The Experts Weigh In: Reflecting on Themes from 2021

One of the advantages of providing specialized solutions for more than 500 PE funds and business leaders is that we gain a 360-degree view about what is impacting portfolio companies and the private equity industry as a whole. From our hundreds of interactions with fund managers, interim executives, business leaders, and experts from across industries we learn about trends, themes, and opportunities that affect all aspects of PE. As we look ahead to 2022, we reflect on some interesting insights that we gained from our network, as well as our founder and CEO, in 2021 that point to themes to watch for in the year ahead.

Theme 1: Focus on people as core strategy

While it may seem counterintuitive in such a technology- and-data-obsessed culture, what we’ve seen the past year (with no sign of slowing down) is a commitment to focusing on talent and culture as a core part of business strategy. With an anemic and highly “flexible” job market, companies are thinking of innovative ways to attract and retain top talent in order to compete, including giving the CHRO a seat at the table.

The expert’s take: “I believe human capital is one of the most valuable assets of any successful company. End of story. We have put in place a strategy to have our portfolio companies hire a Chief HR Officer—a role that drives strategic thinking, fundamental change through processes, and design efficiencies. This person’s role is to think strategically about the business, then marry that strategic thinking with decision-making around human capital. He or she understands long-term objectives and implements a hiring strategy to meet these objectives. It was a game-changer for our companies and enabled us to swiftly drive change and make money for the shareholders.” — Matthew Garff, Managing Director at Sun Capital 

Theme 2: Public policy and its key role for PE

Recently, Congress and the current Administration have put forth measures that could affect the private equity industry and have a negative impact, particularly on women investors. The industry employs over 11 million Americans and supports thousands of small businesses; a fact that sometimes gets lost when legislators are just focused on the balance sheets of the funds.

The expert’s take: “Washington is trying to move very quickly: it’s like being in a baseball game but not knowing what inning you’re in. Oftentimes the intention of these proposals isn’t nefarious or ill-intended; rather, haste makes waste and politicians are drinking massive amounts of information from a firehose. One minute they are talking to someone like me, with a private equity agenda. The next minute, it’s someone from higher education, renewable energy, or critical infrastructure. Our job [as industry insiders and lobbyists] is to inform them about the realities and potential negative consequences in a non-incendiary way so they will actually listen; subsequently, we hope they make decisions based on the data-rich information we have provided.” — Pam Hendrickson, Vice Chair at The Riverside Company 

Theme 3: Specialized talent offers a competitive advantage

One theme that started to stand out in 2021, and will likely continue to be true for years to come, was top-level executives leaving companies in search of more flexible, specialized projects that put them in the driver’s seat. What does this mean for the PE industry? A shift in focus to interim, specialized talent who can quickly and accurately provide results during the process of due diligence, recruiting, and beyond.

The expert’s take: “The private equity industry used to be about optimizing companies to get attractive returns. Today, it’s very competitive with hundreds of sponsors participating in every auction, often paying perfect prices for imperfect companies. To stand out, PE firms need to see something that’s not in the investment bank’s book. General insights from generalist advisers don’t cut it anymore. We’re equipping our clients with specialized resources that identify unique information that gives them a fundamentally different perspective in a competitive process.” — Sean Mooney, founder/CEO of BluWave

Theme 4: Prioritization of remote work

After years of testing the idea of working from home, the last two years have catapulted the acceptance of remote work—and working from anywhere—to the top of the “normal” list. In fact, companies report that a substantial number of new employees are prioritizing the ability to work remotely even ahead of a robust benefits package.

The expert’s take: “Candidates who were fortunate enough to be employed during the pandemic but unfortunate enough to deal with the constant disruption and stress are now coming up for air and looking around for new adventures. In tandem with this ‘fancy shiny object’ job search, most candidates learned that much of their knowledge and skills could be effectively managed remotely. That’s a game-changer. Once people figured out they could live in Park City, Utah while working for a company based in New York City, many of them made substantial lifestyle changes to strike that elusive work-life balance. It almost gave people permission to shed old norms and start fresh. They went from thinking, ‘I’m going to be stuck in an office for the rest of my life,” to “holy cow, I can work on the ski slopes!’ — William Tincup, President & Editor at Large for Recruiting Daily

Theme 5: Scarcity and its future implications

One thing is certain—from supply chain to the workforce, scarcity seems to be a theme du jour, if not douze mois une année. But how troublesome is it as we move into 2022, and what can we hope for in terms of how the economy will adjust?

