BluWave Awards 2024: Top Private Equity Innovators

We’re proud to announce the third annual Top Private Equity Innovators with the 2024 BluWave Awards*.

“We’re regularly asked by market leaders about the best practices that are being embraced by the most innovative private equity firms,” said BluWave founder and CEO Sean Mooney, talking about the impetus for creating the awards.

Learn more about the 2024 Private Equity Innovator of the Year, Access Holdings

Our objective, thorough process gathered feedback from the world of private equity as well as the top service providers that work with them on a daily basis.

With their help, we identified the top 2 percent of firms for their innovative practices based on four key criteria identified by our research and operations team, limited partners, investment bankers, industry thought leaders and service providers in the private equity ecosystem.

As part of its selection process, the selection committee evaluated more than 5,000 private equity firms and utilized more than 75 different factors, incorporating more than 400,000 data points to evaluate these four criteria.

Here’s a little more about each one.

Proactive Due Diligence Practices

Innovative PE firms look at prospective investments with an eye toward not only trusting and verifying, but also with a preemptive lens into informing future value creation opportunities.

Transformative Value Creation

Once PE firms make investments leading private equity firms partner with their portfolio company management teams to purposely create value that didn’t or couldn’t exist before.

Modern Private Equity Firm Operations

These PE leaders treat the business of private equity like a business. They strategically utilize best-in-class internal and external cross-functional resources to enable insightful opportunity assessments and unique levels of value creation.

Corporate Citizenship

Top PE firms know that corporate citizenship is not only good for the world, but also fundamentally improves returns.

Here’s where you can find all the 2024 Private Equity Awards winners, including Innovator of the Year, Access Holdings.

“We are excited to recognize this distinguished group of investors as the 2024 Top Private Equity Innovators,” Mooney said.

*BluWave, LP has not received investment capital from and holds no ownership interest in the PE firms evaluated or recognized under the PE Innovator awards program. BluWave received no compensation from any of the PE firms in connection with this awards program. However, BluWave may otherwise provide services to the PE firms and/or portfolio companies, but BluWave confirms that its assessment of the PE firms was independent of any such service arrangements. Top 2% in the PE industry is based on BluWave’s review of the more than 5,000 PE firms in the U.S. and Canada from which the 82 PE firms were selected as award recipients.

BluWave Awards 2024: Access Holdings is PE Innovator of the Year

We’re proud to announce Access Holdings as Innovator of the Year in the third annual BluWave private equity awards*. The Baltimore-based firm was selected for its for exemplary innovation and leadership.

“For over a decade, we have endeavored to do things differently,” Access Holdings Founder and Managing Partner Kevin McAllister said. “By listening to and learning from our partners, we have developed contemporary technologies and research capabilities that scale and innovate our partner companies into market leaders. Access Holdings is honored to be recognized as this year’s Private Equity Innovator.”

Also see more about the 2024 Top Private Equity Innovator awards

Firms chosen for the Top Private Equity Innovator Award are selected based upon a rigorous assessment in consultation with our research and operations team, leading limited partners, investment bankers, service providers and other thought leaders in the private equity ecosystem. Selected firms represent the top 2 percent in the private equity for innovative practices in:

  • Proactive due diligence practices
  • Transformative value creation
  • Modern private equity firm operations
  • Corporate governance

“Private equity is an essential business builder and pillar of the economy, facilitating growth and development in almost every industry and creating millions of jobs in America,” said Sean Mooney, BluWave founder and CEO. “Access Holdings has differentially demonstrated how to build and grow businesses. We congratulate them on their innovation and success in creating value.”

*BluWave, LP has not received investment capital from and holds no ownership interest in the PE firms evaluated or recognized under the PE Innovator awards program. BluWave received no compensation from any of the PE firms in connection with this awards program. However, BluWave may otherwise provide services to the PE firms and/or portfolio companies, but BluWave confirms that its assessment of the PE firms was independent of any such service arrangements. Top 2% in the PE industry is based on BluWave’s review of the more than 5,000 PE firms in the U.S. and Canada from which the 82 PE firms were selected as award recipients.

Top Private Equity Podcasts

Private equity has a reputation for being an opaque industry to outsiders, with accessible expert insights difficult to find.

Some of PE’s most experienced professionals, however, are out to change that. These in-depth podcasts pull the curtain back on due diligence, value creation, prep for sale and everything in between.

While there are plenty of great options available for download, these are the five best podcasts about private equity to which you should be listening – in no particular order – to max out your knowledge.

