Austin Collier has already made his mark on Branford Castle Partners. He came to the firm just as it had closed its first institutional fund, a pivotal moment in Branford’s history. With an analytical background developed previously when he served as an investment banking analyst at Duff & Phelps, Collier created valuation spreadsheets for Branford to track the carrying value of each of its portfolio companies.
“With an inaugural fund comes a lot of work. I instituted a number of new systems at Branford,” Collier recalls. Some examples include: implementing a method for conducting portfolio company valuations for monthly internal purposes and for the annual audit; overhauling the firm’s customer relationship management system to streamline tasks and create efficiencies across the firm; and creating Branford’s first summer analyst program.
Collier has been busy working on deals for the firm from various perspectives. In 2018, Collier worked on two deals. Branford bought Drew Foam from Gladstone Investment Corp. Collier was the junior professional on the deal from start to finish, creating a deal model and doing the valuation analyses. He acted as the liaison between diligence parties, the investment bankers, counsel and seller and buyer. Collier was also instrumental in Branford’s purchase of Titan Production Equipment, a manufacturer of production equipment for the oil and gas industry.
Management quickly identified Collier as a key employee, due to his analytical thinking and emerging leadership skills. The firm promoted him to senior associate from associate in 2018. “I am given a ton of responsibility — and a high degree of autonomy to execute upon this responsibility,” Collier says. “From managing all aspects of a deal process — from origination, valuation, negotiation and close — to being the sole representative for Branford on the road. I think these elements combined are really helpful to cultivate an environment where your opinion is not only expected, but truly valued.”
Mentors have also played key roles, Collier says, naming John Castle, Laurence Lederer and Eric Korsten among those who have helped his career.
“There’s nothing more exciting than working with CEOs and their management teams, and finding ways to improve the performance of their company,” says Collier about why he’s drawn to the private equity industry. One experience he’s proud of is working with the CEO of Earthlite, a manufacturer of massage tables, to implement the company’s first international sales expansion project.
Branford Castle is busier than ever after closing its first dedicated fund, and Collier has benefited from being able to play different roles, and from staying nimble.
“In terms of the deal process itself, as a PE professional, you are in a unique position,” Collier says. “Your job is to constantly keep the big picture top of mind. At any given point in the process, there could be up to 10 advisors involved — each of whom is focused on completing their individual workstream. It’s up to the PE professional to make sure all of these pieces come together.”