Maarten de Jeu is a Chicago based strategic business advisor who coaches startups, major companies, and ultra-high-net-worth individuals to success and financial prosperity.
In this article, De Jeu will coach you on how to build a career in the field of corporate development. Learn about the field, the skills and qualifications you’ll need, and how you can set yourself apart in a corporate development role.
About Maarten de Jeu
After graduating first in his class from the University of Oxford, Maarten de Jeu established a successful career in international business, financial services, and commercial real estate investment. He was the Director of Strategy and Corporate Development at Aviva plc, International Strategy Manager at Aviva’s London office, and a consultant with TVDK Management Consultants. In his role at TDVK, de Jeu advised clients including Sara Lee, Heinz, and ING.
In 2012, de Jeu launched SVM Business Advisory in Chicago, Illinois, where he provides strategic advice to Fortune 100 financial services companies, Ultra High Net Worth individuals, and technology start-ups. De Jeu’s clients benefit from his industry knowledge, international experience, technical skills, and understanding of global institutional and cultural settings.
Outside of the office, de Jeu focuses on spending time with family. He’s also an avid tennis player and is active with several community and business associations, including the Economic Club of Chicago, Chicago Council on Global Affairs, University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy Dean’s International Council, Museum of Science and Industry, and the Environmental Law and Policy Center.
Corporate Development Tips and Information from Maarten de Jeu
De Jeu enjoys sharing his expertise in corporate strategy and development with others. Read on to learn more about the field and the steps you can take to make it your career.
What Is Corporate Development?
Corporate development refers to strategic decision-making that expands and restructures businesses. Team members work on establishing key partnerships, joint venture deals, mergers and acquisitions, and divestitures, with the goal of achieving organizational excellence.
What are mergers and acquisitions?
Larger companies often buyout or acquire smaller businesses that can benefit the larger company. These smaller businesses typically have revenue, customers, knowledge, or cash flow that’s appealing to the acquiring company, or they have potential that the acquiring company can fulfill.
Corporate development professionals create target lists, value the companies on the target list, assess risk, negotiate the terms of the merger or acquisition, and facilitate a smooth integration process.
What are divestitures?
A divestiture is disposing of a company’s assets through sale, exchange, or sometimes closure. Based on consistent review of the company’s portfolio, companies may offload assets to ensure that capital is used efficiently and to achieve a high return for the company.
This can include selling intellectual property rights, selling non-essential or non-performing assets, or sometimes selling the entire company. Corporate development professionals must have an understanding of business valuation and financial modeling to manage this strategy effectively.
What do corporate development professionals do?
Mergers, acquisitions, and divestitures are just one component of a corporate development professional’s role. De Jeu notes that your exact role will depend on the size of the company you work for, since larger companies may have more teams that divide tasks. In general, however, here’s what you can expect:
Corporate development professionals also conduct industry research, source potential deals, analyze data, and create projections for companies in order to value them and create competitive offers and deals. You will attend meetings, devise strategy, and stay on the lookout for potential partners and promising markets, in addition to managing your company’s portfolio and evaluating performance.
Another responsibility is to oversee the integration of acquired companies. Ensuring that the acquisition happens is only the beginning; it’s also important to ensure its success. This means integrating the new company’s systems with the larger company’s, connecting and collaborating with key people, and reporting financial results.
You may also be responsible for forecasting, financing, and putting together reports and presentations. In some cases, your role may include improving the customer experience and optimizing the productivity of your firm.
As mentioned above, your goal is to achieve organizational excellence. Your day-to-day tasks may look different at different firms, but your key purpose will remain the same.
What qualifications are needed to work in corporate development?
Entry level jobs in corporate development are typically analyst roles. People generally enter the corporate development field from investment banking, but a background in banking is not always required.
However, you will need experience working on acquisitions and joint ventures, an understanding of the industry, and the ability to negotiate and manage deals. Computer skills, such as Excel and PowerPoint, are also essential. You must understand financial modeling and valuation, the fundamentals of accounting, and how to read, analyze, and prepare financial statements.
Often, a Bachelor of Science in accounting or business is sufficient. Larger and more competitive firms may require an MBA.
What skills are needed to work in corporate development?
An effective corporate development professional needs strong communication and presentation skills, persuasion, and competency in technical modeling. In addition, you’ll need the ability to communicate information about finances and deals to people who may not be knowledgeable in these areas.
It helps to be confident, decisive, and focused. You must juggle a variety of important tasks and challenges, so the ability to prioritize and manage your time is key. Other important traits include organization, attention to detail, analytical and critical thinking skills, creativity, and decision-making.
What is a corporate development interview like?
Depending on the size of the company, you can expect to be interviewed extensively by several people. Be ready to field technical questions, discuss the deal process, and potentially complete a written test. Some companies ask interviewees to evaluate a potential acquisition target and calculate an offer.
In addition, do your research on the company itself ahead of time. You may be asked to pitch ideas on potential joint ventures or acquisitions for the company, which can catch you off guard if you haven’t done your homework.
As in most job interviews, be prepared to talk about why you’re interested in the career and in the specific company.
Once You’re in the Industry: Tips from Maarten De Jeu
Once you’ve landed a job in corporate development, De Jeu has several tips on how to become a top performer in your role.
Innovation is a core need in just about every industry, and corporate development is no exception. De Jeu says that skills and technical expertise are vital in corporate development roles, but so are creativity, flexibility, and a capacity for thinking outside of the box.
The ability to assess new and cutting-edge business models, even those that lack traditional metrics, is essential. You’ll gain an excellent reputation if you’re able to acquire innovative firms with exciting ideas that can refresh and revitalize your business.
Relationships are key in a corporate development role. You must be personable and persuasive, with the ability to both project confidence and inspire it in others.
One effective strategy is developing a reputation as a “preferred acquirer.” This means that instead of constantly finding and attracting new partners and acquisitions, you’ll build a reputation that encourages them to come to you.
This can mean networking at conferences, establishing satellite offices, and working to create long-term relationships within your industry and community. Flexibility is important here, too, as it can help you appeal to and attract targets looking for nonstandard or nontraditional deals.
Just like relationships outside of your organization, de Jeu emphasizes that relationships within your organization are important too. The corporate development team should build and maintain relationships with the business units they support, especially if your company has strategists outside of the corporate development team.
Corporate development can’t only be about transactions; it must also be about strategy. Staying connected to other teams and departments can give you a more complete picture of your company and help you shape a more effective and comprehensive strategy.
Finally, it’s vital to stay up to date on your industry, industry trends, competitors, and what’s next. Keep up with the latest technologies and how you’ll need to factor them into your process moving forward.
Be prepared to analyze new risks, adapt to new deal structures, and develop new tools and methodologies to keep up with the changing times. By staying future-forward and a step ahead of the competition, you’ll land deals that help you build a solid reputation within your organization and industry.
Corporate development is an exciting and rewarding field. If you choose to pursue it, you’ll negotiate deals, manage company portfolios, and help businesses optimize their performance.
You may be a great fit for the role if you have a background in finance, a strategic and creative mind, and strong communication and persuasion skills. It’s also important to understand your industry and how to facilitate business deals.
Maarten de Jeu advises that once you land a role in corporate development, it’s important to focus on innovation, building relationships, and staying current. These tips have helped de Jeu succeed—and coach others to success—in the field, and they can help you flourish too.
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