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Introducing John Stiffler of West Monroe Partners

What prompted you to join West Monroe Partners?

• When I joined WMP in early 2008, we were a relatively small, six year old consultancy. But, the recipe for something special was clearly there. Our clients and the industry were beginning to take notice. There was (and still is) a tremendous entrepreneurial spirit coupled with an intense desire to help clients in the middle market succeed and build sustainable value. I wanted to be a part of that!

As you built the M&A practice, what challenges did you face in the early going?

• Our strong technology lineage provided all the capabilities to be successful with M&A clients – particularly Private Equity firms – but we needed the deal market to understand the value that a technology diligence brought to the pre and post close equation.
• We knew we were uniquely positioned to provide meaningful inputs to deal valuation and long term run rate modeling; we just needed to get some repeatable wins with key PE clients to build our momentum.
• Internally, once we got market traction, meeting the rapidly expanding (and urgent) demand for our M&A services proved to be challenging for our firm’s traditional staffing model. We had to learn a new way of delivering top quality results in very dynamic market/deal conditions.

Tell us about your M&A practice today…

• Today, our group has grown from an initial team of just three consultants in 2008 to over fifty by the end of 2015.
• We account for five percent of our firm’s workforce but generate more than a third or our total firm revenue. M&A is clearly a large part of what we do as a firm!
• We do roughly two-hundred fifty transactions a year for over one-hundred financial and strategic sponsors. More than half of these transactions lead to substantial post close work.
• We are recognized as the market leader in IT and Operational Diligence with a deep specialization in corporate divestiture work. In 2015 alone, we stood up over 50 carve-out ‘NewCos’ from scratch – across many industries and business functions.

What is your biggest daily challenge?

• We really face three challenges on a regular basis
– Aligning the right technical resources with the specific deal and sponsor. It is imperative we ‘speak the business language’ with our sponsors so getting the team right is key.
– Managing deal flow. Our reputation is so strong now we often face a ‘sold out’ situation. In the M&A space, saying ‘no’ doesn’t cut it for too long before you lose your client altogether.
– Growing the practice without suffering quality issues. In the middle market M&A space, it is rare that you get a second ‘at bat’ if you deliver poor quality work. We recognize this and as a result, are very particular about the makeup of our team. It does limit our ability to expand quickly, but we won’t sacrifice “quality over growth”.

Do you have any hobbies?

• I like to golf, swim and cycle. I’m not a good golfer, but I do enjoy the game, despite being a pretty big hack.

What is your biggest accomplishment?

• That is a tough question, but I have to say balancing a challenging consulting career with being a husband of 25 years and a dad to three girls – two of which are in college. Finding what works for everything/body is not easy, but I think, for the most part, I’ve been able to find a decent balance.

What advice do you have for young professionals?

• General Norman Schwarzkopf, the late 1991 Desert Storm commander, had 14 principles that he felt define a good leader. Thirteen and fourteen are particularly relevant today: 1) when given responsibility, take charge, and 2) do what is right (said differently, ‘have strength of character’). I’m paraphrasing, but in my opinion, those are two good principles for anybody seeking to make a difference in today’s business world – regardless of level or title. Couple those principles with a focus on helping your peers succeed by being a good coach and team player, and you’ll have many of the ingredients to be a sought after resource/manager/leader.

What’s on your mind at the end of every day?

• How can we continue to meet the demands of a growing M&A client base without sacrificing quality while still bringing innovative solutions to the markets we serve all while growing the next generation of West Monroe leaders.