Meet Managing Director Peter Fitzsimmons
AlixPartners career choice: Meet Managing Director Peter Fitzsimmons
I have always loved working with management teams: solving problems, making the business better, and using my experience to create value. I didn’t plan on the range of experience that I had over my 18 years at AlixPartners when I first joined the firm in 1995, but I am forever grateful for the opportunities the firm encouraged me to take. I worked as a turnaround partner, a leader of a nascent European practice and then president of the North American business.
During my last 10 years with the firm, I had a fair amount of administrative responsibility, but I kept my hand in client work. I wanted to spend more time working closely with management teams, and I have a lifelong interest in investing, so when presented with the chance to become an investment partner with a PE boutique, I made a change.
Importantly, in both jobs the goal was the same: get a better result when it really matters. And for me, applying operating expertise, financial acumen and good judgement to investing is very similar to the way you are effective as a turnaround practitioner. You create more value if you are truly hands-on and can design the roadmap and then ensure its implementation. I remain addicted to the intensity of working closely with companies in urgent situations.
I recognized that the application of my particular skillset to restructurings—including the new skills I’ve developed over seven years as an investor—is ideal for a world in which companies are struggling mightily from a global pandemic. Since I enjoy working with senior management teams so much, I felt I could have a deep impact with businesses that are working through the unexpected and unprecedented challenges brought on by COVID-19.
I never really lost touch with my colleagues at AlixPartners. In fact, AlixPartners worked on a number of Tower Three Partners investments during my years there (diligence work, business plan development and IT implementation, among other things), and that alone ensured that I was able to maintain strong relationships at the firm. Make no mistake, 2020 is a great time to be an investor, but if you want to actually drive rapid change at companies, there is no better place to be right now than AlixPartners.
To get the best possible result possible, regardless of the strength or weakness of the company or the economy, company executives should always draw on outside expertise. Advice and expertise comes from many sources, including outside board members, consultants, lawyers, bankers, industry experts and investors. In urgent situations, when time is short, the ability to synthesize internal and external opinions is often the difference between success and failure.
In a successful Tower Three Partners investment, a previously insular company learned how to collaborate effectively at key decision points with AlixPartners, lawyers, government agencies and investment bankers. With help from outside experts, the company reached six key outcomes: built a focused business plan that drove rapid revenue growth, implemented a new ERP system in less than six months (both of these things came from AlixPartners), exited a costly long term contract, earned a large grant from the state government tied to increasing headcount, doubled sales and EBITDA in two years, and sold the company for 4x investment.
I would also point out that every single AlixPartners service offering (turnaround, performance improvement, investigations and risk, digital and IT implementation) has prospered because AlixPartners people partnered with external experts both to win new work in the first place, and then to get the best results for the client once the firm was hired.
I am super impressed that the firm has continued to add so many talented people. Frankly, it seems that now there is no industry where AlixPartners doesn’t have people with deep and credible experience. The firm has also clearly strengthened its infrastructure. There was a time when our jack-of-all-trades DNA led to underinvesting in resources that enabled growth. Each service offering now has dedicated recruiting, pipeline management, training and development and staffing resources. Developing those important capabilities is a major reason that AlixPartners growth has been so steady.
One thing that hasn’t changed is that AlixPartners people are doers. Our teams are not interested in just producing world class analysis; they want to turn that analysis into great results. It’s very hard to find that combination at other firms, but AlixPartners recruits and retains people who have both analytical firepower and hands-on implementation skills. It’s a powerful formula for clients.
It is also great to see the success of so many teammates that were recruited and trained when I was a part of firm leadership. Most have now grown their careers dramatically and are adding a new level of value creation for firm clients.
Make sure you make time to build and nurture new relationships, because new relationships drive future opportunity. It is great to hear specific stories about projects that I worked on long ago which have led to new and bigger assignments with clients. The “daisy chain” is powerful: relationships that lead to one opportunity today may create five or six opportunities down the road.
If you are a mid-level turnaround or performance improvement practitioner, watch carefully to see what makes AlixPartners managing directors and other professionals successful. Usually, it starts with mastery of the fundamental technical skills (i.e.: business plan development, cash forecasting, understanding the restructuring process, doing solid industry analysis, etc.). But the real value comes from knowing how to influence different stakeholders, starting with senior management at the company, and extending to financial stakeholders and lawyers. Learn how to read the room, speak up when you can add real value, earn a reputation for getting stuff done. Above all, force yourself to become more than just a technical expert. Over time, and with the support of your senior AlixPartners colleagues, you will become more valuable, and with that will come more responsibility.
Finally, I also suggest staying in touch with your former employers. The AlixAlumni program makes that easier now for people who move on from the firm, and reminds them that the firm cares enough about them to stay connected. Our alumni will continue to be important in the next five years, and not just for people like me who decide that they want to return to the firm, but also for people looking for new connections and business opportunities. Incidentally, the emergence of virtual opportunities (through Microsoft Teams, social media and other technologies) now make staying connected even easier, and has enabled us all to effectively network without having to traveling to an event.