What top-tier PE firms can teach public companies about creating and sustaining value over time.
1. Focus relentlessly on value: To attract continued investment from limited partners and earn the generous fees for which they are renowned, private equity firms have to maintain a laser-like focus on value creation, beyond simple financial engineering and severe cost cutting.
2. Remember that cash is king:Private equity firms typically finance 60 to 80 percent of an acquisition with debt. This high-leverage model instills a focus and sense of urgency in PE firms to liberate and generate cash as expeditiously as possible.
3. Operate as though time is money: Consistent with the imperative to generate cash quickly to pay down debt is the mantra among private equity firms that “time is money.” There is a bias for action captured most vividly in the 100-day program that PE firms invariably impose on portfolio companies during the first few months of ownership
4. Apply a long-term lens. Private equity firms act with speed but without forsaking rigorous analysis and thoughtful debate. They typically have three to five years to invest their fund, providing time to carefully assess potential targets and develop an investment thesis.
5. Assemble the right team. PE general partners intuitively understand that strong, effective leadership is critical to the success of their investment — in fact, they sometimes invest in a company based on the strength of its management talent.
6. Link pay and performance. The CEO and senior managers at a private equity portfolio company are deeply invested in the performance of their business — their fortunes soar when the business succeeds and suffer when it fails to achieve objectives.
7. Select stretch goals. As discussed, top private equity firms manage their portfolio companies by developing and paying rigorous attention to a select set of key and customized metrics. PE general partners quickly assess what matters in driving the success of an acquired company and then isolate these few measures and track them.