When Ben Doltis sold both of his executive search businesses to the ManpowerGroup in 2013, he realized he could apply the principles of successful headhunting to an entirely different company: a M&A consulting firm.
In general, companies looking for new employees can only access people who are looking for a job. However, successful headhunters know that the best candidates are often the ones who haven’t even considered quitting their current position and make it their job to find them and persuade them to move.
In exactly the same way, Doltis’ newest company, PCB partners, finds successful companies whose owners have not even thought about an exit. “Some people put up a big ‘For Sale’ sign above their business, which is fine, but often it results in lots of companies bidding on them and often a sale at a ridiculous multiple,” he says. “PCB Partners does not interfere with these companies. We talk to those who have not yet thought about selling. And if it is the right thing for both them and our customers, we influence and negotiate a sale.”
Founded in 2018, PCB Partners offers buy-side and sell-side services and focuses on digital transformation, professional services, management consulting and marketing services companies. The business team consists of entrepreneurs, highly experienced corporate finance executives and private equity veterans. Bringing these skills together with a headhunter mindset is a unique balance.
“A great headhunter matches exceptional individuals with exceptional companies – I realized that an M&A firm could do the exact same thing with companies as long as you had corporate finance and private equity expertise.
Doltis co-founder Tim Farazmand was one of the unsuccessful bidders for his headhunting companies and was managing director of Lloyds Development Capital (LDC) at the time. “We got along really well,” he says. “Although I didn’t sell to Tim, I knew he was the perfect partner for my next venture.”
PCB Partners is a global company with offices in the UK, US and Europe, and a presence in Israel, Australia and India, serving clients in digital transformation, management consulting and professional services. “Ultimately, PCB customers buy access to our unique network of enterprising off-market companies and strategic buyers,” says Doltis.
When starting his new venture, he faced several challenges. Compliance, governance and FCA authorization play an important role in setting up a corporate finance company, a complex process that took longer than he would have liked. “We are a fully retained M&A advisory firm and matching rates was a challenge for clients in the beginning,” he says. “But once we got the chance, we quickly earned our stripes by completing successful transactions.”
PCB Partners now has 20 employees and advisors, a mix of seasoned M&A and private equity professionals, and entrepreneurs who have built and left their own businesses. In a relatively short period of time, the company has won business for some of the largest technology and services companies in the world. Last year, they acquired IT services company Atos Italia, which employs 1,600 skilled workers in more than five locations in Italy, for British private equity firm Apax Partners.
The company’s most important deal to date has been to bring in Wemanity in France for Reply Group, who had been looking for a partner company for some time to be the platform for them in France and the surrounding regions. “Identifying an off-market consulting firm of scale that was profitable in France required imagination, creativity and a real appeal to our network in that region,” says Doltis. “In the end, we connected with the right entrepreneur and the right team in Wemanity that was the perfect partner for Reply.”
With its focus on off-market assets, PCB Partners offers its clients a very attractive offering, with fees based on the multiple that their clients end up paying for each company they buy. “The greater the multiple, the less we earn,” explains Doltis. “We believe they shouldn’t overpay when they buy a business, and we’re willing to back that up by keeping our mouths shut in terms of our fees.”
In a climate of economic uncertainty, Doltis remains optimistic for the period ahead. “We don’t see the M&A digital economy growing fast and market valuations are generally stable,” he says. “Nevertheless, it is now more important than ever to ensure that your company is market relevant and has limited, deep competence and complementary customers.”