The expert’s take: “Usually shortages are a sign of price controls, and usually when people say ‘we don’t have enough workers’ it means that the price they have to pay is too high to get the workers. Historically, there have only been shortages when raising prices is forbidden. This happened with gas controls in the 1950s. The puzzle with today’s shortages is why don’t suppliers just raise prices? My presumption is that they are afraid of being judged as gougers either by their customers or by the government. Eventually, prices will increase, instead of the other option: not having products. It’s already starting to happen. This will help eliminate the pressure on the supply chain.” — Russ Roberts, host of EconTalk and Hoover Institute Research Fellow 

Theme 6: The rise of impact investing with a focus on ESG

Almost every investor you talk to these days, whether for a public or private company, has one thing top of mind: how are our portfolio companies performing against ESG standards, including the initiatives around diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I). While ESG has been an important reporting tactic for years, only in the last two has it reached the tipping point. Many firms have already seen a positive impact by investing in diverse workforce development, and it seems that it is definitely possible to have success with a triple bottom line investment thesis.

The expert’s take: “We recently made an investment in a waste management company and our investment thesis was to formalize all policies and procedures, then top grade the management team. After implementing our suggested changes, the company attracted a more diverse workforce, which in turn embraced the ‘professionalization’ of the company. This included the way the company related to and communicated with its diverse customer base. As a result, the company improved its margins, increased customer retention, and was better positioned to win larger contracts from commercial customers.” — Colleen Gurda, Founder of Riveter Capital

Theme 7: Family wealth expands into new industries through collaboration

Family wealth, most often managed by family offices with a staff of ten or fewer employees, is reaching beyond the usual suspects of real estate and legacy business toward direct investments in emerging markets. What was once thought to be “old money” is now shapeshifting with younger generations of family members at the helm, many of whom are interested in collaborating with other family offices to expand their reach.

The expert’s take: “Direct investing has been the core strategy for families for decades. What we’ve seen is an increase in collaboration between family offices that happened less regularly before. For the most part, private equity has been taking the lead on lower market buyouts; and families see the upside and potential of that. Pooling resources allows families to reduce risk [in industries they aren’t as familiar with] and take advantage of companies that land between $3M and $20M EBITDA, who are looking to sell. Families are also looking at platform plays such as buying up HVAC companies and other firms within an industry. We are also hearing a lot of talk now about ESG, and also “business drivers” both of which contribute to innovation.” — Glen Johnson, President of Membership at Family Office Exchange 

Theme 8: As consolidation continues, culture is a top priority

While company culture is certainly an important part of any organization’s success, during and after an acquisition the focus on maintaining a “healthy culture” is paramount—and is often the difference between a smooth or rocky outcome. Add-ons and consolidations will continue to be at record highs in 2022, and acquirers are best served to create a solid strategy to ensure culture remains at the top of the priority list.

The expert’s take: “Here’s what we’ve learned with nearly 75 acquisitions under our belt, some of which worked and some didn’t. First and foremost, it has to be a business fit. A lot of people will buy companies when there isn’t a reason for the companies to be together. It’s just about size and irrelevant to the core business; you see this a lot with tech companies. But it’s not only about the business fit; there also has to be a cultural fit.” — Troy Templeton, Managing Partner at Trivest Capital

Why BluWave was built with deal quarterbacks in mind

As a deal quarterback in private equity, Sean Mooney often struggled with getting connected to the PE-grade, specialized resources he needed to drive differential success. Sean found himself spending lots of time searching for providers on google and calling friends in search of an exact-fit service provider. This made the diligence process time-consuming and stressful. It also left only a small amount of time for the other things that matter. In order to combat this pressing issue, Sean came up with the idea for BluWave. In fact, Sean created BluWave specifically with deal quarterbacks in mind and is someone who did the job himself. Now, BluWave helps deal quarterbacks get time back in their day and gives them confidence in the third-party resources that they are utilizing.

We are here to provide deal quarterbacks with the exact-fit, private equity grade service provider they need, exactly when they need them.

Learn more about how BluWave can help deal QBs specifically in both due diligence and value creation.

