Success Post Closing: How NCA’S Portfolio Management Team Supports CEO Entrepreneurs

09 Apr 2024 | Inside NCA

While we often highlight the search and acquisition phases of our Program, NCA’s support extends well beyond the closing of the deal. We sat down with Piotr Zawadzki, Head of NCA’s Portfolio Management Division, to learn more about how his team supports NCA Entrepreneurs as CEOs.

Meet Piotr Zawadzki

Piotr joined NCA in 2023, bringing with him over twenty years of experience gained from working for large multinational corporations as well as medium-sized companies. His background includes on-site supervisory roles, as well as managing sales and business development across several European countries in diverse industries. These industries range from manufacturing electrical components and providing business services to offering power generation solutions and medical equipment. This breadth of experience makes him ideally suited to oversee NCA's diverse portfolio of companies.

After many years at a large company, I really wanted to be in more of an entrepreneurial environment,” said Piotr, when asked what drew him to NCA. “Moreover, in managing NCA’s portfolio I’m exposed to so many different and interesting companies in both Europe and North America, ranging from industrial manufacturing to professional engineering services to food sectors. Working with our highly motivated CEOs and within their boards to have an impact on the long-term success of these businesses is an amazing and enriching practice.

The Role of NCA’s Portfolio Management Team

Piotr and his team focus on maximizing value by actively participating in the strategic decision-making of NCA’s portfolio companies and by closely monitoring their performance throughout the investment lifecycle. “In other words, we ensure the success of the acquired company by supporting CEOs in their efforts to create value,” added Piotr.

The Portfolio Management Team starts to get involved during Investment Committee meetings prior to the acquisition, but their role really ramps up once the deal is closed. At that point, they begin working with the CEO in three very specific ways:

1 - Value Creation & Strategic Guidance

The Portfolio Management Team serves on the Board of Directors in NCA portfolio companies, thus contributing to the development and implementation of strategic plans for growth and value creation. “Primarily we support the companies like any other board members,” said Piotr, “acting as a ‘sparring partner’ for CEOs as they build and execute their value creation plans and potential exit strategies.”

2 - Portfolio Monitoring & Oversight

A second component is performance monitoring, which covers tracking financial metrics, operational performance, and overall business health, in addition to identifying and managing potential risks by assessing market conditions, industry trends, and challenges that could impact a company’s performance. “We need to remember that we have onboarded investors who trust us, the CEO, and the company,” explained Piotr. “This oversight is crucial for ensuring the company is on track to meet its goals and deliver expected returns for investors.”

3 - Communications & Stakeholder Relations

Lastly, Piotr’s team supports CEOs by facilitating communications between all stakeholders, completed in tandem with the NCA Investor Relations Team. This includes sharing financial reporting and strategic updates, supporting the alignment of interests between a portfolio company’s management and the investors, and also exploring possibilities for joint value-creation initiatives between NCA portfolio companies.

Q&A with Piotr; Words of Wisdom

In his role at NCA, Piotr has the pleasure of working with very talented CEOs and Searching Entrepreneurs, so we took the opportunity to tap into his insights and gain a deeper understanding of his world: 

Q: What do you think some of the biggest challenges are for entrepreneurs as they step into their new role as CEO?

A: “Most of our Searchers already have extensive experience in senior management in different types of companies, so the executive role itself is not a serious challenge. However, the first three months in the new role are crucial, as that’s the time to assess the situation of the business, finalize governance tasks, and build relationships with their board. It’s when they first get direct access to all the information and it’s important that they retain the key team and adjust their strategy and approach if needed.”

Q: Do you have any advice for entrepreneurs for the Board of Directors selection process?

A: “I suggest entrepreneurs seek diversity within their board. It's impossible for one person to have expertise on all the aspects of the business, so ideally you want your BoD to be a sounding board that can challenge you and offer insights that you might not have considered. We are not there to take over the CEO's decision-making process, but we can ask the right questions and raise any concerns if necessary. The advantage of having a diverse board is that you're able to get a broad range of opinions, perspectives, and experiences that should enrich your leadership.”

Q: You are an entrepreneur yourself, having founded, grown, and sold a company in the past- do you have any advice for entrepreneurs considering an ETA journey?

A: “If you like entrepreneurship and wish to operate and own a company, I strongly believe that running a search fund is a great option and a viable alternative to setting up a company from scratch. There is less risk of failure than in the case of a typical start-up and you can scale the business much faster. A particular benefit of our ETA Program is the support that you receive from the NCA team throughout the entire journey, which includes the practical guidance you’ll receive from the board once you become the CEO. It’s worth mentioning that CEOs have a lot of freedom and flexibility in their decision-making on how to operate and grow their companies, as they are the ultimate leaders of the acquired business.”

Q: Looking ahead, what are some of your goals in terms of portfolio management as the NCA program continues to grow?

A: “I believe there is strong potential for synergies and cooperation between our companies. With several companies already in the portfolio and that number set to grow significantly each year, the potential for synergies should further expand. I'm planning to enhance cooperation by organizing an in-person summit for our CEOs and their companies, providing them with the opportunity to meet, share their challenges and best practices, and jointly discuss opportunities. Additionally, we are finalizing a portal for investors, which will streamline the way we analyze and report on the companies' performance. Furthermore, addressing the most optimal exit strategies will soon be on our agenda, as it's also a crucial part of the ETA Program.”

Supporting CEOs and SMEs long term

The NCA ETA program was designed to enhance SME competitiveness and sustainability -  while also solving succession challenges - by bringing a new generation of managerial talent to the SME economy. With over 40 employees, 50 Program participants in Europe and North America, and 16 acquired companies to date, NCA is the largest program of its kind globally and a powerful option for mid-career professionals interested in pursuing ETA.

“NCA’s program is unique because it provides full support across the entire journey - including search & selection, fundraising, M&A, legal, governance, exit, etc,” concluded Piotr. “The NCA community is full of smart, very engaged people who have created and are running an absolutely wonderful program for entrepreneurs. It’s a great experience to be part of it.”

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