Marilyn Adler, senior managing director, Medley 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 got my start in finance after graduating from Cornell and working in Donaldson Lufkin & Jenrette’s analyst program in investment banking. The hours were grueling hours with many all- nighters and weekends but it was the best experience to get exposure to all types of deals. I got to work on M&A transactions, IPOs, debt offerings, etc., in many different industries. I worked there for two years before going to Wharton for my MBA. I am still in touch with many of the brilliant people I worked with at DLJ and I still use my HP12C calculator that I received my first day at DLJ.
How has a mentor helped your career?
I met Elizabeth “Liddy” Karter in 1998 when she was CFO of a technology company in which my fund invested. This was the second company that she started and subsequently sold to a public company. She has been a role model for me because of her expertise in funding small businesses through Capco funds that she launched at Enhanced Capital. These are typically companies in underserved markets that have difficulty accessing capital. While most investors would consider these smaller companies risky, Liddy’s funds have a loss rate of less than 1%. She has shown me how to help people and communiities in an industry where financial success is paramount. From her professional but community minded efforts, I have learned to combine my work more closely with my personal priorities of helping people.
What is your current role?
I have been running SBIC funds for over 22 years. I founded and launched Medley SBIC six years ago. Getting an SBIC license can be a difficult and challenging process but it is an outstanding program designed by the US Small Business Administration to help fund smaller businesses. Every week I seek interesting deals for my fund. I receive deals from investment bankers, accountants, lawyers, private equity funds and other debt funds. I review the Confidential Investment Memorandum and company presentations to learn about the company and determine if it is an opportunity I want to pursue. I analyze the company’s financials and try to understand most of all what the downside risk will be to a debt investor in the deal. I conduct calls and meetings with industry experts and with my network of relationships that I have built up over 30 years in order to understand the company better. Performing due diligence on companies is my favorite part. I learn about so many interesting companies in many different industries, and that knowledge continues to build over time. My past experiences have taught me that there are particular industries that I avoid, such as oil and gas services or companies with healthcare reimbursement rate risk.
Describe a recent deal.
I am working on a deal that is in business services that I received in from a banker I have known for over 30 years. The management wants to take some money off the table and bring in capital to grow. The company has $5mm of EBITDA which is on the smaller side for Medley but fits well for an SBIC fund. Since Medley is focused only on private equity backed companies, I introduced the deal to two private equity funds that I thought would be interested. Both private equity firms are submitting bids and since I brought them the deal, Medley SBIC will have the first right to invest the 3x leverage it is seeking. The management has high expections of getting a 10x multiple. In the event that the private equity firms don’t hit this multiple, I have several SBIC funds lined up to invest in the company’s growth. The Company can decide to sell itself after achieving further growth. In this situation the banker did not know any lower middle market PE funds or SBIC funds so I am facilitating the process and introducing the banker to the groups. I try to be as helpful as I can to someone who shows me a deal. If the deal is one I cannot do at Medley, I will introduce the banker to other firms that can do the deal. I want to be that first call on a deal. Attached is a note I received from a CEO this week that exemplifies how I operate.
Describe a challenge you overcame.
When I started a family I wanted to work a more flexible schedule. The large firm I was working with was not able to accommodate me. I left to work at a two person startup venture fund that would not have been able to afford someone with by background on a full-time basis. It worked for them and it worked for me since at that point in time in my life flexibility was more important to me than money. Being able to juggle career and family was very important to me but I still sought interesting work. I was able to overcome the situation by creatively working out a solution that fit both parties.
How do you support women?
I try to be a mentor to younger women. This year I helped launch Exponent Women, which is a networking group for women in finance to help each other. I am on the Board of SBIA where I help organize regional and national events for women. I am also active in UJA’s Women of Wall Street and Private Equity Women’s Investor Network and ACG. Recently I was speaking with a woman who was starting our her career on Wall Street. When I I asked her name, I discovered her father had written my recommendation for Wharton business school 30 years earlier when I worked for him at DLJ and now I was mentoring his daughter!
What is your advice for women?
Figure out what you are passionate about and what excites you and do it. Many women in finance who have graduated from top business schools drop out after 6 to 8 years working when they are starting families. It is very difficult balancing career and family but my advice is to try to stay in the game. Be creative. It is hard to get back in once you’ve left. Many of my friends regret having left the work force. Find a small business who can use your expertise.
When you’re not making deals, what is your favorite thing to do?
Besides spending time with my family, I like to exercise – running, biking, hiking, kick boxing, spinning and most workout classes. It helps me deal with stress and get out my aggression. In the past two years I have run three half marathons and a duathalon. Sometimes I even combine a meeting with a workout instead going out for dinner.