Q: You first joined Livingbridge nearly 20 years ago, in 2001. Who are some of the inspirational management teams you have worked with during this time?
Liz Jones (LJ): I have been lucky to work with many, across a range of sectors, but given the challenges of the last 12 months, it feels right to call out some of inspirational teams I have worked with – past and present – in healthcare, social care and education. This is a sector that has had to dig deep in every respect in 2020, finding new ways to deliver services and keep colleagues engaged, in an environment where customers, rightly, still expect an exemplary service. The challenges have just kept coming and the teams have kept responding – it has been truly inspiring to watch.
It therefore feels right to play tribute the two leadership teams I have worked with personally during the pandemic. First, the leadership team of Helping Hands, a national provider of homecare to the elderly. Despite the crisis, it has continued to serve some of the most vulnerable and dependent individuals in society, all the while growing its business. I would also like to acknowledge the leadership team of Fresh Tandartsen, our dental group in the Netherlands. As you would expect this business endured a period of closure and re-mobilisation, but again, has continued to innovate, grow and acquire, and remain true to its vision throughout.
Q: You have worked with a multitude of successful businesses over the course of your career. What makes an entrepreneurial business really stand out to you?
(LJ): It’s about the boldness of the vision. The determination to build a really outstanding, transformational business which betters the sector it’s in.
In terms of who we work with, I’m always struck by entrepreneurs who consciously build a strong team around them in those early days, who are really receptive to external influence, and who are externally focussed – making sure they have understood their market and their competitive environment.
But most importantly, we look for entrepreneurs who understand their own strengths and weaknesses and who are prepared to compensate for the latter by surrounding themselves with different personalities.
Q: What first sparked your interest in private equity?
(LJ): I have always been really interested in business. I grew up at the heart of the family milk business, so witnessed the passion, commitment and hard work which goes into running one first-hand.
But what really catalysed my interest in private equity was spending four years in Barclays Ventures in my early 20s, which is where I really cut my teeth on the industry. I invested in eight companies of all different sizes and sectors during my time there, and that was when I really realised what I wanted to do with my career. I was also very lucky to work for a MD who gave me lots of rope and responsibility early.
Q: Which female role models or mentors have inspired you during your career?
(LJ): It’s my colleagues – the people I work with day to day – who have inspired me the most, and I’ve been tremendously lucky to be surrounded by a number of female and male role models throughout my PE career. Without exception these individuals have been ambitious, trusting of me, and have created the space and environment for me to be an investor in a way that fits my personality and style. I have never felt the need to be someone I am not.
I have also been fortunate to have a good mix of ‘supportive mentors’ and ‘critical friends,’ and believe this healthy combination of support and robust challenge has been key to my development within the firm and the industry.
Q: What do you see as some of the greatest challenges facing women in private equity?
(LJ): Across the broader industry, one of the main challenges we continue to face is the scarcity of female role models, particularly those who have worked their way up and through an organisation. Whilst I have been fortunate at Livingbridge to be surrounded by such role models, this is not universal in our market and there is still a long way to go.
So really our industry has two challenges – encouraging more women to consider private equity, but also ensuring they remain in the industry and progress to positions of leaderships. I firmly believe we are making progress on the first, which with time, effort and leadership, should help us resolve the second. Ultimately having a diverse workforce, in every respect, should make clear business sense, which is why I remain optimistic that our sector will have a good story to tell in 10 years.
About International Women’s Day
International Women’s Day (March 8) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating women’s equality.
IWD has occurred for well over a century, with the first IWD gathering in 1911 supported by over a million people. Today, IWD belongs to all groups collectively everywhere. IWD is not country, group or organization specific.