..You have to listen to everyone around you, regardless of title or seniority. The best ideas don’t usually come from the people at the top. You need to create a platform where everyone can voice their opinions and ideas.
The COVID19 pandemic has disrupted all of our lives. But sometimes disruptions can be times of opportunity. Many people’s livelihoods have been hurt by the pandemic. But some saw this as an opportune time to take their lives in a new direction.
As a part of this series called “How I Was Able To Pivot To A New Exciting Opportunity Because Of The Pandemic”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kison Patel.
Kison Patel is the Founder and CEO of DealRoom, a lifecycle management software for complex financial transactions. He authored Agile M&A, a framework to manage M&A. A book informed by over a decade of experience as an M&A Advisor and conversations as host of the industry’s leading podcast on best practices and current trends, M&A Science.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I grew up in a small town in Nebraska into a household of immigrant parents. Growing up in a very non-ethnic, small-town area definitely gave me a unique perspective. Eventually I made my way to Chicago and found myself in a seminary career.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My favorite quote is “life is all about lost opportunities”. That really resonated with me, especially as I found myself in situations where I was less empowered and not really motivated. But it was something I always reflected on.
Everything around you is an opportunity. You need to be able to get out of your comfort zone, to pursue it and make it your opportunity, because nobody’s really thinking about your cares about you. It lands so true that there’s so much opportunity or where we don’t do anything about it.
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
The book Just Listen was one I really enjoyed and got a lot of ideas from, inspiration from, in a variety of areas in my life. The book is basically about empathy and understanding, breaking down what empathy really is, how to be conscious of it, and how to be more empathetic with people both in your personal and business life. It helped me connect with people better and created better work relationships as well.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before the Pandemic began?
I spent 10 years as an M&A advisor and saw a lot of industry challenges. I have an interest in technology and started a company called DealRoom in 2012 as a way to bring modern project management practices to the industry. That evolved into an online school for M&A training along with our other product, FirmRoom which is a virtual data room.
What did you do to pivot as a result of the Pandemic?
The online M&A training program was really how we pivoted. When the pandemic hit, we knew people weren’t going to be buying software products, so we dialed back on our sales efforts and shifted our marketing strategy. Through that process, we started hosting a live podcast, which then led to hosting an online virtual summit. Given the timing, other companies were canceling or postponing their conferences, so ours ended up being a big hit. In doing that, the feedback I received from participants was that people were looking for the practical how-tos of M&A. Based on that feedback, we got the idea to challenge the traditional training model of the industry and create an online experience for M&A training as opposed to an in-person experience.
Can you tell us about the specific “Aha moment” that gave you the idea to start this new path?
It was after collecting feedback from people and paying attention to what was said. We asked what topics were most interesting in listening to and how we could do better.
How are things going with this new initiative?
Things are going great. We launched about a month ago, and so far it’s off to a good start. We have a lot of content lined up to produce.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Probably my father. He was always tough and taught me discipline while still letting me learn. Discipline is probably the real driver underlying all of this. I learned discipline at an early age, although I don’t think I necessarily realized that’s what it was at the time.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?
Well, I actually got kicked out of college and never finished my undergraduate degree, but now I have an online school that teaches M&A with instructors who have PhDs and MBAs. So, to be somebody that got kicked out of school to end up starting a school and collaborating with folks who have postgraduate degrees is pretty ironic to me, and definitely was a result of starting this new business direction.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
I wish someone would have told me how much reading I’d have to do. In order to learn, more often than not you’re going to have to read.
Another thing I would say is you have to listen to everyone around you, regardless of title or seniority. The best ideas don’t usually come from the people at the top. You need to create a platform where everyone can voice their opinions and ideas.
Tying into that, you need to develop that platform for open communication before people can feel like they can voice their ideas freely.
Also, encourage and look for feedback on yourself as a leader. A lot of times leaders put themselves on a pedestal and you stop looking for missing pieces or areas you can improve. Solicit criticism, essentially.
Following suit, create an environment in which everyone is comfortable giving and receiving criticism and building that culture of forwardness, which is different from being rude or mean.
Lastly, I wish I had known more about empathy prior to becoming a leader as a way to deal with people. If you can do that, if you can level up with people, I think that’s probably one of the greatest leadership skills you can learn.
So many of us have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. Can you share the strategies that you have used to optimize your mental wellness during this stressful period?
Exercise I think is an obvious one. I really do strive to stay active. Cycling has really become my thing, whether it’s the Peloton or outdoors.
Reading has also helped me manage my anxiety or moments of stress. It helps me take a mental break and think about something entirely different. TV doesn’t help me as much because you can easily get distracted thinking about what’s stressing me out, whereas reading really is an all-encompassing activity that requires all your focus.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
Education is huge for me. When we look at underdeveloped countries and things of that sort, it’s really underdeveloped education. If you can take time to teach others skills it would make a huge difference. Even beyond formal academics, but just life lessons in general. Things like how to listen, how to learn continuously and effectively because you can learn something new from every person on this planet.
Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!
Elon Musk would be really cool. He’s the kind of guy who seems to drive change in the world. I think it’s really inspirational to have these seemingly outlandish ideas and goals, and then to actually go out and make them happen and make them a reality. Plus I love driving his car.
How can our readers follow you online?
You can find me at mascience.com or on my LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/kisonpatel/.
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!