Dealmaking

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Let me begin with a little story.

Some time ago, I established an advisory firm with two other people.

The idea was straightforward: to structure lucrative deals and raise capital from some of the largest investors in the world. [This course explains how.]

With a healthy dose of hustle and persistence my partners and I managed to land a client in Eastern Europe. A logistics business in desperate need of capital. There was little investment appetite domestically so they asked us to source money from abroad. Enter my Rolodex.

After some phone calls and a visit to the Arab Gulf, I convinced a Middle Eastern sovereign wealth fund I knew to look carefully into the proposition.

Note: Up until now, my partners and I had not agreed on how the three of us would share fees. There were broad discussions but nothing had been settled in writing. That’s because from the moment we agreed to launch a business we jumped straight in and sought out clients instead of firming up important partnership matters.

In the months that followed, a great number of e-mails traveled back and forth among all parties (the client, the sovereign wealth fund and our nascent business). Dozens of conference calls took place. Eventually, the Gulf investor made a non-binding offer to acquire a majority stake in logistics business. They also asked for exclusivity for 3 months. We were thrilled. Thereafter began the due diligence process. Next, the investor hired one of the Big Four accounting firms and tasked them with carrying out in-depth financial diligence. At this point, my two partners and I knew there was a chance this deal would materialize.

Even at this point, my partners and I hadn’t agreed on a fee sharing structure, despite encouraging signs of a deal getting done.

Another month passed and then, with roughly another month to go before the deal closed, I received a call from the investor. “Due diligence is progressing very well,” said the investment officer. “Barring any unexpected surprise, we will do the deal.”

I was elated. The sovereign wealth fund would potentially pull the trigger very soon.

I called a meeting with my two partners. The e-mail to them contained one sentence: “Time to discuss fee split.”

The carve out of approximately €1,350,000 was no trivial matter.

The meetup

It was a Saturday morning.

We met in a café a short walk from Hyde Park, right off High Street Kensington. [READ MORE…]

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Success draws attention. Like me, you probably look closely at those who’ve reached the pinnacle of success, perhaps in the hopes that you uncover a hidden truth or secret recipe that will extend your wings and lift you high into the sky.

What is it they do that enables them to achieve so much, you ask yourself. They’ve got two legs, two arms and two eyes. So do we. They regularly head to the toilet to relieve themselves; have relatives who annoy them; get into a bad mood. So do we. What is it?

It’s ingrained in us to seek out the secret sauce of success. It’s a deep-seated human desire.

You look at a prolific inventor or high-flying hedge fund manager and think: were they always that way? Well the answer is NO. They weren’t born the way you see them now, on the cover of Fortune, Wired or Vanity Fair magazine.

They became successful over time.

Success – and failure – is not a singular event. It doesn’t just appear at your doorstep like a pizza delivery. It stems from a series of little steps that occur over a period of time. The little things you do, day in and day out, lead to success or – equally – failure. I recently met Bill Nighy (a great gent). He, like many of his contemporaries (e.g. Judi Dench), spent years training, auditioning and performing to get to where he’s at. It didn’t happen overnight. Similarly, Jeff Bezos spent years working in finance, first, and then cut his teeth as a startup entrepreneur before Amazon became the giant that it is now.

Along the way, these individuals have adopted certain habits and have followed a set of rituals to support their lifestyle. It’s easy to appreciate why they’ve done so. These men and women have tremendously demanding schedules. Their calendars are stuffed with appointments, events, meetings, calls, training sessions and working breakfasts, lunch and dinners. And then there’s their personal affairs, like seeing to family and friends. Consequently, their days are organised in such a way that they’re able to get as much done as possible in the least amount of time. Some of them have jammed schedules 7 days a week, including on holiday because they’re working round the clock, 365 days a week.

[In finance, it’s normal for even junior professionals (e.g. investment bankers) to have full schedules, simply because of the abnormally long hours they work. So it’s not just the high-profile individuals in the sector that are uber busy.]

One of the things that helps individuals manage a very hectic lifestyle and keep them on the path to success is a morning routine. It is the subject of this post. And as you’ll soon learn it often acts as a personal anchor, keeping you focused while also grounded.

And just as no two snowflakes are alike, routines will vary from person to person. Because each of us is unique and we, therefore, have different requirements.

On the importance of routines

High achievers get things done. Period. That’s one of the reasons they’re so successful.

I’ve come to know a number of people most of us would consider extremely successful. What I’ve discovered from spending time with them is that any one day can bring about a whirlwind of activity. And with it, lots of varying emotions. While these special creatures believe strongly that they’re in control of their destiny, they’re fully aware that plans could change from one moment to the next and that obstacles sometimes emerge out of thin air. It is a reality they’ve gotten used to. Yet it doesn’t take away the fact that work, along with its environment, can be very stressful for them. At the level they’re operating at pressures are heightened. The obstacles are larger. The stakes are bigger. Interestingly, these guys and girls thrive on it.

Correspondingly, a morning routine isn’t a feel-good luxury they do for kicks. Don’t mistake it for the Instagram video of a man or woman sitting crossed legged in designer tights with some sitar music playing and a few tea lights burning away, published on social media in order to show one’s alleged spiritual side. More often than not, done to look cool, for lack of a better word. No my friends. The morning routines I speak of are integral to success. They are an absolute must in order for those high achievers to consistently perform at optimum levels.

