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Michelle L. Collins

Michelle Lynn Collins was born on March 27, 1960, in Chicago, Illinois. In 1978, Collins graduated from the University of Chicago laboratory schools, where she attended since the first grade. She then went on to earn her undergraduate degree in economics from Yale University in 1982 and her M.B.A. degree from Harvard University in 1986.

Collins began her career in 1986 at William Blair & Company, a Chicago-based investment firm offering investment banking, asset management, equity research, institutional and private brokerage and private capital to individual, institutional, and issuing clients. Collins primarily advised clients on public equity offerings. Her clients were primarily in the direct marketing, distribution and retailing industries and included Henry Schein, Inc., CDW Corporation, Lands’ End, Inc., Coldwater Creek, Inc., and United Stationers, Inc., among other public and private companies. Collins also advised clients on mergers and acquisitions. In 1991, Collins advanced to become a Principal Partner in the Corporate Finance Department of William Blair & Company. In 1997, Collins left the company to start a private equity firm with John Svoboda, called Svoboda, Collins, L.L.C. From 1998 to 2006, Collins served as Managing Director of Svoboda Capital Partners, L.L.C. She was also an Advisory Board member and still serves in that capacity, although she no longer serves as the managing director. The firm focuses its investments on business service companies and value-added distribution businesses. It has over $250 million of capital under management which it invests in middle market companies either through management buyouts, leveraged recapitalizations, or growth equity investments. In addition, Collins was a board member and director of CDW Computer Centers, Inc., from 1996 to 2007. She served as CDW’s Audit Committee Chair for seven years and previously served on their Compensation Committee. From 1999 to 2004, Collins was a board member and a director of Coldwater Creek, Inc., a specialty retailer of women’s apparel, accessories, jewelry, and gift items. Collins has been a board member and past president of Chicago Sinfonietta, helping to restructure the Sinfonietta’s business model and placing it on a more secure financial foundation. In 2003, Collins became a director and board member of Molex, Inc., a global manufacturer of electronics, electrical and fiber optic interconnection products and systems.

Collins is a trustee of The Field Museum, the Chicago Historical Society, Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical Center, the Erikson Institute, the Chicago Urban League, the YMCA, Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Renaissance Schools Fund. Collins is also a member of several professional and civic organizations in Chicago, including The Chicago Network, The Chicago Finance Exchange, Women Corporate Directors, The Economic Club of Chicago, The Commercial Club of Chicago and the Henry Crown Fellows Program of Aspen Institute.

Accession Number

A2008.023

Sex

Female

Interview Date

2/21/2008

Last Name

Collins

Maker Category
Middle Name

Lynn

Occupation
Schools

Isabelle O'Keeffe Elementary School

University of Chicago Laboratory Schools

Yale University

Harvard Business School

First Name

Michelle

Birth City, State, Country

Chicago

HM ID

COL17

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Illinois

Favorite Vacation Destination

Jamaica

Favorite Quote

Happiness Is Self Sufficient And Thus The End Of Action.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Interview Description
Birth Date

3/27/1960

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

USA

Favorite Food

French Fries

Short Description

Corporate financial consultant and investment chief executive Michelle L. Collins (1960 - ) co-founded a successful private equity firm, Svoboda, Collins, L.L.C., and served as managing director of the firm from 1998 to 2006.

Employment

Chase Manhattan Bank

William Blair & Company

Svoboda Collins, L.P.

