The Fine Art of the Deal: Up Close with MBA Alumnus

Published on June 14, 2011

UP CLOSE WITH STEVEN SILVERMAN: Bauer MBA Alumnus Favors
Mergers & Acquisitions over Traditional Accounting

“Many times,” Steven Silverman says, “clients who have sold their businesses find themselves bored on the other side of the fence, and phone me looking to find a business to buy.”

Steven Silverman (MBA ’96) has a client who wants to buy a restaurant chain and another who wants to purchase a private hospital. Meanwhile, he has an HVAC distributor and a plastics manufacturer looking to cash out. As the Director of Mergers and Acquisitions for TR Moore & Company, the Houston location of CPA and consulting firm Doeren Mayhew, Silverman is a dealmaker — a financial matchmaker with the exciting job of pairing entrepreneurs and investors in business deals worth millions of dollars annually. A South Africa native, he is a graduate of Houston’s prestigious St. John’s School and holds an accounting degree from the University of Texas at Austin.

Initially interning with an accounting firm, he discovered early in his career that he wasn’t all that interested in auditing and eventually gravitated toward the world of consulting. After earning his MBA in marketing from the University of Houston’s business college, now the C. T. Bauer College of Business, he worked for food-service giant Sysco and served as chief financial officer of a wholesale seafood distributor. His relationship with TR Moore & Company began as a client of the firm. He was later brought in as a consultant and joined the company full time in 2005.

We recently spoke to Silverman about his varied career, the lively world of M&A, and his involvement with the Alliance of Merger & Acquisition Advisors (AM&AA), for which he is chairing the summer conference in Chicago (July 19-21). Also of note: Silverman and TR Moore & Company host a variety of M&A-related events each year, the next of which is a September roundtable for prospective business sellers.

Tell us about your early career?

I interned at CPA firm Arthur Andersen after my junior year at the University of Texas, and accepted a full-time position after graduation. I planned on only spending two years with Andersen because I knew I wanted to pursue my MBA, which is the exact time frame I was with them. My experience with the firm was extremely helpful because I managed to figure out what I enjoyed about business, and what I didn’t care for about accounting. I enjoyed understanding how and why business succeeded. I did not find any interest in examining numbers — auditing — from prior periods. At that point, it’s too late to bring positive impact.

How was your time at UH Bauer?

I felt it was an ideal university for an MBA in marketing. I actually took a few entrepreneurial classes, and gained a fair amount of entrepreneurial experience as well. I put together some good business plans, one of which was a couple of years ahead of a guy who created Match.com, the first Internet dating site. I wrote a business plan for a company called Createadate.com, which was the exact same premise: a searchable database. It was an interesting idea, but I didn’t want to go into business at that time.

How did you find your niche in M&A?

Our Managing Partner Tim Moore had been advising and negotiating client transactions since the inception of the firm, which was roughly 25 years ago. Catering to my interest in the area, Tim began introducing me to certain projects.  With aging baby boomers and our proactive approach toward clients, services such as exit planning and M&A assistance began to have a much more significant focus, and we both quickly discovered that M&A would be a perfect fit for me. In 2008, I became a certified mergers & acquisitions advisor, and TR Moore & Company formally created an Investment Banking Division with three to four sell-side assignments at a time. Right now, we are working on 22 M&A transactions.

Tell us about your involvement with the AM&AA?

I currently sit on the conference, sponsorship and research committees for the AM&AA. I joined the association in early 2008 when I became certified, and there were 40 to 50 members. Today, the AM&AA has 800 members. The success and rapid growth derives from the association’s three-pronged approach: education, collaboration and deal-making. The AM&AA’s annual summer conference is being held in Chicago this year, and we expect about 450 attendees. We also hold an annual winter conference.

Why is M&A rewarding to you?

At the end of the day, when I’m working on a sell-side transaction with an entrepreneur who’s been striving for 20 years, and suddenly they get a wire transfer for $10 million to $20 million, it’s an opportunity to bring some change to someone’s life. On the buy side, I’m helping a company find the right target that will be an easy transition, make sense and help them grow, make them more money and get them where they want to be. That’s the part that really is fun.

By Wendell Brock

Posted Under: Alumni, Graduate

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