Meet Dan Soucy, a current Associate at HBM. Dan joined HBM as a Summer Associate while attending Washington University in St. Louis. Read on to learn why Dan chose to accept a full-time position at HBM after graduation.
No matter what your chosen career path, the process of graduating university and accepting an offer from a company is a substantial decision. Having insight into the company’s culture, knowing a bit about the team and understanding the long-term career prospects can go a long way in making the decision easier.
We had the pleasure of speaking with Dan Soucy, a current Associate of Corporate Development at HBM about his summer internship and why he decided to accept a full-time position at the firm.
CC: What is your educational background and how did you come across the summer internship opportunity at HBM Holdings?
DS: I graduated Saint Louis University with a BS in Finance and Accounting and spent the next five years working in investment banking in both New York City and St. Louis. The experience I gained while at Lehman Brothers and Stifel, Nicolaus & Company was invaluable, but I knew my passion was to find a general management role and work in a strategic and operational capacity. So, I pursued an MBA at Washington University and while there learned that Mississippi Lime had created a holding company to diversify beyond the legacy business. When it came time for me to look at various summer internship options, the opportunity at HBM presented itself. I went through three rounds of interviews before being offered an internship position at HBM and was so glad to have been given the opportunity.
CC: What made the summer internship opportunity at HBM so intriguing to you?
DS: I was looking for a summer internship that allowed me to see the general management and operational skillset in practice. Additionally, I was hoping to find an opportunity where I could leverage my previous professional experience in investment banking in order to be impactful on day one. The summer internship opportunity with HBM promised to provide all this and more.
CC: What were your primary roles and responsibilities during your summer internship at HBM?
DS: I was given a few value-add strategic projects during my internship. My capstone project was at Mississippi Lime where I worked with the team at the Ste. Genevieve plant. The assignment was related to our capital intensive – heavy equipment and maintenance spending – and I had the opportunity to work with a team comprised of members from HBM, Mississippi Lime and Rubin Brown to streamline the process and allocate costs to a specific product division, minimize downtime and ultimately improve productivity. It was an amazing experience.
By week two of the internship, everyone at HBM treated me as if I was a full member of the team – and it felt natural. When I returned to Washington University in the fall, I realized immediately after speaking with my classmates and comparing stories that my experience was far from ordinary. I worked on strategic projects as well as acquisitions and other ad hoc projects, opportunities that many of my fellow classmates did not have during their summer internships.
CC: Based on your experience as a summer intern, what characteristics do you believe differentiates HBM from other firms in the space?
DS: HBM’s true differentiator is that our firm connects with business owners as fellow operators, not as a financial sponsor. Because of HBM’s experience as operators and general managers, the team can have in-depth conversations with a company’s management team right off the bat. Also, our patient capital approach and our ethos around running a business as a true operating partner further differentiates HBM from most private equity firms.
CC: Can you provide us with some insight into your role as an Associate? Do you work with a specific HBM team on projects and how often do you get to interact with portfolio management teams?
DS: When I joined HBM as an Associate, I was immediately assigned a strategic planning project for Tru-Flex, one of HBM’s portfolio investments. This project lasted for about three and a half months; a project that I could not have participated on as a summer intern. On this assignment, I had the opportunity to work with Tru-Flex’s business unit managers and the leadership teams from both Tru-Flex and HBM and have involved discussions that delved deep into the business.
I learned a ton from this experience, particularly that a company’s success is so highly contingent on strategic thinking and using that to create a detailed plan. Folks don’t always see this because they’re focused on getting the job at hand done. With this project, I was able to experience a strategic process and gain understanding on how management gets from A to B and then from B to C. It was very enlightening.
One of the most important lessons that I’ve gained so far from my time at HBM is that it is important to create relationships with people at the portfolio company for a project you’re assigned. You need to envision where your next role at HBM will be. Taking the plant manager or a supervisor out for coffee and developing a relationship with that person will go a long way in terms of solidifying your importance as a valued member of the team.
CC: What has been the most fulfilling project you have worked on as an Associate?
DS: I would have to say it was the project that I worked on in the fall of 2015; the acquisition of Sacoma International – a bolt-on for Tru-Flex. I was able to see the entire process through from beginning to end – negotiations / purchasing agreement, going to the company to announce the acquisition and then closing the transaction. From here, I immediately started working on the integration team where I had the opportunity to work with management and bring forth ideas on how to integrate the company into Tru-Flex through suggestions on expansion, hiring and how to create efficiencies.
CC: What has been the most challenging aspect of your current role?
DS: The most challenging experience I have encountered thus far was during the early stages of an internal consulting project at a company. I was trying to figure out how to diplomatically provide value to a specific division. At times, the division team does not always welcome my input and therefore they’re not open to hearing my ideas. It is crucial to get buy-in at the company early on and get across the message that you’re there to help, not to take over. The other side of this is that you’re learning on the job. You need to do this quickly so that you don’t stumble too much and shake people’s confidence.
CC: Let’s turn our focus now to HBM. How would you describe the corporate culture?
DS: Collegial. HBM is an approachable place where everyone’s door is always open. It is not a rigid culture. A prime example of this was when a consultant came in for a meeting. He asked us after entering the conference room where he should sit as he didn’t want to take Mike’s (the CEO) seat. Everyone just laughed because that kind of culture and ego just doesn’t exist at HBM. It is a small group – where we all roll up our sleeves and dig in.
The associate team specifically is a friendly group inside and outside of the office. Although there is always one associate who is leading a specific project, the team collaborates and jumps in as and when needed. It is a fantastic culture.
CC: In a sentence or two, describe the opportunity you were given at HBM beginning as a summer intern to now, a full-time employee at the firm, and how your experience has shaped you professionally in the private equity space.
DS: I have gained an appreciation that this is a relationship business. Based on my experience as an investment banker, I thought the job would be more data-driven. I soon learned that the process was so much more – potential buyers truly need to have and express their vision for a business to be successful in a competitive auction process. There are many soft, relational things that go into acquiring a company and since joining HBM, I have a better appreciation of this.