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The Top Thought Leaders in the Lower Middle Market


Content marketing – exhibiting domain expertise to acquire new business – is a tried and true business development strategy that has been used for years across a variety of industries. 

Lower Middle Market M&A, however, remains one of the final few frontiers where this strategy has yet to see widespread adoption.

As a result, the first movers to invest consistently in thought leadership – especially those that do it well – stand to benefit tremendously from doing so.

Who is doing it best?

We did a deep internet dive, surveyed our members, and collected nominations from employees to arrive at our list of the top lower middle market thought leaders that you should be following. 

This group represents the myriad ways in which thought leadership initiatives can be executed — writing books, publishing articles, making public speaking appearances, hosting podcasts, creating educational content, teaching at universities, establishing online communities, and cultivating audiences on social media. 

If you’re looking to stay more informed on Lower Middle Market M&A activity, or if you’ve been thinking about dipping your toe in the thought leadership waters, here are the individuals laying out the blueprint for content creation done right in LMM M&A.


Joel Peterson

Founder & Chairman, Peterson Partners

Private Equity Firm | New York, NY 

Join 418,605 others and follow Joel on LinkedIn Here.

Join 5,845 others and follow Joel on Twitter Here.  

About Joel

Joel Peterson is a renowned operator and investor in the lower middle market. Peterson was the chairman of JetBlue Airways from 2008 through May of this year, and currently sits on the board of several fortune 5000 corporations. Peterson Partners is a private equity firm that invests in lower middle market businesses, as well as search funds targeting the lower middle market. Peterson currently splits his time teaching leadership and entrepreneurship at Stanford GSB and chairing Peterson Partners’ investment committee. Check out Joel’s personal blog, where he aggregates his content, recent news, online courses, and recent speaking engagements.

Recent Activity from Joel: 

Brent Beshore

Founder & CEO, Permanent Equity 

Private Equity Firm | Columbia, MO

Join 11,428 others and follow Brent on LinkedIn Here.

Join 64,600+ others and follow Brent on Twitter Here.  

About Brent

Brent Beshore has one of the largest Twitter followings in the lower middle market. Branding, content, and community have always been a core focus for BeShore, representing integral aspects of his business development strategy at Permanent Equity as well as his previous investment firm, Led by Beshore (and partner in crime Emily Holdman, below), Permanent Equity has built an incredibly impressive content library, which includes interviews, data resources, podcasts, and a weekly newsletter, all free of charge for their thousands of entrepreneur and deal professional subscribers. In 2018, Beshore published The Messy Marketplace: Selling Your Business in a World of Imperfect Buyers, a book dedicated to teaching founders and entrepreneurs the ins & outs of navigating the M&A process. You can find Beshore using social media daily to educate his audiences about deal structures and philosophy.

Recent Activity from Brent: 

David H. Crean

Managing Director, Objective Capital Partners 

Investment Bank | San Diego, CA

Join 21,463 others and follow David on LinkedIn Here.

Join 1,209 others and follow David on Twitter Here.  

About David

David H. Crean is a visionary strategist and thought leader in his role as managing director of investment bank, Objective Capital Partners. Crean has been regarded as a key opinion leader in the healthcare and life sciences spaces for over 25 years, having received awards such as 2019 Investment Banker of the Year and 2017 Thought Leader of the Year by AM&AA. David is an avid keynote speaker and moderator on various industry and financial panels, having delivered +20 keynotes on topics related to M&A, raising capital, and entrepreneurship for small and medium sized businesses.

Recent Activity from David: 

Emily Holdman

Managing Director, Permanent Equity 

Private Equity Firm | Columbia, MO

Join 4,237 others and follow Emily on LinkedIn Here.

Join 3,564 others and follow Emily on Twitter Here.  

About Emily

Emily leads the front end of Permanent Equity, heading the firm’s external marketing & deal sourcing efforts as well as supporting marketing strategy development for portfolio companies. Holdman has experience in PR, brand agency, and as the CEO of a marketing services company, providing her with a unique operating lens to apply key principles to the Permanent Equity brand and their portfolio.  Holdman has turned Permanent Equity’s website into a robust resource center, with interviews, dashboards, podcasts, and a weekly newsletter that she produces.  

