We recently had the pleasure of interrupting the newly-retired Doug Booth to capture his insights on what makes Carl Marks Advisors unique and what he enjoyed most about his work as a Partner while at the firm.
Q: Restructuring is not always an obvious career path. How did your background play into your career?
A: Restructuring certainly was not a core curriculum in any business program when I attended university. However, studying philosophy and mathematics taught me two different approaches to problem-solving – one narrative, and one numerical. Both were translatable skills when assessing underperforming companies and bringing these businesses back to positive cash flows and stabilizing operations. An operating leadership role requires real-world problem-solving skills to assess a business model in addition to a deep understanding of finance and accounting support.
Q: What was the most challenging deal you worked on at Carl Marks Advisors?
A: Without a doubt AWI (Associated Wholesalers Grocers, Inc.). Because the company was failing at such an alarming rate, the only way to create value for the creditors was to put the company into bankruptcy and have it emerge on an extremely accelerated timeline. We took a $2 billion company into bankruptcy and through to sale in under 60 days. That is a two month period I would not want to relive.
Q: What is the most rewarding part of a career in restructuring?
A: The thrill for me is taking a company from tight liquidity and serious decline to a posture where the management team have a defined path towards a stable, secure and successful future. To assess a company’s business model and make rapid changes toward regained stability and growth is where I really find pleasure in an engagement.
Q: What is unique about working at Carl Marks Advisors, a mid-sized, family-owned firm – compared to a larger organization?
A: Because CMA has a relatively small partnership team, it offers Partners the opportunity for a deep level of involvement in determining the performance and future of the firm. Each can fill multiple roles that are critical to implementing and evolving the firm’s strategy.
The culture for the partners – and those that aspire to be part of the partnership – is really one of participation and collegiality. In contrast to larger firms with 20 or 30 partners, the dynamic of CMA’s partnership is one of a shared articulation of the firm’s vision and responsibility.
As a third generation business, Carl Marks Advisors recognizes the importance of family and balance. While client demands are front and center because of pressing needs and associated high risk that must be addressed on an accelerated basis, Carl Marks Advisors strives to ensure that the legacy of a family culture and value structure of the firm remains a top priority.