BENEATH THE NAME, the logo, the offices, the people, the production, even the reputation of a company lies a shared yet often unspoken perception of value. When people agree on what is valuable, their goals align and their culture binds. What does Equistone value?
I had the chance to ask its managing partner, Guillaume Jacqueau.
“We want to be transparent. To say what we do and do what we say. Trust. We want to trust people and we want people to trust us. We never do a deal without trust. It is also the basis of the relationship between our team members.”
To this, he adds “complementarity”, “respect” and “humility”.
For Guillaume, these five values contain the secret of Equistone’s success.
I have been engaging with the firm since 2002, first as a journalist, later as a supplier, and the question I really wanted him to answer was this: how come everyone is so nice? If this seems superficial, consider that while niceness is not rare exactly, it is hardly a prerequisite to success in private equity – and yet it is palpable and persistent through a firm spread across multiple geographies that operate largely autonomously. It can’t be by chance.
“Humility is important,” says Guillaume. “You have to be very vigilant when successful not to become arrogant. I hate arrogance. Whether you are successful or not, you have to remain humble in any case.”
This is a big part of the puzzle. I’m personally not sure that humility is even seen as a virtue in the business world anymore, having been superseded by more self-centred attributes like ‘passion’, ‘boldness’ and ‘determination’. Humility is even rarer in finance, I offer.
“We are not in finance,” says Guillaume. “We are in a people business, and what makes our organisation different is people. I want people to behave in a way that respects these values and protects our reputation. I tell the team and new joiners that I want people to be willing to work again with us. M&A advisers, managers, auditors. They should say Equistone are top people, they are fair people..”
Values tend to be elusive, deeply embedded if not fully articulated. How have they come about?