Mark Sirower found his passion at BGSU

Commencement speaker: from Freddie Falcon to world-renowned finance expert

It took a while for Mark Sirower to discover his passion for finance during his time at Bowling Green State University, but once he did he never looked back.

Sirower changed his major a handful of times at BGSU before graduating in 1983 with a Bachelor of Science in finance from the College of Business Administration.

“Finance is where I began to learn that I had to love the ingredients or inputs – math, statistics, the beauty of the economic theory – even when they didn’t always love me back,” Sirower told graduates of the Graduate College and the colleges of Business Administration, Health and Human Services; Musical Arts; Technology, Architecture and Applied Engineering; and BGSU Firelands during commencement Friday night at the Stroh Center.

“I’m honored by the great privilege to share this evening with you,” he told the crowd. “Speaking at your graduation celebration is the ultimate compliment a graduate can receive from his alma mater. I learned so much at this incredible University, and I’m very proud to be a BGSU alum.”

Sirower said it was love at first sight when he stepped onto BGSU’s campus as a member of his high school marching band from Twinsburg, Ohio.

“No one from my family had even stepped foot on a college campus, and it was love at first sight,” he said. “I just knew that BG was where I was going to college. I dreamed of playing in the great Falcon Marching Band, which I did, but I couldn’t have imagined what it would be like to be Freddie Falcon.”

Sirower was Freddie in 1981-82 and he loved every minute of it.

“Freddie receives so much love from the entire Bowling Green community – you can only really understand that if you are from here,” he said before pointing out that success, happiness, personal strategy and love have a lot in common.

Sirower is a principal at Deloitte Consulting in New York and U.S. leader of the firm’s merger and acquisition (M&A) strategy practice. He holds a doctoral degree in strategy and finance from the Columbia University Graduate School of Business and a Master’s of Business Administration in finance and statistics from Indiana University.

Sirower credits “loving the inputs” as the best way to achieve successful outcomes.

“We all want to do what makes us successful and happy, have a profession that we feel passionate about and love what we do, but I believe those are outcomes — and we all want those outcomes,” he said. “The catch and the secret, I believe, is you only get to enjoy the outcomes if you commit to the skills and capabilities that will get you there. In a sense, much of life is the search for those pursuits that you are willing to love unconditionally. Simply put, we all want the outcomes, but we have to love the inputs.”

He also advised the December Class of 2016 in order to be successful you can’t listen to the “excuse machine,” and to develop a personal strategy.

Sirower co-founded and built the Transaction Services Strategy Group at PricewaterhouseCoopers. Also, he was global leader of the M&A practice at The Boston Consulting Group in New York, where he developed the BCG corporate development framework and innovative approaches to crafting and executing corporate, business and M&A strategy. Before joining BCG, he taught mergers and acquisitions at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and consulted extensively on strategy and valuation issues in M&A transactions.

Sirower advises corporate and private equity clients in growth strategy and innovation, M&A strategy and governance, target screening, commercial due diligence, synergy testing, investor relations and post-merger integration engagements. He also advises boards on governance issues related to M&A decisions, and has been most active in helping consumer goods, financial services, industrial goods and pharmaceutical companies rethink and grow their businesses profitably through M&A.

Sirower’s insights on growth through M&A were launched into national attention through a 1995 story on mergers in BusinessWeek and subsequent publication of his book, “The Synergy Trap,” which sold more than 70,000 copies in English and was translated into six languages.

“The Synergy Trap” presents a detailed standard for what constitutes informed M&A decisions and is endorsed by many high-profile executives, academics, corporations and professional associations. The book has been featured on CNN’s “Top 25 Business Stories of the Past 25 Years,” and Geoff Colvin of Fortune called it “the definitive volume on M&A.”

He has published more than 50 articles, and his research and articles on best practice in growth and acquisition performance have been featured in major business periodicals including Forbes, BusinessWeek, Fortune, The Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business Review, New York Times, Washington Post, Financial Times, The Economist, Financial Executive, Global Finance, Nikkei, Directors & Boards, CFO, and Barron's.

His research on the merger boom of the ’90s was featured as the Oct. 14, 2002, cover article in BusinessWeek. Sirower has spoken worldwide on creating value through mergers and acquisitions and is a recognized thought leader on M&A and growth-related issues.

He was a strategy professor at Columbia University and has taught M&A in the Executive MBA program at New York University’s Stern School of Business for the past 23 years.

Sirower also shared with the Stroh Center crowd some wisdom imparted from his late father, a World War II combat veteran and long-time Sterno canned-heat salesman who was on the road 50 weeks a year.

“Thank the people who have helped you; don’t waste your energy being envious of what other people have; and take care of your people,” he said before displaying a sign from his Freddie days that read: “GO BG!”