Instilling confidence through leadership with entrepreneur Nick Akers

27 Jun 2023 | News

Entrepreneur Nick Akers closed his deal in May 2023 when he successfully acquired US-based STL Communications. We sat down with Nick to learn about his search journey and how Entrepreneurship Through Acquisition can help family owned businesses currently facing succession challenges.


Nick Akers was born and raised in the Midwest of the United States and became an entrepreneur very early in his career. While studying chemistry at Saint Louis University, Nick invented technology related to advanced materials and energy storage, which he then licensed from the university to start a venture capital funded company in 2003. “My very first professional step out of university was being the CEO of what was a small business at that time,” explained Nick. “I had to figure out everything involved in running a company, including recruiting and managing a board of directors, some of whom were also investors, so it was a fairly unique experience at a very young age.

His career took off and, after seven years as CEO, Nick moved into a series of executive roles at high technology companies, largely serving defense and commercial aerospace customers. In 2012, he became Managing Director of a specialty chemical company in Saint Louis, Missouri. “It was there that my leadership philosophies were really honed,” he said. “The company was a family business that had not gone through professionalization, so I led that process for them, which included recruiting and running its advisory board, establishing and tracking KPIs for the business, and implementing ways to transition the company to a data-driven decision making process.”

The results were significant, and Nick helped double the size of the company by spearheading and executing an international greenfield investment for a new chemical factory. Nick had also begun preparing an acquisition and value creation thesis, but the company ultimately decided to not engage in M&A activity at that time. Nick realized he had achieved all that he could at that role and found himself ready for the next step in his career: he decided to move forward with the acquisition thesis he had already begun building.


Nick began his search and acquisition journey on his own, never having heard of search funds before. As he went deeper in his research, he discovered NCA’s ETA program and decided to apply as a way to improve his chances of success. And that success was not far off: Nick joined NCA in late 2021, and his search came to a successful close in May 2023 with the acquisition of Missouri-based STL Communications, a Business Services Partner specializing in Voice, Networking, Storage and Managed Service/Cloud services (also known as Unified Communications as a Service, or UCaaS).

While Nick originally began his search with a focus on proprietary deals, he ultimately connected with STL Communications through a broker. “I shared a bit about myself, the NCA program, and how we’re focused on situations where a succession issue is needing to be solved,” explained Nick. “That’s when the broker brought up this opportunity because that was exactly the case.”

Nick’s acquisition highlights how ETA can help solve the succession challenges facing many of today’s family-owned SMEs. “Succession is a very challenging topic, particularly at the first generation founder level,” Nick said. “These business owners created their companies from scratch, which is challenging and requires a lot of hard work and long hours. It’s only towards the end of the journey when things start becoming fun, when you’re making the most money and you have the most freedom, so I can understand why it’s hard to think about walking away from that.”

Nick continued: “Some owners are intentional about planning for succession and what they want to do with the business. But what I’ve often seen is that because thinking about succession is so difficult, it never gets addressed until something forces it, and then there’s a time restraint to come up with a viable solution. ETA can be a way to begin these discussions and give business owners time to develop personal relationships and the best path forward, both for themselves and for their companies.”



When asked if he had advice for others embarking on the ETA journey, Nick stressed thoroughly researching the journey in advance. “This isn’t just a next job, it’s a very different thing,” he said. “I suggest really spending the time and mental energy to think it through carefully before going down this path.”Nick Akers CEONick Akers CEO

Nick also highlighted the benefits of working with a broker during the search phase. “In the search fund space many of the potential companies are still first generation founder-owned and -operated,” he said, “so the advantage to working with a broker is that you know from the start that the seller is at least semi-serious because they’ve engaged with a broker. The broker will also help educate the seller throughout the purchase process, which can be very helpful to getting a deal done.”

Nick also called attention to the importance of having a strong support network. “Closing on a business is dynamic and can be very high stress,” he explained. “I’ve heard a number of searchers say they lean on their lawyers or their deal team as an outlet for their own stress. While having a reliable resource for that is important, I suggest it not be your deal team, because those are people you’re going to work with post-close; some of them may even end up being on your board.” Nick suggested leaning more on family, close friends, and other searchers as a better solution. “The NCA Entrepreneurs actively communicate amongst themselves for support and for sharing ideas,” he said. “That’s a valuable part of the program because searching can be very lonely, so it’s great to have a team of folks who you can have those types of discussions with.”

“Ultimately, I would offer that you need to start acting like the CEO pre-close,” Nick added. “I believe you need to demonstrate that you can handle the stress of closing if you want to instill confidence that you can handle running a business.”


As he steps into his new role at STL Communications, Nick says UCaaS is a fast growing market that presents huge opportunities, and he is ready to take on the challenge. “This deal is the culmination of a lot of hard work,” he said, “and having successfully reached this stage feels like the closing of one chapter and the beginning of a new, very exciting one. We finally get to do what really excites me, which is operating the business, leading great teams of people, creating a culture of high performance and high trust, and delivering helpful solutions for our customers. It’s a very exciting place to be.”


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