Cassel Salpeter & Co. Recognized in Winner’s Circle at 12th Annual Turnaround Atlas Awards

Cassel Salpeter & Co., an independent investment banking firm that provides advice to middle-market and emerging growth companies in the U.S. and worldwide, is pleased to have been named among the winners of the 12th annual Turnaround Atlas Awards, one of the most prestigious awards bestowed in the global restructuring, insolvency, and distressed investing sectors.


Cassel Salpeter was recognized as the winner of the Cross Border Special Situation M&A Deal of the Year (Value Below $50 Million) as a result of the firm’s role as investment banker to Achaogen in its bankruptcy sale of the global assets, excluding Greater China, related to ZEMDRI® (plazomicin) to Cipla, the Greater China assets related to plazomicin to Xuanzhu Biopharmaceutical, and additional intellectual property and equipment assets to other buyers.


“We are honored to receive this award and our entire team is pleased to receive recognition for the tireless work they put into the deal on behalf of our clients,” said Philip Cassel, a managing director at the investment banking firm. “Each and every opportunity we take on as a firm receives our full attention and the utmost devotion. This deal was another great example of that hard work paying off.”


Cassel Salpeter worked closely on the transaction with Meru, the debtor’s financial advisor, Hogan Lovells, the debtor’s counsel, and Morris, Nichols, Arsht & Tunnell, the debtor’s co-counsel.


777’s Engine Explosion Puts Boeing’s Reputation On The Line — Again

By Edward Segal

February 22, 2021

Boeing has had a lot of experience dealing with ​crisis situations​ over the past several years.

It was only three months ago that Boeing returned the ​737 MAX to service​. The planes had been ​grounded f​or two years following the crash of two planes that killed 346 people. Then, last Saturday an engine on a United ​777​ exploded over Denver, ​raining debris​ on a neighborhood below.

Airlines in the U.S., Japan, and South Korea ​have already grounded​ dozens of the 777s, and the Federal Aviation Administration ​ordered United​ to increase their inspections of all of those planes.

Boeing’s Statement

Yesterday, Boeing posted the following statement ​on their website​: “Boeing is actively monitoring recent events related to United Airlines Flight 328. While the NTSB investigation is ongoing, we recommended suspending operations of the 69 in-service and 59 in-storage 777s powered by Pratt & Whitney 4000-112 engines until the FAA identifies the appropriate inspection protocol.

“Boeing supports the decision yesterday by the ​Japan Civil Aviation Bureau​, and the FAA’s action today to suspend operations of 777 aircraft powered by Pratt & Whitney 4000-112 engines. We are working with these regulators as they take actions while these planes are on the ground and further inspections are conducted by Pratt & Whitney. Updates will be provided as more information becomes available.”

Bad Timing

Although there is never a good time to have a crisis, the timing of a crisis can certainly make things worse for companies and organizations.

Caroline Sapriel​ is the managing partner of crisis management company ​CS&A International.​ She noted that, “This is bad timing for Boeing and inevitably parallels [with past crashes] will be made….[the company’s] reputation is on the line.”

“At least here they had an immediate response, advised grounding 128 777s powered by that particular engine type, and appeared more in sync with [the] FAA…”

The fact that the engine that fell apart mid-flight was made by a different company could turn out to be a silver lining in the crisis for Boeing.

Quick Action

Speed is essential when responding to any crisis situation, especially when lives may be at stake.

She observed that Boeing’s “… early response seems better, but now the real test comes in terms of actively seeking to expedite the appropriate testing and investigation protocols and avoid blaming the engine manufacturer, who is also a long-term partner.”

The airlines and aviation authorities, “have been extremely quick in taking action that aims to protect stakeholder trust and Boeing should continue to demonstrate alignment with them to sustain their stakeholder confidence. They will be walking a tight rope and will be under the microscope,” Sapriel said.

A Pilot’s Perspective

David Nolletti​ is a commercial pilot with multiple jet type ratings and more than 3,000 hours of flight time. He is currently a managing director at ​Conway MacKenzie​ and leads the firm’s aerospace, defense and government services practice.

By The Numbers

According to Nolletti, the United Airlines Boeing 777 that experienced the in-flight engine failure was powered by ​Pratt & Whitney​ PW4000 engines which entered into service in 1987. “In the subsequent 33+ years of service, Pratt & Whitney has delivered more than 2,500 engines to 70 different operators and accumulated more than 135 million flight hours,” he said.

A Safe And Proven Design

“This is a safe and proven engine design, “Nolletti observed, “ but I think that Boeing responded quickly to ensure the flying public saw them responding with alacrity to a potentially dangerous situation and I think that travelers will be comforted by the speed and decisiveness of the grounding.”


