Our “secret squirrel” is a financial controller in a UK-based business in the TMT sector. He joined the company shortly before it was carved out of its corporate parent by a US-headquartered buyout firm.
How has this experience differed from the previous private equity-owned business you worked in?
“There the investment was more mature and the private equity owners were quite hands off. Here, because the buyout shop was a relatively new entrant into Europe – this was only its second investment – and because I was involved from the start of the ownership, during the initial cost-cutting stage, it has been much more hands-on.”
And when you say hands on…?
“There was a lot more oversight and interrogation of results. And more direct involvement: specifically people physically on site – landing staff into the business who subsequently join the payroll.”
And outside consultants?
“Yes. They brought in a lot of consultants in the early stages. This can be quite tough, quite emotive.”
In what way?
“The consultants are there to look at cost savings and efficiencies; this could be quite disruptive and a number of people moved on at this stage.”
So after the initial period of cost-cutting, disruption and staff departures, what happened next?
Presumably ‘stage one’ — when costs are under the microscope — is pretty fraught?
And would you choose to work in a private equity-backed business again?
“Yes, I would. It can be disruptive, but if you are willing to see the opportunity and progression that is available – if you are of that mindset – then it represents a great opportunity. More than that, it represents a valuable learning experience. Private equity owners bring in experts – people with deep knowledge of various business areas… it’s a great learning exercise.
“There is also a freedom and an entrepreneurial atmosphere that comes with private equity ownership. For me, it is an environment in which I like to work.”