Look For the Next Generation
SPECIAL EPISODE: Diversity Matters in the Middle Market. Brought to you in collaboration with the Association for Corporate Growth (ACG). One of the easiest ways to drive diversity equity and inclusion is to reach out to the youth, show them that they can do it too, or give them the opportunities to enter the field. Talking to us today about how to inspire the next generation is Marcia Nelson, co-founder of Triple C Advisory. