Q&A with Marc B. Marlin of KippsDeSanto & Co. On Being a Deal Junkie, Thinking Ahead

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Marc B. Marlin, KippsDeSanto & Co

Marc B. Marlin is Director and co-founder of KippsDeSanto & Co., an investment bank that delivers results for leading, growth-oriented defense and technology companies. Before joining KippsDeSanto & Co., Marlin was an Associate in Houlihan Lokey’s Washington, DC office. He has an MBA from Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business and a B.B.A from the University of Michigan Ross School of Business.

WashingtonExec chatted with Marlin, discussing the thrill of the deal, challenges in government and technology, lessons learned from past endeavors, the power of social media, and more. Read on below for our interview with Marc B. Marlin.

WashingtonExec: Can you tell us a little about your background and what made you get into investment banking in the areas of information technology and defense banking?

Marc B. Marlin: For me, it’s always been about building relationships and the thrill of the deal. I’m definitely a deal junkie – there’s no better profession for that than M&A. It’s been an around the world adventure that ended up in technology and defense banking – literally. I joined the World Bank Group after undergrad doing project finance deals in Southeast Asia, ranging from financing hotel and beach resorts in Thailand to a soy milk factory in Cambodia, and everything in between. Great experience, but more importantly it taught me how to quickly get smart on a company’s business model and analyze value drivers. I left the World Bank to pursue my MBA at Georgetown, and landed a summer internship at JPMorgan in NYC.

Wall St. and working for big corporates wasn’t for me. It lacked the client intimacy and smaller deal teams I was used to. I enjoy getting into the guts of a business. Middle market investment banking, and sell-side advisory specifically, was the perfect fit. It was the opportunity to add value for clients, be very analytical yet strategic, and most important – do deals! I cut my M&A teeth during a quick stint in Boston, before landing in the Aerospace and Defense Group back in DC with Houlihan. That’s where I met Bob Kipps and Kevin DeSanto, and was introduced to IT and defense. Nearly eight years later and having helped co-found KippsDeSanto & Co. in 2007, the rest is history.

WashingtonExec: What are some pitfalls or challenges you have come across as you work in government and technology? How do you work against them?

Marc B. Marlin: A primary challenge today is market uncertainty, especially related to procurement – timing, value, likelihood of win etc. When advising on the sale of a business, the client’s projected financial performance is a core piece of the sale strategy and value driver. The challenging procurement environment in which awards are consistently delayed by months or years, and if and when they are awarded are increasingly subject to protest make it very difficult for clients to budget. We take a very detailed, and rigorous analytical approach when working with our clients. By having a solid handle on all the moving pieces of the business, we help put our clients in position to be proactive about both the positive and negative on-goings of their business. This responsiveness, transparency, and defensibility lends a credibility and calmness amidst an otherwise choppy market environment.

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“For me, it’s always been about building relationships and the thrill of the deal. I’m definitely a deal junkie – there’s no better profession for that than M&A. It’s been an around the world adventure that ended up in technology and defense banking – literally.”

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WashingtonExec: How would you describe your management style?

Marc B. Marlin: Organized chaos – energetic, impatient, hands on, yet highly strategic. I obsess with putting the right people in the right place at the right time with the right tools, insight and professional development to achieve objectives. There are always many moving pieces, but it all comes together. I’m also a big believer in professional development and leadership by example, and have found that others feed off my passion.

WashingtonExec: What have been some key learning points you have acquired over the years (at Houlihan Lokey, Harris Williams & Co., JPMorgan, The World bank) and have you found them useful today as Director of KippsDeSanto? What is the best piece of advice that you have ever received?

Marc B. Marlin: Invest in people and think ahead. I’ve been very fortunate to have had phenomenal mentors throughout my career, and in return have always been willing to go above and beyond for them. I similarly take this approach with my teams and clients. Second is to think ahead. Deals, and life for that matter, are like a chess match. It’s important to think about all the steps that can put you in position down the road to be successful. I’m a firm believe that you can make your own luck. As for the advice, “God gave you two ears and one mouth so you can listen twice as much as you talk”. I probably don’t heed this advice as much as I should.

WashingtonExec: Social media use is everywhere these days—recently, a Huffington Post article deemed social media as more addicting than cigarettes and alcohol. How does KippsDeSanto use social media and do you find it beneficial for your work?

Marc B. Marlin: While investment banks have been slow adopters in this area, we’re big believers in social media, and launched a leading edge campaign for investment banks about two years ago. Through our Facebook page, Twitter feed, and interactive website www.kippsdesanto.com (blogs, deals summaries etc.), we share considerable original market insight and other content. Our goal is to be the central hub for everything and anything M&A related in our space. For example, we post a weekly market summary of the prior week’s major M&A happenings within the sector. Our business has a long sales cycle, and we’re always looking for ways to add value for our clients, prospects and industry partners. Distributing our thought leadership via the KippsDeSanto social media strategy is another way we try to do so.

WashingtonExec: What’s something most people may not know about you?

Marc B. Marlin: I’m a lifetime member of Bakers, Confectioners, Tobacco, and Grain Workers Union. I worked the graveyard shift in a mass production bread factory one summer during college. Throwing 400 degree pans on and off a line all night, every night definitely builds character and teaches you hard work. Plus, I got 25 cents extra per hour compared to the day shift.

WashingtonExec: If you could step into a whole new profession for one day, which would it be, and why?

Marc B. Marlin: Many things interest me, but I’ll keep it to two. From the industry, I’d pick situational and threat analysis within the Intelligence Community. I’m fascinated by the mission and dedication of the folks in that community. We get a glimpse into that world as an M & A advisor, but I’d love to see the whole picture. Second, offensive coordinator for the University of Michigan football team against Ohio State. I’m a pretty big fan. Go Blue!

 

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