If you are a deal quarterback that struggles with due diligence or value creation, we would be happy to connect with you and provide for the need you have, just contact us here.

Buyouts Magazine: More effective sourcing of service providers promises benefits

BluWave founder and CEO, Sean Mooney,  recently had the privilege of sitting down with Buyouts Magazine for a keynote interview in their Fund Services Special Report December issue. In the interview, he specifically highlighted the importance of proper use of service providers in private equity.

In this report, he covered the topics of:  

  1. Why private equity firms must use third-party service providers
  2. Why it is hard to use third parties successfully 
  3. The opportunity cost of not using third-party service providers
  4. How specialization is giving BluWave clients unique competitive edge in both due diligence and value creation 
  5. Trends we have noticed in the private equity industry given our unique vantage point of serving over 500 PE firms 

These topics made for a great interview about service providers in the private equity industry and how to use them effectively. If you would like to read the full interview on the Buyouts website, you can do so here. 

Additionally, if you would like to check out the full Buyouts Fund Services Special Report December issue, you can do so here. 

Are you in need of an immediate, exact-fit, PE-grade third party? We’d be happy to connect you to the one you need. 

Q3 PE Industry Insights

Every quarter our team analyzes the projects we work on with our 500+ PE fund clients to get a bird’s eye view of the market. This report (grab your copy here) calls out the trends that we are seeing across thousands of projects.


Key findings include deal surge continues – but due diligence is still a major area of focus, value creation is gaining momentum – one thing to specifically call out is that portfolio company operation performance and improvement had a huge spike in Q3.



To see these insights and more, watch the video below.

To get the report, click here and we’ll get that over to you.





A Record-Breaking Year for PE: Pitchbook’s Q2 Report

With PE funds fighting an uphill battle last year amid a global pandemic, Q2 2020 industry reports were shrouded in uncertainty. Across the globe, organizations fought against a looming economic collapse as businesses folded and life as we knew it shut down for months.

Despite the shifting tides, we witnessed first-hand the resilient nature of the private equity industry. Around this time last year, we published our analysis of the National Bureau of Economic Research’s study on PE and financial fragility that found that PE-backed companies were more resilient and rebounded more quickly than their non-PE-backed peers during the crisis.

One year later, we’re seeing that the study held up…and then some. In the last 18 months, the PE industry has shown tremendous growth despite an ever-changing economic environment. In PitchBook’s Q2 2021 US PE Breakdown, it was reported that middle market and billion-dollar deals are reaching unprecedented levels “thanks to the speedy economic recovery, demand for high-yield debt, an abundance of dry powder, and the looming threat of a capital gains tax hike.”

The report outlined how surging LP activity has brought not only the PE industry but also those it supports from harrowing lows to meteoric highs in just a few months. Here are some key highlights from Pitchbook’s Q2 findings:

Overall Market Trends: A Record-Breaking Year

  • PE firms have closed on 3,708 deals worth $456.6 billion in H1, which is about two-thirds of the total deal value for 2020. H1 2021 is also on track for a record-setting year in PE exit deals.
  • The Q2 inflation pop is signaling a move toward a potential rate increase by the end of 2023. The core consumer price index increased by 3.8%.
  • The White House’s proposed increase from 20% to 39.6% in the marginal capital gains rate has “spurred a dealmaking frenzy.” Pitchbook is seeing business owners race to realize profits from sales before the end of the year.

Areas of Growth: The Driving Factors

  • Funds worth $5 billion or more (“mega-funds”) accounted for the bulk of capital raised, “but both middle-market managers and first-time funds are also finding success as the increased appetite for PE benefited funds of all sizes.”
  • Corporate bonds and private debt also accrued significant activity in Q2.
  • Investment in cybersecurity is on the rise. PE dealmaking in software continued to post was strong in Q2 2021 and cybersecurity emerged as a particular area of focus. This makes sense, as the pandemic also engendered an increase in remote-work-related cybercrime.
  • Distributions to LPs and high returns numbers across all fund sizes are set “to provide additional tailwinds” moving forward. Also, platforms that saw significant expansion under PE sponsors are now coming to market and achieving healthy valuation step-ups.

