Prairie Capital Advisors
Prairie Capital Advisors: Building the Roadmap to Wealth Creation
Diverse ownership transition strategies unlock a path to prosperity and a thriving workforce at Prairie Capital Advisors
The realm of ownership transition is an intricate and evolving landscape. So, to play the role of advisor to a company preparing for such a transition, an advisor must intimately understand the specific challenges involved with each transition structure.
Each type of exit strategy comes with a unique maze of financial complexities, workforce implications, and cultural shifts that each demand resilience, expertise, and vision.
For some of these transition strategies, business valuations, tax considerations, and ensuring equitable distributions are paramount. For others, it may also involve a rigorous legal and regulatory framework that necessitates a profound understanding of compliance.
In the case of ESOP transitions, success is largely measured by balancing key seller considerations and a company’s ability to engage and empower its employees to foster a culture of shared ownership.
Regardless, these intricacies all need to be meticulously managed, and it takes astute leadership and effective communication between a committed and involved seller, board and management team to ensure the organization’s prosperity.
Fortunately, Prairie Capital Advisors has played a dynamic role in guiding hundreds of companies through this exact process, earning itself a reputation for operational excellence.
The company has demonstrated an aptitude for strategic advisory that underscores a deeper commitment to helping privately held businesses transition with confidence.
Their unique approaches, especially considering their first-hand knowledge of ESOP transitions, show that with the right strategy and unwavering dedication, companies can create a vibrant future for themselves and their workforce.
A Company Rooted in Ownership Transition
Prairie Capital Advisors was founded in 1996 by Kenneth Serwinski and Robert Gross. The two founders previously worked at Merrill Lynch, advising on a myriad of ownership transition strategies.
However, ultimately Merrill Lynch decided to focus on deal sizes that eliminated much of the middle market customer base the Ken and Bob had been serving.
They felt that there was a large void in professional and holistic ownership transition advisory in the lower end of the middle market, which inspired their decision to establish Prairie Capital Advisors.
In 2012, after reviewing their own transition needs, the two founders concluded that an ESOP would be the best for their own company. This decision became the catalyst for a ten-year transition into their current ESOP structure.
Prairie’s primary focus has always been on helping privately held business owners transition into the most beneficial structure for themselves and their companies. For Prairie the ESOP structure proved to be ideal.
Prairie’s ownership transition focus continues to be strategically agnostic between, mergers & acquisitions, leveraged buyouts, recapitalizations, family transitions and ESOP. Their goal is to educate clients on the financial, operational and psychological aspects of each strategy to ensure clients choose the ideal strategy for their specific situation. That said, as an ESOP owned company Prairie is uniquely positioned to advise companies on ESOP structures, as its existence as an ESOP allows it to embody the spirit of the advice it gives its clients.
However, it goes without saying that much of what they do touches employee ownership in some way, especially considering their strong foundation in providing valuation advice to ESOP trustees via conducting hundreds of valuations every year.
In fact, because of this invaluable practice, Prairie was named the USA Valuations & Opinions Firm of the Year by the M&A Atlas Awards in 2019, 2020, and 2021, respectively.
Differentiation Within the Consultation Landscape
Considering that many advisory firms usually have a culture of presenting highly skilled individuals at the forefront of their firm, one thing that Prairie does exceptionally well is highlight the collective expertise of the entire company itself without having to lean on any one individual’s brand.
It does so through the consistent growth and nurturing of expertise of all employees within the company. “Our business is very much an apprenticeship model. We need to have the ability to learn from one another and teach our younger individuals,” says CEO David Diehl.
Diehl believes that, as an ESOP, this reinforces the idea that teamwork is the key to delivering quality to clients. This way, Prairie is perceived both internally and externally as one cohesive organization providing clients with the best results possible.
Beyond that emphasis on teamwork, the company also outpaces many others in its space through the variety of ownership transition scenarios it can advise its clients on.
Typically, when companies within the advisory space service ESOPs, they only provide ESOP advisory services. The same is true for companies that can be considered M&A shops; that’s all they’ll tend to do.
This is where Prairie Capital Advisors business model differentiates them from competitors; it does all of the above and then some. “Our job is to educate our clients or potential clients on what all of their alternatives are and to help navigate the ownership transition process,” Diehl explains.
