January 18, 2019 – Bill, a prominent PE investor, just completed the successful sale of one of his portfolio companies. After 20 years in the PE industry he has become well known for finding quality companies, recruiting high performance leadership teams, driving results and selling for significant returns. Because of his success he is on the radar screen for many C-Level executives looking to work for one of his investments.
At a recent industry conference I had the opportunity to meet privately with Bill to discuss his current outlook for the PE industry. To my surprise the interview turned into a discussion about his frustration with finding great people for his investments. He said “every day Investment Bankers, MDs in our firm and others pitch investment ideas. These professionals all speak our language and come to the table with an Investment Thesis that spells out in no uncertain language what they can do increase our returns.”
“As a PE investor, what I look for in executive talent is for is someone to take charge and tell me who they are and what they can do for our firm. Typically, they send me a resume with jobs and education and leave it to me to guess how they can add value.”
As a seasoned executive recruiter, I have found over the last 21 years that many executives are extremely talented but unskilled at communicating their own value proposition. As a result, many talented executives are passed over by Boards and Investors that have too many demands on their time to guess which individuals are worth interviewing.
We use a Personal Investment Thesis for each candidate. Our clients expect some form of personal investment thesis to determine how an executive meets their needs, assess their talents and to understand their potential shortfalls. I work with executives frequently on developing their personal investment thesis and it is of paramount importance for individuals who are soliciting PE firms on their own without a pre-existing relationship.
This is what I can do for you. The Personal Investment Thesis is a clear statement how hiring you will create value for the company. It is not a generic broad statement but one that is specifically tailored to the needs of the audience (in this case the PE firm). It is not a resume but a supportable declaration of what you bring to the table and backed up by results that you have previously delivered.
What candidates often fail to do is to synthesize their leadership qualities, experiences and motivations into a succinct Personal Investment Thesis that says “this is why you should hire me”. It contains certain basic information.
- Set a clear target. The thesis begins with a target. A strong target would be one that needs what you have to offer. Targeting will make you most effective in a job search. For example if you are a CFO in manufacturing company with strong operational and M&A skills your targets could include PE firms that make investments in that space and have growth strategies with an emphasis on M&A.
- Identify your strengths. It may sound obvious, but what you know and what you can do are the foundation of your thesis. Hone in on what those are. For example. Previous experience in a PE sponsored company, hands-on, strategic thinker works well on a cross functional basis, team builder, etc.
- Tie your strengths to your target position. Don’t leave it up to the PE firm to figure out how your strengths relate to what they need. Let your thesis tightly connect you to the position. Consider their perspective and know why they should hire you.
- Provide evidence and success stories. Your strengths may be what an employer is “buying,” but your achievements are the evidence you have those strengths. They make your case convincing. Some people prepare a non-confidential portfolio to showcase that evidence in a vivid way. They collect reports they wrote that had impact. They pull together facts on measurable achievements such as sales growth or cost reduction.
- How you set yourself apart from others. These are key differentiators that are unique to you that others may not possess and would be valuable to the PE firm.
At the end of the day if you were investing in a company you would want to know what value it produces relative to other investment opportunities. Investments in human capital are no different. This is why the Personal Investment Thesis creates the opportunity to clearly define and highlight what value you can deliver and answers the key question of “Why should I hire you?”
About the Author
Matt Pierce is a Co-Founder of BridgeStreet Partners, and has more than 21 years of retained executive search experience. Before co-founding BridgeStreet, a boutique retained executive search firm operating on a national basis and focused on the recruitment of C-level executives, Matt was the Financial Officer Practice Leader and Co-Leader of the High-Tech practice at A. T. Kearney. Prior to his executive search career, Matt held senior financial positions in industry.