Business challenges are not like wine and cheese….

Over the past few months, I have had scores of discussions with people working in and providing services to Private Equity Firms.  The conversations have been interesting and focused on questioning and challenging the status quo.  I thought it would be fair and appropriate to summarize the themes of the conversations for your consideration.

Business challenges are not like wine and cheese…. but more like bread and milk– they are common, but don’t get better with time…

These are the most frequently discussed and vexing themes….

  1. The strike zone is expanding- Longer holds don’t generally seem to represent additional opportunity for incremental growth and development- but place extraordinary pressure for returns and maintaining expected IRR’s for investors… creating additional risk with little prospect for incremental reward
  2. Velocity on the sell side is emanating from A companies, while B’s sit and search for a way out…Plentiful debt and plentiful equity in search of the A companies, make this segment of the market hypercompetitive and Strategics, PE firms and lenders are in the quest to provide a value add- and make their green money even brighter and shinier
  3. Everyone has them, few like to acknowledge it. Every portfolio has a “bottom 50%”– those companies that are under achieving expectations, or underperforming on an absolute basis.  The surest way to make money is to not lose any.  But, the time energy and attention placed on the challenged companies, tends to be a trap that saps attention from the higher performing companies that likely have an opportunity to outperform
  4. Management teams have been built and curated to focus on growth and development and set up for the exit…. but most don’t have significant successful experience in dealing with types of challenges presented by the “bottom 50%”
  5. Quality information is elusive.  It is a challenge to sustain a focus on relevant, reliable and readily available information to effectively run the business.  This delays or impedes problem recognition and response- and in some cases does not promote confidence in the strategies and steps necessary to “get out from under”- at the very time confidence and resolve is critical to break the cycle and drive improvements
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