Last month, Clearsight Advisors celebrated its 10th anniversary, a monumental milestone for the investment banking firm. In 2011, Clearsight’s founders began with the ambitious goal to create a “different kind of investment bank.” Fast-forward 10 years later, Clearsight Advisors is now the largest investment bank exclusively focused on the business services and technology-enabled services industries.
Corporate Growth, Capital Style caught up with Clearsight’s CEO, Joel Kallett, to celebrate the firm’s anniversary and reflect on the accomplishments, challenges, and lessons learned in the company’s first 10 years.
Here is what he had to say:
Corporate Growth, Capital Style (CGCS): Let’s transport our readers back a decade. Can you talk a bit about the early beginnings of Clearsight Advisors? How did the company come to be?
Joel Kallett: The idea of starting our own firm dates back several years prior to Clearsight’s launch. The founders of Clearsight worked together for nearly a decade before starting the firm, brought together by a mutual respect for one another and a desire to create a “different kind of investment bank.”
With this in mind, Greg Treger, Beth Seidler, Bhavin Patel, and I founded the firm in July, 2011, and Gretchen Frary Seay joined shortly after
CGCS: How does your initial vision for Clearsight compare to where the company stands 10 years later? Has Clearsight met or surpassed where you thought it would be?
Joel Kallett: Honestly, we were unsure of what the future held upon starting the new firm.
Our thesis on the convergence of Services, Software & Data has remained the core of the firm and our industry focus. This thesis has actually played out more rapidly and more prominently than we originally anticipated.
Our focus on the Knowledge Economy at the start, coupled with hard work, faith in one another, and staying true to our ethos, ultimately pushed us to success. As evidenced by our track record of industry success and strong team culture, it’s safe to say that we not only met our expectations and dreams but exceeded them.
CGCS: Clearsight has grown tremendously over the past decade, expanding across America. What has contributed to the company’s impressive growth?
Joel Kallett: When the firm was just getting started, M&A deals were still being done in “silos.” We had the foresight to see those lines beginning to blur and helped mold what we now see as a convergence of sectors called the Knowledge Economy.
Between Clearsight’s pioneering of this convergence, thought leadership, mutual trust between clients and colleagues, a lot of hard work and a little bit of luck – we are so pleased to see where the firm is 10 years later.
CGCS: What are some of the top achievements that Clearsight has accomplished over the years that you are most proud of?
Joel Kallett: Our number one asset is our people. Bar none, we have the absolute best team at Clearsight. Without our strongly committed team, we could not successfully execute our deals, exceed our client’s expectations, or ultimately, achieve our goal of providing high-impact advice every day. Given our low attrition rate and employment interest at both the internship and full-time level, it’s safe to say the culture we’ve built is important to us and the work we do is impactful.
Our transformative transactions are also worth noting, as they have created real impact in the industry. For example, the sale of Parthenon to Ernst & Young (EY) has created a new division within EY that is now a leading strategy consulting practice employing thousands of professionals.
It’s our aim to have 100% client satisfaction and we are proud our client testimonials over the years reflect that.
CGCS: Were there any major challenges that Clearsight had to face over the years? If so, how did the company overcome them? And what lessons were learned from them?
Joel Kallett: The investment banking industry can be very cyclical and learning how to ride the waves is imperative to success.
Some firms were not prepared for the challenges presented by the pandemic, for example. Clearsight had the technology, tools and team to move seamlessly into a remote work environment and never missed a beat. The firm championed the now commonplace practice of virtual management meetings and closings, previously unheard of in M&A.
We also have been careful stewards of the firm’s capital and have taken an approach to be well capitalized to enable us to ride the cycles and continue to invest across the ups and downs that our industry experiences.
CGCS: Clearsight seems particularly focused on giving back to its community. Why is the company so dedicated to philanthropy? Why is this such a large part of the company’s culture? What types of organizations has Clearsight worked with in the past?
Joel Kallett: “Impact” is intentionally one of our core pillars. We believe it’s imperative to not only make an impact with our work, but also volunteer our time, talent, and treasure to the greater community. We encourage our people to give back and volunteer by giving each employee a paid “Day of Service” to volunteer.
We created a Corporate Match Program that matches donations up to $1,000 per employee per year to non-profit organizations. We have also taken our entire team to volunteer in-person with organizations like Junior Achievement, sponsored the SOME Gala and the Jefferson Awards by Multiplying Good.
CGCS: How has the investment banking landscape changed since Clearsight was first stood up? And where do you see the industry heading?
Joel Kallett: As previously mentioned, the banking landscape has changed in a variety of ways since we founded Clearsight. We have seen the paradigm swing from “traditional” deals to those where greater synergy and creativity exist between entrepreneurs, strategic partners, and investors. Our methodology and the way we have evangelized this change in the industry punctuates our trajectory for continued success.
CGCS: Clearsight has been active with ACG National Capital in the past. How has the chapter helped Clearsight in the past? What role has the association played in the company’s growth and success?
Joel Kallett: We have partnered with ACG throughout our collective professional careers. We’ve been glad to be part of the chapter and have enjoyed a mutually beneficial relationship. Moving forward, we hope to continue to meet like-minded professionals and grow our relationship with ACG both locally and globally.
CGCS: Where do you foresee Clearsight 10 years from now? Are there any goals you’d like to meet by 2031?
Joel Kallett: The last 10 years have flown by. We are grateful to our clients, friends, and families for all the support, hard work and faith in the firm.
We see a very successful 2021 on our horizon and hope our culture and relationships continue to be the bedrock of Clearsight’s success in the next decade and beyond! Our goal is to become the global market leader in Knowledge Economy financial advisory services. We see our chosen market segment as the growth engine for developed and developing economies. As such, we expect this market segment to be the leader in terms of deal volume and activity with Clearsight leading the way.
Click the video below to view highlights from Clearsight Advisor’s first 10 years!