Recent Activity from Emily: 

Richard Kestenbaum

Co-founder & Partner, Triangle Capital

Investment Bank | New York, NY

Join 10,041 others and follow Richard on LinkedIn Here.

Join 1,136  others and follow Richard on Twitter Here.  

About Richard

Richard is a co-founder and Partner of Triangle Capital and has been an investment banker for over 35 years. Kestenbaum is an often-quoted expert on the merchandising industries, given his vast experience advising clients in the retail & consumer sectors. Kestenbaum appears regularly in print and other media, as well as industry panels and speaking programs. He is a contributor to, where he writes a regular blog about trends in retail and consumer product businesses, and is the co-author of three books. Most recently, Kestenbaum’s opinions on the impact of Covid-19 on consumer & luxury markets have gained particular traction. 

Recent Activity from Richard: 

Brett Hickey

CEO, Star Mountain Capital

Private Equity, Private Credit | New York, NY

Join 8,930 others and follow Brett on LinkedIn Here.

Join 2,377 others and follow Brett on Twitter Here.  

About Brett

Brett Hickey has been managing private equity and credit funds for over a decade, and has emerged as a prominent thought leader in both asset management, company culture, and lifestyle categories. In addition to his role as CEO of Star Mountain capital, Hickey also founded the Star Mountain Charitable Foundation, through which he has received multiple recognitions for his efforts –including the Pathfinders to Peace Award alongside Morgan Freeman. Hickey has made several appearances on Bloomberg television, and can frequently be found collaborating with the largest media outlets in articles he publishes.  

Recent Activity from Brett: 

Suzanne Yoon

Founder and Managing Partner, Kinzie Capital Partners

Private Equity | Chicago, IL

Join 8,511 others and follow Suzanne on LinkedIn Here.

About Suzanne

Suzanne Yoon is the Founder and Managing Partner of Kinzie Capital Partners, a Chicago-based private equity firm that invests in lower middle market companies in the consumer, manufacturing, and service industries. Kinzie was recognized by the Private Equity Women Investor Network (PEWIN) as Female Founded Firm of the Year this year, while Yoon herself has received countless awards for the work she is doing, most recently receiving recognition by Mergers & Acquisitions as one of the Most Influential Women in Mid-Market M&A in 2020. As one of the few female founders in the private equity industry, Yoon is constantly meeting with press to share her story, inspire others, and maximize her impact on the broader community through the power of content.

Recent Activity from Suzanne: 

Joe Burkhart

Managing Director, Saratoga Investment Corp.

Business Development Company (BDC) | New York, NY

Join 8,481 others and follow Joe on LinkedIn Here.

Join 376 others and follow Joe on Twitter Here.  

About Joe

Joe Burkhart is a must follow on LinkedIn when it comes to LMM content. As Managing Director at Saratoga, Joe leads the Company’s business development efforts, and has established himself as a savvy user of social media to supercharge his personal and corporate brand. Joe often shares links to government publications, blogs of technology and service providers, and a host of other media outlets for his audience, primarily on LinkedIn. Joe also manages and maintains a great blog,, where he writes about a wide-range of topics – deal origination being one of them. 

Recent Activity from Joe: 

Kate Faust

Partner, Business Development, Rockwood Equity Partners

Private Equity | Cleveland, OH

Join 6,273 others and follow Kate on LinkedIn Here.

About Kate

As a partner of business development at Rockwood Equity, Kate Faust oversees the team’s business development function, and assists with Rockwood’s River Guide® network, where she curates select groups of seasoned executives for the businesses the Rockwood team partners with. Faust was recently named one of Merger & Acquisition’s 2020 Most Influential Women in Mid–Market M&A and chaired the Capital Roundtable conference on Best Practices for Sourcing Private Equity Investment Opportunities. Faust has been featured in several other media publications, and is an avid participant in industry-related community gatherings.  

Recent Activity from Kate: 

John Stewart

Founding Partner, MiddleGround Capital

Private Equity | Lexington, KY

Join 9,811 others and follow John on LinkedIn Here.

About John

John is a great profile to follow if you’re looking for ways to enhance your brand image as a true Operating Partner. John started his career as an hourly line worker at Toyota Motor Corporation. After 18 years on the front lines and in executive roles, Stewart ran Monomoy Capital’s Operations Group for 8 years, and subsequently started MiddleGround Capital. Stewart is particularly unique in the way he uses content – and in particular, video – on social media, to the share the unique exposure he has to operators with his audience. Stewart is also a published author – see below for his guide to ‘implementing lean.’

