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The right skillset

The right skillset 2007-06-01 Staff Writer I've often used a NASA analogy in describing private equity's current era of institutionalization. Particularly in the back office, private equity firms face a similar challenge that NASA faced in hiring the first astronauts ?trying to figure out who is most qualifi

I've often used a NASA analogy in describing private equity's current era of institutionalization. Particularly in the back office, private equity firms face a similar challenge that NASA faced in hiring the first astronauts ?trying to figure out who is most qualified for an entirely new kind of job.

Since no one had ever flown into space before, NASA obviously couldn't post a ?seeking experienced space travelers? notice in the classifieds. Instead, the space administration pondered drawing on the skill sets of several types of professionals, including submarine crew members, parachutists, artic explorers, mountain climbers, deep sea divers, soldiers and laboratory human guinea pigs, before finally settling on the ranks of test pilots as the best recruiting ground for astronauts.

Since the role of private equity marketing and communications professional hasn't existed for very long, and still doesn't exist at every firm, GPs are having an equally hard time figuring out what the right background is for this job and, in fact, what the job should entail. This confusion is often still unresolved once the professionals join their respective firms, where they find that their duties may include a haphazard mix of investor relations, press release drafting, PowerPoint production, web development and holiday card duty.

In the June issue of PEI Manager, we present useful information on where the best private equity firms have been sourcing marketing and communications talent (p. 27), as well as a detailed look at the many channels these professionals are using to broadcast their firm's message to the market (p. 20).

It should come as a surprise to only the most reclusive GP that private equity's engagement with the broader world has greatly intensified over the past year. In addition to the need to further distinguish one's firm from the many other firms seeking the same deals, private equity is now being debated in the US Congress, in the UK, in the European Union, among labor union leaders worldwide and by tax authorities everywhere. Everyday shareholders are now part owners of major private equity firms, such as Fortress Investment Group, which issued an unusual press release last month detailing its fundraising activities (see p. 5). Communications professionals are indeed becoming a permanent part of the private equity universe, and not a moment too soon.

Enjoy the issue,

By David SnowDavid.s@us.investoraccess.com