Nolletti said Boeing and Pratt & Whitney should:

  • Partner to communicate the safety statistics of this program to the public to ensure the consumer know that this is a proven, long serving design, with an excellent safety record. Essentially, that this is an isolated incident, and that the investigation will, in due time, determine why this engine suffered an apparent fan blade failure.
  • Highlight the fact that the engine contained the apparent fan blade failure as it is designed to do. By containing the failed blade, the engine cowling prevented more serious damage to the aircraft (e.g. flight controls, hydraulic systems, fuel systems, etc.) or harm to passengers and crew in the aircraft.

Bottom Line

“In short, this could have been a much more dangerous situation, but the robust design of the aircraft and engine coupled with the training of the crew made it relatively uneventful,” Nolletti concluded.

The Importance Of Scenario Training

Practicing responses to various crisis scenarios is an important way to help ensure that companies are prepared for a crisis as much as possible and will react strategically and effectively when a crisis strikes.

The ​NTSB’s findings ​on the two deadly 737 MAX accidents, “… highlighted both a technology vulnerability and pilots’ inadequate training on crisis scenarios to mitigate that vulnerability,” recalled ​Jayson Kratoville​, who is the interim director of the ​National Center for Security & Preparedness ​at the University at Albany’s College of ​Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security, and Cybersecurity​.

He said, “While we will need to wait for more information on the 777 engine failure to draw any conclusions, it’s likely that good crisis scenario training prevented loss of life. Both are important examples for how manufacturers have a stake in product implementation and worst-case scenario training to mitigate risks.”

The Investigation

Mark Dombroff​ is a partner at the ​Fox Rothschild ​law firm, and has more than 30 years of experience in administrative, legislative, regulatory and legal aspects of the national and international aviation industry.

Proactive Approach

He noted that, “The actions Boeing and others have taken relative to 777’s with Pratt & Whitney’s engines demonstrate a pro-active approach to an event that is still under investigation.”

Dombroff observed that, “The ​NTSB​ is charged with investigating the event. Boeing, along with Pratt & Whitney, United, and [the] FAA will be parties to the investigation. Parties to an investigation are not permitted…to conduct their own investigations. The NTSB controls the engine debris and the engine itself and , quite likely, the aircraft itself, at least so long as the engine remains on the wing.”

Early Focus

“At this stage,” he said, “we don’t know whether the engine or something else is the cause of what occurred. What we do know is that the reporting is focusing on the aircraft being a Boeing 777. Coupled with the attention already focused on Boeing due to the MAX, the spotlight on Boeing is made brighter..

“That having been said, there’s a certain amount of unfairness associated with that occurring since the investigation is at a preliminary stage and we don’t know why the fan blades (which reportedly failed) actually failed,” he said

Lessons Learned — Or To Learned Commercial Aviation

Dombroff noted, “There are always lessons to be learned from any event of this type. It’s too early however, to determine what those lessons may be here or to whom any such lessons may be applicable.”

He said, “Commercial aviation in the United States is a phenomenally safe activity. That never means we have achieved perfection. There is always room to make things safer and better, but it remains to be seen in this instance, not only why what occurred, actually occurred, but also what lessons the industry can take away from it.”


Jane Robbins, PhD​, is a retired professor of entrepreneurship and organizations specializing in strategy and institutional integrity. She said,“It seems Boeing has already learned one lesson from the 737MAX debacle: don’t wait until you are forced to take action by the government: get ahead of the problem. But that isn’t really the right lesson for leaders—that’s a reaction, and reacting to a crisis that could have been prevented is never good.

Business Leaders

“Leaders need to learn that every single business decision has consequential ethical content that cannot be dealt with in probabilistic terms; it can only be dealt with organizationally, through an operating philosophy and process designed to ensure institutional integrity, which ‘ solves’ crises before they happen. What’s at stake is reputation or trust, the ultimate form of capital. Once lost, it is extremely difficult to recover, and can bring a company down.

“The organizational basis of disasters is pretty well-known—think ​Challenger, BP oil spill​, etc. This was a near-miss,” she concluded.

All Industries

Joseph Smith​ is director of aviation services for investment banking firm Cassel Salpeter​. “The lesson for all industries where there is an inherent danger to consumers/end users (both products and services), is that safety has to be the number one priority period, hard stop,” he said.

“Safety precautions [for] your customers and [for] your employees (as we have all witnessed especially during Covid) must be engrained in the fabric and DNA of all decisions made, regardless of the costs, or unpopularity of the moment,” he advised.