As our economic recovery continues, many PE firms and PE-backed companies can start to look past pandemic-related issues and get back to their missions: building and scaling stronger businesses. Having the hard data to demonstrate the powerful buoyancy of private equity, we can move forward confident that it’ll take more than a sudden recession to curb this industry.

To read the full Q2 report, visit Pitchbook’s site here.

Interested in gaining more detailed Q2 insights? Check out our Q2 report here.

Video: Q2 Insights Overview

Every quarter our team analyzes the projects we work on with our 500+ PE fund clients to get a bird’s eye view of the market. In this video, our leadership team shares the trends we are seeing across due diligence and value creation. Watch the video below to learn more.


If you would like to get a copy of the report, reach out directly to your BluWave contact or our team at and we’ll be happy to assist.


Video: Dealing With Service Providers at Capacity

As the world begins to rapidly reopen from the pandemic, businesses have begun to run full steam ahead to catch up for lost time. This massive acceleration in business has left many go-to service providers in the PE industry at capacity due to the sudden surge in demand, leaving many firms wondering where to go next.

In situations like this, hundreds of the leading PE firms have come flocking to us, knowing that we can provide them with alternative providers through our extensive Intelligent Network.

Our Intelligent Network boasts the characteristics of both having a deep bench of PE-grade service providers and single shingle consultants.

In times like this, our broad list of resource partners allows us to keep a pulse on different providers’ availability, leaving firms with more time to focus on other initiatives while we determine what providers are available for them.

Additionally, our PE-grade single shingle providers empower our clients to find the same quality services they are accustomed to with their go-to providers, but for a much better value.

In the video below, former PE Partner and Bluwave Founder and CEO, Sean Mooney, shares his top three tips on what to do when your go-to resources are at capacity.

If we can help you connect with alternative providers during this capacity shortage, or help you with any other need, please contact us at and we will be happy to connect with you right away.



An Interview with Riveter Capital Founder Colleen Gurda

Anyone who has spent a significant amount of time in the private equity industry understands how difficult it is to “disrupt” the space. This has less to do with a lack of desire and more to do with the heaviness of the lift: being an innovator or a market leader is not for the faint of heart. But as we are discovering, after a year that rocked the globe and upended many aspects of our lives, now is the time to make strides and truly challenge the status quo. 

For Colleen Gurda and her partner Sarah Abdel-Razek, they embraced the economic contraction and shifting tides of 2020 by founding New York-based fund, Riveter Capital. Passionate about supporting women and minority-owned or led businesses in the lower middle market, they built their thesis around this underserved demographic and are on the hunt for quality founder- and family-owned businesses to partner with.  

Case in point: When I hopped on a call to discuss everything from entrepreneurship to diversity to fractional talent, Colleen opened with: “It’s a little hectic today, we have three LOIs going out, so I’ll talk fast.” Her enthusiasm and passion are clear, and I have no doubt you’ll find her take on the future of PE to be filled with hope, realistic insights, and food for thought. 

Sean Mooney: What was the genesis of Riveter?

Colleen Gurda: Having spent the majority of my career in a male-dominated industry, I knew the specific challenges many women in positions similar to mine faced—as well as the opportunities to do things differently. I’d been thinking about how I could combine my passion for women in business with my skillset, so when the pandemic hit and all these businesses owned by women and minorities were being disproportionately affected, I knew it was time to make the jump.  

Women represent so many small businesses, but they don’t have access to capital. My partner and I saw a huge market gap in the PE world for these types of businesses in the $1M to $5M EBITDA range. We essentially close the “access to capital” gap, while realizing good returns for our investors. 

SM: How did you overcome any “fears” about stepping out on your own and becoming an entrepreneur?

CG: I’ve always had an entrepreneurial itch but wanted to make sure I had the experience and credentials to be successful. After 15 years of investment banking and investing experience, I finally felt like I had the necessary tools to go out on my own. Having a partner in crime (Sarah) was also really important—both of us had the same vision yet complementary skillsets and the mutual support made the decision much easier.  

Beyond that, during my years at other investment firms, I saw my peers moving upmarket only. So, I knew, from a competitive perspective, there was a chance to do smaller deals but have an outsized impact. The path to revenue growth was wide open and not oversaturated; this gave Sarah and me the confidence to test the thesis without the cost of having to outpace a lot of competition. 

SM: You invest in minority-owned/managed businesses, but can you talk a bit more about your criteria for choosing companies in which to invest?

