Maximizing Your Private Equity Board & Executive Advisors as a Resource

Guest Post by Marcy Bliss, a New Harbor Capital Executive Advisor

My first meeting with New Harbor Capital (New Harbor) portfolio company CEOs and Executive Advisors was at a New Harbor strategic planning offsite meeting in 2016, months before the close of my company’s first-ever sale 36 years into the life of the business. I was the company President, but nervous about the transition to private equity ownership after working for the founders for 18 years. My mind was racing with thoughts like: “Will they make me change the culture we have worked so hard to build? Will my team and I be able to deliver on expectations? Can I trust these people?” I wasn’t sure what this change might bring, and how far out of my comfort zone the new ownership might take me. Frankly, I wasn’t sure I wanted to stay to find out.

At that meeting, which I came to with much trepidation, I had the opportunity to meet other CEOs who, like me, were in their first round of a private equity partnership. Executive Advisors, who also serve as board members to New Harbor portfolio companies, knew details about our company and the transaction that surprised me. I had the opportunity to sit down with these investors and future board members and was amazed to experience how deeply interested they were in the business, and how committed they were to our success, and to my success as the CEO. I was excited to learn the kind of financial opportunity this would be for me and my management team – a unique opportunity we never had before. I may have come to the meeting with uneasiness, but I left with excitement, wanting to close this deal as quickly as possible and to get on with delivering on the promise of value creation.

Fast forward eight years and we did, in fact, deliver on our promise of value creation. We actually delivered twice as much as we originally projected at the five-year mark and are now three years into our second private equity partnership following New Harbor’s exit in 2021. This was, in large part, due to a lot of hard work and favorable market conditions, of course, but also due to the impact of our board of directors and the contribution from New Harbor and their Executive Advisors.

As an example, a couple of years into the investment a board member pushed us hard at a board meeting about how we were under-indexed with a particular high-growth segment of the market and challenged us to develop a strategy to leverage our market leadership to create an advantaged partnership position with these customers. We didn’t know how we might accomplish this, but the entire board’s insistence pushed us to develop a strategy and legal cover to bring a strong value proposition. The result was transformational for business value, increasing revenue from this segment from 10 percent to more than 30 percent of revenue, while still growing other market segments. This is just one example of how a strategic board can facilitate out-of-the-box thinking to push value creation. 

New Harbor’s Executive Advisors had all at one time stood right where I was standing - Founders and CEOs who had previously partnered (one or several times) with a private equity firm full cycle through a successful exit. They seemed to have seen and done it all. Between the New Harbor investment team, Executive Advisors, and other CEOs, there wasn’t a novel problem or opportunity we faced. All were more than willing to be a sounding board for ideas, to advise on possible paths forward, and most importantly, to encourage me and my team to soldier on.

Partnering with a private equity firm has shown me that those involved truly do have your success and the success of your business at heart. Throughout my partnership with New Harbor, my view of private equity was transformed. Not only did I learn that I’m not alone on this journey, but I’ve also learned that supporting others along their journeys is tremendously satisfying.

Now, as an Executive Advisor myself, I enjoy serving on the board of one of New Harbor’s portfolio companies. I have the honor of attending the annual strategic planning offsite meetings like my first back in 2016, where I not only receive market and industry updates from the New Harbor team, but also have the opportunity to contribute to the conversation, encourage new portfolio company CEOs to trust the process, and spend quality time with people who feel like old friends. I’m a New Harbor ambassador now, due to the extraordinary experience I have garnered over the last eight years. If you are thinking about engaging a private equity firm to help fund the growth of your company, don’t take advantage of just the funding. Insights and perspectives gained from the private equity investment team, independent directors on your board, Executive Advisors, and the other portfolio company CEOs collectively provide a return worth as much as the funding.

About the Author 

Marcy Bliss is the Chief Executive Officer and Board Member of Wedgewood Pharmacy, a leading provider of compounded medications for the veterinary market and a former New Harbor portfolio company. She started her career at Wedgewood over 25 years ago as the marketing head and added regulatory, quality, IT, HR, and R&D-related positions over the years before becoming President in 2013. Wedgewood’s brand is recognized by 99 percent of veterinarians in the United States. Prior to joining Wedgewood Pharmacy, Marcy served as the Chief Marketing Officer for an accounting and consulting firm. She also worked in planning, evaluation, and communication at the National and local offices of the American Red Cross.

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*Certain statements about New Harbor Capital made by the portfolio company executive herein are intended to illustrate New Harbor Capital’s business relationship with such person, including with respect to New Harbor Capital’s facilities as a business partner, rather than New Harbor Capital’s capabilities or expertise with respect to investment advisory services. The portfolio company executive was not compensated in connection with their participation, although they generally receive compensation and investment opportunities in connection with their portfolio company roles, and in certain cases are also owners of portfolio company securities and/or investors in New Harbor Capital-sponsored vehicles. Such compensation and investments subject participants to potential conflicts of interest in making the statements herein.

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