Recent Activity from John: 

Walker Deibel

M&A Advisor, Quiet Light Brokerage

Business Brokerage Firm | St. Louis, MO

Join 6,124 others and follow Walker on LinkedIn Here.

Join 630 others and follow Walker on Twitter Here.

About Walker

Walker Deibel is one of the few middle market deal professionals implementing the ‘online course’ playbook within the private capital markets. Deibel acquired seven companies over ten years and co-founded several startups, and soon after published his book, Buy Then Build: How Acquisition Entrepreneurs Outsmart the Startup Game, which was recognized by Forbes as “one of the top 7 books all entrepreneurs must read.” His educational company of the same name is now sharing his experiences and frameworks to help entrepreneurs learn why buying an existing company is often a better route for entrepreneurs, and best practices for doing it. His new flagship program, the Acquisition Lab, offers buy-side M&A services for first time financial buyers in a do-it-with-you service, providing information, coaching, tools, and resources to connect online.

Recent Activity from Walker:

Mary Ann Domuracki

Managing Director, MMG Advisors

Investment Bank | New York, NY

Join 4,470 others and follow Mary Ann on LinkedIn Here.

About Mary Ann

Mary Ann Domuracki is an industry veteran, with over 15 years of operating and 20 years of investment banking experience at Financo and now MMG. Mary Ann serves on the Board of the Retail Marketing Society, the Advisory Board of LIM College, and is a member of the Turnaround Management Association (TMA), where she is a member of the Annual Turnaround and Transaction Awards Committee. She is also a co-founder of The DealmakeHers, an exclusive network of female dealmakers and leaders in the retail and consumer space. Along with Yoon and Rockwood from this list, Domuracki was named one of the Most Influential Women in Mid-Market M&A in 2020. Mary Ann is a consistent user of LinkedIn, sharing weekly recaps from her firm, invitations to upcoming events hosted by the various communities she belongs to, or surfacing helpful industry trends. 

Recent Activity from Mary Ann: 

Michael Sala

Managing Director, LLR Partners

Private Equity | Philadelphia, PA

Join 3,615 others and follow Michael on LinkedIn Here.

About Michael

Michael Sala, a veteran of the tech industry, has been one of the first business development professionals to apply modern sales and marketing approaches often used in the tech world to private equity. Before LLR Partners, Sala was a managing director at iLEVEL Solutions, a SaaS company targeting the private capital markets, where he led worldwide sales, marketing and client retention efforts. After transitioning into the private equity space, he adopted similar strategies for both the firm’s deal sourcing efforts, as well as the ways in which their team cultivates long term relationships with company operators. Largely due to Sala’s efforts, LLR’s content and resources are widely regarded as among the best in the industry in cultivating an audience of both CXOs and other deal professionals. 

Recent Activity from Michael:

Ed Bryant

CEO, Sampford Advisors

Investment Bank | Ottawa, ON

Join 3,469 others and follow Ed on LinkedIn Here.

About Ed

Representing the sole Canadian firm on the list, Ed Bryant is the President and CEO of Sampford Advisors, an M&A advisory firm for US and Canadian mid-market tech companies. Ed has 25 years of experience, including over 21 years in investment banking with Deutsche Bank, Morgan Stanley, and Sampford in Hong Kong, Singapore, New York, and now Canada. Ed is a thought leadership standout for his consistent usage of social media, video, and blogging, which have allowed him to both engage with his audience and position himself as a subject matter expert in the technology sector. Ed posts to Linkedin several times a week, writes at least one blog post a month, and recaps the latest trends in the software industry via video on YouTube monthly. Ed was recently recognized as Finance Monthly’s Mid-Market M&A Advisor of 2020.

Recent Activity from Ed:

Mary Kathleen (MK) Flynn

Editor-in-Chief, Mergers & Acquisitions

Media | New York, NY

Join 2,418 others and follow MK on LinkedIn Here.

Join 4,451 Followers others and follow MK on Twitter Here.  