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Best But Never Final

  • Hosts: Doug McCormick, Lloyd Metz, Sean Mooney
  • Recording Since: Feb. 6, 2024
  • Publishing Frequency: 2–3 per month

For too long, the first word in private equity has been “private.” On this “insider” podcast, McCormick, Metz and Mooney pull back the curtain and get real about private equity.

Listeners will gain a deep understanding of how private equity professionals think and operate. With three distinct backgrounds and decades’ worth of combined industry experience, everyone from CEOs to aspiring PE partners can learn from this dynamic trio.

Karma School of Business

  • Host: Sean Mooney
  • Recording Since: Aug. 2, 2022
  • Publishing Frequency: 4 per month

You caught us! Our very own CEO and founder, Sean Mooney, hosts this podcast, too. But we wouldn’t share if we didn’t believe it was full of great content.

Launched in 2022, we cover a wide range of topics with frequent guests, from the role of private equity in the economy to the latest trends and challenges.

“You’ll learn insights and best practices from leading and influential private equity professionals, visionary business executives, and one-of-a-kind industry thought leaders who will help you take meaningful action, improve your business, and enhance your life.”

Apple podcasts Business chart rankings
The Karma School of Business podcast has reached as high as No. 1 on the Apple podcasts Business chart.

Dry Powder: The Private Equity Podcast

  • Host: Hugh MacArthur
  • Recording Since: Sept. 16, 2019
  • Publishing Frequency: 2–3 per month

This podcast features interviews with industry leaders and experts, providing listeners with an in-depth understanding of the private equity landscape.

Each episode focuses on a specific topic, such as fundraising or portfolio management, and provides valuable insights and success strategies “that will redefine the private equity industry.”

Private Equity FunCast

  • Hosts: Devin Mathews and Jim Milbery
  • Recording Since: Sept. 10, 2013
  • Publishing Frequency: 1–3 per month

Hosted by ParkerGale Capital, this podcast covers a wide range of hot topics in private equity, from deal sourcing to exits. The hosts bring a unique perspective and a healthy dose of humor to your headphones, making it a great listen for both industry veterans and newcomers.

It describes itself as “a lively discussion of the uses of technology to improve business operations for companies with less than $100 million in revenue.”

And if that’s not enough, they open each episode with a fun, original jingle.

Middle Market Musings

  • Hosts: Andy Greenberg and Charlie Gifford
  • Recording Since: April 2, 2021
  • Publishing Frequency: 1–2 per month

Most private equity deals take place in the middle market, and that’s what this one focuses on.

Industry leaders and experts discuss the latest middle-market trends and strategies.

With a different guest for each episode, you won’t be short on diverse perspectives.

These podcasts are available to download for free on iTunes, Spotify and other popular platforms.

Hiring Board Members for a Manufacturing Company

Manufacturing companies recognize the value of board members who bring not just oversight but also strategic guidance to complex challenges. In this post, we’ll discuss the critical aspects of board advisory roles, drawing insights from recent BluWave client experiences across different use cases within the industry.

We have seen how board members transcend traditional oversight roles to become pivotal figures in strategic decision-making, operational excellence and leadership development.

Let’s explore the necessity of assembling a board that can genuinely add value and steer your company toward sustainable success.

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Examples of Manufacturing Business Types

The manufacturing sector is diverse, with each segment presenting unique challenges and opportunities. Here are examples illustrating the spectrum of businesses within the industry:

  • Specialty Manufacturing: Companies focused on producing specialty items, such as casters and wheels, face distinct market demands and operational scalability challenges.
  • Steel Manufacturing: Firms in the steel sector must navigate capital-intensive processes, global supply chain dynamics and stringent regulatory standards.
  • Low-Speed Vehicle Manufacturing: Manufacturers of low-speed vehicles cater to niche markets, requiring precision in sourcing, logistics and maintaining competitive advantages.
  • Machine Shop and Metal Fabrication: Businesses specializing in metal fabrication and machining services must prioritize operational efficiency and technological integration to stay ahead.

Here are some of the ways board members can help these businesses thrive:

Strategic Guidance

Board advisors bring a wealth of experience and insight that is critical for navigating the complexities of the global market. Their role goes beyond mere consultation; they actively participate in shaping the strategic direction of the company. By analyzing market trends, assessing competitive landscapes and identifying growth opportunities, these seasoned professionals provide actionable recommendations that align with the company’s long-term goals. Their foresight helps companies pivot in response to market changes, ensuring that strategic initiatives are both agile and grounded in solid market research.

