Member Highlight: Michelle Chao

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Vice President – Business Development, Bertram Capital

Every month, we will feature an active member of the ACG New York community in a brief interview. Reflecting industry insight and personal perspective, this feature will introduce industry leaders and offer advice on the tools you need to succeed in the ever-changing middle market.
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1. Quick basics– role/firm/focus/how long have you been an ACG member?

I am the Vice President of Business Development at Bertram Capital and have been with the firm for 10 years. Founded in 2006, Bertram Capital is a Northern California based private equity firm with over $1.4 billion in committed capital targeting investments in lower middle market companies.  In addition to supplying strategic growth capital, Bertram Capital leverages proprietary processes and services, Bertram High-5SM and Bertram Labs, to empower its portfolio companies to unlock their full business potential. The Bertram High-5SM is an operationally-focused value creation strategy, which includes management augmentation, operational initiative implementation, complimentary business acquisition, sales and marketing improvements and leveraging technology and IP.  The cornerstone of this strategy is Bertram Labs, its in-house technology team, which drives growth and value through digital marketing, e-commerce, big data and analytics, application development and internal and external platform optimization. At Bertram Capital, I am responsible for sourcing and assessing investment opportunities, managing intermediary relationships and producing firm marketing materials.  I have been an ACG member since 2009.


2. What do you think are the biggest obstacles in the middle market today?

There are more middle market investors sitting on pools of cash than ever before, and the priority to find the best strategic and financial partner for a company has been more heavily weighted towards who can pay the highest dollar value. As an operationally-focused PE firm, we strive to balance our enthusiasm and ability to work with great companies versus overpaying for a business. Maintaining discipline in a highly competitive market when pursuing an investment in a business we love has been one of our greatest challenges.


3. How has ACG helped you in your career?

When I first started at Bertram Capital 10 years ago, the business development function within private equity was not as conventional as it is today. ACG was (and continues to be) a great platform in providing exposure for firms like Bertram Capital to the M&A community.  ACG has provided me with numerous opportunities to take on leadership roles, having chaired the West Coast M&A Conference (2015), Women in M&A Forum (2015), and ACG NY DealSource Conference (2018 and 2019). I have also built numerous personal and professional relationships over the years through ACG, and the exchange of best practices and market insights have been invaluable to me throughout my career.


4. Can you tell us about your greatest success story/ proudest achievement?

I had my first daughter in 2016 and gave birth to my second daughter in September of last year following the successful close of Bertram's third fund.  It's been said there is never really a good time to start a family, and I think that is especially true for women whose careers require ample travel. Between managing the three-hour work day time difference from coast to coast, to late night feedings, to ensuring childcare when work travel is required, it has been (and continues to be) a challenge.  However, I have been able to successfully navigate my roles as Vice President and as a mom through the remarkable support of my firm and family. Last year (2018) was one of the most productive years for Bertram Capital from a sourcing, acquisition and exit standpoint. I am extremely proud to have been a part of that success, while welcoming a new addition into my family.


5. What changes do you foresee happening in the middle market in the next 3-5 years?

I think we will continue to see consolidation in the market as larger banks and accounting firms seek to expand their sector and services capabilities.  I also foresee more investment banks and private equity firms investing in the sponsor coverage/business development function as staying top of mind becomes increasingly challenging in a saturated market. Lastly, I believe we will see more creativity and flexibility by investors to acquire and/or partner with good businesses.