Only 6 months in my job, and am already considering it as a career write-off. It seems too soon to be charting my next career path, but I know I owe it to myself. Considering the job started out so well and I got on very well with my direct boss and colleagues, I am now paying the price for having learned hard lessons from working for a private equity (PE) owned company.
As things go, working for a company owned by PE is fundamentally different from working for either a privately-held company or a publicly-listed corporation. Why? Because the PE’s goals, values and it’s every fibre of existence as a pure financial model are essentially different from those I’ve been used to, and those I may have been expecting.
It is a challenge in itself to position Marketing & Advertising where the goal is short-term and numbers-oriented. Building brand preference and increasing the probability that a consumer will purchase your product or service (at some point) is unconvincing to investors who have short-term goals, let alone engage with “decision makers” who in reality, do not have vested interests. The risk here is defaulting to being reactive and functioning as a sales support department for that immediate result. As a consequence, the company is run by emphasising on quick gains through prioritising low overheads and hard-driving tactics for eventual riches. I fundamentally have an issue here – I do not want to work and partake in greed, for greed’s sake. It is my belief that this is a shortcut to prosperity, and is not sustainable.
To make matters worse when the recession hit, this traditionally stable company experienced revenue declines. As you would expect, this company now isn’t worth as much as the debt owed from its financing – it is now a money loser. Since the company is so laden with debt, it is highly likely it won’t get repaid. So as the company continues to deplete it’s cash reserves and liabilities continue to exceed the value of its assets…simply put, the company will go into a negative net worth and this will really upset the PE investors. Granted, however it plays out in the end (e.g. company going bankrupt in the process), the investors would have already extracted plenty. Without a doubt, there will be the selected few in the company that would also be laughing all the way to the bank at the expense of all others, like myself.
My observation is (and it is my own conspiracy theory) the process of a (hostile?) takeover has already started. I have the opportunity to witness up-close and personal how a company frantically goes into “restructuring frenzy” to refocus, retool, and reinvigorate the business to meet the demands of PE investors within an agreed time period. Additionally, PE influences are starting to insert themselves into every level of the company. Looking through the company employee bios one can start to paint a clear story – PE influencers as representatives or consultants on the Board, in C-level executive roles, in technical leadership and operating roles, and all the way on through the organisation.
But no one dares to call out the elephant in the room – in the end, what will come of it? It may be the company will eventually get sold off for a profit. For someone like myself, an insignificant headcount, my future is unclear in this company. The signs are starting to show – it has been a harsh wake-up call in the last 2 months to realise that the business I know today is not going to be the business I will work for, for fundamental change in the entire operation will inevitably take place.
I hate to admit it, but this has caught me by surprise.