Furthermore, board advisors facilitate strategic networking, connecting the company with potential partners, customers and industry experts. This role is particularly vital in an era where collaboration and strategic alliances can significantly accelerate growth and innovation. Through their extensive networks, board advisors open doors to new markets, technologies and talent, thereby enhancing the company’s capabilities and competitive positioning.

Operational Excellence

Operational excellence is paramount in manufacturing, where efficiency, quality and speed are closely linked to profitability and customer satisfaction. Board advisors play a crucial role in promoting best practices in production, supply chain management and quality control. By leveraging their experience, they help identify areas for improvement, streamline processes and implement lean manufacturing techniques. This not only enhances productivity but also reduces costs, waste and inefficiencies, driving operational excellence throughout the organization.

In addition to process optimization, board advisors also emphasize the importance of innovation in operations. They encourage the adoption of advanced technologies and automation to improve manufacturing processes and product quality. Their guidance helps companies stay ahead of technological trends, ensuring that they remain competitive in an evolving industry. By fostering a culture of continuous improvement and innovation, board advisors help companies adapt to changing market demands and technological advancements.

Leadership Development and Mentoring

The success of any manufacturing company significantly depends on the strength and vision of its leadership. Board advisors invest time and resources into developing a robust leadership team capable of steering the company toward its strategic goals. Through mentoring programs, they share their knowledge and experiences, providing guidance on effective leadership practices, decision-making and strategy execution. This mentorship is invaluable for nurturing a generation of leaders who are not only skilled managers but also visionary thinkers with the ability to drive the company forward.

Moreover, board advisors play a key role in succession planning, ensuring that the company has a pipeline of talented leaders ready to take on key roles as the organization evolves. They help identify leadership potential within the organization, fostering a culture of growth and development. This proactive approach ensures that the company remains resilient in the face of change, with a leadership team that is well-equipped to overcome future challenges.

Financial Oversight and Risk Management

Board members provide critical oversight, ensuring that the company’s financial strategy is robust, sustainable and aligned with its overall strategic objectives. They oversee financial planning, investment decisions and risk management practices, offering insights that help optimize financial performance and shareholder value. Their expertise is crucial for capital allocation, funding for growth initiatives and financial risk mitigation.

Board advisors also play a pivotal role in identifying and managing risks that could impact the company’s financial health and operational stability. From market fluctuations and supply chain disruptions to regulatory changes and cybersecurity threats, they help develop comprehensive risk management strategies. This involves not only identifying potential risks but also preparing contingency plans and response strategies to minimize impact.

Acquisition and Integration Advisory

As manufacturing companies seek growth through acquisitions, board advisors provide invaluable guidance. From identifying potential targets to conducting due diligence and negotiating deals, their expertise ensures that acquisitions are strategically sound and aligned with the company’s vision. They bring a critical eye to the evaluation of potential acquisitions, assessing not only the financial aspects but also the cultural and operational fit.

Post-acquisition, board advisors are instrumental in the integration process, ensuring that the transition is smooth and that the acquired company is effectively integrated into the larger organization. They help face the challenges of merging operations, cultures and systems, working to realize synergies and achieve the strategic objectives of the acquisition. Their experience in managing change and fostering alignment among stakeholders is crucial for maximizing the value of acquisitions and ensuring their success.

Regulatory Compliance and Corporate Governance

In the highly regulated environment of manufacturing, adherence to legal standards and best practices in corporate governance is non-negotiable. Board advisors ensure that the company not only complies with existing regulations but also proactively addresses emerging legal and ethical considerations. Their oversight is critical in maintaining the company’s legal standing, protecting its reputation and avoiding costly penalties and litigation.

Moreover, board advisors champion transparency, accountability and ethical conduct throughout the organization. They help establish governance frameworks that promote ethical decision-making, stakeholder engagement and responsible business practices. Their commitment to upholding the highest standards of corporate governance fosters a culture of integrity and trust, which is essential for sustaining the company’s long-term success and maintaining positive relationships with customers, employees and the broader community.

Board advisors are the linchpin in the strategic and operational fabric of manufacturing companies. Their roles extend beyond traditional governance, encompassing strategic planning, operational optimization, leadership development, financial stewardship and much more.

As the manufacturing industry continues to face rapid changes and new challenges, the insights, expertise and leadership of board advisors will remain indispensable for companies aiming to achieve excellence and sustainable growth.

BluWave’s research and operations team knows industry-specific candidates for your exact situation. Contact them for a scoping call and they’ll provide a short list of experienced options within a single business day.