Discipline, an integral ingredient for success, plays a pivotal part in this. Though I don’t think many of us appreciate it as much as it deserves. Whether you look at a successful financier, business tycoon or entrepreneur, I promise you their discipline will be borderline religious. And the reason, and I alluded to this earlier, is straightforward: it takes time to become a success. It doesn’t happen overnight. A magazine article will tell you that in Month X of Year Y somebody became a global sensation. But it’s never like that.

Discipline also applies to morning routines.

Routines help set the tone for the day and enable you to become significantly more productive over time. When you need to pack more punch into each minute of the day then you need to be in the right frame of mind. A morning routine sets you up for that.

Let’s look at morning routines for some of the world’s most successful people. [READ MORE…]

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Brains alone won’t cut it. There are lots of people in business who achieved top grades in school and are able to effortlessly solve a medium to hard level Sudoku puzzle in under five minutes. And that’s before they’ve had their morning coffee. Family connections won’t guarantee success, either. How many people do you know of privileged birth who’ve got influential relatives and friends, yet, despite their personal network, achieve very little? Exactly. That’s because there’s more to success than brains and contacts. Having those two things on your side is without a question a big plus. But becoming a successful dealmaker requires more.

The journey a dealmaker embarks on is tantamount to climbing a mountain. One that is characteristically unforgiving and cruel. Whose ascent will take a long, long time. Where hairpin bends are the norm, not the exception. And where pitfalls and traps abound all along the way, like in an Indiana Jones flick. The dealmaker will not only be prone to regular setbacks but unenviable danger, especially the closer they get to the top. In view of this harsh reality, a brave soul will need more than a fortune cookie message to maintain high spirits. To help counter the doubts that inevitably creep in as the days pass.

They’ll need passion. (Mine is dealmaking)

Its presence in those who defy the odds and make big things happen is unmistakable; its absence in those who fail to do so unsurprising.

And it’s equally relevant to entrepreneurs, actors, artists, screenwriters and teachers.

Just what you need when the going gets tough

Passion encourages you to pursue a new deal after the last one fell through because of forces beyond your control. To launch a new business after the previous one crashed ingloriously; or to write a new film script after your last one was rejected by every agent from LA to London.

Recently, a deal I worked on for over seven months fell through at the eleventh hour as a result of the UK Referendum vote. The sting was particularly acute because the sum (i.e. Success Fee) I expected to receive was large enough to buy an apartment with. A very nice one. In London, New York or Mumbai. Cash. So when this sort of event happens, it has a way of chipping away at your morale. And in the world of high finance, deals always fall through. It’s an understanding you harbour, knowing that the next deal you work on will, again, require a large time commitment and may, again, fall through for any of a number of reasons. But you persist. You crack on, as it were.

Passion motivates you to get up after you fall, as Alfred repeatedly tells Bruce Wayne.

As for me and my deal, I picked myself up, shed a few tears in hiding and then moved on to the next deal.

Where did the romance go?

Importantly, passion also helps you persist when early excitement fades. After all, isn’t coming up with ideas the fun part? In business, that early phase is often considered the honeymoon period, after which the real work begins. Let’s face it, everyone has ideas. Implementing one is the difficult part.

An individual I know, who runs one of the most popular film festivals in the world, once told me, “I’ve seen thousands of filmmakers come through our doors and there’s one thing that unites the ultra-successful ones who’ve managed to keep producing great entertainment over the years: passion.” One of the people he was referring to made the Batman Trilogy.

A powerful force

Passion is like an avalanche. Nothing stands in its way. And you know when it strikes. It tends to elicit a “WOW!”. Maybe even a “SHIT!” if you’re too close.

Be passionate about what you do. When talking to others about it, you’ll brim with excitement. When you are working and are in your element, people’s eyes will grow wide in amazement.

I find that passion exudes a palpable energy. One I can almost taste. If I could I’d take out an empty glass jar, capture it in mid-air and store it for later consumption.

Think of Richard Branson, Steven Spielberg and George Soros. They’re not simply ‘interested’ in entrepreneurship, film or finance, respectively. What they do consumes them to the core. It defines them. They’re driven by a powerful force. [READ MORE…]

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The world is teeming with millions and millions of dealmakers, entrepreneurs and ibankers. Each unique as a snowflake yet invariably fuelled by the ambition to do mighty things. Meeting a new one is usually quite a pleasant experience. It helps me forge new friendships and partnerships while allowing me to rethink the way I carry out the work I do. I always learn from a fellow businesswoman or businessman.

One should appreciate these motivated individuals as one would art.

We all have our own tastes. Some of us prefer Contemporary Southeast Asian Paintings over Pre-Columbian Art. Others enjoy only Islamic Art or perhaps Sporting Art, a genre which may include paintings that depict great hunts in the plains of Africa. There are also people who obsess over old Master Paintings and who may adore with great fervour a particular artist, like the great Canaletto. To have one’s preference is no crime. However, it’s important to try and nurture curiosity about other styles, approaches and methods. You can learn a great deal from exposure to different art forms. The same holds true of business.

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In the paragraphs that follow I’ll briefly touch on the following:

  • Two individuals who do seemingly different yet similar deals
  • A new way of looking at today’s ibanker
  • A remarkable young entrepreneur I met in Singapore’s Changi airport en route to Bali
  • The ibankerpreneur mindset and how to cultivate it
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Mrs. & Mr. Smith

Just as there is sometimes commonality between two art forms, so can parallels arise between magicians of business when you observe them carefully. You notice that, though their modus operandi differs, they’re actually similar creatures with often equal aims. Allow me to illustrate by referring to Mrs. & Mr. Smith (they are real people though not married).  [READ MORE…]

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