CG: Our core focus is women and minority-owned and/or managed businesses. Right now, we are focused on companies with $10M+ revenue with $1M to $5M EBITDA in the areas of business services, manufacturing, consumer/retail, and healthcare services—although that will likely expand in the future. We are mostly interested in buyouts, founder ownership transitions, recapitalizations, growth and acquisitions, and rollup strategies. Beyond the leadership criteria, we look for fairly standard industry things like proven business models in stable industries, a strong value proposition, high free cash flow, and an identifiable value creation plan. 

SM: Any examples of how a company you’ve been involved with saw positive economic impact by leaning into the idea of building a diverse workforce?

CG: We were recently involved with a waste management company specializing in waste collection, processing, and recycling. The organization had very little diversity on the teams, particularly in leadership positions, and no formal HR strategy. Our investment thesis was to formalize all policies and procedures, then top grade the management team. After implementing our suggested changes, the company attracted a more diverse workforce, which in turn embraced the ‘professionalization’ of the company. This included the way the company related to and communicated with its diverse customer base. As a result, the company improved its margins, increased customer retention, and was better positioned to win larger contracts from commercial customers. 

SM: For middle market companies, why is access to fractional executives or specialized groups important?

CG: What we often see in the lower middle market are resource-constrained companies that can’t afford to build out a full team, or simply don’t have the bandwidth to manage growing their teams formally. At these companies, the CEO is also the COO and CFO, and probably more. Having access to episodic, expert teams and people is imperative for their growth.  

Companies, like BluWave for example, allow us to bridge the skill gap until our portfolio companies are ready to hire full-time executives. 

SM: What is one goal you have for 2021?

CG: As a fund, our goal is to prove the Riveter thesis, given there aren’t many (if any) firms out there doing what we are doing. We want to prove that there are really high-quality women and minority-owned or led businesses worth investing in, and that good returns are possible by looking at these largely underrepresented groups. While we do enjoy the fact that there isn’t much competition yet, I hope we inspire other investors to start thinking outside the box. 

Video: How To Vet BluWave

When you are evaluating external help to get you and your fund the resources you need, there are a number of questions you should ask, including:

  • What does your business focus on?
  • How many PE funds do you work with?
  • How many projects have you done with PE funds?
  • How do you know a service provider is PE-grade?
  • How long does it take to get results?
  • Why your business over any alternative options?

In this video, our team answers each of these questions. Watch to learn more!


Why Companies Should Consult A Private Equity Coach

Even the most talented athletes never reach their full potential without great coaches. Beyond the ability to see elements of their players’ game that need to be improved or reinforced, effective coaches can motivate players by setting goals, holding them accountable, and providing the right resources for growth and development. While players are responsible for their performance on the court or field, coaches can help them play better than they ever thought possible.

As the CEO of a platform that helps connect private equity (PE) firms with third-party resources, I’ve observed that this isn’t unlike the relationship between these two entities. Just as coaches provide plays, strategies, and training, PE firms give companies the tools they need to improve their products and services, ensure their operations are as efficient as possible, and increase their productivity. To take full advantage of the coaching PE firms can provide, companies have to know who they are and where to find them as well as how to build healthy relationships with them.

What PE Firms Can Bring To The Table

Companies often misconstrue the role of private equity firms. Instead of viewing them as partners, they often regard them more narrowly as sources of capital. It’s long past time to abandon the reductionistic perception of relationships between PE firms and their portfolio companies as strictly transactional. This view maintains that PE firms pump cash into companies, cut costs wherever they can and sell those companies as quickly as possible. Beyond the fact that the median holding period in 2019 for PE firms was 4.5 years, PE firms report that they’re more interested in building strong companies than trying to make overnight profits.

Most PE professionals have worked with hundreds, if not thousands, of companies and have previously been through many of the trials that companies are otherwise experiencing for the first time. Their experiences help them advise which strategies are most likely to be successful and which resources can be used to execute plans most effectively.

Like coaches, PE funds conduct rigorous assessments of companies’ performance on fundamental metrics (such as market share, customer churn, top-line growth, customer concentration, and profit margins), provide objective appraisals of what’s working and what isn’t, and allow access to the right resources necessary to drive accelerated improvements.

