Private company CEOs are often wary of attending deal-focused conferences. Many have heard stories about aggressive deal professionals seeking new transactions and deals. Although these rumors have a nugget of truth, the reality is far less intimidating. If a CEO goes into an event having prepared accordingly, he can use the event as a source of education and business development.
Whether you’re ready for a transaction or not, these deal-focused conferences provide a venue to learn about financing options, expand personal and financial networks, and, ultimately, find a deal partner — whether it be for a deal that’s happening now or ten years down the line.
2015 is the year to make the most of events, bettering yourself and your company in the process. Keep reading to find out four opportunities that deal-focused conferences provide for CEOs.
1. Education & Lingo
If you are new to the private capital markets and the deal world, conferences are a great resource of education and information. One way to tell that a conference will have educational content for business owners is through the content sessions. Look to see that there are topics of interest to CEOs looking for financing or exit opportunities. If you see content sessions about “Financing Your Company,” “How to Access Capital,” or “Steps to Build a Deal Team,” you’re likely in the right place.
While it may have been difficult to find these topics at conferences only 5 or 10 years ago, deal-focused conferences are more often trying to draw in private company CEOs with educational sessions. Not only will these sessions help transaction-ready business owners prep for a deal, but they will also explain financing and exit options to business owners who are exploring possibilities for the future.
Additionally, if you’re feeling brave enough to enter a deal professional-focused session, you will have the opportunity to learn about processes that are ultimately important to both parties in a transaction. Topics that encompass processes such as due diligence and non-disclosure agreements may seem foreign at first, but they’re important to understand when a deal arises. Not to mention, these sessions could be a great opportunity to pick up some of the lingo and sound the part of the finance-savvy CEO you’re becoming.
Structured content sessions are not the only opportunities for learning, either. By speaking with deal professionals, hearing the buzz in the room, and getting the pulse of the market will prove extremely helpful in your understanding of the market.
2. Meet Other Business Owners
As the number of business owners continues to increase at these events, each event becomes both a venue to expand your financial network and to meet other CEOs in relatable positions.
Some of these CEOs may have completed a transaction before; use them as a resource. Find out where they hit roadblocks and where they found success. Some of these CEOs may be completely new to the deal world; find out what they’ve learned and what they hope to learn at the event. By sharing experiences and progress, you can help each other get the most out of the event.
And don’t limit the discussion to deal-related topics. Use these fellow attendees to expand your industry knowledge. Maybe you will meet an attendee that owns a later-stage company in the same sector with some good advice. Maybe you will hear new industry trends that could influence business decisions going forward. You never know, so talk to anyone you can.
3. Build a Robust Financial Network
If you already have a base foundation of knowledge and fellow business owner contacts, it is time to start using deal professional conferences to build a network of deal professionals.
Deal-focused conferences will provide the opportunity to meet both advisors and capital providers with many different tactics and specialties. You’ll find specialists, generalists, lenders, private equity firms, family offices, and search funds to name a few. Take the time to talk to a variety of firms and find out how each one operates. These relationships can prove to be both a source of information and relationships for future success.
If and when you decide to move forward with a transaction, you will now have a deal professional in your rolodex for any circumstance.
4. Find a Deal Partner for a Current Transaction
If you’re already in the process of finding a partner for a specific deal, an event is one of the best way to engage and assess potential partners.
To be most effective, be sure to do your homework before and at the event. Prior to choosing a conference, ask the organizer what the attendee breakdown looks like. If you’re trying to find an advisor, don’t go to an event that caters to capital providers. Likewise, if you’re looking to meet family offices, you’re going to want to make sure there will be at least a few in the room.
At the event, some organizers will make it easier to navigate the room and find potential deal partners. Be sure to find out if there is a way to differentiate attendee types. At Axial events, we’ve found success by differentiating firms types with various lanyard colors. Other events will signify the firm type on the badge itself. Be sure to find out on arrival if there are any special notations you should be aware of to make your schedule more efficient.
Lastly, when in doubt, seek out an investment banker or advisor at the event. They are great resources, even if you know exactly who you’d like to do your deal. They’ll help to nail down a buyer or investor, they have amazing networks for all aspects of a transaction, and they will be able to help with any hiccups during the deal journey.