30 In Their Thirties: Nick DeCroo, Director, Woodward Park Partners, Bloomfield Hills

As an investment banker, Nick DeCroo is exactly where he wants to be. It just took a while for him to get there. His first job was in 2011, at PNC Bank in Troy.
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Nick DeCroo // Photo by Trever Long

As an investment banker, Nick DeCroo is exactly where he wants to be. It just took a while for him to get there. His first job was in 2011, at PNC Bank in Troy.

“It was a traditional institutional lending environment,” he says. “In 2012, I joined Quarton Partners, a small M&A shop in Birmingham. I think there were five or six employees at the time and we grew every year, expanding to 60 bankers and 10 offices by 2018.”

Quarton was eventually acquired by an even larger firm, which also swelled in size.

“That was the impetus for us to spin out some of the industrial and M&A stuff in the lower-middle market and start our own shop,” DeCroo says. “We’re so excited about what we’re doing now, because it’s very similar to how we started at Quarton.”

Woodward Park Partners, DeCroo’s new venture, is barely a year old, having launched last August. As a director, he’s one of only three members of the upper management team, and the rest of the firm is just as lean.

“There are 10 of us, but not all partners,” he explains. “We have a few senior adviser members and some mid-level and junior team members, but our core leadership dates back to the Quarton days.”

Apart from running a lean operation, the firm’s ideal client niche is very specific.

“There’s a lot of companies in that $3 million to $7 million range that are either not getting advice, or getting bad advice,” DeCroo says. “A lot of times they take the advice of their accountant or a family friend, and do a transaction that might not be the best for them.

“We pride ourselves on bringing that big bank expertise to small business owners and small private equity groups in our area, and delivering an unmatched level of quality and service.”

Most of the deals DeCroo and his team handle are similar in nature.

“The bulk of what we do is sell-side M&A, about 85 percent, usually in a couple of different forms. It could be a total sale and exit, because the client wants out completely. Or it’s (selling) a portion of the business to de-risk a little bit. So we build a financial package and go to the broad set of buyers that would most likely invest in that business.”

No matter how disparate the clients and their respective businesses, invariably all share at least one characteristic.

“It’s usually a private business owner who’s grown everything from the ground up over the years, or it’s been in the family for generations,” DeCroo says. “It’s one of the top two or three life decisions they make. It’s really personal and emotional, and there’s ebbs and flows in deals, and it can be stressful. We just try to help level the playing field for them relative to bigger, more sophisticated companies that don’t necessarily have those challenges.”

As a result, DeCroo concedes, possessing a sophisticated grasp of the M&A business is only part of his job. “Half the time we’re playing bankers, and the other half we’re playing psychologists.”