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Committee

Chairman

Fred Koury

Fred Koury

President & CEO

Smart Business Network


Fred co-founded Smart Business Network in 1989 with a single publication in Cleveland, Ohio. In the years since, he has built the company into a leading multimedia and content marketing business providing print and digital marketing services to a national client base.


Host Committee

Crystal Clifford

Crystal Clifford

Managing Director, Business Manager

Hightower


Crystal Clifford is the Managing Director, Business Manager for Hightower Texas. In her role, Crystal is the senior corporate leader for the Houston office and is responsible for managing the day-to-day operations of the firm.

Prior to joining Hightower in 2020, Crystal was Chief Operating Officer for Avantax Wealth Management in Dallas, Texas where she led all Operations and Technology functions for the broker dealer from 2018 to 2020. Prior to Avantax, she spent 18 years with LPL Financial in San Diego, California in various operations and technology roles. In her last role there, she was Senior Vice President of Technology with responsibility for LPL Financial’s risk and regulatory technology platforms.

Crystal is passionate about financial literacy and in her free time volunteers to provide financial education to women and high school girls. Through her volunteer work, Crystal wants to help women gain knowledge, skills, and the confidence to make sound decisions and improve their lives.

Summer Craig

Summer Craig

Founder & CEO

Craig Group


Summer Craig, the President & CEO of Craig Group, is a seasoned digital marketer with a background driving ROI-focused strategies for multi-million dollar companies.

From starting her career at Austin-based ad agency GSD&M working on Mastercard, Walmart, and Southwest Airlines to navigating the corporate communications complexities of mergers and buyouts in the telecom industry at SBCGlobal-Cingular-AT&T, Summer rapidly rose through the ranks and her analytical prowess became a hallmark of her career. This skillset, combined with her expertise in media buying and selling, positioned her as a standout in the early advertising landscape.

Charging into the digital realm, Summer played a pivotal role at AOL, contributing to the adoption of innovative Martech and pioneering programmatic advertising. That experience was a stepping stone to Summer’s tenure at HomeAway.com (later VRBO), where the company completed a successful IPO and she delved into the world of venture capital, and her entrepreneurial flame was lit.

She moved back to Houston and soon became a regional client rep with New York-based Publicis ZenithOptimedia overseeing Gulf States Toyota, where she learned the intricacies of operating one of the world's largest privately held businesses under a major brand. Summer transitioned into an in-house leadership role where she was responsible for showing marketing effectiveness to the board, dealer council and executive stake-holder groups.

In 2019, Summer founded Craig Group, a company rooted in data-first sales and marketing, leveraging her extensive wisdom and expertise built over the course of 20 years to create impactful results for clients.

 

John Dennis

John Dennis

Managing Partner

WoodRock & Co.


Mr. Dennis has been a Principal, Managing Director, and Managing Partner of WoodRock& Co. since he founded the firm in April 1998.  He is responsible for deal origination and selection, deal and project leadership, strategy, and business management. To date, Mr. Dennis has executed over $8 billion in transactions.

Prior to WoodRock, he was a Vice President with Koch Industries, Inc. in their international and capital services groups. In these positions, he was responsible for Koch’s global merchant banking and M&A efforts. From early 1996 through June 1997, he served as Chief Financial Officer, and later as acting Chief Operating Officer, of Gas Services International, Limited (“GSI”), a contract compression and engineering services company with offices in Houston, Texas, and Singapore. Before GSI, he advised both American Breco Corporation and Aviation Sales Company (NYSE: AVS) in their merger, acquisition, divestiture, and financing activities. His prior investment banking experience includes Simmons & Company International and Goldman Sachs & Co.

Prior private equity experience includes SCF Partners, L.P. and Breco Holdings, Inc.  He holds an AB from Harvard College and an MBA from Rice University’s Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Management. Following college, he served as an officer in the United States Navy.

 

Steve Fenton

Steve Fenton

Texas-South Region Area Managing Partner

SeatonHill Partners


Steve Fenton is the Texas-South Region Area Managing Partner for SeatonHill.  He is a highly accomplished executive with senior level experience in the financial and accounting consulting, staffing, and recruiting industry.  With three decades of leadership experience, he has successfully established and implemented strategic vision and focus for achieving business goals and initiatives.  His extensive knowledge of market trends, market development, and recruiting/consulting operations have contributed to Steve’s proven record of revenue growth, increased profitability, and increased market share in existing and start-up markets.

David Fowles

David Fowles

Regional Director, Southeast, Origination

The Riverside Company


David Fowles is a Regional Director at The Riverside Company focusing on originating deal opportunities and qualifying add-on acquisition candidates in the Southcentral and Southeast regions. Before Riverside, Dave spent three years at Mangrove Equity Partners as a Vice President focused on deal origination.

Before that he had a twenty+ year career as a US Army Special Forces Officer (commonly known as Green Berets), where he served with distinction leading special operations forces across the globe, earned three Bronze Star's, including one with a “V” device for valor. He brings a wealth of leadership, organizational, and analytic experience to Origination and Riveside.

When he decided to transition to the private sector, Dave enrolled in the Executive program at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, earning an MBA. He also holds a BA in Political Science from SUNY Oswego.