Not only does Prairie help its clients understand both the financial repercussions and the tax impact of whatever decision they’re making, but also the softer, psychological impact that starts to arise when clients begin to confront the fact that they are about to sell and exit the business that they’ve often spent years arduously building from scratch.
The company takes care to unearth what’s important outside of the financial attributes, things like taking care of their employees or certain people, maintaining independence and ensuring that the legacy and brand continue to live on.
It determines the pros and cons of each different type of exit strategy so that clients can pursue their choices with absolute confidence.
“Our business is very much about being completely independent, providing a large range of options for our clients, and not having any sort of set agenda… It’s about finding the right solution and limiting seller remorse,” Diehl says.
Lastly, it must be reemphasized that Prairie is one of the few ESOP companies who advise ESOP companies, so when it enters into consulting engagements, it does so from not only a professional standpoint but from the standpoint of having practically lived its own advice.
Data-Driven Results and Award-Winning Partnerships
Much of Prairie’s success hinges on its sharp attention to detail regarding the logistics of market trends, advanced analytics, and its own operational motions.
“We’ve built a CRM that’s been very powerful, and as we expand, has been providing a lot of data that we’re able to extrapolate to better understand where our time is best spent,” Diehl says, explaining how understanding different trends has allowed Prairie to be more focused in its sales efforts.
Supplementing that, the company has also been refining its workflow processes by implementing new technology that allows for easier data capture and automated data integration.
There are also operational initiatives occurring that are helping the company identify areas of education or specific offices where improvements can be made. As a result, these initiatives have found ways to eliminate the potential for error and duplicate effort within multiple processes.
These are changes that have been occurring through the years and have resulted in better outcomes for the company’s clientele. In fact, the results produced by Prairie’s consistent optimization of its processes have been quite literally award-winning.
From 2018 to 2021, the company was awarded the Deal of the Year in the M&A, Private Equity, and Corporate Strategic categories by The M&A Advisor.
Additionally, from 2018 to 2023, Prairie Capital Advisors has been awarded the Americas USA, Americas Canada, Americas Private Equity, Americas Transport & Services, Americas Materials M&A, and the USA ESOP Deals of the Year by the M&A Atlas Awards.
This is in tandem with their valuation awards and consecutive 2022 and 2023 ESOP Investment Bank of the Year awards.
Prairie has earned nineteen company-wide awards for its services in the past five years alone!
This doesn’t even count the seven key individuals in the company who have been recognized as Top 40 under 40 Honorees by the National Association of Certified Valuators and Analysts (NACVA).
Prairie has displayed an incredible ability to collaborate with its clients and professional partners throughout the years.
“We perform a specific role and function, which helps us to serve as an exceptionally strong partner for the other professionals who are the trusted advisors to our clients, without a concern of conflicting interests,” Diehl explains.
It’s performance like this that is really stoking the fires of enthusiasm for ownership transition, and the buzz is arriving at the perfect time, as many baby boomers are exiting their companies.
So, Prairie finds itself right in the middle of the Silver Tsunami of ownership transfer that experts have been predicting for the past decade and, with it, a rise of ESOP structure advocacy.
For Prairie, helping others pursue this opportunity is just another day in the office.
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AT A GLANCE
Prairie Capital Advisors
What: A leading expert in ownership transition strategies, with deep knowledge regarding ESOP structures.
Where: United States
TI-Trust, Inc. – www.ti-trust.com
Building on 65 years of experience, TI-TRUST offers clients fiduciary services for employee benefit plans, including ESOPs, 401(k)s, 403(b)s, and Nonqualified Plans.
TI-TRUST proudly enjoys a reputation as a “high-touch” client-centered fiduciary service provider. Our flexibility allows us to offer service solutions whether we serve as trustee, custodian, or consultant.
Principal Financial Group – www.principal.com
At Principal, we deliver an experience you won’t find anywhere else. Our full spectrum of ESOP recordkeeping and administrative services can make life easier for companies and employee owners. With more plans under our belts than anyone else, we excel at supporting ESOPs no matter the company size, structure, or industry.
Argent Trust Company – ArgentTrust.com
Working with leading investment banking, law and valuation firms, Argent Trust is a premier ESOP trustee that can serve as transaction, ongoing or successor trustee or special fiduciary. The company is a subsidiary of Argent Financial Group, an independent financial services firm responsible for over $65 billion in client assets.