HOW TO MASTER THE NCA SELECTION PROCESS
Do you have what it takes to make it through the NCA Selection Process and embark on the Entrepreneurship Through Acquisition journey? To ensure you’re best prepared for what’s to come, we sat down with NCA team members Andrea Gaia (Talent Acquisition Specialist) and Jessica Ajzensztejn (Search & Deal Flow Support from our Digital, Data & Operations Center) to compile some tips that will help you navigate the NCA Selection Process.
The NCA selection process has been specifically designed to work in favor of potential ETA candidates, potential co-investors, and the NCA team simultaneously. While we know what to look for when determining a candidate’s chances of success, it is equally important that our Search candidates are confident NCA is right for them before they officially begin their Search. Our Selection Process helps us determine if we are a good fit for one another while giving candidates the opportunity to fine-tune their pitch and hone their skills (which they will need when meeting with business owners and future co-investors).
An overview of our entire selection process may be found at the bottom of this article, however, after having screened thousands of potential candidates for our program, we want to offer some clear and actionable advice for making it past the initial step of the selection process: The Orientation Call.
WHAT TO EXPECT DURING YOUR ORIENTATION CALL
“The Orientation Call prepares candidates for the next steps in the process, so it’s important they carefully read the program description before the call,” Andrea explains. “My job is to ensure the best possible experience for candidates throughout the Selection Process, and I’ll be in regular communication with them to help along the way if they are selected to continue.”
Candidates should use the Orientation call with Andrea in order to:
- Be informed of the search budget, which differs for each market
- Discuss their Search industries/sub-sectors and geography (this is key! More on this below)
- Ask questions about the Program Description, which should be read in advance
DEFINING YOUR SEARCH INDUSTRIES/SUB-SECTORS & GEOGRAPHY
YOUR ‘UNIVERSE’ OF SEARCH
Jessica Ajzensztejn is another key team member who works on search and deal flow support as part of NCA’s Digital, Data and Operations Center. As a Data Analyst, Jessica works closely with her assigned NCA Searchers for the duration of their Search, supporting them with data to help them find (and eventually acquire) potential Target Companies.
Although Jessica only begins collaborating with Searchers once they have been accepted into the program and officially begun their search, she has key insights into what makes a search successful and shared some advice for candidates who are preparing for their Orientation Call.
“A common trait I notice in the Searchers I work with is that they are incredibly focused and strategic about what they are searching for and why,” Jessica explains. “Candidates should know their target search industries really well. I’ve seen firsthand how that industry experience and strong network are crucial in making a search a success.”
JESSICA’S TIPS FOR DEFINING A “UNIVERSE” OF SEARCH
STEP 1 Define Search industry/sectors (see FAQs below)
STEP 2 Define Search geographic focus
STEP 3 Determine the total number of potential companies that match both Step 1 and Step 2 using publicly available data (like Mckinsey reports, searchfunder industry reports, commerce registers, etc.)
STEP 4 Filter the list of potential companies using NCA investment criteria*
“Having considered NCA’s investment criteria* candidates will be asked to describe the industries and sub-sectors they would like to focus their search on,” explains Jessica. “Candidates should be prepared to explain what is happening in their industry/sub-sector. Why is it a good industry/sub-sector to invest in? Has their experience in that industry identified any untapped opportunities?”
It is absolutely crucial that you think carefully about your industries and sub-sectors very early on in the selection process as NCA ensures that none of our searchers are competing for the same deals within the same geography. If your profile is similar to a searcher who is already onboarding or has already started our program, we may advise that you resume the selection process at a later stage (to be decided on a case-by-case basis).
“At the Orientation Call stage, we do not expect candidates to have access to databases, but it’s important that they are able to scope the number of companies in their ‘universe,’” says Jessica. “Candidates are advised to have 2-3 primary industries of focus and an additional 3-4 opportunistic industries. Taking that into account, a candidate’s ‘universe’ should contain around 10,000+ companies and the sub-sectors of their industry should contain around 1,000+ companies,” she explains.
In addition to clearly defining your industries/sub-sectors, candidates will also need to carefully prepare the geographical and regional focus for their search.