“The repercussions could be deadly and or costly, both economically, reputationally, morally, and can bring down organizations,” Smith said.

Advice For Business Leaders

Carla Bevins is an assistant teaching professor of business communications at Carnegie Mellon University’s ​Tepper School of Business​. Based on the the latest crisis to hit Boeing, she had the following advice for companies and organizations.

Prepare Ahead Of Time

  • Businesses should have strategic solutions and effective, up-to-date crisis management plans in place to safeguard their reputation before a crisis strikes.
  • Create crisis press release templates ahead of time, so you can put them into action quickly when the crisis happens. Don’t wait to create your key messages until you’re in the middle of the crisis.
  • Companies that think in terms of ‘when’ and not ‘if’ a crisis will strike are better positioned to emerge intact on the other side.

Speed Is Essential

  • Speed is absolutely key in these situations, and the first, well-crafted response must go out within an hour of the crisis going public.
  • It can be difficult to bring a situation back under control if online and social media create an alternative narrative to the one you want to share.
  • When there is a vacuum of information from the source, others will find information elsewhere and come to their own, often misinterpreted conclusions.


  • Strong collaboration between the company’s communication and legal team is needed, as company crisis management responses will post on traditional and social media simultaneously.
  • Key spokespersons will need to be available for press conferences and media interviews.


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Cassel Salpeter & Co. Wins Two Awards at the 2021 Annual USA M&A Atlas Awards: Fairness Opinion Advisor of the Year & Small Market Corporate Deal of the Year

Cassel Salpeter & Co., an independent investment banking firm that provides advice to middle-market and emerging growth companies in the U.S. and worldwide, is pleased to have been recognized by Global M&A Network having won two 2021 Annual USA M&A Atlas Awards for Fairness Opinion Advisor of the Year and the Small Market Corporate Deal of the Year.The Fairness Opinion Advisor of the Year Award was presented to Cassel Salpeter & Co. for its continued excellence in fairness opinion advisory work. Tapping into the team’s extensive experience, the firm delivers the highest-quality work product and strives for greatness on every assignment.Fairness opinions are an opinion with respect to whether the consideration paid or received in a transaction is fair from a financial point of view to the party or persons paying or receiving the consideration. They are provided in a vast range of transactions, including M&A, SPACs, leveraged and management buyouts, going-private and related party transactions, equity financing, private placements, restructurings, joint ventures, tender offers, and reverse mergers.

To date, the firm and its senior management have delivered over 225 fairness opinions, ranging from single acquisitions to highly complex transactions in a broad array of industries.

Additionally, Cassel Salpeter & Co. was named the Small Market ($25-100 million) Corporate Deal of the Year winner for its work as financial advisor to the sellers in the Westchester General Hospital sale to Sanitas USA, a subsidiary of Keralty. Cassel Salpeter worked closely on the transaction with McDermott Will & Emery, the seller’s counsel, and Greenberg Traurig, the buyer’s counsel.

The Annual USA M&A Atlas Awards is part of the prestigious M&A Atlas Award’s global brand, exclusively honoring best value-generating deals, star dealmakers and outstanding firms from North and South America.

“We are honored to be named the ‘Fairness Opinion Advisor of the Year’ and ‘Small Market Corporate Deal of the Year’ in 2021,” said James S. Cassel, Chairman and Co-Founder of Cassel Salpeter & Co. “During a challenging year, our team rose to the occasion to serve our clients with best-in-class service, showing we can adapt to our clients’ needs and achieve great results.”

About Cassel Salpeter & Co., LLC
Cassel Salpeter & Co., LLC is an independent investment banking firm that provides advice to middle market and emerging growth companies in the U.S. and worldwide. Together, the firm’s professionals have extensive experience providing private and public companies with a broad spectrum of investment banking and financial advisory services, including: mergers and acquisitions; equity and debt capital raises; fairness and solvency opinions; valuations; and restructurings, such as 363 sales and plans of reorganization. Co-founded by James Cassel and Scott Salpeter, the firm provides objective, unbiased, results-focused services that clients need to achieve their goals. Personally involved at every stage of all engagements, the firm’s senior professionals have forged relationships and completed hundreds of transactions and assignments nationwide. The firm is headquartered in Miami and maintains a national practice. Member FINRA and SIPC. More information is available at


Q4 2020 Healthcare Investment Banking Report

Cassel Salpeter & Co. Facilitates Sale of Opis Senior Services Group to Citadel Care Centers

Cassel Salpeter & Co., an independent investment banking firm that provides advice to middle market and emerging growth companies in the U.S. and worldwide, today announced it has successfully facilitated the sale of Opis Senior Services Group, one of Florida’s leading providers of long-term and post-acute care, comprised of 10 skilled nursing facilities, an assisted living facility, comprehensive rehabilitation, advanced practitioner services and community-based services in locations throughout Central Florida. The strategic buyer was Citadel Care Centers, which provides a comprehensive roster of services and premium level of healthcare in caring, compassionate, and cheerful environments. Cassel Salpeter advised Opis Senior Services in the transaction.

