Most 30-year-olds feel that their careers have just begun. That it can also be different proves Rick ter Maat. The young M&A advisor recently became a partner at JBR. We spoke to Rick about this special achievement, his love for the profession and his experiences at the Zeist office.
How do you become a partner at age 30? In the case of Rick ter Maat it started with a clear vision. "The M&A profession already inspired me during my studies," he explains with a broad smile. "So I knew immediately what I wanted. And if you really like something you want to get as far as possible in it. Becoming a partner is absolutely part of that for me."
Rick completed his education in Finance in Groningen. "I was the first person in our family to study at the university. I couldn't really delay, so I had to roll up my sleeves a bit."
The hard work paid off, and at the tender age of 22 he was able to kick off his dreamed career at BrightOrange - a small office specialised in valuations and M&A, co-founded by Jan Vis. "He is the founder of business valuation in the Netherlands", says Rick. "At the time I deliberately chose to start at a small club, where I could immediately go with the client and get into the content. In my two and a half years there, I learned a lot."
The wide sea
After this flying start, Rick made the switch to JBR in 2015. There he was taken by the hand by founder Kees van Biert quickly taken by the hand in the maritime and offshore industry.
"I hardly knew anything about the sector, but that quickly changed. The nice thing is that it is a very tangible sector. We all know how goods are shipped around the world and - especially since last year - how important that is. In addition, the transactions are substantial, which makes it all the more interesting."
Rick now focuses entirely on the maritime and offshore sector. He advises companies during acquisition processes, but also on valuations, financing and strategy. A nice incidental circumstance of his sector focus is that the companies he assists are located all over the world.
"I've been everywhere," he explains enthusiastically. "My first job was immediately a large strategy and corporate finance project in Seattle. I've also been a lot in the Middle East and in India, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia and throughout Latin America - from Peru to Chile, Argentina, Colombia and Brazil."
"Besides the fact that it is of course fun to see so much of the world, getting in touch with all those cultures also makes the work extra challenging," he explains. "In doing so, at JBR we also benefit from the international network we are part of, Global M&A Partners. For example, in Peru we worked with a local partner, who helped us with aspects such as the local legislation there and certain cultural customs."
As nice as the many trips are, one of Rick's highlights took place right in his own office in Zeist. "One of the biggest jobs I was involved in was the sale of the Peruvian tugboat company Tramarsa Flota to PSA Marine from Singapore. We worked on that for two years. It started with determining what the best option was for Tramarsa - to grow organically, merge or sell. In the end, it turned out to be selling, and the deal was made with PSA.
However, because Singapore and Peru are so far apart, it was decided to meet halfway - at the office of JBR. "The Netherlands is a 12-hour flight from both Peru and Singapore, so that worked out perfectly. That's why we did the signing at our place. We spent a week together in the office, invited a chef and negotiated the deal. It was a nice deal anyway and extra special to be able to do it at our office. All those different cultures came together in the small town of Zeist. We even ate some stew together."
From the plane to the screen
Over a year ago, however, closing deals from home was suddenly no longer the exception, but the rule of necessity. Where Rick used to fly around the world, corona now grounded the entire world.
"Yes, it was a bit of a shock", he recalls. "In mid-March we returned from South America very naïve, thinking we were about to embark on a major project that we had been preparing for months. Then we were quickly overtaken by reality. The whole project went on ice."
As with countless businesses, a few anxious months followed. "With the kind of transactions we do, travel is important. Buyers and sellers really want to look each other in the eye. And when you buy a company you want to see it up close. So everything was at a standstill and that was quite exciting, of course."
But necessity knows no law, and after a few months of getting used to it, it turned out that more was possible than expected. "It surprised us how much could be accommodated digitally. Not everything can be done online, but I don't think I'll be travelling as often in the future for one deal as I did before. For the sale of Tramarsa I think I flew to Peru about 12 times, I don't see that happening again any time soon. Even with all the limitations, we still had one of our better years last year, that already shows how much digital is possible."
The next step
Both across the border and behind the laptop, Rick gained a wealth of international (and digital) experience before he was 30. In the meantime, he and Kees van Biert were working hard to further professionalize JBR's maritime and offshore practice.
"We already had a strong position within the sector, but that still relied heavily on a few of our seasoned experts," he explains. "We have been able to expand that nicely so that the knowledge and experience is now carried more broadly within the team. We can now serve a wider range of customers. In addition, we have set up a tighter process that enables us to make the right analyses and reports better."
All in all, early this year Rick was all set to take the next big step at his still young age and join the partner team of JBR. "Age is just a number too," he emphasizes. "I now have about eight years of work experience. Some of my colleagues may be older, but only have four years of experience. Becoming a partner - co-entrepreneur - is something I've always wanted and it feels great to be able to do it now."
In his new role as partner, he will continue to focus on the further professionalization of the maritime and offshore practice in addition to client work. "I see this as a nice challenge. Kees van Biert is now 63 and he will really remain involved for the time being, but it is of course also important to look at the long term and I think it is great that I can play such an important role in this."
Fish in the water
Therefore, Rick certainly does not see his joining the partnership as reaching his final goal - rather, as the beginning of a challenging new phase in his still young career.
"Of course, I'm far from there yet, just starting to warm up," he says with a laugh. "I feel like a fish in water here at JBR and am especially incredibly grateful for the wonderful opportunity they have given me and the trust they are expressing in me with this partner appointment."
Caspar van der Geest, partner at JBR, says: "Rick has proven in recent years that he can handle large international transactions. In addition, his dedication to loyal clients and his input in the office ensures that we enjoy our work. Rick's partnership offers JBR the connection to a new generation and a long-term perspective. We are very pleased that Rick is joining us on the partner team."
Also Managing Partner Ronald van Rijn is pleased with the appointment and states: "Rick has a unique blend of expertise, talent and commitment. He has a high acceptance rate with clients. Partly because of his age, clients enjoy working with him. He is also just a nice person! Internally, his appointment as partner is supported by all employees. His partnership is a more than logical step that we are very happy with."