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‘We’re the Benchmark for all others to Measure Up’: Steven Keane, Executive Chairman of Benchmark International


Mergers and acquisitions (M&A) can help organizations become more efficient, profitable, and powerful. Therefore, mergers and acquisitions have become relatively frequent events in the business world. Companies are now merging more often than ever before, and all these actions have the same goal — to improve business performance.

Benchmark International is one such company that specializes in offering services in the areas of mergers and acquisitions, company sales, exit and growth strategies, and valuations. The firm caters to wholesale, manufacturing, technology, agriculture, automotive, healthcare, energy, retail, professional services, and financial services. Benchmark’s global offices provide business owners in the middle and lower-middle markets with services that enable them to grow and exit their businesses. The firm also offers customized marketing solutions and represents owners of companies with enterprise values of $5m-$500m.

Benchmark International was founded in 2006 and is headquartered in Tampa, Florida.

Steven Keane (Executive Chairman) spoke exclusively to The Silicon Review. Below is an excerpt

As a journalist, I find Benchmark International quite striking. From the emotional branding standpoint, it has that appeal. How did you come up with the brand name? And please brief us about the history so far.


A benchmark is a standard or measure of performance, best practices, and success. We consider ourselves to be the gold standard in the world of lower-mid and mid-market M&A; hence, we are the benchmark for all others to measure up.

Benchmark International was started in 2006 to address the need for quality representation for businesses considered too small for major investment banks and yet too large for main street business brokers. Our founders have a depth of M&A experience that dates back to the early 1980s. Our first UK office was opened in 2008, and since then, we have opened 13 offices around the globe with more than 250 team members.

Q. Could you describe your typical management style and the type of employee that works well with you?

Many of our directors have been involved in the sale of their own companies, so we have a first-hand understanding of what it’s like to go through such an emotional process. We empathize with our clients’ journeys, and we will be sensitive to the difficult decisions they have to make. We consider ourselves a family, and every member of our team is highly motivated and inspired to help people live their best lives and make clients’ dreams a reality while supporting each other’s goals for self-improvement.

Q. How would you describe your company’s culture?

Benchmark International is a place where everyone is in your corner, and everyone contributes. A place where opinions are valued and hard work is rewarded. Walk into any of our offices around the world, and you will feel the team spirit and our company values in action.

We especially understand the importance of business culture because we study our clients to make deals that are a good fit. We strive to keep our employees inspired and always evolving ahead of our business.

Q. What makes Benchmark International great? And what creative, value-maximizing solutions does the company provide to business owners in the middle and lower-middle markets?

At Benchmark, we are incredibly proud of our achievements and the significant impact we are making for business owners around the world. We continually strive to challenge ourselves and excel in every aspect of all that we do, and we pass that level of commitment on to our clients. We’ve achieved countless awards, including being named the number one sell-side, privately owned M&A advisors in the world.

To date, Benchmark International has handled engagements in excess of $7B across various industries worldwide. With decades of global M&A experience, Benchmark International’s deal teams, working from 14 offices across the world, have assisted hundreds of owners with achieving their personal objectives and ensuring the continued growth of their businesses.

Q. That’s not all Benchmark does. What are its other focus areas?

We represent sellers that are motivated and financially committed to making a change, whether that is a complete exit, as in the case of retirement and succession planning, or raising capital to achieve future growth. Our proven strategies include educating and preparing a client for sale and managing sellers’ expectations of value. We are committed to understanding the motivations of the buyer as well as the seller to design a successful match between the two.

Having a global marketing team is also critical to why we stand out from other advisory firms. Our global marketing team skillfully helps to guide buyers effortlessly to our exclusive opportunities. We are not only M&A specialists but also marketing experts.

Q. In what industries are your clients?

Benchmark is industry agnostic. This means that we work across industries and focus on those that are the hottest given the current market conditions. We have the capability and reach to procure some of the market’s most desirable companies. Each day we are contacted exclusively by company owners contemplating a full or partial exit or seeking some form of strategic growth partner. We find many acquirers and investors are often surprised as to the depth and quality of our engagements.

Q. Can you provide us with one or two success stories describing the challenges your clients faced and how your solutions helped them overcome those challenges?

We have many examples of success stories that describe the challenges our clients face and how our solutions helped them overcome their challenges. Every client situation is different, and every deal has its own challenges.

Client Testimonials

Benchmark International has successfully facilitated the transaction between Silexx Financial Systems, LLC and Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE). Headquartered in Chicago, IL, CBOE is the largest US options exchange in the nation. Silexx Financial Systems, LLC is a broker-neutral, multi-asset class trading platform in Sarasota, Florida.

Thomas Frey, president and majority owner of Silexx Financial Systems, LLC, stated, “I would like to thank Benchmark International for their persistence and focus during this transaction. As is often the case, this transaction faced numerous challenges during each stage of the process. The Benchmark team remained focused and leveraged their experience to maintain forward progress during difficult times of the process. I would certainly recommend Benchmark to any potential clients.”

Benchmark International has successfully negotiated the sale of Conarc, Inc. (“Conarc”) to Swiftcurrent Holdings, Inc. (“Swiftcurrent”), an affiliate of ESW Capital, LLC (“ESW”). The transaction represents the conjoining of two best-of-breed solution providers.

Conarc, Inc. CEO and Founder Chet Joglekar stated, “Benchmark International’s hands-on approach during all aspects of the transaction process was fundamental in our successful deal closing. Benchmark’s industry knowledge and relationships proved to be highly valuable as they assisted us in identifying a buyer that fits our innovative culture and provided Conarc with the resources necessary to continue the company’s trajectory of rapid growth. Benchmark made everybody come to terms and kept the deal moving in the right direction. So there was no way this process would have completed without Benchmark, or I would have found the right partner without their market knowledge.”

Q. From your perspective, how is the industry you serve currently evolving? And what are the trends in the different categories?

The only constant in the M&A industry is the change. The barriers to entry in the sell-side M&A industry are quite low.  The barriers to success, however, are significant.  The industry, like every industry, is subject to external pressures. The COVID-19 pandemic forced dealmakers to change how they market and diligence deals. Technology allows teams in dispersed locations to collaborate. Due diligence processes performed by third-party advisors is now often done remotely. Technology has turned traditional conference calls into working sessions using video and other collaborative tools. This approach to using technology to mitigate travel is likely to continue well after the pandemic is over.  Interest rates are very likely to rise in the coming quarters, putting downward pressure on valuations and multiples. The global pandemic provided additional fuel for an already transient workforce. A migrating labor pool creates challenges for buyers, sellers, and advisors.

Q. What plans for transformation are you pursuing to remain relevant now and in the future?

The global landscape is changing quickly, but we’re not interested in keeping up. We’re interested in leading the way. That’s why we remain focused on results-driven partnerships and proven strategies that close deals.

Q. What is your final message to The Silicon Review readers, and to your current and future customers and partners?

For our clients, it’s not just about the numbers. Deciding what to do with their businesses and whom to partner with or hand over the reins to is a highly emotional process—one that we understand and adapt the process to. Benchmark International ensures our clients are comfortable with the buyer, their legacy remains intact, and the business employees that have been loyal to the owner over the years are protected. A successful transaction isn’t simply a closed deal but a deal that leaves both sides happy and excited about the future.

“To date, Benchmark International has handled engagements in excess of $7B across various industries worldwide. We have assisted hundreds of owners with achieving their personal objectives and ensuring the continued growth of their businesses.”