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An Interview with Jeff Swiggett, M&A Source Chair for 2022

Introducing our new M&A Source Chair for 2022:

jeff swiggett headshotJeff Swiggett, CBI, M&AMI

Jeff is the Chair-Elect of the M&A Source Board of Directors and will assume chairmanship in 2022. Jeff has over thirty years of business experience including positions in engineering, manufacturing, marketing, business startup, and acquisition. He owned and operated an import/export firm as well as a manufacturing company. Jeff is owner of VR Business Sales in New Haven, one of the best recognized and most admired business intermediary firms in Connecticut. Jeff is one of the few business brokers in New England that has secured the prestigious designations of Certified Business Intermediary and a Mergers & Acquisition Master Intermediary. In 2020, his firm was named the Top Firm of the Year for the 2-5 Person Firm category.

  1. Tell us about your pre-M&A career and how it led you to doing this work?

I was a partner in a manufacturing business that we sold in 2007. After doing so, I cast about looking for a business to buy, started working with some business brokers, and got interested in what they were doing. That’s how I entered this field 14 years ago.

  1. What personal characteristics and strengths have supported your success in this industry?

Open to learning new things, persistence, patience, and the ability to hang in there a long time while you build a practice. I am glutton for punishment. Being from New England, I have a Puritan view of life.

  1. What is your greatest M&A accomplishment?

I can’t really classify it as one thing or one event. I am proud of the way I was able to grow in the profession and I owe a lot to the IBBA and M&A Source for much of this. Like most of us, I was not a deal guy when I entered the business. So, I’ve been pleased with how we’ve gone from selling pizza shops to $10 to $20 million manufacturing businesses. It took a lot of learning and doing, and I am proud of that.

  1. With regard to the majority of your engagements, do you work as a team, or do you handle things on your own?

Currently, there are two of us as deal makers and an admin person who supports us in whatever way is needed. But we work on our deals separately, soup to nuts.

  1. Do you just do M&A, or do you provide other services, like valuations, consulting, etc.?

Just M&A, no other services. We generate valuations, but mostly this is done in service of the engagement.

  1. What is the biggest mistake you have made when working on a deal?

I didn’t listen enough or empathize with sellers sufficiently. It puts me at odds with what they need to accomplish and what I can deliver. This is something I need to get better at and is critical in our profession.

  1. What are the three most important qualities that you think a good M&A advisor needs to have?

Listen (see answer 6), be persistent (transactions take time and go through a lot of ups and downs), and spend time educating the client. I will add a fourth: take on clients that you’re in sync with. It’s important to like them and vice-versa.

  1. What is your most interesting deal that you are working on today?

I am bringing to market a large construction business, which is something new. We’ve sold a lot of contractors over the years, so I will be interested to see how this goes. It’s a nice business with a lot of good people. They’re nice to work with which is one reason why I decided to take it on (see answer 7).

  1. How long have you been an M&A Source member and what do you get out of your membership?

10 Years. Lots of learning, networking, and making many great friends.

  1. As a seasoned M&A advisor, what changes and trends do you see on the horizon that will impact on M&A?

Private Equity has become a much bigger player in lower middle market transactions in general, but they are buying companies even on the lower end of the lower middle market, which is where most of our members play. To be effective, you need to know what they need. Understanding them is increasingly important.

  1. What advice would you give to new people entering the profession?

Take the time to educate yourself. Doing so makes you a better advisor, which quickly differentiates you from the hacks of which there are many in our profession.

  1. Please tell us something about yourself that has nothing to do with your M&A career?

jeff swiggett sits on the beachI am married with three kids, two girls and boy, all of whom are grown and out of the house. Daughter one is married, and daughter two will be by next July. Son is a very eligible bachelor living in NYC with good prospects in case anyone has a daughter living and working there as well (call me.)  No grandkids yet. My wife is a high school English teacher soon to retire. I race sail boats in the summer, ski with my wife in the winter, and camp and hike with her at other times. Not much to complain about and if I did, no one would listen.

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