When Dave Parikh first came to America at age thirteen, it didn’t feel like the land of opportunity. Up to that point, his father had launched and led a thriving global business, and his family led a lavish lifestyle in countries around the world. Everything changed, however, when the company suddenly went bankrupt. Their large house with maids in Germany was traded in for a small apartment in a rough neighborhood near Greensboro, North Carolina. His parents, once a powerful CEO and a prominent professor, had to take factory jobs. They struggled to put food on the table, and the stress took its toll.
With broken English and a broken family, Dave could have stayed broken. Instead, he decided to make a plan. “I’m blessed because I have a good family, and we were ultimately able to rise back up,” he reflects today. “But that was a defining moment where I decided that I would never experience that kind of failure again in my life. I wanted enough money to live my dreams, but not so much that I spent my whole life chasing it. I needed a clear plan of what I wanted to achieve, and then I needed to execute.”
This lesson hit home again when, at age 32, Dave lost his beloved uncle very suddenly to a heart attack. With a successful career, a loving family, and a winning character, the man embodied everything Dave hoped to achieve in life, and the two were very close. Around the same time. Dave’s mother suffered a stroke, and though she recovered, the sequence of events struck him to the core. “Every time something like that happens, I reevaluate,” Dave affirms. “It put me on a timeline and reminded me of my priorities. Life is not about career, or about making money just for money’s sake. You shouldn’t have regrets in life, and you shouldn’t be bored. I want to experience all that life has to offer and have a positive impact on others.”
After Dave grieved, he again mapped his long-term plan and then spoke with a financial advisor to figure out how much money he needed to achieve it. As the founder, owner, and Managing Partner of BusinessWise Capital, a boutique consulting firm serving middle-market federal government contractors, his business is both a means and an end in that equation. “I love the work itself—the all-consuming focus of the deal, and the deep connections forged with clients through the process,” he says. “And just as much, I love that the work now allows me to live the dreams that once seemed impossible.”
Founded in 2013, BusinessWise Capital focuses primarily on defense contractors between $20 million and $50 million in revenue—a space Dave has experienced from all angles over the years. Bringing the expertise he developed while working for multi-billion-dollar companies, he’s driven by the excitement and honor of helping business owners through what is often the biggest transaction of their life. “When I started the firm, my goal was to truly understand each business and business owner, grasping what their needs and wants are beyond the scope of the transaction itself,” he says. “Then, when it’s the right time in their life, I’d help them make that final push to exit the business and move on to the other things they want to do.”
As a Certified Exit Planning Advisor, Dave leads clients through a methodical process that begins with a company evaluation and a conversation with the client’s wealth manager to figure out how much money they need to live the life they want to live. Once the value gap is understood, Dave maps out a plan for how to get the company to that level, just as he did for himself at key junctures in his own life. “I can’t do business development for the client, but I can give them hard targets,” he says. “Maybe they’re revenue-related, or maybe they need to build the company’s management bench to improve the enterprise value and create a true operating turnkey business. Maybe it’s legal or financial issues that need to be cleaned up. We get everything ready so that, when we catch the eye of a buyer, we’re in the best possible position to succeed.”
As he counsels clients, Dave gets to know them in a deeper way, meeting their family and learning about their plans for life afterward. “I’m certainly driven by the excitement of the deal, with its finite beginning and finite end,” he says. “But I also love that I can have a clear, marked impact on someone’s life. In many situations, the impact you have on others is gradual, but with this business you get to see the reaction firsthand when someone sells the business they’ve spent their whole life building. It’s very rewarding.”
Thus, while many M&A advisors focus exclusively on the transaction, Dave works more holistically, maximizing each sale by embracing both the before and the after. He is also a Certified Valuation Advisor, a Certified Mergers and Acquisitions Advisor, and a Certified Global Management Accountant, which speaks to his experience in cross-border transactions with the European accounting system. Private equity investing is yet another tool in his toolbox. “In certain instances where a company isn’t ripe to sell yet, I might choose to invest so the client can have a liquidity event,” he explains. “Then we’d grow it together for a sale.”
While each client’s circumstances are compelling and unique, Dave particularly remembers working with a single father and veteran of the U.S. Navy, by that time in his late sixties, who had built a very successful satellite communications company. He wanted to outsource his CPA work over to BusinessWise, and in the course of working together, Dave learned more about his plans for the future. The man’s two daughters had no interest in taking over the company, but he wasn’t ready to talk about his end goal yet. “He had spent his whole life working,” Dave recounts. “All he had was his business. The employees were his family.”
