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An Interview with Cheryl Venezia

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

I started my career in public accounting doing audits of SEC companies based out of NYC. I call myself a ‘recovering CPA’ as I let my license lapse many years ago. From there I jumped into Financial Services, working at PaineWebber which was acquired by UBS in the early 2000’s. I spent almost 30 years at those combined companies, working in internal management across wealth management, technology, regulatory and finance divisions, while raising 4 children. In late 2017 my job was eliminated (yet again!) and I was put in a placeholder position, looking for my next role. I wasn’t finding anything that was motivating me to stay, and instead requested a lay-off. In late 2018 I ‘tripped across’ the idea of being a business broker when I heard a young girl speak at a Women’s Entrepreneurship Conference about her experience in selling her business, which was not great. She said something like ‘not only was I the youngest person at the closing table, I was the only female. Even my business broker was a middle -aged man’. It made me think how many females are business brokers? And what does it take to be successful? I was intrigued enough to reach out to our family friend, Russ Miller, who is the regional director in NJ for Murphy Business Sales. I decided to join Murphy and started my office in Madison NJ in January 2019.

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

I describe myself as being grounded in my faith and family; what upsets me are injustices in the world, where people are taken advantage of; and I care about helping others. Being a Business Broker allows me to combine all of these into my daily life. I’m a good listener and I pay attention to details.

What is your greatest M&A accomplishment?

All of the transactions I completed in 2021 was a great accomplishment. Some were big, like a concrete block manufacturer, and some were small, like a hair salon. But bringing every deal to the closing table and across the finish line is an accomplishment. Sometimes the smaller deals are harder to close than the larger ones!

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

Most of my engagements I work on my own, but its great to be a part of the Murphy team. I’m working on a couple of deals currently with my colleagues within Murphy, and we have access to talented experienced resources across the country. Our best resource is Russ Miller, the regional director in NJ. I would not have achieved what I did in 2021 without his support. On a side note, I had a very busy personal year in 2021, including a college graduation, a wedding, selling our home of 22 years and moving to temporary housing before we purchased our new home, moving our youngest to LA, and sadly the death of my brother. Through all of this Russ helped me manage and balance my professional and personal obligations.

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

I do perform valuations for internal use only, and I have done some consulting work. I have also turned a consulting role into a Board of Directors position for a small company, which has been a great experience.

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

Not communicating enough. You will never be criticized for over-communicating.

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

I think you need to be adaptable to ever-changing set of priorities. I almost feel like I’m ADD sometimes. I start working on marketing materials for a new listing and all of a sudden an offer is being made and that needs to take priority.

Having some financial savvy is helpful in being able to price a business right and understand the underlying story the numbers tell.

Putting your clients and their needs first is also very important. It’s not about what we want to see happen, but what the client ultimately wants out of a transaction. Sometimes time is more important than money.

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

I am working with a Murphy colleague on a transaction that we thought we had all wrapped up last year, with an offer made and due diligence in progress. Then the owner suffered the loss of their son, making them re-evaluate what they wanted from the transaction. That deal then fell apart, but within 3 months we had another offer, simply from reaching back out to previous inquiries. In the end this transaction, if it goes through, will be a better outcome for the client.

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

There is a tsunami wave of business owners ready to sell, either because they are retirement age or because they made it through COVID and want to move on. We are going to be very busy in the coming years.

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

Be patient and network like crazy. It took me 9 months to close my first transaction, and once you get into a rhythm, the referrals will come.

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

I have been married to my husband Chris for 35 years, and we have raised 4 children and have 1 grandson. Chris works as an environmental engineer Our kids are happy adults, living ‘off the family payroll’ doing things they love. We enjoy spending time together at a family lake house in northern NJ where we enjoy beautiful sunsets, play family games and get out in our boat for a cruise around the lake.

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