TIPS FOR DEFINING A GEOGRAPHIC FOCUS
If candidates wish to be selected for the NCA ETA program, they should ensure their Search’s geographical focus meets the following parameters:
- They are fluent in the local language of their search geography/region
- They have lived and worked in their chosen region for at least 5 years
- They have a local network
- They have a good understanding of local business culture and etiquette
For example: A candidate speaks French and English and has only lived and worked in Switzerland. They want to search in Germany and France but do not speak German and have never lived or worked in either of those countries. This candidate would be asked to revise their search geography and reapply during the next application cycle.
KEY TAKEAWAYS FOR ACING YOUR ORIENTATION CALL (& THE SELECTION PROCESS)
- Read the Program Description in advance
- Be able to clearly define the industry and sub-sectors of your Search
- Ensure you have experience, a network, and/or transferable skills relevant to your chosen industry/sub-sectors
- Have a clear and relevant geographic focus (language and living experience required)
- Use publicly available data to define the number of companies in your “universe” of search
- Filter the number of potential companies using NCA investment criteria* and remove scale ups, start-ups, and ESG non-compliant companies
BIG PICTURE OVERVIEW OF THE SELECTION PROCESS
Now that you have some concrete tips for how to make it through the Orientation Call, what exactly can you expect to come afterwards if you are selected for the next steps? Andrea walks us through the 12-14-week Selection Process.
“Once you make it past the Orientation Call, you are officially in the NCA Selection Process. The next step will be discussions with the NCA team about your operational experience and a deeper dive into your investment thesis. You will be asked to prepare a business case that you will present to our M&A team (the case is the same for all candidates). If you continue to progress, you will be invited to a zoom webinar Open House with our Co-CEOs and different NCA team members.”
Only selected candidates are invited to the Open House and questions are answered through a Q&A chat to guarantee the anonymity of participants.
“The next steps involve legal document review with the Value Creation, Talent Management and Legal teams from NCA,” continues Andrea. “You will then be invited to a 90-minute video call with our Co-CEOs where you will discuss your investment thesis, your experience, and your motivation for joining our program. If you continue to progress, you will then be invited to the Assessment Center, where you will be given 15 minutes to pitch yourself to our Searchers Jury and a selection of external advisors, which will be followed by 30 minutes of questions.”
Only after completing this process will you be considered as a possible Searcher for the NCA program, and while the NCA Selection Process is extremely rigorous and demanding, it is specifically designed to prepare candidates for a successful Search. If you are interested in having a powerful support team behind you as you embark on your Entrepreneurship Through Acquisition journey, and are ready to go through our selection process, Jessica has a final thought to share.
“If a candidate is considering the NCA program, I’d advise them that working with NCA is going to be the best fit for people who do not want to embark on a solo journey. A Search with NCA is a team effort, supported by many different kinds of people who help Searchers along the way.”
NCA Entrepreneurs are being assessed and selected for the company’s unique ETA program on a rolling basis. To find out more about our Entrepreneurship Through Acquisition program, visit our website, and stay tuned for more updates as the NCA program continues to grow.
INDUSTRY SECTOR FAQ
Are there any sectors or industries that NCA specifically wants to focus on?
No, our program is sector/industry agnostic, but the sector/industry you propose must fit our investment criteria.
What are NCA’s investment criteria?
- 4 to 6 x EBITDA
- 5 to 50 million Euros Enterprise Value
- 1-5 million EBITDA Margins
- Fragmented industries (excl. capex intensive, excl. heavy regulatory framework)
Would you consider an industry agnostic search
No, while all of our searchers have a small percentage of their search which is considered “opportunistic,” it is important to have 1-2 focus sectors in order to maximize your chances of success.
My industry of search is very broad, is this ok?
If your industry of search is very broad (for example, “Healthcare in the USA”), it is important that you, as an industry expert, clearly define where the opportunities are that you would like to pursue.
My industry of search is very narrow, is this ok?
Hyper focused searches are welcome as long as there are enough companies you could potentially explore as part of your universe (1,000+ companies). If there are only 25 companies for you to look at in your industry of search, you will be asked to revise/broaden your industries/sectors and reapply during the next application cycle.
Do I have to bring a deal to be selected?
No, absolutely not. Our selection process is built around your ability to search and find a company to acquire.