The interview below is part of an ongoing effort by McGuireWoods to profile women leaders in private equity (PE). To read previous profiles, click here. To recommend a woman for a future interview, email Amber Walsh at [email protected].
Carrie DiLauro is director of operations for Hamilton Robinson Capital Partners (HRCP) in Stamford, Connecticut. DiLauro brings over 25 years of experience in global manufacturing and finance to the team at HRCP. She is responsible for a wide scope of operations management for the firm. Prior to HRCP, DiLauro spent 15 years overseeing worldwide textile production. She received a B.S. from Cornell University and a Master of Finance from Harvard University.
Q: What attracted you to PE?
Carrie DiLauro: I spent 15 years with boots on the ground in manufacturing facilities all over the world. I was in the trenches with management teams and hardworking shop-floor employees. We were constantly challenging ourselves to execute more efficiently, anticipate the bumps in the road ahead and beat the quality expectations and delivery time frame of the customer. That meant do it better and do it faster. A key ingredient to going faster is partner expertise. This is what PE brings to a business. The basic PE playbook pivots a company from reaction to production, and it does it fast.
Good PE engages the management team and its employees in the equity of the company. Dramatic momentum and growth can be fostered when everyone is on board with the goals of the company, thinks like an owner and strives to achieve those goals. The success of this shared partnership and ultimate exit puts meaningful money in the hands of the company employees who were so instrumental in achieving this growth. This is money that pays for weddings, sends kids to college and solidifies retirements, and when that happens, it’s a really good day.
Q: What advice would you provide to a women-led company interested in securing PE?
CD: PE is a game of incomplete information on both sides. You are presented with a certain set of facts/information — that always starts with the words “pro forma” — and you are looking for situations where you have an edge. Look for the partner that understands your business and communicates constantly and transparently. Does your gut tell you these people have integrity?
Do your homework. Make sure you have your financials, growth strategies and human capital in order. Always remember a buyer of your business is buying the future and not the past. Look for a PE team that gets behind your growth strategies and both yourself as the leader and your management team. Will this PE partner give you the edge in your marketplace against your competitors? Price is important, but cultural fit and shared goals lead to the most successful outcomes.
Q: Why is it important for more women to pursue careers in PE?
CD: The competition within PE has never been greater than it is today. Most of America’s pension funds are looking to PE to provide them with greater returns so they can manage through the unpredictable returns of the public markets and the large ratio swings of retirees and working Americans. America’s middle market is the engine of growth for our economy, and PE is a tremendous resource for these middle market companies to evolve and grow.
The current environment compels us to embrace change, be open-minded, curious and rethink everything. Beyond technical skills, success in today’s world requires complex problem solving, critical thinking and creativity. We only get there with a diversity of backgrounds, perspectives and experience.
Financially engineering a company to a successful exit is no longer an option. The focus is on building strong foundations by leveraging data, doing away with the command-and-control approach, getting social and imparting empathy as critical elements to improve human capital and drive growth.
Q: What do you think is the biggest challenge facing women entrepreneurs? What advice would you provide to overcome it?
CD: As an entrepreneur, you start out doing everything. At that point, the focus is on growing the top line and increasing earnings, but great leaders learn to pivot quickly and get themselves out of the everyday weeds by setting the strategy for the company, hiring the best people and then focusing on developing their human capital — which is their greatest resource. By focusing on your human capital, acts of collaboration and ingenuity will become the norm. Don’t overlook the small stuff. Even the smallest changes/fixes (e.g., fixing a coffee machine, improving lighting, using a better pair of gloves) can make a world of difference to your employees and their happiness and their contributions to your company.
It’s time to move away from the organization that strives for stability by working harder and harder. Tomorrow’s biggest successes will be companies that can accommodate change and uncertainty. Focus on accelerating learning throughout the organization, combining people and machines and leveraging your data and your people. Leverage your ecosystems. Don’t be afraid to share information or seek it out to form partnerships. Don’t let the fear of uncertainty prevent the actions of opportunity. Long-term success is the balance between anticipating tomorrow but delivering today.
To contact DiLauro, email [email protected].