What is your background?
I qualified as a chartered accountant at Ernst & Young, working in corporate finance. I sit on the Newcastle University Business School International Advisory Board.
What does the best working relationship feel like between management teams and private equity?
A collaborative, trusting and open relationship built on trust and common objectives. I like to hear about the challenges that a team is wrestling with live so that we can either offer support, a valuable introduction from our network or insights from our wider experience. One Chief Executive used to often end our conversations saying “I hope I have not really stressed you out by sharing my concerns” and the reality was I was less stressed as I knew he was on the case, addressing issues almost before they arose. We found ourselves still having regular calls after we had sold our investment in the Company which I found very flattering and enjoyable.
What challenges should Entrepreneurs be aware of when considering private equity?
It is important right from the outset to ensure the objectives of the Executives and the private equity investor are closely aligned. This requires trust to be built up over time and some quite straight talking to occur prior to an investment being made. We are likely to require more financial and operational information if the business was previously privately owned or owner managed. We do not request this simply to place a reporting burden on the finance function and Executives but to ensure we understand the dynamics propelling the business forward and driving growth. This in turn should lead to high quality conversations about the future.
Who or what inspires you?
I am often inspired by reading stories of the exploits of others. As a very recent example, I read a book called Maverick by Ricardo Semler, an innovative and brave Brazilian entrepreneur. The book was initially written in 1993 and recounted Ricardo’s development of the family manufacturing business against the dramatic backdrop of recessions and hyper-inflation. He made plenty of mistakes but was constantly brave and extraordinarily innovative in finding ways to inspire and develop his people. Many of his ideas remain radical 25 years on but they illustrate the power of smart and inspired people to thrive in all markets which is relevant to all of our investments and indeed our own business.
What has been your favourite or most memorable moment at Dunedin?
I would choose our team completion of the Artemis Quadrathlon some years ago. Fifteen members of the Dunedin team were involved alongside family members in completing the gruelling challenge over about twelve hours. We were not the fastest, the best equipped or fittest teams in the event (understatement) but I would say we had the most fun and enjoyed it more than most.
What do you do outside of work?
I have busy weekends watching my three boys playing various sports. I try to fight the ageing process by running, skiing, cycling and swimming. I go through phases of wanting to learn new skills or tackle a new challenge. My current plan is to learn to kitesurf with my three boys and improve my photography skills (not at the same time). I have had one kitesurfing lesson which was enough to whet the appetite and not enough to prove I am likely to be awful at it! My favourite evenings would involve cooking over my firepit with a beer in my hand.