The interview below is part of a yearlong effort by McGuireWoods to profile women leaders in private equity. To read previous profiles, click here. To recommend a woman for a future interview, email Amber Walsh at firstname.lastname@example.org.
With more than 25 years of experience in finance and PE, Caroline Ducas is a partner at Resolute Capital Partners, a series of multi-strategy SBIC funds based in Nashville, Tenn. Resolute Capital Fund IV, a recently raised $325 million fund, is actively investing debt, minority equity and control equity in private companies in the lower-middle market. The fund pursues a variety of industries, but primarily targets business services and healthcare services.
At Resolute Capital, Ducas is responsible for deal sourcing, execution and management of investments. She currently serves on the boards of several portfolio companies, including Behavioral Innovations, Endeavor Business Media, Hulin Health and Elite Medical Staffing. Prior to Resolute Capital, Ducas was a principal of the Morgan Keegan Private Funds Group, where she was involved in every aspect of investing and managing the Morgan Keegan Strategic Fund (Fund II) as well as the management of Morgan Keegan Mezzanine Fund (Fund I). She has also held positions with Sirrom Capital Corp. (later known as Finova Mezzanine Capital), J.C. Bradford & Co. and First Union National Bank. She received an MBA from the Owen School at Vanderbilt University and a BA from Vanderbilt University.
Q: What attracted you to PE?
Caroline Ducas: Having worked as a corporate finance analyst at a regional investment bank, I was interested in PE and became eager to pursue that career path. Although investment banking provided an exciting, fast-paced transactional environment, I really wanted to become more vested in the companies with which I worked. I wanted to take a turn at seeing and creating value from an insider's perspective.
My path to PE was somewhat indirect. After investment banking and then post-MBA, I joined a large digital media startup in Nashville. This was my chance to diversify away from my advisory role and participate in the management of a growth platform. As director of business operations, I was able to see what worked (and what didn't work) from both operating and investment perspectives. Working closely with the chief operating officer, I touched all aspects of operations, including financial oversight. With this experience and a background in investment banking, I was well-prepared to transition into PE.
To be specific, at Resolute Capital Partners, we structure investments as a combination of debt and equity, which is an interesting mix of both lender and sponsor roles. Working with different management teams allows us to replicate best practices from top performers across our entire portfolio. It's an exciting place to be — both vested and invested, with flexible capital to support growth. The role we play is lender, investor, partner, advisor and sometimes operator. Each investment provides an opportunity to learn, grow and improve.
Q: Why is it important for more women to pursue careers in PE?
CD: It's very important to have people with different experiences and perspectives providing input in the workplace. Having women involved in the investment process provides representation of unique gender-related viewpoints and skills that may otherwise be overlooked. Ideally, a mix of men and women collaborating will promote productivity and a wider range of ideas to enhance investment value. The mix of styles and backgrounds provides for less "group think" and a more thoughtful and expansive analysis of subject matter.
In addition, the rise of women in PE roles helps create mentors for those looking to pursue a similar career path. Given that PE has historically been a male-dominated industry, I'm glad to see that trend is changing.
Q: What advice would you provide to women-led companies interested in securing PE?
CD: Start by doing your homework and being prepared. How you present your business, its value proposition and its growth prospects is critical to getting the attention of an institutional investor. Seek advice from others in your industry or a related industry who have built (and possibly sold) a successful company. When possible, add these people to your board or informal group of advisors. Make sure your financials, as well as your strategy, are concise, detailed and defensible. If necessary, engage a trusted advisor with deep industry knowledge and PE relationships.
Once you have the attention of a PE group, check references. If possible, speak to their current and past portfolio company management teams. Understand how the PE group handles oversight and reacts to difficult situations. Pick a PE partner that provides strategic value, not just financial capital.
Q: Can you share a personal story that you feel exemplifies the value of women entrepreneurship?
CD: Two years ago, we were fortunate to invest in a company that provides center-based autism therapy services to children. With a child who seemed to show early signs of autism, I was personally drawn to this company and its services. My child struggled with several issues that needed assessment through early-intervention services. I was fortunate that, after a short round of therapy, my child began to progress as expected, but my heart still goes out to those parents with children who need continued treatment and support.
At the time of our initial investment, the founder had opened four centers and was looking for capital and support to grow her business. Her goal was to build a platform around her company to become a leading regional provider of applied behavior analysis therapy to children. Resolute Capital co-invested in this growth platform and has since provided capital to help grow the number of centers from four to more than 25 current locations.
This company is remarkable for so many reasons. It was founded by a woman who was a board-certified behavior analyst and who possessed the passion and knowledge to treat children with autism. On her own, she grew the company to four locations but realized she could do so much more with additional support. She trusted her institutional investors with an aggressive growth plan to reach as many families as possible. I have personally seen the joy she exhibits when parents effusively thank her for founding a company that has made such a transformational impact on their lives.
The company is now led by a female CEO that works closely with the board, PE team, founder and her management team to maintain the vision. Her management team consists primarily of women, as does her staff. With a board and PE team that are primarily men, it is refreshing to see that the leadership and management of the company remain female.
These are the types of companies that both benefit from and deserve growth capital. These are the companies that are enhanced by the work ethic and sensitivity of women on staff and in leadership. In turn, the communities and families touched by this company are positively impacted. I am grateful that Resolute Capital can be part of that effort.
To contact Ducas, email email@example.com.
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