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.
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.
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:
- Joel’s New Book “Entrepreneurial Leadership: The Art of Launching New Ventures, Inspiring Others, and Running Stuff“
- Podcast discussions with The Leadership Podcast and with Salesforce on the art of effective leadership
- TV Interviews and Features, such as this one with Neil Cavuto on Fox Business
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.
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, Adventure.es. 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:
- A Small Business CEO’s Guide to Uncertainty
- Viral Prohibition, Eminent Domain, and the Path Ahead
- Interviews related to his 2018 book ‘The Messy Marketplace: Selling Your Business in a World of Imperfect Buyers’, like this one here
- Hosting The Messy Marketplace podcast, an annotated audiobook-podcast as a resource for business owners and their advisors
- Features on podcasts such as Planet MicroCap and The Acquirers
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.
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:
- Biopharmaceutical companies, medical device companies, and contract research organizations (CROs) from around the world were surveyed to explore the impact of the current environment on clinical trial management
- Our latest Contract Research Organizations (CRO) Report is available for download now. This report explores M&A activity in Q3 20, recent transactions in the last year, and projections for 2021
- Long overdue actions for public boards. I’d like to see this possibly extended to privately-held boards as well. It’s good for business
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.
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:
- Authoring the notable Permanent Equity weekly newsletter
- Featured in Axial’s A Shift in Investment Strategies Post-Coronavirus — COVID-19 Virtual Roundtable
- Surveying lower middle market operators and owners about how the election will impact the economy, their businesses, and personal decisions.
- Hosting The Messy Marketplace podcast, an annotated audiobook-podcast as a resource for business owners and their advisors.
- Articles: https://middlemarketgrowth.org/navigating-an-economic-crisis-permanent-capital/
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.
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 Forbes.com, 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:
- A Company Called Pactum Shows The Power Of Artificial Intelligence’s Impact On Walmart And All Retail
- The Future Of Luxury, Post-Coronavirus
- Axial’s Top 50 Lower Middle Market Consumer Investors & M&A Advisors
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.
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:
- Building an Unbeatable Culture — A Conversation with the Founder of Star Mountain Capital
- The New Age of Due Diligence — Virtual Roundtable
- The impact of COVID-19 on private credit – interview with Brett Hickey
- “Brett Hickey – Investing in Private Debt” –BNN Bloomberg
Founder and Managing Partner, Kinzie Capital Partners
Private Equity | Chicago, IL
Join 8,511 others and follow Suzanne on LinkedIn Here.
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:
- 11 big things: A female founder takes on PE’s patriarchs
- She’s One of the Few Women Leading a Private Equity Firm – Crains Chiago.
- Suzanne Yoon of Kinzie Capital named to 2020 Most Influential Women in Mid-Market M&A
- Top Female Deal Makers Shaping Private Equity’s Present & Future
- Trailblazers: Ten Women Pioneering New Paths in Private Equity
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.
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, www.originatemoredeals.com, where he writes about a wide-range of topics – deal origination being one of them.
Recent Activity from Joe:
- Portfolio Company Crisis Management — COVID-19 Virtual Roundtable
- What Are Independent Sponsors, and Why Are They Relevant?
- A Business Needs to Know Thyself; Here’s How To Do It
- What Catches My Eye in a Two-Pager
Partner, Business Development, Rockwood Equity Partners
Private Equity | Cleveland, OH
Join 6,273 others and follow Kate on LinkedIn Here.
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:
- PE Business Development Post-Coronavirus — COVID-19 Virtual Roundtable
- Kate Faust of Rockwood Equity named to 2020 Most Influential Women in Mid-Market M&A
- Promoting and participating in Aerospace & Defense related industry gatherings
- Participating in the ‘Women in Transactions, Cleveland Chapter’
Founding Partner, MiddleGround Capital
Private Equity | Lexington, KY
Join 9,811 others and follow John on LinkedIn Here.
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:
- The Toyota Kaizen Continuum: A Practical Guide to Implementing Lean
- Four auto trends ripe for PE investment
- Smart money on electrification and lightweighting
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.
