The EM Questionnaire: Gavin Hagfors

Gavin Hagfors

University of Michigan
MA Applied Economics

University of Montana
BBA Finance, BA Economics

I played football at the University of Montana. After that came graduate school where I fell in love with valuation. Shortly after, I worked in a role out in Michigan focused on valuing intellectual property. After a year, I moved closer to family and friends and applied to Equity Methods.

Professional development is something Equity Methods does really well. At my previous job, people at the associate level didn’t have a lot of opportunity to own high-profile work. Equity Methods makes sure you’re ready for it, but once you are, you can take ownership of a project or engagement. The firm also does a great job of promoting from within. Almost every day, you meet with people in more advanced roles so you can see your role three to four years down the line.

Although I’m on the valuation services team, I’m heavily involved with complex securities. So I do things that are weird and unique and involve a lot of gray areas. I also do a fair amount of work in human resources advisory, which is more traditional management consulting.

The most challenging and exciting part of my job is when there’s no clear answer. It means I have to recommend an approach and defend it. To me, that’s the number-one benefit of working at Equity Methods: Facing unique problems every single day and trying to find creative solutions that are specific to the client’s needs. It’s super rewarding.

As far as amenities, I’d say Equity Methods has all the typical ones—snacks, games, and so forth. But the biggest of them all is flexibility. If you want to take a personal day, you’ll get no shame for it—everyone needs that from time to time. What the firm prioritizes is efficiency, getting your work done, and doing a good job.

Meanwhile, young people will find great friends here. The people are all interesting and competent. They challenge each other, but they’re nice at the same time.

My general career advice? Be intellectually curious. A lot of people come out of college thinking they know how the world works. It’s okay to acknowledge you don’t understand it fully. It feels like a step back, but it’ll help you become a better person and professional.

What was the most surprising thing about working at Equity Methods?

Because my previous job was primarily litigation, there were only ever one or two projects at a time. My first day at Equity Methods began with the weekly meeting, where teams go over all the projects on deck. I was shocked at the number, how involved they were, and how many problems needed to be solved at once.

What’s the most interesting client project you’ve had so far?

Two come to mind. One was a South American startup bank that needed a business valuation. We took care of that, then the scope kept expanding until we delivered 12 or 13 valuations. There was always a curveball along the way, always something that required a different type of model and way of thinking about the circumstances. The other project involved designing an equity compensation plan for a global pharmaceutical company. The client wanted to test everything humanly possible that could happen to their organization. Both projects stand out because they were so complex and challenging, but I ended up becoming great friends with my team members and making big strides as a professional.

If you had a special guest, what meal would you prepare for them?

Well, how special is the guest? [laughs] I probably would make pasta carbonara. It’s not a particularly hard dish, but it goes over pretty well, especially if I serve it with enough wine that nobody notices my mistakes.

What was the last book you read?

“The Stand” by Stephen King and “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell. I read them concurrently—I like to keep a balance between fiction and nonfiction. I also recently read John Grisham’s “Playing for Pizza.” It’s a cute, short read, and appeals to my love of football.

What did you do during your last vacation?

I went to Montana, where my family has a cabin on Holter Lake. It’s my favorite place on earth. I visited family and spent some time jet skiing.

What is the character trait you admire most in people?

Passion. There’s just something about a person who gets is really eager to learn all about what they love to do and is never satisfied with where they are.