The Process Of Choosing Your Private Equity Coach

The global economy is becoming more dynamic, skills-based, and competitive every day. A recent World Economic Forum report explains that the rapid pace of technological change is leading to major shifts in the types of workers companies employ, while a significant majority of the companies say they’re needing and investing in specialized expertise.

PE firms aren’t just a source of financial support; they also offer just-in-time access to the specialized expertise that companies need to navigate the evolving global economy, especially at a time when we’re recovering from the most significant downturn in years.

In order to get the right fit when it comes to choosing a PE fund partner, you need to do some work. Look for one that is aligned with your industry, the size of your company, and your culture. You should probe the firm on its ability to add value beyond just cutting the check. The best PE funds will have countless examples of how they helped others in similar situations.

If you’d like to take the traditional route to find the right firm, start with your own network. Talk to your acquaintances who have experience working with PE funds and ask for referrals. Next, you could seek out trusted investment bankers who regularly connect business owners with best-in-class PE fund investors in your end market. Lastly, keep in mind that there are networking tools like Axial that can make the process of connecting with PE investors easier. (Full disclosure: My company offers networking solutions for different applications in due diligence and value creation.) Deloitte reports that talent networks now account for billions of dollars in economic activity and hundreds of millions of hires around the world.

Making The Most Of The Relationship

While a private equity coach can have a huge impact, players ultimately have to take full responsibility. The same applies to companies that work with PE funds or advisors of any kind. They should be willing to confront problems honestly, put their coaches’ advice into practice, address failures and celebrate successes. It’s essential to establish norms of transparency and accountability early on in these relationships, and this begins with the alignment of goals and how to achieve them.

For example, what are your definitions of success? Companies and their PE coaches should ask this question right at the outset and arrive at an answer that makes sense to everyone. After deciding what success looks like, it’s crucial to determine which metrics will measure performance. With the scorecard in place, the next step is identifying the resources and capabilities companies need to achieve their goals.

At every stage of this process, open communication and collaboration are key. Both coaches and players need to feel comfortable asking tough questions and openly sharing their thoughts. When a company and its Private Equity coach listens, holds each other accountable and moves forward with a foundation of trust, shared goals, and collaboration, only then can they discover that they’re capable of far more than they imagined.

This article originally appeared on

How to Build A Resilient Company in Changing Times

Do you have a resilient company? Does it navigate shifting tides easily, or do your leaders and teams struggle with every minor disruption? What makes certain people better equipped to roll with the punches? 

According to bestselling author and ADP Researcher Marcus Buckingham: “people don’t fear change, they fear the unknown.” To use a timely example, if your company is attempting to rush back to “normal” (going into a physical office, business travel, etc.) he suggests having a concrete plan that offers visibility to senior leadership and their teams as to exactly what this will look like.  

Simply put, it’s not enough to send a company-wide email that says: “Okay folks, starting Monday, business as usual!” 

Furthermore, according to his recent study on building resilient teams: Only 17% of the workforce feels “highly resilient.” Clearly, company leaders across business types, industries, and geographies have a tremendous amount of work to do in the area of building a resilient company. 

Another interesting finding of note is the correlation between experiencing constant change and resilience. The data show that workers who experience five or more changes at work are 13.2x more likely to be resilient. 

To help make the findings actionable, Buckingham breaks down the workforce into three categories: (1) senior leaders(2) team leaders, and (3) self. For each bucket, he offers tips for how to help build resilience more effectively, based on questions posed to each group. These include things like vivid foresight and visible follow-throughanticipatory communication and psychological safety; and a sense of agency along with doing work we love 

If you’re a company leader, I highly recommend checking out the full study, or his related article What Really Makes Us Resilient in Harvard Business Review. (Bonus: Take his “Gift of Standout” assessment for free here.) 

Q1 2021 Private Equity Insights Overview

Working with over 500 of the world’s top private equity firms gives us insight into what the industry is focusing on. Every quarter our team analyzes the projects we work on with our PE fund clients to get a bird’s eye view of the market. We analyze behaviors across the large variety of clients that we work with on a daily basis and synthesize the data into a comprehensive private equity industry report. You can access the valuable data in this report such as the following:

diligence vs value creation 2021

If you would like to get a copy of the report, reach out directly to your BluWave contact or our team at and we’ll be happy to assist.