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LAVA series: Working at a challenger boutique – pursuing the deals you want to work on

At LAVA, we get asked one question a lot – “What’s it like working at a new name on the M&A scene?”

Having filled roles at the Big Four and international organisations, we understand the curiosity driving these queries. Typically, large companies offer security in the form of formulaic and secure career paths. On the other hand, challenger boutiques can be unknown territory, with comparatively unpredictable environments and non-linear routes to progression.

Knowing that experiences are very much company dependant, we decided to launch a new interview series that explores the insights of our eight-person team and allows us to share why we’re strong advocates of working outside of traditional setups.

Last week we spoke to LAVA partner Simon Woodcock about the benefits of starting with a blank sheet of paper, and in our next instalment, LAVA partner Claire Davis shares the upside of deal-making at a challenger boutique.

“Enjoy more freedom to go after the deals you want to work on” Claire Davis, Partner

How do we define the deals we want to work on? It’s two-fold really: who do we want to work with and who do we enjoy working with, and what sectors really excite us? It’s really important to us and to our clients that there is an element of enjoyment in the relationship we have and also tonnes of mutual respect where we can challenge each other’s thinking.

We want to make sure that we and our clients get the most value from a project in all respects. The deals we’ve completed to date, and some that we are due to complete, show there’s significant appetite from private equity, particularly in the hobbyist retail space, homewares and ESG focused businesses.

How have we been able to choose what we have worked on? The big answer to this has to be time.

In a large organisation, the infrastructure means that a lot of senior time is taken up with internal meetings and red tape, so the time you invest in relationships as well as executing deals is not ideal.

We run a relatively straightforward and collaborative ship; sharing ideas and really dedicating team time to relationships and deals. Once we’re on the deal, senior team time is our focus, and we all get stuck in. This gives real value to our clients, which is often recognised after the initial deal through investment in their structure and an advisory role to help them grow further.


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