Jordan Halperin, W’98
VP of Volunteer Services
WCNY Entrepreneur and Private Equity
Jordan Halperin, W’98, is the new VP of Volunteer Services for the Wharton Club of New York. Recruited by his predecessor Diana Davenport, WG’87, Jordan brings innovative ideas and excellent communication skills. Diana, a WCNY board member, is a well-known leader in the New York City non- profit community, and knows the value of selecting the right person for the role. Attend one of our WCNY volunteer nights to meet Jordan, and find out more about WCNY.
What would you like potential volunteers to know about Volunteer Services?
First, we are the entry point for alumni who want to volunteer, connect with like-minded people and further educate themselves. Jerrod Hill, WG’15, is the Assistant VP of Volunteer Services. Jerrod and I introduce alumni to the Club, understand their goals, and then match them to the Club’s needs and opportunities. We can slot them into volunteer positions that have been posted. We can also try to create an opportunity for them that matches their interests and the Club’s needs — even if those needs hadn’t been anticipated. Not everyone’s ideas will fit, but I think the Club offers enough different types of activities and covers enough areas, related to professional skills and social interests, that there should be something for everyone.
Second, we take the pulse of volunteers who have been with the Club. We gauge their satisfaction, further engage with them and make sure they are having as fulfilling an experience as they hope to achieve.
Where did you find your inspiration to focus on engaging long-term volunteers?
My experience in running a company is that you work so hard to pitch and gain customers, then you need to work even harder to keep them. The same applies to a non-profit.
We want to invest at least as much time and effort to help volunteers grow and reach their goals, as we do to invite them to get involved. It will be hard to substantially connect with all volunteers, but with a concerted effort and technological tools, we can develop personalized, ongoing relationships.
How do you want readers to think about volunteering at WCNY?
Volunteer opportunities can be a “choose your own adventure.” We might be looking for someone to drive sponsorship for the magazine, or for an assistant general counsel. And someone reads about these roles in the WCNY Magazine, and they think, “I’d like to be involved, but not in those specific roles.” No problem!
If that person is passionate about knitting and thinks other Whartonites are passionate about knitting, and they want to set up the WCNY Knitting Group, then there is an opportunity to do so. If you don’t see something that you are interested in, feel free to start a group.
How do alumni reach out?
A reader may say, “Well, I’ve been working in finance, but I’d like to broaden my horizons.” Kent, you’re a perfect case in point. You’re in the real estate space, but you write for the WCNY Magazine. And speaking for Jerrod and me, we are primarily in private equity and venture capital, with less of a focus on HR functions. We’ve embraced this opportunity here in the Club because we thought it would be an interesting chance to talk to peers, and it’s been a positive experience to date. So don’t feel pigeonholed by your career path. This is a fun way to add another arrow to your quiver!
You mentioned being inspired to work with Regina Jaslow, W’97 our new President. What attributes do you see in her?
Her tremendous energy. She has a full-time job, yet I see her jump into activities related to my area and five other areas. To juggle everything and have the energy and drive to push all these initiatives simultaneously is impressive.
Professionally, you are looking to acquire or launch businesses. How did you get to that position?
I graduated in 1998, and began working with a small, very successful private equity firm managing multiple companies. Then I became President of a professional services company focused in the graphic design space and transformed the business into an award-winning partner to many Fortune 500 companies.
Since then, I’ve focused on finding a business to acquire, partner with a fund in some regard, or take a leadership and founder role with a startup or developing entity, leveraging my experiences to date.
What kind of company are you targeting?
Most industries present opportunities if you can find the right business situation. Companies I’ve participated in grew fast, regardless of the macro environment. I’ve been actively involved in many industries, including food service equipment manufacturing, retail flooring, and cable and rope manufacturing.
These are not glamorous sectors. Yet the businesses grew by leaps and bounds, because we had a plan in place, and we effectively executed on those plans to grow those businesses well outside their industry norms.
I want to focus on businesses where there is a realistic possibility for me to bring about outsized returns.
In this environment, where the amount of money entering into private equity hit a new record this year, how do you approach valuation?
Carefully. While you seek to aggressively move forward with an opportunity that appears attractive, history is littered with cases of people who overextended themselves to beat out the competition. It is important to conduct yourself with integrity and act logically to demonstrate to potential partners that you’re the party they should team up with, even if it is at a lower valuation.
There’s a lot in common between buying a company for yourself and for a firm.
Yes. As a Whartonite with an entrepreneurial management concentration, I’ve enjoyed applying my career experiences to my own ventures. That being said, I’m also very interested in working with a compatible private equity or venture capital firm, and am
eager to meet with parties to explore possibilities of all kinds. My successes span across all business roles, including investment, operational, financial, sales and marketing functions. So my multidisciplinary background can be an asset in varied environments.
One of my hobbies is solving large jigsaw puzzles with thousands of pieces. There is a defined answer, yet it’s a complex situation. You can’t solve it with the flip of a switch. You need a strategy to attack literally thousands of pieces sitting in front of you. So, I like the idea of having a challenge in front of me. How can I buy or build something and turn X into 5X?
Then the challenge is … here’s what I can do — here’s what I see associated with the industry and the opportunity and people involved in the business. How can I move the pieces around and then take specific steps to grow an existing business or create and grow a business from scratch?
What kind of business might you create from scratch?
The first business area would provide lead referrals for companies looking to sell their products and services. I’ve done work in this area and feel that technological improvements will continue to allow for advances in this space. In particular, I’m excited about the specialty foods sector and feel this is an underserved area.
My second potential startup would provide capital to medical practices that need funding but can’t get it through conventional channels. The problem of matching the timing of revenues with expenses is a challenge for most of these businesses. The key is understanding how these doctors are paid and the dynamics that might affect payments, going forward. There may be an opportunity to provide a more efficient lending mechanism for these groups.