For instance, let’s say you are a service provider (such as a doctor, lawyer, or accountant). You might be able to eke out a living by following a predetermined path and simply working diligently, but if you want to maximize your potential or work for yourself, you really need to set yourself apart from the pack. Or let’s say you are an insurance agent who is unhappy with your current job, and you’d like to move into the fin-tech world. How are you going to make that move without having to start all over again from square one?

The answer is that you need to start acting like a business entity, or as I like to say, a business of one. Like any company or business, you can take certain actions to strategically plan and organize in order to optimize your profitability, brand recognition and other potential advantages. You can figure out what your goals are, and how you can use your personal strengths and assets to achieve them. What about your personality and strengths can translate into a brand? How can you position yourself in your industry as an expert? You can measure your success and determine how you should value yourself. You can figure out what your safeguards and contingency plans are so that if you are ever fired, quit, or change your mind about what you want to do with your life, you can do that much more easily.

For example, basketball players wear a jersey with their team name on the front and their personal name on the back. They might switch to another team, but their name is still going to be on the back of the jersey. In other words, the skills, capabilities, and fame of an individual player do not change even though the player is traded to a new team. (Source:  Robert Derbabian.) Just like the basketball player, you can move to different jobs while still maintaining your personal identity.  For example, a banker can work for Goldman Sachs, quit and move to UBS without losing her skills and abilities and in some cases, her clients. Or, that same banker could decide that she wants to change careers entirely and start her own private equity firm. She has the expertise and the connections in order to make that happen.

The first step to creating your personal plan is about setting the intention to treat your career and your success like a business. The following articles will help you take that intention and turn it into a clear, organized and effective strategy.


Lou Sokolovskiy
Founder/CEO, Opus Connect