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Why we do what we do
Meet Steven Blaser
Faces of Deloitte Advisory is a series of true stories that explore the personal history of our practitioners, highlighting key experiences that defined their values and explaining why they do what they do. In this story, Steven discusses the early influences of his entrepreneur father, what taught him the value of leading by example, and the importance of being honest with clients.
My business education began when I was quite young. I grew up in the suburbs of Westchester County, just outside New York City. Growing up, I spent a number of summers working with my father—who was a third-generation entrepreneur—and learning as much about operating a business as I could. It gave me a drive and passion for entrepreneurship.
My father had a great sense of responsibility and responsiveness toward his customers. I watched closely how he built relationships and the honesty and dedication he exhibited.
His company provided welding and boiler services to commercial and residential buildings, so his team was operating 24/7—and always ready to respond. He had a great work ethic and always motivated his team to think of creative ways to solve problems. He taught me at an early age that no matter what you do, if you're not treating people in the right way, being successful will be difficult.
Finding work I could connect with
When I went to Duke University, I was not set on any specific career path. I was probably more interested in law and politics at that point than in finance. The summer after my sophomore year, I ended up interning for a hedge fund. And although we had discussed me potentially returning the following summer, they thought instead of specializing at such an early stage of my career, I should find a firm that could become a fertile training ground for a broad education. In retrospect, it was a great suggestion, because it allowed me to gain exposure to a broad variety of business models and clients by becoming an investment banker.
For my next internship, I joined the company that subsequently merged with Deloitte Corporate Finance LLC (DCF). Their focus was on entrepreneurs and family-owned businesses. I could immediately relate to the clients' stories and it was comforting working with entrepreneurs on one of the most impactful moments of their lives. I liked the team, the client base, and the culture so much that I decided to join Deloitte full-time. And that’s how my professional journey began as an analyst in the summer of 2014.
Making sure everyone’s voice is heard
We, within DCF, have tried to develop a leadership style in our practice where there is no place for ego or hierarchy. I remember when I was an intern, the analyst and associate on one of my deals were on vacation and I had to deal with a complex problem. The managing director on the deal decided to take time out of his schedule to have an engaging conversation about a solution that would work for the client. Then he asked me if I knew how to build the concept into the financial model. But I had no idea how to do something like that, so he stayed back for half an hour more to sketch it out with me. That experience was instrumental in teaching me how I wanted to act as a leader.
When somebody who is incredibly busy and past the point in their career of explaining modeling tells the most junior person on the totem pole (in this case, me), “One, I value your opinion and want to hear your perspectives, and two, let's tackle this problem together”, it means a lot. He led by example, and when you see other people doing that it makes you want to do the same and take the extra time to be there for others.
When new hires join Deloitte, I try to make sure they know that everyone's voice matters and they should feel emboldened to share their views on client materials. We want everyone to know that even if leaders have the last say, we feel the best leaders enjoy being challenged by new perspectives. We want to be a team where everyone feels that they are being heard and appreciated.
Creating a two-way dialogue with clients
I am often told that my client relationships are one of my biggest strengths. That is partly because I believe in making sure clients know that they're being heard and their best interests are being kept in mind.
A big part of building trust with clients revolves around open communication, both in terms of honesty and responsiveness, because clients can hire anybody to tell them what they want to hear. But where they start to trust and respect you is when you give them honest feedback. Tell them what’s going well and what’s not in the process, set reasonable expectations, and—if they're committed to a certain position—let them know about the positives and negatives.
Be it my personality or my dad’s teachings, I have been able to develop close bonds with my clients. While experience teaches you the do’s and don’ts of actually managing client relationships, there is one thing I’ve definitely gleaned over time: If the client’s first call isn’t to you, then there's only so far that you can go in an organization. Building those relationships is paramount.
Building trust with a client is a two-way street of open dialogue. While you can't just be a “yes” person, you must ensure that you're handling that message delicately, and not just pushing back on everything the client says. It's tough to maintain balance, but it can go a long way in building trust.
The human impact of business
Toward the end of last year, which was a tough year in many ways, I began working with a client based out of Houston. When he came to us, he had a certain number of net dollars in mind he had to receive out of a transaction. Naturally, as we developed a relationship, I became curious about what he was solving for in terms of the transaction. It turned out he had a special needs son who needed a significant amount of assistance in daily life. His motivation behind the number was to make sure that his son was going to be looked after for the balance of his life, no matter what happened.
We ultimately found a firm with a strong cultural fit that ended up hitting all of our client’s goals. We closed the deal on December 31st, after a tough holiday week for everyone. But then we received a phone call from him on the day of closing, with him and his wife tearing up as they thanked us for the work we had done: “We will never forget what you guys did for us and our family.” That means more to us than the sale of the business.” Moments like these are the reason why I love what I do.
Deloitte Corporate Finance LLC (DCF), a broker-dealer registered with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and member of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC), is an indirect wholly-owned subsidiary of Deloitte Financial Advisory Services LLP and affiliate of Deloitte Transactions and Business Analytics LLP. Investment banking or other services that would require registration as a broker-dealer with the SEC and membership in FINRA would be provided exclusively by DCF. For more information, visit www.investmentbanking.deloitte.com. Please see www.deloitte.com/us/about for a detailed description of the legal structure of Deloitte LLP and its subsidiaries. Certain services may not be available to attest clients under the rules and regulations of public accounting.
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Vice President | Deloitte Corporate Finance LLC
Steven works directly with senior partners, company executives, and other professionals in executing middle-market mergers, acquisitions, and leveraged buyouts, in addition to competing for prospective mandates. He also has extensive interaction with financial sponsors, entrepreneurial management teams, family-owned businesses, and corporate clients.