One day, the man suffered a double aneurysm and collapsed, breaking several ribs. The next day, he called Dave and asked him to sell the company within six months because he wanted to get married and travel. “I wasn’t able to get him as much as I would have if we had had more time,” Dave reflects. “But I got him twice as much as he said he’d be happy with, and he’s since gotten married, bought a house, and traveled around the world. He’s living his dreams now.”
Dave first learned how to make dreams a reality through the example of his father, who decided to embrace his entrepreneurial spirit after having a negative experience working for someone else. A critical thinker who taught Dave to pragmatically examine a situation from all angles, he built up an impressive business. Dave’s early perspective was also shaped by his mother, a kind and optimistic college professor with her PhD in Psychology and Sociology who also prioritized social work. “She helped to build a school for women in Afghanistan in the 1990’s,” he says. “She inspired me to protect the defenseless, which led to my deep love of helping animals.”
The family moved to Germany when he was very young, and traveled around to other European countries before moving to India when he was seven. The next year, they relocated to Saudi Arabia, followed by a six-month stint in Hong Kong and an interlude in Israel before finally returning to Germany. “I’m thankful to have grown up in so many places, which helped me to develop a very diverse perspective,” he says. “I got used to saying goodbye to friends as soon as I’d make them, and though it was hard at first, it got better with time. I liked that there was always somewhere new to experience, and that nothing was permanent. I embraced it.”
In each country, Dave studied at English schools but also made an effort to blend with the local culture so he could learn and understand different ways of life. He enjoyed studying and especially loved history because it allowed him to relive the experiences of others across time and space. Wrestling, soccer, and bike riding allowed him to make friends in new places relatively quickly, and from an early age, he demonstrated his own entrepreneurial drive. When he was eight, he turned a profit when he went door-to-door selling novel foreign batteries his father had brought back from overseas. Another time, his father gave him $100, and he turned it into $1,000 trading stocks “That was really exciting, and I was always thinking about what I could do to make money,” he says. “That definitely came from my father, who impressed upon me the importance of being in charge of my own destiny. It planted the seeds that eventually drove me to start my own company.”
If his father’s success inspired him to dream up his own path to prosperity, his bankruptcy taught Dave how to protect it. “For a long time, I was angry with my father for taking such risk and not having a plan to mitigate potential challenges,” he recalls. “The experience made me financially conservative, and taught me that I need to solidify my financial position because nothing is for certain. Every reward has a risk, and you have to be able to quantify that.”
Through the ensuing period of hardship, which spanned the family’s first five years in America and the entirety of Dave’s high school experience, sports were his lifeline. He dove into wrestling and bodybuilding, and though his grades suffered slightly due to the strife at home, he was able to ultimately graduate with a 4.0 GPA. He got a job at a grocery store, working back-to-back eight-hour shifts so he could afford his own car. “I wasn’t going to stay down,” he says. “I was committed to getting back up.”
After high school, Dave attended college and majored in IT and business and embraced the fun side of life for the first time, socializing with friends and dating a girl in Germany. To help cover his tuition, he got a cashier job at a failing security company where he quickly earned a promotion to manager. He was able to help turn things around to successfully sell the business, and as thanks, the owner gave him $10,000, which seemed like a small fortune at the time.
As Dave neared the end of college, his goal was to stay in North Carolina and make enough money to get by, until a friend and mentor convinced him to set his sights on something more. “Rodney Barnhardt is a successful medical professional I met while bodybuilding,” Dave recounts. “He told me I was meant for bigger things in life and urged me to get my masters. Without his guidance, and without the support from my mother and father through that time, I might have gone down a different path that wouldn’t have allowed me to reach my potential in the slightest.” Instead, Dave pursued his masters in International Business and Finance and completed the program a year early. “By that time, I had a clear goal of getting out and building a career,” he says. “I didn’t know what I was going to do, but I knew my masters would allow me to do something big and support my family.”
When he finished his graduate degree in 2003, Dave wanted a job with the U.S. Department of State. By that time, he spoke seven languages, was deeply engaged in politics, and yearned to travel and immerse himself in other cultures again, as he had done through his youth. He was offered a Foreign Service Officer position, but the pay was low, so he instead took a job as a consultant doing linguistic analysis and signal intelligence. “I loved every second of that, and I wanted to get out into the field, so they sent me to Afghanistan and Iraq,” he says.