MC Advisory Services, LLC

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Michelle L. Collins' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Michelle L. Collins lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Michelle L. Collins describes her mother's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Michelle L. Collins describes her mother's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Michelle L. Collins describes her mother's community in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Michelle L. Collins describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Michelle L. Collins describes how her parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Michelle L. Collins talks about her surname

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Michelle L. Collins describes her parents' personalities

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Michelle L. Collins describes her earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Michelle L. Collins recalls her neighborhood in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Michelle L. Collins describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Michelle L. Collins recalls her early experiences of religion

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Michelle L. Collins recalls the role of music in her childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Michelle L. Collins recalls her parents' lessons about the importance of family

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Michelle L. Collins describes her parents' role in the South Side community of Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Michelle L. Collins recalls her early educational experiences

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Michelle L. Collins talks about the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Michelle L. Collins remembers her early interest in mathematics

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Michelle L. Collins recalls her mentors at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Michelle L. Collins remembers her extracurricular activities

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Michelle L. Collins describes her high school experiences

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Michelle L. Collins describes her social life

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Michelle L. Collins remembers her high school coursework at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Michelle L. Collins talks about her prom

Tape: 2 Story: 13 - Michelle L. Collins recalls her early aspirations

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Michelle L. Collins talks about the Jackson Park Highlands District of Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Michelle L. Collins remembers the activism in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Michelle L. Collins recalls the notable residents of the Jackson Park Highlands District of Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Michelle L. Collins remembers Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Michelle L. Collins recalls her classmates at Yale University

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Michelle L. Collins describes her coursework at Yale University

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Michelle L. Collins recalls joining the men's squash team at Yale University

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Michelle L. Collins remembers Yale University President A. Bartlett Giamatti

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Michelle L. Collins recalls the notable figures at Yale University

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Michelle L. Collins describes her position at Chase Manhattan Bank in New York City

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Michelle L. Collins remembers her decision to attend the Harvard Business School

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Michelle L. Collins recalls her class at the Harvard Business School

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Michelle L. Collins describes her coursework at the Harvard Business School

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Michelle L. Collins remembers her professors at Harvard Business School

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Michelle L. Collins reflects upon the importance of networking in business school

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Michelle L. Collins recalls joining William Blair and Company, LLC

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Michelle L. Collins describes her role at William Blair and Company, LLC, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Michelle L. Collins describes her role at William Blair and Company, LLC, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Michelle L. Collins recalls her colleagues at William Blair and Company, LLC

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Michelle L. Collins describes her clients at William Blair and Company, LLC

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Michelle L. Collins recalls her work with McWhorter Technologies, Inc.

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Michelle L. Collins describes her work with CDW Computer Centers, Inc.

Tape: 4 Story: 12 - Michelle L. Collins remembers founding Svoboda Collins, L.P.

Tape: 4 Story: 13 - Michelle L. Collins describes her work with Coldwater Creek, Inc.

Tape: 4 Story: 14 - Michelle L. Collins talks about her corporate board memberships

Tape: 4 Story: 15 - Michelle L. Collins describes her investment philosophy

Tape: 4 Story: 16 - Michelle L. Collins remembers founding MC Advisory LLC

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Michelle L. Collins describes her work with minority business clients

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Michelle L. Collins talks about successful minority businesses

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Michelle L. Collins shares her advice for business students

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Michelle L. Collins reflects upon her career

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Michelle L. Collins describes her role at the Chicago Sinfonietta

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Michelle L. Collins describes her civic engagement in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Michelle L. Collins describes her involvement in professional organizations in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Michelle L. Collins reflects upon her life

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Michelle L. Collins reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Michelle L. Collins describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Michelle L. Collins talks about her family

Tape: 5 Story: 12 - Michelle L. Collins reflects upon the influence of her parents

Tape: 5 Story: 13 - Michelle L. Collins describes how she would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$4