Opis approached Cassel Salpeter to assist them in finding a suitable buyer during very difficult times. It was a complicated situation given the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and its impact on the facilities. Opis prioritized finding a buyer that would carry on its long tradition of quality care and its reputation as one of the premier operators in the country. Cassel Salpeter identified Citadel Care Centers as the optimal candidate to carry the legacy forward. Citadel already owns and operates multiple nursing homes and care centers in Florida, as well as in other parts of the U.S., and has an extensive track record of providing a high standard of care.

“In spite of all the challenges presented by COVID-19, Cassel Salpeter worked tirelessly to adapt to these changes and continue to provide exceptional solutions for our client,” said James S. Cassel, chairman and cofounder of the investment banking firm. “With the sale to Citadel Care Centers, Opis Senior Services Group have found a knowledgeable buyer aware of the value and importance of the services Opis provides to its patients, and one that will continue and expand upon the seller’s mission.”

The Cassel Salpeter deal team was Chairman James Cassel, Managing Director Philip Cassel, Vice President Laura Salpeter, and Associate Edward Kropf. The legal team for Opis was Paul Singerman, Phyllis Bean, Michael Levinson, and Christopher Jarvinen of Berger Singerman LLP. Salvatore Cuccia of SDC & Associates, Inc. acted as advisor to the company. Bryan Rotella of GenCo Legal, Eric Boyer of Quintairos, Prieto, Wood & Boyer, P.A., and Stephen Grave de Peralta of PG Law acted as the company’s outside legal counsel. The lawyers for Citadel were Aaron Rokach and Adam Kornblatt of Gutnicki LLP.

About Cassel Salpeter & Co.

Cassel Salpeter & Co. LLC is an independent investment banking firm that provides advice to middle market and emerging growth companies in the U.S. and worldwide. Together, the firm’s professionals have more than 50 years of experience providing private and public companies with a broad spectrum of investment banking and financial advisory services, including: mergers and acquisitions; equity and debt capital raises; fairness and solvency opinions; valuations; and restructurings, such as 363 sales and plans of reorganization. Cofounded by James Cassel and Scott Salpeter, the firm provides objective, unbiased, results-focused services that clients need to achieve their goals. Personally involved at every stage of all engagements, the firm’s senior partners have forged relationships and completed hundreds of transactions and assignments nationwide. The firm’s headquarters are in Miami. Member FINRA and SIPC. More information is available at

This Major Miami Company Just Announced It Will Pay Its Employees to Get Vaccinated

By Rob Wile

February 3, 2021

One of the largest companies in South Florida announced this week it would pay its employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Ryder System Inc., a publicly traded trucking and logistics company, said its 40,000 company-wide workforce would receive up to six hours of paid time off to get inoculated. That includes three hours of PTO for the first vaccine and an additional three hours of PTO for treatments that require a second dose.

Miami-based Ryder said it employs 1,121 workers in Miami-Dade County.

“We want to provide assurances to our workforce that they don’t need to worry about being penalized either in pay or PTO balance when getting vaccinated,” Robert Sanchez, Ryder chairman, CEO, and a Miami native, said in a statement.

He noted Ryder already pays sick leave to employees who have contracted the virus.

“This paid vaccine decision was no different,” he said. “Two of our core values at Ryder are trust and safety, so it was an easy decision to extend this protection to our workforce.”

Ryder shares are listed on the S&P 400 index of “mid-cap” stocks of companies usually worth between $1 and $10 billion; it has a market capitalization of $3.4 billion and annual revenues of $8.9 billion. Other South Florida firms on that S&P index, including AutoNation, MasTec, and Watsco Inc., declined or did not respond to request for comment about their companies’ vaccination plans.

Other companies reportedly giving employees paid time off to get vaccinated include grocery giant Aldi, Chobani, Darden Restaurants, Dollar General and Trader Joe’s.

Yet these remain the exception, as the majority of U.S. firms have not yet issued vaccine policies. Many may be navigating employees’ religious, cultural and even political sensitivities surrounding vaccines, said James Cassel, co-founder and chairman of investment group Cassel Salpeter & Co. Cassel’s firm is now helping middle-market companies navigate COVID.