Dave was living his dream until he and several colleagues were kidnapped in Egypt, where they were interrogated for several days in a shanti house. “If we were going to die, we didn’t want it to be like that, so we made a run for it,” Dave recounts. Dave was shot in the shoulder during the escape, but he kept running—on to safety, and a new chapter in life. “I felt that if I could make it out of that, then I could deal with most anything,” he recounts. “I had essentially been given a third lease on life, and I wasn’t going to waste it.”
With that, Dave returned to the U.S. in 2004 and set his sights on investment banking. He got turned down time and again until he finally landed an unpaid internship at Deutsche Bank in Germany. The opportunity turned into a paid position in their aerospace and defense group, and after two years of eighteen-hour workdays and fierce determination, he fought his way through the traditional hierarchical seniority structure to become the firm’s youngest Vice President.
Dave excelled until 2006, when his grandmother passed away. The loss was especially hard on his mother, so he moved home to the U.S. and got a job at the bonds desk of the National Cooperative Bank in Washington, DC. Around that time, he also invested his savings in a defense contracting company owned by an acquaintance, and after finding several other investors, they were able to leverage the funds to land bank financing. “Soon after that, when the surge happened in Iraq and Afghanistan, the business took off,” he says. “We exited in 2010 at a decent multiple, and in helping with that transaction, I found I loved the stress and focus of making deals.”
Dave made decent money from the sale and could have done anything he wanted, but he was hooked. He took a banking job, but he longed to return to M&A work, and he got his chance when he met a large family-owned company looking to sell. When Dave dove into the details, he saw the company needed a lot of work to make it appealing, and the owner tried to hire him on as the CFO. Dave offered to instead take on the challenge of building a professional finance function by coming on as a consultant, hiring his own staff. With that, he launched BusinessWise CPA, a firm focused on outsourced CFO and accounting-type services. Two years later, he landed his first M&A deal and launched BusinessWise Capital, a sister company.
At that time, there were several other outsource CPA firms in the area, but Dave was able to set himself apart through his ability to translate tedious accounting reports into the clarity and relevance of a business owner’s language. “That’s how someone like me, who had never worked in accounting, was able to build a $4 million, 18-person accounting practice so quickly,” he remarks.
As 2016 came to a close, Dave knew it was time to sell the company, and as he handed it off to a French consulting firm, he made sure the transaction occurred before its five-year anniversary. “I have a rule in my life where, if I’m doing anything for more than five years, I need to make a change,” he says. “By that time, you understand the business and run the risk of becoming stagnant. It becomes more about blocking and tackling, instead of strategy. I like executing ideas, building things, and then turning them over to others to maintain and grow. Thankfully, each deal I do with BusinessWise Capital feels like I’m starting over.”
Now, Dave still turns to exercise as a way to stay disciplined and grounded. “When negative things happen that are outside my control, exercise is a positive thing I can do that’s within my control,” he points out. “When I feel like giving up at work, it helps me keep going.” He’s also inspired and driven by the life he’s building with Isabella, his girlfriend of six years. They dreamed of living abroad together, so they set their sights on Brazil, and recently bought a hundred acres of land there to create a sanctuary for street dogs. “Growing up part Hindu, I believe every life is sacred, and I’ve always felt an obligation to help the defenseless,” he says. “Dogs are wonderful, and the relationship they have with man is very pure and selfless. Selling my CPA business allowed me to get to this place, where I can do this thing I’ve always wanted to do.”
In advising young people entering the working world today, Dave underscores the importance of persistence. “Nobody has all the answers or can predict the exact outcomes of their actions,” he says. “Persistence and adaptability are the two things any young person needs to succeed in life. I’ve heard more no’s than yes’s in my life, but I’ve always had a goal in my mind that I was focusing on, so it didn’t sway me. I knew why I was doing what I was doing.”
Establishing that mental goal, then, is the first step, and the one that places the rest of the journey on the firmest footing. “Don’t think about now,” Dave says. “Instead, think about where you want to be ten years from now. It’s so important to have a long-term goal; otherwise, you might take opportunities that have short-term gain but minimal enduring value. There’s so much more life ahead of you, so dare to dream. Big goals are achievable, and the power of planning is the bridge to get there.”