We sat down with Brad Naert to discuss the project he worked on this summer as a Summer Associate and his overall experience as an HBM employee. Read on to discover the most important skill he gained from our program — and what he enjoyed most about HBM’s culture.
BN: I helped evaluate investment opportunities for Mississippi Lime in the energy sector — specifically, the sand market. It required a lot of market research – not just gathering data off the internet, but also conducting cold calls with industry experts. I was looking to gather insightful data to evaluate the competitive landscape and create financial models for different types of investments. Once I completed the due diligence, I sifted through the data to form a cohesive plan and analysis. It was rewarding, and also very different from projects at school. That’s mainly because at school, the data is given to you. You don’t have to spend time calling people and performing the research.
During your project work, did you have an opportunity to interact with the senior leaders at HBM and the portfolio company?
BN: Yes — in addition to my contact with all the senior people at HBM, I interacted with both the CEO and VP of Operations of Mississippi Lime as well as several other key personnel there, including the supply chain chief and head of the transportation division. I didn’t realize this going into the project, but logistics represents an important facet of supply chain. When evaluating a business, it is important to understand the company’s ability to move large amounts of raw materials easily. Once I recognized this, a prospective company’s supply chain capabilities became one of the initial factors I assessed during my analysis.
Were there any aspects of your project that you found challenging?
BN: One of the biggest challenges was research. It’s not easy to find data about an active and constantly changing industry. As I mentioned earlier, it required more than digging on the internet. To gain insights, I had to cold-call people. That was tough, but I did get lucky with a few. Some folks spent the time answering my questions, which helped me fine-tune the research. I had to think outside the box in order to pull together all the necessary pieces to complete the picture.
What’s the most important skill you gained from your experience at HBM?
BN: What stands out for me is the experience of analyzing real-world investment opportunities, presenting to key decision makers and helping them make a decision based on my analysis. At school, the results of my research didn’t matter — other than my grade. But at HBM, my analysis has a direct impact on what people do and the decisions they make.
This is the real deal, not hypothetical. Being in the military, I felt something similar — my actions had a direct result on the personnel I worked with — but it was different. At HBM, I knew business decisions were going to be made on the research I conducted.
That process also improved my presentation skills. My experience at HBM taught me how to present complex ideas by distilling them down into simple concepts. So, I think about the three or four ideas I want to get across before I put pen to paper.
Please describe HBM’s culture. What did you enjoy about it?
BN: HBM has a culture of relaxed professionalism. It’s professional because people are expected to produce work of the highest quality. At the same time, it’s relaxed because people are also given the freedom to do that work however they see fit. I also had many opportunities to interact with the team — including weekly happy hours and frequent golf outings. It was a great summer.
What were your impressions of St. Louis?
BN: I loved it, but I’m biased because I am a St. Louis native.
Did your experience as a Summer Associate meet your expectations?
BN: Absolutely. I got a challenging project that required me to apply a lot of the knowledge that I learned in the first year of my MBA program.
I must admit, I was nervous about making the right decision on my internship. And I am happy to say that on the first day, HBM alleviated that concern. I believe the internship really bridges the first and second year of the MBA program. I wanted a great experience, so I could continue to grow professionally — remain on an upslope — and that’s what I got. I was able to draw upon what I learned during my first year as an MBA, and the internship provided context and color.