Search for CFO To Lead Funeral Home Expansion

Service Area: Human Capital

Client Type: Lower-Middle Market PE Firm

Service Provider Type: Finance Executive Search Firm

Industry: Retail

The Need
New CFO Amid Expansion

A lower-middle market PE firm needed to initiate a search for a new CFO for its portfolio company in the retail sector, focusing on funeral home and cremation services. This was prompted by the departure of the current CFO to a role with a larger company, leaving a gap in strategic financial leadership during a critical phase of expansion and acquisitions.

The Challenge
CFO with Industry-Specific and Transactional Experience

The firm sought a CFO with experience in managing multi-site service companies, ideally with a background in retail or similar sectors that involve consolidating family-owned businesses. The candidate needed to possess transactional experience to support the company’s aggressive acquisition strategy, aiming to close four to seven per year.

How BluWave Helped
Identifying a Specialized Finance Executive Search Firm

BluWave connected the PE firm with a finance executive search firm renowned for its expertise in the retail sector and specifically within the niche of funeral home and cremation services. This firm was chosen for its broad network, ability to present a wide array of candidates and experience with multi-site service companies undergoing consolidation.

The Result
Successful Placement of a CFO to Drive Future Growth

The search culminated in the successful recruitment of a CFO who not only met the criteria for industry experience and transactional expertise but also aligned with the company’s culture and growth objectives. This strategic hire positioned the company to continue its expansion and consolidation strategy effectively, with a strong leader at the helm of its financial operations.

Provided good summaries of each candidate. At or above what we are used to seeing. Was available and able to move quickly. Really liked working with them. Managed the process very well.

-SVP of PE Firm

Executive Search Firm Financial Controller for Growing Business Services Company

Service Area: Human Capital

Client Type: Lower-Middle Market PE Firm 

Service Provider Type: Executive Search Firm – Finance

Industry: Professional Services

The Need
Expert Controller to Spearhead Financial Strategy Post-Pandemic

A tech-enabled business services company, rebounding post-pandemic with aspirations to exceed 9 figures in revenue and millions in EBITDA, was in urgent need of a controller. This role was critical for directing the company’s financial strategy and supporting the newly appointed CFO in building a robust finance team.

The Challenge
High-Caliber Finance Professional Within Budget Constraints

The challenge lay in identifying a candidate with the right blend of experience and expertise within the specified compensation range. The search required precision to connect someone capable of stepping into a leadership role during a crucial growth phase, with a focus on the southern market.

How BluWave Helped
Identifying a Specialized Finance Executive Search Firm

BluWave utilized its network to connect the PE firm with a finance executive search firm that had deep expertise in recruiting within the southern market. This partnership was tailored to meet the unique demands of the search, focusing on candidates who could bring strategic financial leadership to a rapidly growing company.

The Result
Strategic Financial Leadership to Drive Post-Pandemic Growth

The collaboration resulted in the successful placement of a controller who not only met the budgetary and expertise criteria but also aligned with the company’s vision for growth. This strategic hire positioned the company to effectively navigate its post-pandemic rebound, enhancing its financial management and strategic planning capabilities.

Interim CEO To Lead Difficult Transition for Aerospace Distribution

Service Area: Human Capital

Client Type: PE Firm

Service Provider Type: Interim CEO

Industry: Distribution – Aerospace

The Need
Immediate Interim CEO for Transitional Phase in Aerospace Distribution

A PE firm was in urgent need of an interim CEO for its portfolio company in the industrial distribution space, specializing in aerospace. The incoming CEO needed to replace the outgoing general manager immediately upon deal signing, ensuring business continuity.

The Challenge
Hiring an Industry Expert with High Emotional Intelligence

The key challenge was to identify a leader with experience in industrial or chemical distribution who could manage a delicate transitional phase. The interim CEO required a blend of hands-on operational skills and high emotional intelligence to maintain business operations and guide the team through significant changes.

How BluWave Helped
Sourcing an Experienced Interim CEO with Proven Track Record

BluWave connected the PE firm with three seasoned interim CEOs who all had extensive experience in PE-backed industrial distribution businesses. The selected leader was adept in stepping into lean, family-run businesses, capable of navigating delicate situations while keeping operations running smoothly.

The Result
Successful Transition, Business Continuity Ensured

The interim CEO maintained supplier relations and customer expectations for 24-hour shipments. Their experience and soft touch were instrumental in winning the trust of the existing team and ensuring a seamless transition, keeping the business on track during this critical period.

He is great. I would work with him again in a heartbeat and gladly recommend him as a top-notch professional. Very responsive. Found the right person for us. Great experience.

-Managing Partner at PE Firm