Are you thinking about joining the M&A world? Most people don’t even know where to start since there is no course available out of college on how to become a corporate development professional. And traditionally, folks from banking, PE firms, or management consultants are the ones who end up in a corp dev position.
But, the reality is, no matter your role, you can climb your way into M&A. Sharing his personal experience and transition into corp dev is Matt Arsenault, VP of Corporate Development at Jamf.
“Learning the corp dev function, you have to be okay with hearing no a little more than most people are.” - Matt Arsenault
What role you come from is not as important as the skills and expertise that you offer. Different companies have different views of why M&A is valuable to them. Some are very product-driven, some are sales-focused or cost-focused, and what’s crucial is finding the right fit for your skills.
Corp dev requires multiple disciplines like finance, marketing, sales, strategic thinking, and relationship building. Even though educational institutions can teach you all these skills, it's all about how you put those pieces together.
One of the first steps you can take towards corp dev is to find your mentor. A major part of corp dev is selling yourself, understanding the role, and finding someone who will believe in you. Reach out to people within your network, or even cold outreach.
Linkedin is one of the best platforms where you can reach out to people outside of your network and introduce yourself. Learning how to build relationships is a huge part of the corp dev role. You have to figure out a way to educate them about who you are, your skillset, and where you want to go.
Be patient in your quest to M&A. It may take years before you can transition to a corp dev role. Exposure to change management and transformational programs within your company is the best way to get noticed and improve your credentials.
Aside from the obvious requirements such as a background in finance, strategy, and sales, one of the most critical skills that corp dev requires is interpersonal skills. You also need to be able to influence / interact with team members.
The eagerness to learn something new in different fields is also a requirement for a corp dev role. Being able to confidently talk about different topics with different teams is an invaluable skill. You also need to have the ability or history of interacting with different senior leaders.
If you are interested in an integration role, one of the things that executives are looking for is someone who has strong attention to detail. A person who has a process-oriented mind that is able to understand strategy.
Obviously, experience is extremely important. You need to be able to understand the interdependencies of various steps and stages. For example, how one key finding can affect and influence someone else on a team.
The key role of integration is to be able to zoom in on the little details of every process while also being able to zoom out, step back, and understand the implications of each of those aspects to the overall strategy.
Entering into an M&A role is very possible no matter what role you came from and what educational background you have. Every company has a different strategy and will require a different set of mindsets and skills. However, there are fundamental skills that you still need to have in order to transition into these kinds of roles, whether it’s a corp dev role or an integration role.