Marc Pfefferle, Partner, shares how he began his career at Carl Marks Advisors nearly 25 years ago.
Did you ever envision this career trajectory when you were studying Engineering at Lehigh University? How did you find your way to restructuring?
In college, I could not have imagined having a career at Carl Marks Advisors. I worked for a strategic consulting firm on a distressed private equity deal in which Carl Marks was an investor. I had a lot of fun on that deal, so when they started the consulting group, I joined in 1993. And almost 25 years later, I’m still here.
Over the course of your career, you have worked with hundreds of clients and served in a variety of senior leadership roles (CEO, CRO, etc.). Which role have you found the most challenging in your career? Which has been the most rewarding?
It is difficult to pick the most challenging deal, as there have been many that have required fundamental business model changes along with capital structure restructuring. But, the most rewarding roles are always those in which we are able to help save a company (big or small) from liquidation. We build many friendships over the course of an engagement, and helping people and organizations create bright futures from potentially disastrous scenarios is by far the most fulfilling aspect of my career.
What are the unique benefits and opportunities of working at a mid-sized, family-owned firm as opposed to a larger, global firm?
The most meaningful benefit is being given the opportunity to work on many cases in meaningful roles and thus gaining experience much faster versus being stuck as a small piece of a large team on larger assignments for a big firm. By necessity, bigger firms have much more formal and cumbersome administrative environments and pressure to “leverage junior staff” and “pump hours”, which we thankfully are not subject to at Carl Marks Advisors.
What career advice would you share with junior staff and/or young people just starting out in their financial advisory or investment banking careers?
The best thing you can do is focus on building solid relationships at your level and grow with those connections over time. The more you hustle, work hard and learn now, the better you will do over the course of your career.
What attributes and skills do you think are the most important for new hires to possess in order to be successful at Carl Marks Advisors?
As far as basic core skills, being smart, good with numbers and modeling, and being able to present ideas coherently are imperative. Beyond that, I feel that the most successful people are those who are able to learn on the fly and gain experience by doing, which requires being a hard worker, having intellectual curiosity, and learning from personal mistakes and the mistakes of others. To become a senior leader, is it necessary to manage other people, to balance multiple concurrent assignments, and to build and grow with referral relationships.