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The Influencers in Depth

Julia Karol

Sphere of Influence: Evaluates funds for investment and co-investment opportunities on behalf of the firm’s private equity clients

Watermill is one of the oldest independent sponsors in the industry, and for the last seven years, Julia Karol was primarily responsible for managing relationships with the firm’s investors. However, in July, Karol was promoted to chief operating officer and president of the firm. She now splits her time between managing the operations of Watermill and working with portfolio companies on strategy execution.

“Following my promotion, I now provide support to Watermill’s portfolio companies with emphasis on strategic implementation and organizational development as well as manage the Watermill Group’s operations,” says Karol.

Founded by Karol’s grandfather and father, the Lexington, Massachusetts-based firm has a staff of 15 professionals today. A Watermill professional will take a board adviser role at every portfolio company. Karol always fills one of those seats, while Watermill deal partners usually fill a board seat as well.

Watermill focuses on investing in middle-market manufacturing and industrial businesses that are strong at their core, but need more direction to achieve the next level of growth. Karol says the firm is seeing many great investment opportunities due to disruption in the industry as a result of changing regulations.

Dealmakers predict solid growth for M&A in the manufacturing sector over the next year, according to Mergers & Acquisitions’ Mid-Market Pulse (MMP) in October 2016, a forward-looking sentiment indicator, published in partnership with CT, a provider of business compliance and deal support services. One dealmaker predicted that there should be a pick up in U.S. manufacturing once the November presidential election concluded, and another dealmaker expects to see a friendlier regulatory environment with a new administration.

Today, Watermill has five portfolio companies. “These businesses are at a crossroads and we provide the vision, strategy and operating support to help them achieve their full potential. We hope to build companies that can thrive for the next 100 years,” says Karol.