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Smart Business Dealmakers

Business & Economics Podcasts

Smart Business Dealmakers is the CEO's M&A playbook. We interview the entrepreneurs doing deals, the private equity, VC and family office players investing in them, and the M&A advisers making them happen. Topics include raising capital, buying and selling companies and managing a liquidity event.

Smart Business Dealmakers is the CEO's M&A playbook. We interview the entrepreneurs doing deals, the private equity, VC and family office players investing in them, and the M&A advisers making them happen. Topics include raising capital, buying and selling companies and managing a liquidity event.


United States


Smart Business Dealmakers is the CEO's M&A playbook. We interview the entrepreneurs doing deals, the private equity, VC and family office players investing in them, and the M&A advisers making them happen. Topics include raising capital, buying and selling companies and managing a liquidity event.




Stephen Vitale, CEO of Pyrotecnico

COVID was a game wrecker for those in the entertainment business. Pyrotecnico President & CEO Stephen Vitale saw this firsthand when his special effects and fireworks display company had to make major cuts to remain operational. But amid the chaos, he also saw opportunity. He found a financial partner and made five acquisitions that helped Pyrotecnico grow significantly. We talked with Vitale, as well as his outside council Bill Buck, about the 132-year-old family business and its very busy...


Bob Norton, CEO of AirTight Management

Bob Norton, founder and CEO of AirTight Management, has been a serial entrepreneur for more than 30 years. In that time, he's seen startups launch, grow, succeed and fail. He talks about what separates those who succeed from those who don't, what investors are looking for at the earliest stages, and how insisting that your buddy from college remains your CTO for life might not be the best strategy for winning that Series A.


Daniel Walsh, CEO of Citymark Capital

Daniel Walsh formed Citymark Capital with the intent of acquiring properties in numerous high-growth markets across the nation. But before he could do that, he had to build the initial fund. Walsh talks about the real estate investment platform he launched in 2018, its progress so far and his plans for its future


Chris Molaro, CEO & Co-founder of NeuroFlow

When Chris Molaro returned home after a five-year stint in the U.S. Army, he saw firsthand the gaps in the behavioral mental health system. So the West Point and Wharton MBA grad created NeuroFlow, an app that helped healthcare providers better assess the mental health of vets and civilians. Chris shares his thoughts on changing the way mental health care is delivered, his most recent M&A deal and the company’s future.


Paul Carlisle, COO of Wintrust Financial

As COO of WinTrust Financial, Paul Carlisle has a front-row seat to the financial concerns of CEOs feeling their way through continued market uncertainty. Despite significant disruptions, Carlisle sees a market that’s ripe with liquidity and subject to generationally low interest rates. That's why he says it’s a great time to get deals done. Carlisle gives his sense of the challenges facing the market, the state of capital, and the conditions dealmakers could expect for the remainder of the...


Della Clark, CEO of The Enterprise Center

The challenges facing minority-owned businesses are many, including access to capital. By the time many reach $20 million in sales they have a misaligned debt-to-equity ratio. Della Clark, CEO of The Enterprise Center, has been on a mission to change that dynamic and has spent decades working to help provide minority business owners better access to early- and mid-stage capital. She shares her thoughts on leveling the playing field and her most recent venture — an SBIC Fund aimed at doing...


George Nemphos, Founding Partner of Nemphos Braue

Independent sponsors are experiencing somewhat of a resurgence in the M&A market. That’s a little strange, specifically because they more often play a role when markets are sluggish — something this market certainly is not. George Nemphos, founding partner and attorney at Nemphos Braue, talks about Independent Sponsors — their recent resurgence, their role in a deal and how they can help sellers, as well as how they’ve become a factor in this high-deal environment.


Taylor Burke-Gilman and Lauren Burke-Devere of Fire-Dex

Taylor Burke-Gilman and Lauren Burke-Devere didn’t plan on joining their father at Fire-Dex, the family-owned manufacturer of head-to-toe PPE for first responders. But in 2019, they did. As they continue to settle into their roles as president — Lauren of Fire-Dex and Taylor at sister company Gear Wash — they’re also learning the acquisition ropes. They discuss their transitions into the business, as well as lessons learned through three acquisitions made since they came aboard.


Kareem Afzal, CEO of PDC Machines

As the CEO of a second-generation business, Kareem Afzal is continuing the legacy started by his father, who founder PDC Machines more than years ago. The company, which designs and manufactures specialty gas compression systems, is in the midst of a growth journey that includes a recapitalization led by PE firm Arcline Investment Management and two recent acquisitions. Kareem shares his thoughts on the company’s M&A strategy, innovation and how PDC Machines is changing its industry.


