Member Profile - Jeff Schwab


M&A Practice Leader, Oswald Companies

Jeff on a Boat

Jeff is taking social distancing to the next level!

ACG Member Since: 2004
ACG Involvement: Co-Chair of the Sponsorship Committee

How have you had to adapt your business model during the pandemic? What has worked and what hasn’t?

Our business depends on lots of interpersonal interaction with our clients, so like everyone else, we had to quickly get up to speed with technology and other communication tools. So overall, I was very impressed with our firm and colleagues at how quickly we could adapt internally and with our clients. In some ways, I feel it strengthened our client connections because some of the formality of things got set aside. Clients seemed to really appreciate a simple, "how are you doing?" Also, since I am so focused on M&A business, that obviously has affected our deal and transaction flow, but that’s where you have to become more creative!

What has surprised you most during this period?

Two things come to mind. First, I was very impressed by our clients and their resiliency in such difficult times. Many of our clients, manufacturers, distributors, etc., who have large and diverse workforces revamped their operations and I was very impressed with how they dealt with additional PPE requirements on top of their normal safety gear regimen. Secondly and back to technology, I was impressed with how quickly folks adapted to new tools. We may have all had them on our devices, but it was always that strange app that I didn’t know what it was for!

How are you staying connected with your network?

Most of the traditional ways that you would expect, emails, social media, database touchpoints, etc. To my earlier point, I use texting a lot with clients now more than ever, just because I don’t know if they are in their offices, in front of their computers, or near their office phones. We did run some Zoom Webinars on M&A activities in the time of COVID, and those were very well received. We had one in late-April and a follow up in early-June. We collaborated with legal, accounting, banking, and insurance carriers to get mass information out to a broad audience. Responses from attendees were very positive and I think it strengthened our brand with those who attended or connected on it.

Do you think we will see lasting changes to how we do business as a result of this?

Absolutely. First of all, we have to get through the next year of the new normal, so in the short run, I see many of the recent adaptations sticking around. I believe video and screen sharing conference calls are here to stay versus non-video communications. I also think large meetings and conferences will change and adapt until we truly have a viable vaccine. And then, what will those look like as we evolve?

There have certainly been economic winners and losers during this period. Which ones have surprised you the most?

As mentioned previously about our clients who adapted to maintain and remain stable, they have shown real creativity within their own businesses and they deserve a ton of credit. But the ones who awed me were folks who truly created something new with their existing capabilities. As an example, the ventilators that Dan Moore’s team created and produced by mid-April was fascinating to me. But I wouldn’t put that in the "surprise" category, because they have been innovators forever. As for underachievers (I can’t use the term loser), I am really surprised that some businesses haven’t adapted and just followed CDC guidelines and social-distancing rules. I would’ve thought that some places could have re-opened more rapidly in that manner, but just because you are open, doesn’t necessarily mean that the customers will come back, and I am sure those businesses did their homework.

Has there been a "silver lining" for you and if so, what is it?

Where possible, spending time with different family and friends has been good. We started a tradition of at least having Zoom birthday events for family members, which we didn’t do before, so at least seeing screen-people on a more frequent basis has been good. It also has been nice to see the Metroparks, Geauga Park District, and others so busy. We should all be thankful for the great park systems we have in the area.

What is your favorite ACG Cleveland event and why?

The Deal Maker Awards for sure. Always fun to see the crowds and folks from outside the area in for a cold-weather event in Cleveland. It also is right around my birthday, so it is nice that they throw me a party every year.