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Advisors, Private Equity

Make the Most of Travel Time With These 5 Tips

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Many private equity professionals spend a solid chunk of time each month on the road traveling for business development purposes or management meetings.

Here are five tips from Axial members to optimize your time on the road.

1) Be available.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re the firm with the most money or the firm with the best name — it’s all about staying on the top of the list,” says Armando Soto, managing director at Isaac Capital Group. “Regardless of whether you’re traveling or not, a lot of people don’t like to give out their cell phone number. That’s the first number I give out.

“I make it known that I’m available 24/7,” says Soto. “It’s very easy to fall through the cracks in this business — especially with so much capital chasing so few deals.”

2) Use downtime to your advantage.

Travel is a big part of most PE professionals’ schedules. “Business trips can be a great opportunity to catch up on things,” says Richard de Silva, managing partner at Lateral Investment Management. “I use my travel time on planes and trains to follow up on incoming deal flow and to proactively reach out to new prospects. Sometimes it’s easier to focus away from the daily buzz of meetings in the office.”

3) Shift to cloud-based tools.

With travel a part of daily life, it’s helpful to have systems that work equally well at home, on the road, and at the office. Cloud-based tools are the way to go, says Neeraj Gupta, managing partner at Base2 Advisors. “We shifted a year or so ago to having all our valuation models and other deal info be stored in cloud-based repositories — Google Sheets instead of Excel,” says Gupta.

“Before, if someone updated a spreadsheet, everyone would have multiple versions of it stored in their email, and would have to be sure they were looking at the most current one at all times. Now, anytime someone logs in to access Google Sheets, they know they’ll be getting the current version with the most recent thoughts and edits.” This cuts out process inefficiencies and helps everyone in the firm stay apprised of the latest developments.

4) Be responsive.

Even if you’re not able to spend a lot of time evaluating deals on the road, be sure to respond promptly. Otherwise, you may miss out on future opportunities. “In order to stay on a broker’s initial contact list, I think you have to respond very quickly to deals,” says Sage Harrison of Evolve Capital. “If you’re non-responsive, and you don’t jump on the deal, they’re probably going to send it out to a much wider network and do everything possible to generate interest.”

5) Play the long game.

Quick wins are great, but they are few and far between. “When you get home from traveling, you don’t necessarily walk into the office with deals in hand,” says Harrison. “But you do learn about what intermediaries are working on, and that knowledge can be invaluable.”

Harrison tells a story of a deal currently under LOI that he learned about while meeting with a broker on a business trip. “The broker didn’t have anything that was a fit for us, but eventually we shifted the conversation to the various engagements he was trying to get signed up. One sounded like a great fit for us so I suggested he use my interest in the deal as leverage to get the assignment. Eventually the broker got the engagement and called me,” Harrison says.

“I came back from the trip and one of my partners asked if I had found any deals. I said, ‘Well, I found out about one that might happen six months from now.’ And, thankfully, it actually ended up coming to fruition.

“And that’s the thing. This game can be extremely inefficient, and it can feel like nothing’s really working — until it does.”

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