October 27, 2023

Never stop being an attentive and curious leader

Jenna (Lally) Whigham - President, Abound Health
Search Fund Name:
Laurel Tree Partners
Company Name:
Abound Health
Company Industry:
Acquisition Date:
October 2020

Jenna (Lally) Whigham, an MIT Sloan graduate, launched Laurel Tree Partners with her brother, Dennis Lally, in May of 2019. Before diving into ETA, Jenna managed a subsidiary of Anheuser-Busch (an approximately $108 billion public company) as Division President. While she enjoyed leading the business unit, she sought more autonomy and personal stake in the game. Like many searchers, she grappled with concerns about income loss and an uncertain career path if the search did not pan out.  

Fortunately, despite the uncertainties of the journey, Jenna and Dennis successfully completed the acquisition of Abound Health Group ("Abound”, formerly known as Aymira) after 16 months of search. Abound operates a behavioral health agency, which provides a comprehensive array of support and services to children and adults with various intellectual and developmental disabilities (“I/DD”). Abound’s offerings also include OnTarget, an electronic health record (“EHR”) software platform for I/DD and mental health providers. The Company has performed exceedingly well following the acquisition, as the Laurel Tree team continues to execute on their thesis of growing both organically and through M&A, integrating multiple tuck-in acquisitions across state lines.

No items found.

Questions & Answers

How have you leveraged Relay as a partner, during both the search and operating stages? 

Relay was the largest search investor in our search fund. Especially since we were also based in Boston for our search, they became a constant sounding board for us as we explored different industries, considered multiple deals, and embarked down various due diligence paths. Their knowledge and pattern recognition were a benefit for us.  

Do you have any advice for prospective searchers as they build their investor groups? 

Spend the time getting to know investors and make sure they get to know you. You are going to be in a long-term relationship (7+ years!), so it’s a worthwhile investment to spend the time upfront making sure it’s the right fit for both sides.   

What challenges did you face during the search that you did not anticipate? 

One of the biggest challenges of the search was how monotonous it could be at times. Coming from a dynamic, busy job right before searching, this was a big shift in the early days. 

Based on your experience, what advice would you give searchers about navigating the deal process? 

Pressure test the really tough questions over and over. Make sure you have lead investor(s), like Relay, who can be your partner in diligence. You will be biased, and I believe this is impossible to avoid, so you need to have people around the table who can push back on that for you.   

What's your favorite part about running Abound? 

I have two favorite aspects of running Abound. First, the people: I'm fortunate to lead a team of passionate individuals dedicated to making a positive impact. Second, it's the unpredictability and excitement that each day brings. Unlike a corporate, consulting, or finance career, you get to experience every facet of a business here, which is thrilling. 

What's an unexpected challenge you've had to overcome as an operator? What steps did you take to overcome it? 

One unexpected challenge was obtaining the leverage to scale the business. Balancing between working on the future of the company and managing day-to-day operations is a constant challenge. To address this, I hired an incredible COO to handle operational tasks, which freed up my time immensely and allowed me to focus on growth. 

What's one piece of advice you would give to a searcher who's about to assume a leadership role in their acquired company? 

Never stop being an attentive and curious leader. Listen to all stakeholders—employees, clients, suppliers, lenders, investors, and more. Their insights and feedback are crucial for the success of your business.