“For some groups, no incentive would work,” he said. “So many companies are waiting until they believe their employees are at a given comfort level.”

Jay Starkman, founder and CEO of Hollywood-based staffing group Engage PEO, said decisions like Ryder’s should not remain the exception. Employers, he said, “[have] an obligation to getting us all through this, and getting vaccinated is the only way out.”

Click here to read the full article.

James Cassel of Cassel Salpeter & Co.: “You have to be willing to make mistakes”

As part of my series about “How To Take Your Company From Good To Great”, I had the pleasure of interviewing James S. Cassel, cofounder and chairman of Cassel Salpeter & Co., LLC, an investment banking firm with headquarters in Miami, Florida, that works with middle market companies.

Using his unique experience as a dealmaker and attorney to guide clients and help them achieve their goals, Jim has successfully negotiated, structured, and executed a broad spectrum of transactions including mergers, acquisitions, and divestitures, corporate and transactional financings, and public offerings for clients nationwide and worldwide. Having developed a keen understanding of the issues faced and alternatives available for distressed companies, he has particular experience in developing financial restructuring plans, negotiating with creditors, and guiding debtors through bankruptcy proceedings. Nationally recognized for his investment banking expertise, Jim frequently lectures on timely issues related to middle market investment banking and writes a column for the Miami Herald about emerging trends, strategies and tactics for middle market business owners. Before founding Cassel Salpeter & Co., Jim was cofounder and chairman of Capitalink, an investment banking firm that was acquired by Ladenburg Thalmann & Co., a New York Stock Exchange member firm where Jim continued and served as vice chairman, senior managing director, and head of investment banking.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

I was a securities lawyer for 17 years but really didn’t have anything close to a work/life balance. Like most securities attorneys I thought we did all of the work while the investment bankers were making all the money. I had a client who encouraged me to become an investment banker and join his firm because I was good at making deals, so I finally did it. Although I have better work/life balance, today, I still continue to be deeply absorbed by my work. I’m not complaining. I love the career I’ve chosen, but I’ve had to work very hard to carve out the success I and my firm enjoy today.

Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

I grew up comfortably, but there were times in my professional career in both law and the financial industry when things looked bad. As a budding securities attorney, I found myself working very hard for a six month stretch without getting paid. I was getting seriously worried, when a friend who knew of my situation called informing me that I had won 5000 dollars in a raffle. I thought it was a joke, but he showed up at my home 10:30 at night with the check. I used that to pay my next mortgage payment.

I then joined a new law firm. After 17 years of law practice, I walked away from that career as a corporate/securities attorney, and as managing partner of the firm’s largest office during my best year and entered investment banking. Little over a year later, things went south with a business partner, and I had to face a decision: Do I turn back and practice law, or do I start an investment bank? To a certain extent, in both cases it would be a restart.

I think it’s important to note that I expected to succeed either way. This is not about being arrogant, but about believing you will succeed and having that confidence. It’s fundamental to succeeding, and a key to taking a business from good to great. You really do have to believe. I thought, I’m going to be successful at whatever I decide, but by creating an investment bank at the end of my career, I’ll also have a quality business to sell. So, I found new partners and started the investment bank Cassel Salpeter & Co.

About six months after kicking off my first investment banking firm, I did consider giving up when things were not going well. But by then realized there was a niche opportunity in the market issuing “fairness opinions.” Here, after substantial analyses we might determine that a transaction is fair from a financial point of view — and that saved our firm. That was 25 years ago, and we were rescued by a lawyer who sent us one deal that turned out to be the difference between making it or not making it. I never forget what he did for me.

There is also a lesson here in going from good to great in how this all played out, because before you can even get to good, never mind great, you have to survive. That lawyer decided to trust our services even though we didn’t have the track record that other firms had. Some might say we weren’t entitled to the opportunity, but we seized it and performed at a very high level and went on to prosper. We still do business 25 years later.

I started the first investment banking business from scratch when I was writing checks without receiving them. In both of my early starts the money was going out the door and not coming in as fast. When things got difficult what most kept me going was that I could not afford to fail. I had a wife and four children, and lots of bills and knew I could and had to make it work. There was no alternative.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?

I wouldn’t say this was a mistake, but when I quit practicing law and started in the investment banking business, I found myself with my new partner rising on a lift preparing to ski with clients. When we got to the top of the mountain, my new partner turned to me and said, “It’s all downhill from here.” I guess technically he was right.