DAStory

10$7

DATitle
Michelle L. Collins describes her position at Chase Manhattan Bank in New York City
Michelle L. Collins describes her role at William Blair and Company, LLC, pt. 2
Transcript
Okay, so you graduated from Yale [Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut] in '82 [1982] (unclear)?$$In '82 [1982], um-hm.$$Eighty-two [1982], all right, okay, so, so, what did you do in '82 [1982]? What did you--did you go right to work (simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) In 1982, in 1982, I--when I left Yale, I went to work at Chase Manhattan Bank [JPMorgan Chase and Co.], in a--initially in a credit training program they had and that was about a six month training program, and then I went into--you have a sort of avenues you can go to in the bank and I chose credit audit, and the significance of that was--were two things, one is that, it was a traveling job, you had to kind of go on assignment to different locations around the world, and also around the world, also, we were sort of selected based on how we did in the training program, to participate in this credit audit thing, and it was somewhat unusual at the time that Chase had a couple of credit issues, right before that, that caused them to take that action, so consequently, the people that I traveled with during that period, and, you know, that were in credit audit, also became fairly close people, because, you know, you're traveling in teams of twelve, or something for basically a year and a half, to two years. So, that was a--I really enjoyed that, you know, exposure, you know, first working at Chase, and making money, center bank, and I'm very loyal. I'm still a Chase customer. You know, the other thing was I got to that program, because I worked there in a minority program to some of the four, the guy named Davy Huddleston [ph.], who was in HR [human resources], kind of put this program together, and attracted a whole bunch of students, from not only Yale, and places like that, but a lot of the, you know, African American oriented universities [HBCUs]. And so you had this wonderfully good, you know, exposure, and it, those, pra- it made me realize, and even since then, just in my career just how important those kinds of programs actually are, to acclimating, 'cause here, I considered myself a person who didn't have, you know, a lot of hardships growing up, and had a lot of exposure, but I had no idea at all, what a commercial banker did, or what an investment banker did, or any of those kind of things that people sort of seem to take for granted, when I was coming up, as an option. And I never would have known about it, you know, had I not had that, that chance. And so you know, I pound that table whenever I can, you know, to create those programs and get that exposure for people so they can make educated decisions about their futures.$I just want to make sure we break this down to any students watching this--$$Okay, um-hm (simultaneous).$$--(simultaneous) so they'll have a real sense of what you do--$$Sure.$$--and, you know, how you do it.$$Well, I think a couple of things about the first years versus the later years, and it's very interesting that few of the skills that make you successful as a young person, are the skills that you need as a older person, so you establish yourself, in the before period on your analytics, on your ability, to work really hard, long, hours, to be accurate, do a lot of you know, sophisticated financial analyses, and things like that, present them verbally, you know, come up with the right conclusions, so it's kind of an apprenticeship, if you will, the way that business works and how you learn it. Later, knowing that you've had a grounding in this, you actually never have to touch a computer again, because you've got all the younger people working for you now, to do all that stuff, but you need to understand it, or you know otherwise, you're going to make a mistake, but the skills that make you successful as a partner are being able to present and find new clients and be able to mobilize the firm that you work for behind your particular project. So consequently, you're not hi- the main thing is that you're not hiding behind anyone now. You are on your own and so, if you have product that you are bringing to a salesforce, so you take a company public, you're offering shares to the public market, so you need a salesforce to do that, so you have to present something to your firm and you have to hope that your track record and the analyses that you've done on that deal, help your salesforce buy into wanting to sell it to their clients. So you kind of have an internal first cut, and that just comes with years of credibility of, you know, doing it day in and day out and not doing a lot of bad deals in the way things worked at William Blair [William Blair and Company, LLC, Chicago, Illinois], and subsequently, you had to find your own clients, whether you're pitching them, or you get a referral from somebody else. It's you know, knowing when to kind of--, "Okay, this is the perfect client to do my service for. You know, let's go after that one, and this one I'm not going to ever be able to do a great job on, so let's let them go to another firm," or something. So different sets of scales. I think that if you're a young person listening to me, you know, you gotta do one set of things really, really well early on. You hope you don't lose that, but you gotta be mindful that you gotta develop all of your presentation skills, with all of your ability to actually get business, and own that business, and fight for your numbers and do all those things, later on, and so then, the networks matter, all of your reputation matters, because basically when somebody hires you, they're like, well, "Who did you work for before?" And they call up that person and they say, well you know, "I got this Michelle Collins [HistoryMaker Michelle L. Collins] sitting here, and I heard she did a good job for you, and what did you like, what didn't you like," you know, so everything is based on your kind of word in the past, and you know, your reputation ultimately becomes paramount.