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:
- Buy Then Build: How Acquisition Entrepreneurs Outsmart the Startup Game
- Walker Deibel – Start, Scale, and Exit with Acquisition Entrepreneurship
- Walker Deibel’s $7 million portfolio of ‘old-school’ businesses
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:
- About DealmakeHers
- Mary Ann Domuracki of MMG Advisors named to 2020 Most Influential Women in Mid-Market M&A
- Clear Viewpoints – Mary Ann Domuracki
- MMG Advisors Weekly Recap
Managing Director, LLR Partners
Private Equity | Philadelphia, PA
Join 3,615 others and follow Michael on LinkedIn Here.
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:
- Phase 1: Triage | Questions to Ask Yourself During an Economic Downturn
- Build an Actionable Sales Forecast with These 4 Steps and 6 Key Data Points
- LLR leverages social media, online content to stand out in crowded PE field
- Podcast: How to Get Marketing and Sales to Work Together – Michael Sala
CEO, Sampford Advisors
Investment Bank | Ottawa, ON
Join 3,469 others and follow Ed on LinkedIn Here.
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:
- The Growth in Add-on Acquisitions is Driving Mid-Market Software M&A
- The Rise in Growth Equity
- When buying a company, you need an advisor
- Technology and National Security – A Modern Dilemma
- Software and Internet M&A and VC Market Recap – Nov 2020
- Panel Feature at TechExit.io
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.
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:
- Biden-Harris Impact on M&A: Transactions Now, JVs Later, Finds EY Survey of Executives
- M&A Rebound Going Strong
- Deal-Ready: Companies Prepare for Opportunities, as M&A Activity Picks Up in Q4
Head of Investment Development, ClearLight Partners
Private Equity | Newport Beach, CA
Join 2,837 others and follow Mark on LinkedIn Here.
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:
- Creative Destruction: How Private Equity BD May Change Forever
- Never Let a Good Crisis Go to Waste: Themes & Sectors to Watch During and After COVID-19
- Jordan Selleck of 51 Labs interviews Mark Gartner on ClearLight’s history and the past, present and future of private equity deal sourcing
- What Investors Want to See in an MSP
- This Too Shall Pass: A Message of Hope to Business Owners from Private Equity
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.
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:
- Private Equity FunCast Podcast Hub
- ParkerGale’s Reading List
- Deal Perspectives: An Associate, a Principal and a Partner Talk Roles and Responsibilities
- How This PE Firm Uses Podcasting to Get an Edge
Chief Operating Officer, The Riverside Company
Private Equity | New York, NY
Join 1,340 others and follow Pamela on LinkedIn Here.
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
- Election Spotlight: Businesses of All Kinds Will Face a Tax Increase, If No Action is Taken
- Navigating an Economic Crisis: Q&A with The Riverside Company
- Most Influential Women Q&A: Pam Hendrickson, The Riverside Co.
- Pamela Hendrickson: “the successful private equity firms invest through all cycles”
- Ep 25. Pam Hendrickson, COO & Vice Chairman of Strategic Initiatives, The Riverside Company
Top Lower Middle Market Thought Leaders
|Joel Peterson||Peterson Partners||418,604|
|Brent Beshore||Permanent Equity||64,600|
|David H. Crean||Objective Capital Partners||21,463|
|Richard Kestenbaum||Triangle Capital LLC||10,041|
|John Stewart||MiddleGround Capital||9,811|
|Brett Hickey||Star Mountain Capital||8,930|
|Suzanne Yoon||Kinzie Capital Partners||8,511|
|Joe Burkhart||Saratoga Investment Corp||8,481|
|Kate Faust||Rockwood Equity Group||6,273|
|Walker Deibel||Quiet Light Brokerage||6,124|
|Mary Ann Domuracki||MMG Advisors||4,470|
|Mary Kathleen (MK) Flynn||Mergers & Acquisitions||4,451|
|Emily Holdman||Permanent Equity||4,237|
|Michael Sala||LLR Partners||3,615|
|Ed Bryant||Sampford Advisors||3,469|
|Mark Gartner||ClearLight Partners||2,837|
|Devin Mathews||ParkerGale Capital||2,734|
|Pamela Hendrickson||The Riverside Company||1,340|
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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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