The interview below is part of an ongoing effort by McGuireWoods to profile up-and-coming women leaders in private equity (PE). To read previous profiles, click here. To recommend a rising star for a future interview, email Amber Walsh at [email protected].
Allie Laborde leads business development efforts and is actively involved in sourcing and originating new transactions on behalf of The Stephens Group. Prior to joining The Stephens Group in 2019, Laborde was a vice president at The Halifax Group, where she sourced and originated new transactions. Laborde started her career in the corporate finance department at Stephens Inc., where she advised on mergers and acquisitions and public and private financing transactions across multiple industries.
Q: What attracted you to PE?
Allie Laborde: I was attracted to PE because of the opportunity to work alongside smart people in a role that requires you to be constantly learning. I am surrounded and challenged every day by incredibly smart people, from my colleagues to our management teams to the intermediaries with whom we work. No day is the same, and I love that. Some days I’m on the road, meeting with investment bankers to tell them about portfolio companies and explain to them our different industries of interest and investment theses. Other days, I’m in the office reading industry research or about recent merger and acquisition transactions, trying to understand why certain companies were valued more highly than their peers.
To succeed in this field, you must be intellectually curious. I’m grateful to have a career where I’m learning something new every day.
Q: Who is an example of someone who inspired you in PE and why?
AL: Kristin Gunther, who is a principal at Revolution Growth. We attended the same business school at different times and met through that network. She graduated during the Great Recession, and despite the challenging market environment, was determined to land a PE job. Unsurprisingly, her background and hard work helped her land a compelling opportunity. In addition to being an incredibly hardworking and smart investor, she’s a great mom who’s also honest and transparent about the challenges of juggling a demanding career while still being present with family and making time for yourself. She’s become a mentor and a friend and is a strong role model.
Q: What is a lesson that you have learned concerning what’s required for success in PE?
AL: PE is a people business. When you invest in a business, you’re backing the management team. Given the choice, I will always pick an average business model run by a great team over a strong business model run by a mediocre team. It’s not unlike a marriage in that it’s a partnership. While you might not see eye to eye on every decision every time, at the end of the day, in order to really succeed, you have to make sure that your goals and vision for the business align.
Since it’s a people business, developing strong, long-term relationships is incredibly important. While PE is competitive, I believe the old adage that you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar is true. It’s a small industry, and I believe being a good partner — whether that’s to your management teams, colleagues or competitors — will pay off in spades.
Q: Why is it important for more women to pursue careers in PE?
AL: Women bring a different perspective to the table, from how they think to their prior life experiences and how they interact with and approach people. Data has proven that gender diversity on investment teams provides higher returns, yet women hold only 10 percent of senior roles at PE firms globally. This imbalance does a disservice not only to fund limited partners, but to the companies in which the PE firms invest and to the investment teams themselves.
It’s encouraging to see more firms make a concerted effort to hire more women. While it’s important across all levels, I believe it’s especially important at the senior level. PE is an apprenticeship business, and when a woman enters at a young age and there is no one like her at the top, that’s a problem.
Throughout their careers, women face different challenges than their male counterparts. Having a female role model is incredibly helpful in encouraging their path forward and ensuring they stay in the field.
To contact Laborde, email [email protected].