A Wharton School graduate who was highly successful while previously working for McKinsey & Company and Goldman Sachs, Jay Jung is now offering the kind of high-level corporate finance advisory to small-to-medium-sized companies that are usually only afforded to Fortune 500 brands.
Imagine having six-time Super Bowl champion head coach Bill Belichick drawing up plays for your company’s flag football team. Ponder, for a second if you will, having Bill Gates on speed dial to assist you with setting up your new laptop. Or, how about getting LeBron James to dole out advice to the players on your kid’s rec. league basketball team?
That’s what it must feel like when small-to-medium-sized businesses and middle-market companies enlist the services of Jay Jung to assist them with financial management and to consult on mergers and acquisitions and capital raises.
A Wharton School graduate who was highly successful while previously working for McKinsey & Company as a management consultant and Goldman Sachs as an investment banker, Jung and his company offer the kind of high-level financial consultations to small-to-medium-sized companies that are usually only afforded to Fortune 500 brands. His company, Embarc Advisors, is able to offer the sort of highly differentiated advice that has helped numerous companies reach business goals they only previously dreamed of attaining.
For Jung, being able to have that sort of direct effect on the success of a smaller company with his own personal touch is infinitely satisfying.
“My clients include small-to-medium-sized businesses, but we’ve also started working with larger companies —still, I’d say sub-$1 billion in terms of value — but they don’t get attention from the Goldman’s or the Morgan Stanley’s, and we’re glad to work with them and bring that caliber of work product to them,” said Jung, a South Korean by birth who has lived and worked in America for two extended stints. “We also do some work for private-equity and venture-capital firms, primarily smaller firms, that are just getting started. They don’t necessarily have the resources to bring on a full staff, but we help them as they grow through their early innings.”
Jung, 40, is an entrepreneur at heart and founded a technology startup upon graduating from college. He raised significant capital from VCs, such as Softbank, but ultimately closed the business down. He matriculated his way through the financial world to Goldman Sachs where he often advised on multi-billion dollar deals, such as selling Yahoo to Verizon and selling SanDisk to Western Digital. Still, he craved the satisfaction that only variety and the personalization of assisting smaller, start-up companies could give him.
“I’m doing these deals that are on the cover page, Wall Street Journal or Business Week — the kind that everyone talks about and I’m meeting (former Yahoo! CEO) Marissa Mayer and (former Hewlett Packard Enterprise CEO and Proctor Gamble and GM board member) Meg Whitman,” Jung recalled, referring to his six-year run with Goldman Sachs. “It’s cool to talk about, but I was not really ecstatic about my work and my junior people were not always happy.
“Then, I saw my wife (Janice) working at Facebook, and she loves her job, and everyone that works for her loves their jobs,’’ Jung continued. “I forgot that it was possible for someone to be so excited about work. That got me thinking that maybe I should do something different.”
That led Jung to working with a variety of different small businesses initially as a freelance consultant. Fortune 100 companies often seek professional advisory firms to navigate the complexities of M&As and capital raises. Smaller companies face the same sort of complexities, but often lack the resources to successfully execute them.
Enter Jung and his high-level corporate finance advisory skills. After seeing that so many smaller companies need help on navigating M&As and capital raises, Jung started Embarc Advisors to fill a void that was missing in the small-to-medium-sized business sector.
Even though Embarc Advisors could make significantly more money by charging transaction fees that are a percentage of a total deal’s value, Jung decided to pursue a consulting model where his firm is instead paid on an hourly basis. His reasoning was based on always wanting to do what is best for the client.
Said Jung: “In many instances, not doing a deal is the better path for companies and I did not want a business model that is biased toward pushing for a transaction.”
For Jung, the joys of offering small businesses the kind of financial acumen typically reserved for Fortune 500 companies is particularly satisfying. Unlike his days of negotiating multi-billion deals with mega corporations in the past, Jung and Embarc Advisors are able to bring more of a personal touch and a deep investment to their financial advising. When his high-level and nuanced advisory skills prove to be the difference between success and failure for a small business, Jung knows he is exactly where he is supposed to be professionally.
“It’s incredibly rewarding, doing what I’m able to do now to help some of the smaller companies,” Jung said. “My associate always asks me, ‘How do you have so much energy all the time?’ For me, it doesn’t feel like work.
“Most of my clients become very good friends, and that’s how I approach it,” Jung continued. “Because I’m helping a friend fulfill their most important goals, I have this sense of personal responsibility and dedication. Working for large companies at a big investment bank can sometimes feel superficial, contractual and transactional. It’s great to get paid for what I do, but it always feels better to help a friend. So, I love what I do now.”
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