Shane Bigelow, CEO of CHAMPtitles

CHAMPtitles is a SaaS startup that aims to help people, companies and governments digitally create, manage and transfer vehicle titles. Led by CEO Shane Bigelow, the company recently raised a $8.5 million Series A that will help it grow its footprint across the country and beyond. Bigelow talks about the venture, its recent raise and progress in the market, as well as the challenges of being based in the Midwest.


Brian Baum, Managing Director of Interchange Capital Partners

When you’re building a business, having a solid team of M&A professionals is paramount to success. But do you know if you have the right team? Are they thinking beyond just their piece of the transaction? Brian Baum, managing director of Interchange Capital Partners, offers his thoughts on why you might want to re-evaluate advisors, and why you should start thinking about your company as the first piece for a future family office.


Cy Sturdivant, Cyber Division Director at BKD

Without a basic understanding of cybersecurity, companies can stand to lose a great deal. As BKD’s Cyber Division Director Cy Sturdivant points out, companies that acquire businesses with weak defenses may see their ROI compromised as easily as systems with weak passwords. Cy offers his take on the cyberthreat environment, what cybersecurity means in practice, and just how troubling digital threats are for players in the M&A world.


Will Zell, founder of Zell Capital

Entrepreneur Will Zell, Executive Chairman at Nikola Labs, talks about the pandemic-era launch of Zell Capital, one of the new Access Funds seeking to broaden public reach into private markets. He discusses what he saw from the funding community during that time and how it’s changed since. He also delves into the relationship between boards and the companies they oversee, as well as the impact of larger players moving downstream.


Nat Clarkson, Managing Director of CFV Ventures

There’s been chatter of late among earlier-stage investors — seed funds, VC, etc. — about large private equity firms starting to make investments much earlier in the funding lifecycle, like Series A rounds. While most have yet to be directly affected by this trend, they’re thinking about it. And for some, like CFV Ventures Managing Partner Nat Clarkson, it could be a good thing. Clarkson offers his perspective on the trend and how he expects CFV Ventures will adapt to it.


Sehrish Siddiqui, Partner with Bass Berry & Sims

ESG — environmental, social and governance — is an aspect of reporting for public companies that’s been around for a while. Recently, ESG matters have started to work their way from the public sphere into private diligence. Sehrish Siddiqui, corporate and securities partner at Bass, Berry & Sims, says companies that embrace these issues can see their valuations go up. She breaks down ESG’s path from public to private, and what business leaders should understand about its effects on M&A.


David Iwinski, Managing Director of Blue Water Growth

The way David Iwinski sees it, COVID marks a tipping point in the economic relationship U.S. businesses have with China. The managing director at Blue Water Growth expects that will complicate the M&A transactions of those companies with supply chains linked to the country. He breaks down the situation and offers advice for rooting out supply chain risk ahead of — and during — a transaction.


Josh Curtis, Managing Director of Footprint Capital

Footprint Capital is experiencing a record year for activity, mostly sell-side transactions involving business owners looking to capitalize on a strong 2020 while racing to beat the enactment of potential capital gains taxes in 2021. Managing Director Josh Curtis discusses his view of the market from the sell-side and buy-side, as well as his sense of how things could play out for the balance of the year.


Robert Berdanier and Deron Curliss of BDO

Getting a company off the ground is never easy. It often starts with a founder putting some money in, tapping friends and family, and then attracting outside investors. But ensuring your company is prepared for growth — round by round — is more art than science. BDO’s Robert Berdanier and Deron Curliss share their thoughts on analyzing management teams, operations, and the keys to professionalizing a business to prepare it for going to market and securing early stage and mid-stage rounds of...


Perry Maughmer, Vistage Chair

While many owners are thinking about and likely planning their exits, they’re not rushing, says Perry Maughmer, who mentors CEOs as a local chair for Vistage in Columbus. Before stepping away for good, they want to know that the legacy they’ve built and the people who’ve helped them along the way are respected. From his seat at Vistage, Perry talks about the CEO mindset and how that’s informing the decision to sell or stay put.


Matthew Wiener and Benjamin Popson of Aon

SPACs fast track the path for a private company to go public. The second part of that process — the one that’s not as widely discussed — is de-SPACing and is needed to complete the process. Like most everything in M&A, it comes with risks. Aon Managing Director Matthew Wiener and Vice President Benjamin Popson discuss the risks inherent in the de-SPACing process, and how to effectively mitigate them.