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Have the curiosity to learn something you don't know - this is especially true in private equity - and have the courage to admit when you don't know something. They are both equally important!
Pam Hendrickson Vice Chairman, The Riverside Company & Chair, The American Investment Council
A college professor of mine was quite fond of saying life is a series of accidents, you just have to be open to accepting them. So, my foray into alternatives was largely accidental - I spent my career in finance working at JPMorgan where I was running a big group. A headhunter called me about a job at this firm called Riverside, and I had never heard of it so I wasn't interested. In fact, I crumpled up her phone number! But headhunters, as you know, are persistent. The same headhunter called me back a year later, with a similar role.
I then decided to go and talk to the Co-CEOs at Riverside. It was really a great opportunity, both to grow the private equity firm itself, and to grow the small companies in which we invest.
I was initially hired for my management skills more than anything, so it's really important to remember that today, there are multiple ways into private equity. You don't have to be an investment banker!
Alternatives is such a big category that it really depends on what you're doing within the industry. Although, I do think there are some skills which transcend industry specifics. Those are curiosity and courage.
Have the curiosity to learn something you don't know - which is especially true in private equity - and have the courage to admit when you don't know something. They are both equally important!
Years ago, my mentor, Jimmy Lee, wrote this great piece called “Leading From the Heart”. Some of my favorite things he wrote are:
1. Out-think and outwork your number one competitor.
2. Post-mortem all significant mistakes.
3. Be intense and urgent in your work.
4. Most importantly - remember to say “Thank you.”
I think we should talk about having confidence, because that is key - having confidence in your ability.
People from different backgrounds, whether gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation or socio-economic level, lend credence and different perspectives to an investment committee, or to anything that they're doing. Without those perspectives, you run the risk of some very unhealthy group thinking.
I think acknowledging the wins is imperative. A record 175 first-time women and minority-owned funds were in the market in 2021, raising money that is up approximately 25% from the prior year. That is fantastic.
These funds themselves will increase diversity in the workplace because they have different networks and they're going to be more willing to look for candidates from different backgrounds. It's also beneficial in that in private equity there are different routes into the field.
In some ways, the inclusion piece may be a little harder. As a leader, I believe it's important to get opinions from multiple perspectives. And I think the situation is changing. New firms and new leaders may have experienced a style that wasn't inclusive, so I expect that, as they run their firms and or become leaders, they will be more inclusive going forward.
The first thing I would say is don't give into the guilt when pursuing your career steps and what's right for you. Whether it's your children saying “Mommy, why are you not home?” or your boss saying “Why are you not at the office?”, focus on the task in hand. You can think of your career in chunks - don't plan too far in advance, because you never know what's going to happen. Just be the best you can be for that particular moment in time, and you will surely rise!
The Riverside Company is global private equity firm that makes growth investments ranging from loans to fast-growing software and tech companies to control investments in companies with up to $400 million in enterprise value. The firm invests through nine product strategies focused on various geographies, tactics and criteria. Since 1988, Riverside has grown from a small unfunded PEG to a global enterprise with more than $14.4 billion in assets under management conducting control and minority buyouts, growth equity investing and corporate divestitures. Riverside invests in the United States, Canada, Europe and Australia. Through more than 800 investments, the firm has developed industry specializations in business services, consumer brands, education and training, franchisors, healthcare, and software & IT. Riverside has offices across the United States and Europe and has additional offices in Hong Kong and Australia.