My neighbor to the north is a retired manufacturing company owner. When I explained to him that I was an investment banker, he got very close and whispered in a conspiratorial fashion that, "gold stocks will be hot this year." My neighbor to the south listened intently as I explained that I am an investment banker, and then when his wife walked in the room, promptly introduced me as a "bank teller."
While it is clear that I need to work on my elevator pitch of what I do day to day, I think there is a lot of confusion around the title Investment Banker.
Let's Start With Some Things Middle Market Investment Bankers Don't Do:
We don't buy or sell stocks.
I mean, we might in our e-trade accounts like everyone else, but no one is paying us to help them with this. All the interesting stock tips I hear come from my broker (love you TW) or CNN. If I were to have a publicly traded client that might be thinking about doing something interesting, I can't even mention it with code words or in Pig Latin, because that's the kind of thing for which you go to jail. Honestly, I work almost entirely with family-and-founder-held businesses, so I rarely, if ever, have anything that might be considered a "stock tip."
We don't raid companies or attempt hostile takeovers.
OK, to be fair, some of the really big investment banks helped clients do this in the 80's, but it doesn't really happen anymore, and certainly not in the middle market.
Video: Why Hire an Investment Bank
Here's what investment bankers serving the middle market do:
We help people buy and sell businesses.
Selling a business is tricky and there are thousands of ways that you can get it wrong. When you get selling a business wrong, it usually means that you are leaving millions of dollars on the table or you are putting yourself at risk.
We make sure the right buyers are looking at your business.
Business owners get letters, emails and calls all the time from people saying that they want to buy your business. Its not really a problem finding buyers that might be interested in purchasing the company, it's making sure you find the ones that will pay top dollar. This often means casting a wide, even global, net. It means understanding your industry and what drives it.
We make sure we're telling people the right things about your business.
Your website and some financials aren't going to cut it. We make sure the information presented about your business is complete, fair and portrays your story in the best possible light.
We will never try to talk you into selling if you don't want to or the time isn't right.
Selling a business is a tremendous amount of work and it can take between 7 and 9 months to complete. We do not cajole business owners into selling their businesses, because if we did, we would lose money as people changed their minds willy nilly.
We will spend a lot of time with you (for free) describing what goes into a successful transaction.
Because we want the business owner to make the right personal decision, we spend a tremendous amount of time educating them on current market conditions, thoughts on the business' valuation and pointing out aspects of the business that might detract from value. A completely educated and determined client is our best client.
I promise, if the phrase "Blue Horseshoe loves Anacott Steel" is ever uttered at TKO Miller, its because one of our analysts discovered the movie Wall Street and is trying to look cool.