What I’m trying to say is that depending on the sort of investment banking work we are doing, there can be significant impacts on the people behind the deals. Quite often we are selling what amounts to a person’s baby, and quite often it’s a baby in deep trouble. This can be traumatic for many business owners for whom their company can be an extension of their personality. Having a sense of humor and real compassion and feel for the players in a deal goes a long way.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

I think, maybe more than other companies, we are very much committed to being a relationship business and doing what is best for our client and maybe, at times, to our own detriment. It is our culture. What I mean by that is that while we are always looking for a business opportunity, I think that we really are there to help irrespective of whether or not the person is ultimately going to become a client. To a certain extent this is in line with our work culture of giving back. And as a result, there have been more than a few occasions when we were going after business and lost it when the potential client switched directions, but we were still called back later to do work for them.

There may not be an immediate monetary benefit to committing to building a relationship, but you never know when those efforts may come back to benefit you and others if you take a long-term perspective. Very often, for example, we will see a client who really wants to sell a business and our analysis tells us this just isn’t the optimal time for a sale. I could take a fee to create a deal, but ultimately, I don’t believe that serves the client, so we encourage them not to move forward at this time. That’s about being relationship-minded, putting people above a single deal, and I think it’s something that separates us from the pack.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

The investment banking business is not an easy one. There’s a lot of research, analytical work, and background reading you have to put in to serve your clients at the level they expect. And then you have to really commit to developing and managing your relationships. This takes time. There are no shortcuts.

You have to pace yourself as you take this on. You have to constantly keep a clear head about where a relationship or deal is going and be prepared to pivot at all times. If you are really having a challenge with a client, for example, you have to face the fact that you either have to work it out or disengage from the client. If you keep a toxic working relationship going too long, you are setting yourself up to fail as well as to burn out.

When it comes to thriving, it starts with accepting that investment banking work means fundamentally understanding that this is a relationship/knowledge/idea business. If you can think creatively, you’ll find that developing those relationships isn’t a burden. Also, what clients are looking for are ideas, advice and knowledge. With many today working from home and not having face-to-face contact, maintaining relationships and developing new ones has never been harder. But by coming up with new ways of connecting and helping people and clients, you not only perform better, but sleep better. When you can see that there are people behind your deal strategy, I think it puts you on a pathway to a healthier lifestyle.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

Besides my wife and family, I really owe a lot to my partner, Scott Salpeter. I was blessed to be introduced to him over 25 years ago by his father, who was a client of mine when I was practicing law. I went on to have Scott as a client, as well. When I left the practice to change careers and become an investment banker, I needed someone with his skills set and he agreed to join with me. We’ve been partners ever since, working together for almost 25 years through three investment banking businesses, the original Capitalink — which we sold to Ladenburg Thalmann & Co. and where I was vice chairman and head of investment banking — and our firm now, Cassel Salpeter & Co., that has been doing work I’m very proud of for over a decade.

Our personalities are very different. Between I and Scott we have a sort of yin yang balance. Our personalities and skills sets are very different, yet perfectly complimentary to our investment bank and therefore our clients. I believe, and I think that Scott would agree, that by teaming up we’ve been more successful working together than we would have been on our own. We’ve managed to be greater than the sum of our parts. One key is that we have implicit trust in each other, and that is priceless in this business.

Luck has also been a part of success for me. I was lucky when I married my wife. I got engaged to my wife after dating her six weeks and we’ve been together over 43 years and raised four kids together. So, I’ve managed to have great people to spend my time with during the day at work, as well as when I get home. When you talk about thriving without burning out, finding the right people to spend most of your time with is fundamental.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. The title of this series is “How to take your company from good to great”. Let’s start with defining our terms. How would you define a “good” company, what does that look like? How would you define a “great” company, what does that look like?

A good company usually has reached a high level in a range of criteria from having the right people in key positions, to being in a sound financial position, to having a good work culture, to having a leader with a clear and achievable mission. A good company will do well frequently in a lot of these areas, but a great company goes a step further and is firing on all pistons, without any areas of deficiency and therefore will have longevity.

As an investment banker working with companies across a range of industries, I’ve seen what look to be good, some might say great companies, but they don’t perform well because of the industry they are in. And I’ve seen good companies where that’s just a fine place to be, and the leaders are happy operating at that level. To take a company to the next level, for example, takes hard work and a commitment to be a great company. It starts at the top and must be the culture throughout the whole company. Not every company can be great, but they can strive to be better.

Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to lead a company from Good to Great? Please share a story or an example for each. First read the book “Good to Great” by Jim Collins. He describes this much better than I could ever do.

