Most Influential Women Q&A: Heather Smith Thorne, Swander Pace Capital

Describe a recent deal.

In December 2017, we acquired JR Watkins (“JRW”), a brand/division of Watkins representing about half of its parent company’s sales. The unorthodox idea involved a complicated carve-out of the IP and “book of business,” establishing a new corporate entity, and hiring a new management team. The deal’s unusual structure and executional nature created immediate value for investors, and it represents the kind of creative, angle-driven deal that is key to getting transactions done in today’s competitive market.

Describe a challenge you overcame.

One of my first private equity deals experienced difficult headwinds after acquisition, drawing increased scrutiny from lenders. For months, my focus was on covenants, principal and interest payments, building and rebuilding cash flow statements, retaining managers, and worrying about future deals. The situation proved to be an invaluable learning experience – preparing me for dealing with downturns, improving business performances and free cash flow profiles, and negotiating with lenders – while demonstrating my fortitude and resilience.

What is your advice for women?

It’s a combination of “stick with it” and “be yourself.” Getting established is incredibly difficult. The first decade is time-intensive, travel-intensive and unpredictable. It’s also rewarding. This career pays off for women who are curious, intellectually driven and desiring to make a difference. Further, being yourself is the best way to build relationships and make investments that reflect unique skills and insights, as different personalities and backgrounds are essential to building rapport with potential partners.