About MK

Mary Kathleen Flynn has served as the Editor-in-Chief of Mergers & Acquisitions since 2011. In 2020, Middle Market Information bought the publication. MK oversees the brand’s content on all media platforms, including website, e-newsletters, video, slideshows, podcasts and print. Under her lead, Mergers & Acquisitions has become the preeminent source of both news and editorial pieces for lower middle market deal professionals. 

Recent Activity from MK: 

Mark Gartner

Head of Investment Development, ClearLight Partners

Private Equity | Newport Beach, CA

Join 2,837 others and follow Mark on LinkedIn Here.

About Mark

Mark Gartner has over 10 years of experience helping private equity funds find and close investment opportunities. As the Head of Investment Development at ClearLight Partners, Gartner has invested in content creation, also making public appearances across multiple media formats in order to differentiate the ClearLight brand in the lower middle market. As part of his efforts, Gartner is a frequent publisher to ClearLight’s blog and is a guest author on Axial’s Middle market Review.

Recent Activity from Mark:

Devin Mathews

Founding Partner, ParkerGale Capital

Private Equity | Chicago, IL

Join 2,734 others and follow Devin on LinkedIn Here.

Join 1,424 others and follow Devin on Twitter Here.

About Devin

Devin Mathews is well known as the co-host of ParkerGale’s Private Equity Funcast — one of the few podcasts in the lower middle market hosted by private equity partners. FunCast has published over 100 episodes featuring individuals across the private capital markets. Devin has twenty years of experience investing in technology businesses and helping management teams build their companies. Mathews is one of the few private equity professionals you’ll see with a background in the arts, studying Art History as an undergraduate before receiving his MBA from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. The ‘resources’ tab on ParkerGale’s website reads, “writing and podcasts about what we do and how we do it and how it might help you.” They provide a reamding list, white papers, links to articles on their regularly updated blog, and a library of all of the FunCast podcast episodes. 

Recent Activity from Devin:


Pamela Hendrickson

Chief Operating Officer, The Riverside Company

Private Equity | New York, NY

Join 1,340 others and follow Pamela on LinkedIn Here.

About Pamela

Pamela Hendrickson is the Chief Operating Officer and Vice Chairman of Strategic Initiatives at The Riverside Company, a global private equity firm. As COO, she manages a number of teams, including deal origination, and sits on the global Riverside Investment Committee. Hendrickson has been an active advocate for private equity through Congressional testimony, television interviews, various printed interviews and op-eds that she has written. Hendrickson was recognized by Mergers & Acquisitions as one of the Most Influential Women in M&A in 2019, and also participates with others on this list in the DealmakeHers community. You will frequently find Pamela featured on podcasts or quoted in articles by a prominent industry publications.

Recent Activity from Pamela



Top Lower Middle Market Thought Leaders


Name Firm Name Followers Medium
Joel Peterson Peterson Partners 418,604 LinkedIn
Brent Beshore Permanent Equity 64,600  Twitter
David H. Crean Objective Capital Partners 21,463 LinkedIn
Richard Kestenbaum Triangle Capital LLC 10,041  LinkedIn
John Stewart MiddleGround Capital 9,811 LinkedIn
Brett Hickey Star Mountain Capital 8,930 LinkedIn
Suzanne Yoon Kinzie Capital Partners 8,511 LinkedIn
Joe Burkhart Saratoga Investment Corp 8,481 LinkedIn
Kate Faust Rockwood Equity Group 6,273 LinkedIn
Walker Deibel Quiet Light Brokerage 6,124 LinkedIn
Mary Ann Domuracki MMG Advisors 4,470 LinkedIn
Mary Kathleen (MK) Flynn Mergers & Acquisitions 4,451 Twitter
Emily Holdman Permanent Equity 4,237 LinkedIn
Michael Sala LLR Partners 3,615 LinkedIn
Ed Bryant Sampford Advisors 3,469 LinkedIn
Mark Gartner ClearLight Partners 2,837 LinkedIn
Devin Mathews ParkerGale Capital 2,734 LinkedIn
Pamela Hendrickson The Riverside Company 1,340 LinkedIn


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Over 3,500 advisory firms and 2,000 corporate and financial buyers have joined Axial to efficiently connect with relevant capital partners, source actionable deals, and build new relationships.

Visit the Member Closed Deals page to see selected transactions that have been sourced and closed via Axial.

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