As a Director in AlixPartners Mergers & Acquisitions practice, Max Vanhencxthoven looks at how the pieces of a business, or different businesses fit together, and how to create synergy. Within the firm, he plays a similar role.

In 2018, Max helped put on an event for the PrideMatters employee resource group (ERG) in the London office. Panelists told their own coming-out stories, “how they came out to themselves and how they came out to family or friends and what that meant, and how allies can be supportive in that process,” recalls Max, who says it was powerful for people to share their story.

At that time, 60% of employees reported feeling confident being “out” in the firm–less than felt comfortable being “out” with their families (80%), and more than felt comfortable being “out” in front of clients (40%). Today, as our recent member survey shows, the share of PrideMatters members who feel welcomed as “out” at AlixPartners has climbed to above 90% with colleagues and the same with managers. 

Max, who is EMEA lead for the ERG, puts that down to sustained efforts for advocacy and engagement across business development, recruitment, and in-house visibility.

A core group of PrideMatters personnel takes the ERG out into the field, going to university career fairs and events like EurOUT as a sponsor, taking the time to prepare by setting up coffee chats and reviewing resumes. 

“If we want to increase the diversity [of our colleagues] we need to help diverse talent candidates find us and succeed through the recruiting process,” says Max.

The PrideMatters leaders also put on the first of what would be many successful business development dinners in 2023. The business leaders invited to the dinner were clients, private-equity and law firm contacts, and true lead-generators. Attendees told Max that the event was the first of its kind they had participated in. “They said we should do this more because it is a unique way to bring together business leaders in the context of a LGBTQ+ resource group ,” says Max. The ERG plans to host another in 2024.

This is the essence of the work–finding ways to connect. Each local office chapter of the ERG puts on events in their city and finds ways to engage with people. 

“Very early on in my career someone made the observation that I seek out people with specific expertise and put that to work,” said Max. “I pay attention to understand who knows what and how to find the relevant expertise or knowledge to solve my or my client's problem,” says Max, 

Born in Belgium, he earned a Master’s in Business Engineering from Solvay Business School at Vrije Universiteit Brussel and obtained his MBA from Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University, and has lived in Mexico, the United States, and the United Kingdom. Before joining AlixPartners he worked in industry as a general manager at a global third-party logistics provider. Part of the firm’s power, he says, is its collaborative nature. 

“If you reach out to people to ask a specific question, say, hey, I'm confronted with this, and I know that you worked on this other project, and this client … People are very responsive to those kinds of questions. And it's a preferred way of operating for me.”

Today, PrideMatters is growing more and more active across the firm’s global footprint, with more than 500 members and counting. It’s a great start, says Max. “We need to keep the momentum. We’re a good team of motivated and Proud colleagues.”

Pride Month will be celebratory around the world, but, he says, “This is not a struggle where we can say we’re done. Across the world there are political shifts happening that put pressure on LGBTQ rights and on living and working environments.” 

Maintaining visibility is crucial to advancing human rights. “I have on my linkedin profile that I’m PrideMatters lead in EMEA,” says Max.

He sees PrideMatters as a true asset to the firm, and argues that viability, advocacy, and acceptance is business-enabling: “It empowers people, helps people feel comfortable within the firm, and connects us outside the firm.”


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