• To take a company from good to great you have to have the right people in the right positions to begin with. We run a small company. As with any company, having the right people in each role is critical. You can take someone with an outgoing personality and put them in the back room drafting documents and end up setting them up for failure instead of putting them in a position where they can flourish.

• You have to have leadership that is openminded and collaborative, and at the same time, has a real vision and determination to achieve greatness and make the tough decisions. This starts with bringing in people to your team that may not necessarily have the same ideas or background as you and being open to doing things in new ways that you may not have previously experienced. If it’s getting you more efficiently to your ultimate goal, and you can incorporate your contributions as well, you have to be open to that.

• You have to be willing to innovate and part of this is being willing to take calculated risks and think outside the box.

• You have to be willing to make mistakes, acknowledge them, and change direction. I’ve hired wrongly, for example, and I’ve learned to correct that quickly. You do no favor to the employee, or the company by extending the relationship.

• And you have to be willing to help others and extend yourself to others in your industry, while taking a long-term view about business relationships.

Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. Can you help articulate for our readers a few reasons why a business should consider becoming a purpose driven business, or consider having a social impact angle?

When I think of purpose driven businesses, I see this as an internal and external dynamic that ends up promoting the overall health of a company, as well as the environment it comes into contact with.

Look at a company like TOMS shoes which does good by not only selling a product, but by donating a substantial amount of that product to people in need. What they do helps the company internally in terms of morale because they feel good about their mission, but it also helps the company externally, because they are right to get their message out regarding their efforts to help others. That not only helps build brand loyalty, but it can lead to other companies following suit.

As the company itself says, “TOMS has always stood for a better tomorrow–one where humanity thrives. To us, that means no matter who you are or where you live, you feel physically safe, mentally healthy, and have equal access to opportunity. Every TOMS purchase enables us to invest in local partners around the world who are working to create positive change in these three areas.”

You can also look at a company like Apple, which now has great momentum with its watch. But that watch is not just telling time, it connects to one’s health care stats. They are developing a product that’s far beyond something designed just to make its creators money. They are developing a product that can actually do good.

As an investment banker engaged in health care industry M&A, I look at companies that are working on COVID-19 vaccines and therapies and it can be argued that they are purpose driven businesses. Sure, they are looking to earn a profit, but you can bet that they are also motivated to do great things for our society. The folks I work with in the health care industry are also mission and purpose driven.

At the end of the day, when you are a purpose driven business you are building momentum to make the world a better place and that’s definitely a part of going from good to great, because another aspect of a great company, is that everyone on board is motivated and feels their work has meaning and is part of something larger. Greatness isn’t just about a bottom line, but it’s how you feel inside about your company and your work. That builds camaraderie and helps create energy to achieve your mission and goals as a company. When you have satisfied employees, they end up more innovative, harder working, and they help your company grow, which is just better for everybody.

All that said, it’s important to note, that before you can be a truly purpose driven company, you have to have a quality product and a viable economic model. You can’t skimp on that.

What would you advise to a business leader who initially went through years of successive growth, but has now reached a standstill. From your experience do you have any general advice about how to boost growth and “restart their engines”?

From what I’ve seen many times in my work, companies come to a standstill when they fail to innovate or when they cut back on new product development. They really need to readjust their mindset. They need to reevaluate why they aren’t growing. Do they have the right products and services? Are they in a stagnant market in which case they need to find new markets and new products and services? Then they have to determine how to become innovative. Sometimes this requires a change of management at the top.

There has been many a company that was wonderful until it wasn’t. Much like people, sometimes it’s complacency and arrogance that keeps a company down. Consider Kodak or Polaroid. In the beginning, they were very innovative, and then they weren’t. Kodak went on to survive although as a shadow of its former self, but there was a point where they lost their edge, their drive, their innovation. Getting that drive back is sometimes about bringing in new people to get that fire started again. In some cases, it’s bringing back experienced, senior-level people, like when Steve Jobs rejoined Apple.

Business moves rapidly and there’s no place for those who take their current success for granted. If you are not moving forward, generally you’re moving backwards. Just look at Sears and what happened to them. They really should be the Amazon of today, but they didn’t innovate. They missed the boat. Sears Roebuck was the first catalogue company. What was Amazon? It was just an online catalogue for a bookseller at the beginning. But they obviously had a much bigger plan. They were looking to go from good to great.

Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?

Focus and sales are the key. I believe that in a service business, which I’m in, it comes down to networking, staying in touch with your referral sources, not cutting back on revenue-generating things like marketing and PR, even though it might be difficult in the present environment to see their value right away.

