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Do’s and don’ts of working with a primary research firm

4 Min Read

Partnering with a primary research firm, like Apex Leaders, to source quality advisors means you are well on your way to more thoroughly evaluating deals, sourcing new ones and solving problems portfolio companies face.

But, before you hop on an intake call with a new project, we recommend reading this user’s guide on how you can formulate requests and avoid common pitfalls.

The advice offered in this post comes from the best outcomes we’ve observed while working on thousands of advisor requests for our clients.

6 ways to get more mileage from your trial with a primary research firm

DO: Be as specific as possible in requests for advisors

Apex Leaders strives to provide the most relevant advisors who can speak precisely to the questions and concerns that matter most to you.

Too often, requests are too broad without detailing what they want the advisor to be knowledgeable about. For a primary research firm to get you the information you need in the fewest number of calls, be strategic in the way you make requests.

For example, perhaps your firm wants to invest in multisite healthcare facilities, and you’re interested in speaking to an advisor who is knowledgeable about growth opportunities in the dental space.

DON’T: Be afraid to get even more granular in your request

A more focused request might look like this:

I am seeking to speak with a manager of multisite dental offices who has operated facilities in the New England Area. This person should be able to speak about growth opportunities in this region and in the East Coast more broadly. They should also be knowledgeable about how industry regulations may impact these facilities.

With a request like this, Apex Leaders’ research team will test an advisor’s ability to speak to the specific points you want addressed. When you get on the phone, you’re going to be speaking with an advisor who provides the information you need — no more wasted time on unproductive calls.

DO: Call out the caliber of advisor you’re seeking: River guides or SMEs

As a refresher: a river guide is advisor with deep knowledge of an industry who may become more engaged in the deal, attending a management meeting or even serving as a board member. Over time, these individuals may also help you source deals.

A primary research firm can begin outreach for these specific kinds of advisors, enticing interest and cultivating the kind of deeper relationships that lead to partnerships and continued relationships.

In our outreach, a research firm can be as specific about the terms of the relationship as you’d like. For instance, we can mention you’re looking for an outside director—or that you’re interested in their attendance at management meeting. We can even include the CIM, abiding by our strict compliance terms.

In our experience, we’ve found that the more river guides know about what you’re looking for and how they can help through the diligence process, the more likely they are to become engaged on your behalf.

We’ve even experienced higher response rates in advisor outreach when we include more information about you and the deal, so consider this when you’re making this kind of request.

What benefits will you reap if you follow this advice? More of the kinds of advisors you want sitting at the management table, providing the kind of analysis that will convince the desired company that you’re the one.

DON’T: Wait until the last minute to request pivotal advisors

Looking for advisors when you’re getting close to sealing the deal isn’t optimal. A primary research firm can provide better quality advisors when they can start outreach early in the process.

We understand this isn’t always possible, sometimes CIMs come in late and there’s tight deadlines to meet. But the earlier we can reach out, the sooner we can schedule time for you to speak with the best advisors—many of whom have calendars booking up quickly.

Requesting advisors early is especially important when requesting river guides. Forming these connections takes time, and a river guide is going to be more likely to to hop on a plane for a management meeting, for instance, if they’re given more than a week’s notice.

Instead, let your research firm  know that you’re looking for someone to help evaluate a deal in a deeper way early on, and they can begin working these contacts with a thorough search that results in just the right advisor.

DO: Provide a clear and testable hypothesis for sector thesis projects

If you’re looking to further develop your investment sweet spot or develop investment opportunities in unexplored industries, Apex Leaders can help by connecting you with industry leaders who can help assess market patterns and develop informational advantages.

Sample request:

We would like to speak to individuals who are highly knowledgeable of the industrial automation sector and can guide us toward particular sub-sectors that would be ideal candidates for private equity investment.

A request like the above is too broad. Rather, provide Apex Leaders with some sub-sectors within industrial automation to explore, and why you think these would be suitable investments with growth potential, we can provide advisors to help evaluate.

DON’T: Forget to distinguish between sub-sectors you are and are not interested in exploring

While a investment idea may start with broad, drilling down into some specific sub-sectors and specifying some reasons why these may be positioned for growth will help guide early research inquiries.

Using the example above, within industrial automation, perhaps you are interested in exploring mining and manufacturing, but not oil & gas or mining. List these and let your research firm know.

And there’s more: why do you think that these sub-sectors within industrial automation are expected for growth? Is there more demand in certain geographic areas, a new technology–or something entirely different?

The more your research firm knows, the more they can help you find advisors that will help you get up to speed, quickly, so that when a deal in this uncharted territory comes along, you’re the first one knocking on the door. And you end up sealing the deal because you already have the insights.

The value of using Apex Leaders’ services in an efficient way:

Apex Leaders strives to provide clients with the most relevant advisors who can get to the bottom of the questions you want answered. We thoroughly vet advisors before you speak to them to ensure they can cover pertinent information.

To help us do that, be specific about the type of advisors you’re looking for, what information you want them to be able to provide and what it is exactly you’re hoping to learn from the call.

As you’re getting started, we recommend dedicating 15-20 minutes per week to speak with an Apex Leaders project manager to ensure we’re getting you the kind of advisors you want and to address any bumps in the process.