United States

Inside the Eminence Program: Stephanie's journey


Through our Industry Eminence Program, senior analysts decipher complex economic trends and deliver hyper-relevant insights for the industries that our clients operate. Stephanie Johnson shares her experience in this cutting-edge program and what's next for her on her journey:

My favorite part of my job as a valuation professional is hearing and understanding the story behind the numbers. Not only is it interesting to hear this perspective from company leaders, but it is critical to properly assess value. While historical performance is a relevant data point, the future doesn’t always align with the past. The full picture considers future goals, risk appetites and baskets of unknowns. To me, those items spur much more valuable and interesting conversations. 

I view RSM US LLP’s Industry Eminence Program as an opportunity to seek this predictive and holistic view on a grander scale with deeper knowledge and greater depth. The program positions senior analysts to evaluate, forecast and communicate economic, business and technology trends shaping the industries that RSM serves. Eminents are equipped to do so via access to powerful data sources; training in writing, speaking and media; and the ability to collaborate with key players in their respective industry arenas.

For me, the program fits perfectly with what I love to do.

How my journey began

I first joined RSM in the summer of 2012 as a consulting intern in our McLean, Va., office. I started full time at the firm in the summer of 2013 as a business valuation associate after graduating from the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland (go Terps!).

I chose to start my career at RSM because of the culture and the people. As an intern, I had the opportunity to work with many people representing all levels and lines of business at the firm. I enjoyed and learned from every interaction I had. And while the positive culture and the people were the reasons I chose RSM, they are also the reason I stay.  

When I transferred to RSM’s Washington Metro market, I quickly realized the strength and connectivity of the government contracting community in and around D.C. Lucky for me, I was welcomed by quite a few RSM mentors who prioritized industry and took an interest in my development. I knew that industry would not only provide the opportunity for me to gain subject matter expertise, but to also be coached by smart, successful and highly regarded leaders in the firm and broader market. Therefore, the combination of seeing industry community in action and having the opportunity to learn from key industry leaders contributed to my decision to specialize in business and professional services with a sector focus on government contracting. Long story short, I am the beneficiary of significant mentoring from RSM leader-allies who recognize and prioritize developing our firm’s people.

My industry focus

I am a director in our valuation services practice. As a valuation professional, I value businesses for a variety of purposes including financial reporting, tax reporting, contemplated transactions, reorganizations and strategic planning. That could mean estimating the value of businesses looking to sell, stock options issued to incentivize management, or intangible assets transferred as part of a business combination. 

While I’ve seen a bit of everything over my seven-year career, I spend most of my time working with high-growth, private-equity-backed businesses. In D.C., that means quite a few government contractors, technology companies, early-stage life sciences businesses, and the private equity and venture capital funds that invest in them.

As our firm’s government contracting practice continued to grow, I became more deeply involved in serving government services businesses—specifically, companies that provide business and professional services to federal, state and local governments. I’ve enjoyed watching these businesses use innovative technologies to address our nation’s critical needs. The active M&A market has also translated into an exciting, fast-paced business environment.

The start of my IEP journey

My first five months in the eminence program have been transformative. I’ve begun to develop a more holistic view of business strategy, the dynamic components of an industry ecosystem, and the financial markets that drive growth and return. The program encourages us to broaden our skill sets to better address enterprise-level issues and provide real-time, predictive insights.

Since starting in the program, I’ve had the opportunity to expand my technical skills beyond valuation and financial analysis. Specifically, my eminence class has spent time learning about data science, artificial intelligence, machine learning, change management and digital transformation. In addition to more strategically navigating our current business climate, I’m thinking about what the future of professional services will look like on the other side of the digital revolution. Positioning RSM and our clients for success in the future is a significant undertaking that will never truly cease. I’m looking forward to building on my experiences in the IEP and I hope I can use these experiences to challenge my colleagues, my clients and myself to innovate, grow and make change like never before.

Enhancing client services

Eminents provide a variety of insights through various channels in an effort to equip middle market executives. Many are preparing helpful visualizations of key economic data for RSM’s Chart of the Day on The Real Economy Blog. Others are listening to earnings calls each quarter in an effort to identify and communicate key opportunities and concerns that require near-term action or longer-term planning. Others are connecting with seasoned industry analysts at Bloomberg to learn about key issues on the horizon or staffers on Capitol Hill to get a pulse check on major legislation and regulation. The eminence program gives participants great authority to determine what information their industry ecosystem is craving and how best to meet that need.

As a business and professional services eminent focused on government contracting, I’ve spent quite a bit of time meeting with industry investment bankers and attorneys, with fund managers investing in the sector, with middle market and public company management teams, and with other industry players. This network provides me with greater insight into and connection with the industry. Their perceptions help me tailor my research and data analysis to be relevant to our middle market clients.

A year like no other

This year is synonymous with “uncertainty” and “volatility” in light of a pandemic, economic recession and high-stakes presidential election. While some businesses have thrived in 2020 and others have failed, management teams of all companies are taking the time to consider how best to grapple with significant uncertainty for an unknown period. While no one has all the answers, it is important to be kept apprised of breaking news, current events and available data on key economic drivers related to COVID-19, economic recovery, election results and other industry-specific market movers. The eminence program mobilized throughout the year to provide real-time, data-driven insights to our clients and contacts to keep them educated, informed and ready to make smart, strategic decisions about their businesses.

Thoughts for the future

To date, RSM’s industry eminence program has far exceeded my expectations in sharing knowledge, cultivating community and driving growth. My hope is that the continued success of this program results in it no longer needing to exist, and that all employees at RSM are immersed in their respective industries and providing data-driven insights to their clients. We’ve struck the match, and I think the middle market is ready to ignite.