As vice president of Elevator Consulting Services Inc., Gregory Ernst may not have a job that's directly tied to M&A, but he certainly has seen his fair share of deals over the years.
However, that's not exactly how he planned it. During his time at the University of Washington in Seattle, Ernst searched out an internship at IBM located in Tarrytown, New York to be close to Wall Street in hopes of landing a job on the Street upon graduating. Ernst was asked to join the analyst program at Morgan Stanley in its M&A department. His career was taking shape.
"Coming from the West Coast and from a school they didn't typically recruit from made it challenging to get the job, but I knew I wanted to work at a top Wall Street firm so I was so happy when Morgan Stanley hired me," says Ernst.
Upon completing the program, Ernst went to work at San Francisco-based TSG Consumer Partners for a short stint. He then found himself as acting CFO of a bio-tech company, Sequus Pharmaceuticals, for six years until it was sold to Alza Corp. (Alza has since been acquired by Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ)). Ernst stayed on for two additional years to help with integration. Ernst was then hired by the founders of a startup software company that catered to the biotech industry, Fasttrack Systems, Inc., to raise venture capital money in hopes of taking the company from concept to commercialization. But after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, killed people near and dear to him, he took a break.
Three years later, he found his way back to Seattle and began working as the director of finance at Free & Clear, a startup that helped people quit smoking. In 2009, he sold the business to Alere Group (NYSE: ALR) but stayed on with the company for two years to help with integration.
From these experiences, Ernst learned he likes the process after the sale best.
"I liked my time at Morgan Stanley, but all I was doing was M&A," says Ernst. "You step out when the real work of integrating two companies that are joining forces starts to happen. That's the real challenge. As an adviser, I felt like I was in and out before things really happened."
Today, Ernst seems to have found a job that will keep him busy for a while. While winding down at Alere, he took over his dad's elevator consulting business and is focused on growing it. "I had limited involvement with the company before now, but the time was right and the business is doing really well," says Ernst. And naturally, Ernst is busy looking at acquisition opportunities.