When things are not going well you have to figure out where to cut back, and many make the mistake of cutting back on advertising, marketing and sales when it might be better to cut back on employees. PR and marketing are the front-facing part of a business, not something you necessarily want to cut back on. These are tough choices and one must choose wisely. You have to be out there with your advertising, with your PR, with your relationships.

Finally, you have to evaluate all of your expenses and look at risk and reward, with it coming down to making sure you’re getting the best bang for your buck. With the coronavirus it is even more difficult. So, we have to adapt and learn new ways to market.

In your experience, which aspect of running a company tends to be most underestimated? Can you explain or give an example?

I think this can come down more to perception rather than truth. We tend to underestimate whatever aspect of the work we aren’t doing. The other guy’s job is always easier. But one aspect isn’t really less valuable or harder to do than the other. It doesn’t matter how good you are at one side of your business, if you don’t make all the parts seamless from sales, to production, to collections, it makes things harder for the other positions. Sales is always important, but if execution or production is not done properly it is all for naught.

As you know, “conversion” means to convert a visit into a sale. In your experience what are the best strategies a business should use to increase conversion rates?

I don’t think there is a one-size-fits-all when it comes to conversions. I think you have to tailor your pitch, your products and services to particular sets of consumers and customers. I think listening to your customers and clients and understanding what their needs and wants are is the important thing.

You get that feedback by asking your clients and customers for it. You can do so directly, one-on-one, or using digital communications platforms and social media. My father used to tell me there’s a reason God gave us one mouth and two ears: we should listen twice as much as we should talk.

Of course, the main way to increase conversion rates is to create a trusted and beloved brand. Can you share a few ways that a business can earn a reputation as a trusted and beloved brand?

What’s behind the image of a great brand really comes down to consistent customer service, standing behind your products with good warranties, and ensuring they are of top quality. It’s about not cutting corners, listening to your customers and being responsive, and providing good value. And, ideally, you do want to go that extra mile by giving back and there’s no reason a business shouldn’t let its customers know that they are giving back. Customers want to know they are supporting a company with a vision that’s larger than the bottom line, especially now.

Great customer service and great customer experience are essential to build a beloved brand and essential to be successful in general. In your experience what are a few of the most important things a business leader should know in order to create a Wow! Customer Experience?

Developing a “wow” experience is about developing a “wow” product or service. You have to look at companies like Disney, Apple and Amazon. They are all great brands that people perceive they get great value from. They are all also very protective of their brands, making sure everything they put out on the market is great. For them, being second best isn’t an option and they are willing to invest substantial assets to ensure this.

What are your thoughts about how a company should be engaged on Social Media? For example, the advisory firm EisnerAmper conducted 6 yearly surveys of United States corporate boards, and directors reported that one of their most pressing concerns was reputational risk as a result of social media. Do you share this concern? We’d love to hear your thoughts about this.

You obviously have to monitor social media and really have to have consultants to help you because even the best of companies can piss off somebody. You also have to be vigilant and prepared to respond to attacks you may receive. Part of this comes back to creating a culture of providing great customer service. And you have to have a system in place so that what’s happening on social media is being monitored and reported to top leadership. You don’t ever want leadership blindsided. Concerns have to be elevated. Today, this is so important. Damage can be done that might be irreversible.

What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?

The most common mistake I’ve seen through decades in the investment banking business is that CEOs and founders underestimate the amount of capital needed to succeed. They haven’t done enough homework on the market to understand its size. They don’t understand the competitive landscape they are playing in and they underestimate the time it will take to get to cash flow breakeven and then profitability. Another thing I see quite a bit, is trying to fix a problem that doesn’t really exist.

To not get into this sort of trouble, they have to make sure they have really done serious, thoughtful work on the way in, so that they have a realistic budget in place to move forward. But keep in mind, not every business will be successful. Knowing when to cut and run is also important.

Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

If I were to start a movement, it would have to begin with getting businesses to increasingly make the preservation of the environment a central concern, while at the same time raising consciousness about equal opportunity. Without a healthy environment, and an engaged, diverse workforce whatever we may do might be all for naught. When looking at businesses, buyers and operators should really be taking into consideration what every individual business can do to help with sustainability and to limit or reverse environmental destruction. Businesses need to be profitable to survive, and I don’t think anyone should be ashamed to be profitable, but you can make a profit and still be conscious about the environment, and about the dignity of your employees by promoting and benefiting from diversity, and committing to creating equal opportunity. Encouraging diversity and giving people equal opportunity is not only good for the business, but it’s the right thing to do. Making a profit is nothing to be ashamed of provided you do it responsibly.

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James Cassel may be reached via email at or via LinkedIn at His website is:

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!

Q4 2020: Aviation Report