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May 7, 2018

By Candice Crystal, A&M Alumni Relations Manager

David Hern, a Director in Alvarez & Marsal’s (A&M) Valuation Services practice, recently re-joined the firm. Prior to returning to A&M, David worked in the investment banking, public accounting and consulting sectors.

Born and raised in Atlanta, David graduated from the Georgia Institute of Technology earning a bachelor’s degree in management and an MBA in finance. In his spare time, he volunteers with Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, the Georgia Tech Business Network, and the Dunwoody Rotary Club.

In the Q&A below, David shares how A&M helped sharpen his managerial and business development skill set, why he feels the Atlanta team is special, and what differentiates A&M from other consulting firms. He also discusses why the firm’s agility is one of its distinguishing characteristics and how it affords him the autonomy to achieve work-life balance.

After graduating from the Georgia Institute of Technology what led you into the consulting world? Were there any notable ah-ha moments?

During my undergraduate years, I had two internships in the consulting space that gave me my initial exposure. I landed my first opportunity through a bit of luck, as I was having trouble getting the Big 4 to accept me for an internship during my sophomore year. Upon venting to my accounting professor, she made a call on my behalf to a friend of hers. When I finished my last internship, my father asked if this is what I wanted to do with my career. At the time I said no. My ah-ha moment came after getting my CPA in public accounting and realizing that finance was a much better fit for me. This realization was reinforced in my MBA program which helped me make the pivot.

Can you tell us about your experiences in Valuation Services and the skill sets you have been able to strengthen/acquire while at A&M?

I’ve worked across the spectrum including a boutique, A&M, and a Big 8 public accounting firm in valuation services. The largest component of my valuation experience has been across financial reporting, M&A, and tax compliance matters ranging from startups to publicly-traded companies with a high concentration of activity in technology and healthcare.

During my tenure at A&M, I strengthened my managerial and business development skill sets. From a managerial stand point, I’ve acquired skills managing both projects and people, with the latter being the biggest challenge. We’re a diverse workforce with diverse personalities. How you perceive yourself can differ from how others perceive you. It takes time and practice to effectively manage staff and to be able to determine how best to blend your personality with theirs to achieve successful outcomes on engagements.

From a business development perspective, I’ve been able to take leads that may not have been available to me at a boutique, due to a lack of industry experience, or at one of the Big 4, due to layers of bureaucracy and processes. However, the wide breadth of partner skills globally at A&M and the firm’s agility have provided me opportunities to convert new business pitches into projects. The willingness of our leaders to drop what they are doing and assist with executing on opportunities is a breath of fresh air.

You recently rejoined A&M in June 2017. What were some of your reasons for returning? What would you tell someone who has left and is interested in coming back?

The leader, the team and the culture. I first joined A&M when Michael Halliwell and I came from a boutique and started the Atlanta practice from the ground up. It really felt like we were establishing a startup. When you’re in that mode you really get to know your partner as everyone is wearing several hats and the hierarchy quickly becomes flat. I was proud of what we accomplished before I departed. I’ve learned that it’s rare to find a partner, boss, mentor, friend and overall good person all wrapped into one at the helm. Our team in Atlanta is special. Our diverse personalities complement each other as do our technical and business development skills. Atlanta is a tough market. Having the right leader at the top with the right team and a supportive and fun work environment gives us an incredible, differentiating edge. You’d be surprised how a center of influence (“COI”) and prospective clients pick up on this differentiator that’s a big part of our “special sauce.”

What do you enjoy most about working at A&M? Do you feel that our core values – quality, personal reward, objectivity, integrity and fun are showcased? How so?

I enjoy working with the most incredibly smart and experienced teams across the country. An executive I met in Atlanta told me that one of the big reasons for his success was that he surrounded himself with people who were smarter than he was. I’m amazed at the depth of experience and knowledge within in A&M’s Valuation Service practice and across the firm’s SBUs. We are in the knowledge and people business. I love working with teammates to achieve better outcomes for clients than I could have generated on my own. I absolutely feel that A&M showcases its core values every day. In Atlanta, we were one of the earlier offices to incorporate the A&M Young Professionals group. Through this group our young professionals can establish relationships across disciplines as they grow their careers. We’ve leveraged this concept and have held various networking events with law firms and accounting firms.

How does A&M differ from other consulting firms?

The firm’s agility is a major differentiator that separates us from other consulting and valuation firms. Our ability to quickly respond to large RFPs or find the appropriate individual to participate in a meeting with a prospect makes us standout. I feel that much of the firm’s success is culture based. But, I also think major tail winds from the investments A&M has made into systems like Salesforce, the bio process and telecommunications infrastructure are bearing fruit.

For example, we recently had an opportunity involving a seafood processor. Atlanta is a land locked city. Seafood and ocean based activities are not primary industries in this market by any means! We quickly leveraged our west coast colleagues to gain time zone speed and to identify A&M leaders with fishery experience in the pacific northwest. This ensured we got the right professionals on the phone at the right time.

Congratulations on becoming a new parent. Do you have words of advice for consultants who want to have career and home life balance?

Having two kids (daughter – 4 and son – 4 months), definitely brings new challenges. Starting or expanding your family is a game changer, for sure when you’re moving up in your career, that brings some incredible challenges as well as incredible opportunities. For me it’s about defining or redefining what personal success looks like. We’ve all heard the old adage that we spend as much or more time at work as we do at home and it’s true. It would be easy to fill every day of the week with business functions, but you have to find the right balance with the home front. Swing too far one way and things get out of whack.

The biggest challenge I’ve faced has been saying no and prioritizing family time, such as spring-break with the kids, over the business opportunities. Things really started to change for me when I met the founder of Atlanta Tech Village, a startup hotel/incubator of sorts. We are in a similar stage of life with young families. He talked about how he was too consumed in work. In his case, he had to implement a rule of no more than one evening event and one morning event a week. This helped him set priorities so that he could see his kids before he went to work in the morning and before they went to bed in the evening. I’m not saying it has to be an extreme rule, but you do need to have moderation. A&M gives me the autonomy I need to achieve that moderation.