Gretchen Perkins, partner, Huron Capital, is one of 36 dealmakers named in Mergers & Acquisitions’ 2019 Most Influential Women in Mid-Market M&A. Click here for the full list. This year, we asked the dealmakers to tell their stories in their own voices through Q&As.
How did you get into dealmaking?
I began my career as a commercial lender. After approximately 14 years doing that, a local PE firm in the Detroit area, on which I had called regularly over the years to source debt deals, reached out to me and asked me to initiate a full time dedicated business development/acquisition sourcing position.
How has a mentor helped your career?
Ira Kreft, currently SVP – Central Region Marketing Manager of Bank of America Merrill Lynch. I worked for Ira for a total of 9 years over 2 stints, and he taught me the important discipline of developing a calling strategy focused on value added relationship development. Ira managed by metrics (25 face to face meetings with referral sources per month) long before managing by metrics was “a thing”! He also taught me a lot about how to manage internally as well. All were valuable lessons. He was an extremely supportive manager who was driven only by trying to make his people better at what they do. I try to incorporate his leadership and management techniques and example into my leadership activities.
What is your current role?
I am a partner at Huron Capital and I lead our deal sourcing efforts. Given my many years of relationship building in terms of deal sourcing, I am also getting more involved in relationship building with the limited partner community as well. A typical day in the life includes travel! Boots on the ground, face to face meetings with referral sources in cities across the US and Canada is my highest and best use. I lead our deal sourcing team, which currently includes two, soon to be three, dedicated deal sourcing professionals responsible for cultivating actionable acquisition candidates across the Huron Capital platform – including our control buyout strategy as well as our Flex Equity initiative, our non-control equity investment strategy.
Describe your influence on the middle market.
I am co-chair of the Association for Corporate Growth’s Public Policy. Our mission is to educate legislators and regulators on the importance of the middle market private equity/private capital community and advocate for policies that maintain the free flow of capital to the middle market. The mid-term elections have ushered in a whole new crop of legislators that need outreach from the ACG Public Policy Committee. We must continually make legislators and regulators aware of the important role that the middle market plays in our nation’s economy and the significant number of jobs created by our ecosystem.
Describe a recent deal.
I don’t work specifically on deals. I source them, and then hand them off to the deal team after qualifying them with the referral source. It is our job to source enough actionable deal flow to allow Huron Capital to maintain valuation discipline in our investing activities.
Describe a challenge you overcame?
I think the biggest challenge, overall, has been the juggle between work and home, and being present fully in each arena, operating at my highest level in each. It can be done (although sleep is sacrificed)! What is required, however, to do so, is an employer who values family as well, and I have always been fortunate to work for people that do so, allowing flexibility as needed to attend to family obligations provided the work still gets done.
How do you support women?
I mentor with an organization called Women of Tomorrow, which is a menotroship program for inner city high school girls that are deemed “at risk” by their schools. They may be deemed such for a variety of reasons: extreme poverty, drug use in the home, abuse, etc. Our mission is to show these young women a pathway from poverty by exposing them to various careers ( I speak about the financial services industry), explain to them what it takes in terms of education to achieve those careers, and help them find and fill out scholarships applications and college applications to help them on their way. They are in the program from freshman to senior year.
I also accept requests from many – ANY – young women that reach out to me to discuss my career path, ask questions about best practices, etc. I have participated in countless such phone or in-person meetings over the years. Happy to do it! I want to see more women in this industry when I leave it than when I started.
I have been asked to speak multiple times over the years to industry women’s group on the topic of best practices for a woman navigating our middle market M&A community.
What is your advice for women?
Realize that this is business/not personal. Don’t allow emotion to drive behavior. Accept criticism (it’s coaching, really, if you are able take it properly). Not everyone is going to like you (that’s ok).
When you’re not making deals, what is your favorite thing to do?
Attend live sporting events. Followed closely by attending concerts.
What other career path might you have chosen?
In retrospect, I think I would have liked to have been an entrepreneur and started a business. I am not sure what sort of business it would have been, but if I had I the ability to have a “do over” , if you will, I would try my hand at starting a new business.