The great thing about having a co-founder is that you spread the load. Johnny (Cosgrave) and I come from ordinary backgrounds. I have had the same friends for many decades. You need that perspective in the private equity world.
The January 2020 launch was bad timing. Finding investors was very hard work. We raised 160 million euros, mostly from foreign institutions and high-ranking Network- worth individuals.
There was stress. In the very early days there were times when we weren’t sure it would work. But we stand on solid ground and have responsibilities.
We looked people in the eye and promised to do our best to manage their money and built a team of 10 people.
Paying wages is a big responsibility. We hired a few people from London and the surrounding area. We talk to people from a wide variety of backgrounds, and it is important that the team is put together correctly.
Johnny and I had a good track record at The Carlyle Group and the three founders invested. This gave us confidence and we gathered wise advisors around us.
I feel really good about how we’re doing – we have strong investments.
Now it’s a matter of implementing our plans well. We want to build a world-class law firm in Ireland. Things that don’t work are not an option.
I grew up in Knocklyon. They were all new housing estates when my parents moved there from Cork.
At Terenure College I was a sports enthusiast, not overly academic, but sports taught me planning and preparation, and what you put into things is what you get out.
In my sixth year up to the CAO deadline, I applied for US athletic scholarships but made the right decision with Economics and Finance at Trinity, where I met my wife Laura.
Erasmus opened my eyes. The first time I sat on a plane was when I was 18 and in Copenhagen I was in a class with 12 nationalities.
My mother said I was good with numbers and she didn’t know many unemployed accountants so after Trinity I started at KPMG where I got a good professional toolkit.
Towards the end I worked on the finance side and got to know deals. My brother and some friends were in London and when I saw an FT advert McKinsey was looking for accountants I applied.
learn what is good
I was at McKinsey for four wonderful years and met the smartest people you could ever meet – I certainly wasn’t one of them.
They would do really detailed analysis. Starting with a problem – say, to quintuple sales – and would break it down into manageable chunks and then build it back up
In our past careers we have managed multi-billion dollar funds, the companies we deal with in Ireland are much smaller but execution is just as crucial.
I didn’t want to be an advisor forever and when a colleague joined Goldman Sachs he suggested I speak to them.
At Goldman I have worked in New York, South Africa, Russia and Turkey. In wealth management, I have only seen a very high level of integrity. Other parts of the company may have a different reputation but I couldn’t see any of the negatives I’ve read about.
I loved it, but eight years later, in 2014, private equity group Carlyle came knocking. They had raised a fund for Ireland and needed people to run it.
This was a great opportunity for me and Laura to move home. We had two daughters – Annabelle and Olivia, now 10 and 9 – and wanted to raise them in Ireland.
A solid partnership
Carlyle also hired Jonathan. He lived next door to us in London, on Parsons Green, but we had never met. We grilled with our families and hit it off straight away. Johnny is introverted, I’m the opposite but we have the same values.
We needed to spread the private equity gospel in Ireland. We would drive across the country and have met over 1,200 companies over the past eight years. As Johnny says, no business is done in the office.
When we got the opportunity to start our own company, private equity was much more mainstream and companies started to appeal to us.
On my first day of work in London, I couldn’t get through three packed pipes until it dawned on me that I had to assert myself. London was huge. I had gotten used to the hustle and going back to Ireland required a cultural rethink.
We lived in Blackrock for a few months and had yet to meet our neighbors. So we went door to door and sent a letter asking if we could meet at the pub. Hundreds of people came and it has become an annual event.
At Goldman it was a very transactional environment and Ireland is much more relationship based. We work with Founder Owners to grow their business and we need to trust each other.
To hold the fort
The hours were long and busy when I was at McKinsey and Goldman.
I always thought that the sacrifices were worth it because I was working on interesting transactions and I was constantly learning.
Laura also worked long hours in human resources at an investment bank, but when our first child was born she decided to become a full-time mom.
This allows me to continue to focus fully on my career and know that when I’m working flat out on a deal, I know everyone is still well taken care of at home.
I run 5 km several times a week. After a day full of problems, this gives me a clear head.
Sport remains important to me and I am firmly convinced that our daughters have just as many opportunities as I do.
My kids run at Blackrock Athletic Club where I coach the U10 group on Thursday nights and Sundays.
My work is not time sensitive, so I can prioritize the coaching and work from there.
One of the kids I coach, Alice Hayes, has a very rare cancer of the nerve cells and has to go to New York for life-saving medical treatment. The club is helping raise funds by running 5,128km (the distance from Blackrock to the clinic) this week, culminating in an event on Sunday in Carysfort Park to which all are invited.
Survive any slowdown
A recession makes it harder, but we believe most of our businesses can grow in tougher environments.
The sectors in which we have recently invested – insurance intermediation, financial software, confectionery – are relatively resilient to a downturn.
Valuations have been at record levels in recent years, making it difficult to invest at fair prices. We have a fund with significant capital to deploy, so a price adjustment to more normal long-term levels would not be unwelcome.
My nine year old wakes me up at around 7am. Most days I have breakfast with the family, I love being able to do that and chat with the girls about what’s going on at school, and then I dart up Mount Street.
My day is a mix of external and internal meetings. I split my time between the companies we’ve invested in and could visit prospects across the country, with a working lunch once or twice a week.
If I’m working on a deal, I might be home by 9pm, otherwise it might be 6pm.
We expect everyone to have an opinion on business, and going to the office is important for that and for learning.
We work very hard, but with experience you learn to deal with it.
Free time is usually family time and I’m quite an active father. I manage this by bringing the laptop home and my phone is always on. Johnny and I talk four times a day.
In London, where we had no family support, we were given a babysitter every Saturday from the first few months when we had our first child. We have decided that this is a priority and we still do.
I enjoy playing golf locally although I’m not good. My attitude is wrong, but we laugh, even if it’s at my expense.
https://www.independent.ie/business/this-working-life-a-recession-makes-it-harder-but-we-believe-most-of-our-companies-can-still-grow-in-more-difficult-environments-42132477.html This Working Life – “A recession makes it harder, but we believe most of our businesses can grow in tougher environments.”