 

Patrick Hayes

Patrick Hayes

Co-Managing Shareholder

Andrews Myers


Patrick Hayes’ practice focuses on commercial real estate and assisting clients in acquiring, disposing, capitalizing and forming companies. Patrick’s real estate practice covers all aspects of commercial real estate, including acquisition, development, capitalizing, financing, leasing and disposition of all product types of commercial real estate. His corporate/commercial practice centers on the formation and restructuring of commercial entities, including corporations, partnerships and limited liability companies, as well as the acquisition, capitalization, financing and disposition of business enterprises, the preparation of various contracts and agreements, and the representation of clients in their ongoing business activities.

Patrick previously served as both the firm’s managing shareholder and then co-managing shareholder for over a decade.

Lee M. Koury

Lee M. Koury

Managing Partner

Smart Business Network Inc.


Lee is managing partner of Smart Business Network Inc., a national events, media and marketing company founded in 1989, primarily responsible for expanding the company’s Aspire deal-making conference throughout the U.S. He plays a key role in establishing corporate policies and developing long-term strategy and growth plans. Previously, he founded and chaired the Growth Group at national law firm Arter & Hadden LLP (now Tucker, Ellis & West), which focused on working with middle-market and high-growth technology companies. 

Owais Qureshi

Owais Qureshi

Principal Director

The Visual Cue


 

 

Brian Rose

Brian Rose

Partner

Porter Hedges LLP


Brian Rose is a Partner in the Corporate Practice Group of Porter Hedges LLP and a member of the Firm’s Management Committee. He has a dynamic and unique practice that includes a mix of mergers and acquisitions, private equity investments, and debt financings. Brian also has significant experience representing entrepreneurs and start-up companies in their equity raises and general corporate matters.

Lenny Saizan

Lenny Saizan

Managing Director

Urban Capital Network


In the early years of his career and after receiving his Electrical Engineering degree from L.S.U., Lenny worked as an Electrical Engineer, specializing in automation and controls, and systems integration. 

After 10 years of working as an employee, his interest in entrepreneurship eventually led him to launch a technology consulting firm based in New Orleans, LA and enrolling in an MBA program to hone his business skills. Unfortunately, the first stint in his entrepreneurial journey and MBA was short lived due to the impact of Hurricane Katrina. 

Lenny suddenly found himself homeless, jobless, and living in a hotel room with a family of 5 and a couple of days’ worth of clothing for each. After initially evacuating to Beaumont, TX, he eventually landed in Houston. Determined and desperate to start rebuilding, Lenny returned to Corporate America, landing a job in Oil and Gas. This was the beginning of a career transition from engineering and technology to management and finance, which prompted him to re-enroll in an MBA program. 

Jason Sanders

Jason Sanders

Tax Partner

Crowe, LLP


Jason Sanders is the Crowe office managing partner in Houston, Texas. He is also a partner in the tax group at Crowe specializing in federal tax planning, business succession planning, and transition planning for closely held businesses. Jason has more than 24 years of experience helping businesses develop and execute tax planning and savings strategies.

As a trusted advisor and leader, Jason works primarily with closely-held middle market companies to develop and execute tax planning and savings strategies. His clients are typically S-Corps, C-Corps, and partnerships, where effective tax planning can have a positive impact on both business entity and personal taxes. In his role as tax advisor, Jason and his team help family-owned business negotiate both the compliance and the interpersonal issues that come with multi-generational transitions of businesses, where his demeanor and technical knowledge can ease such transitions.

As leader of the Briggs & Veselka tax department, Jason takes pride in developing his professional staff to “pay it forward”. Mentoring, coaching, and growing the firm’s tax professionals in alignment with the firm’s growth strategy is the aspect of his department chair role that Jason finds most rewarding.

Clay Spitz

Clay Spitz

COO

Chief Outsiders


Clay Spitz is COO of Chief Outsiders, a national management consulting firm providing Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) and Chief Sales Officers (CSOs) on a fractional (part time, temporary) basis to middle market companies that wish to accelerate their revenue growth. The firm has over 100 CMOs and CSOs nationally from every industry segment. Spitz started his career in a family service business which was eventually sold into an industry rollup. He has considerable experience as a marketing, sales and operating executive in companies ranging from midsize privately held to Fortune 1,000 corporations. Spitz has been a senior executive at Terminix International, TeleCheck International and Olshan Foundation Solutions and has owned a business himself. Clay joined Chief Outsiders in 2010 as one of the very early members of the firm

Jeff Thompson

Jeff Thompson

Principal

Bernstein


At heart I am an educator. My parents were both teachers, and I have always had a passion for not just solving problems but explaining the solutions so that clients understand not just “what” we are going to do, but “why” that is the best path forward.

I like complexity. My clients are business owners, executives, professionals, and their families. While they may seem different, they all share in the fact that their success has brought complexity to their lives and they need a partner to provide sophisticated planning and solutions. For some it is the challenge of multigenerational wealth transfer, for others the planning of an exit from a closely held business, and for many, the development of a comprehensive strategy for managing their wealth across life stages. Regardless, they count on me to be the quarterback of a process that brings a combination of Bernstein resources to partner with them and their other trusted advisors and identify the best path for the future.

 

Whitney Wall

Whitney Wall

Commercial Banking Market Executive

Wells Fargo


 

 

Bret West

Bret West

Senior Vice President - Loan Originations

PNC


 

 

Conference Location

1 Potomac Drive
Houston, TX 77057
Tel: (713) 465-8381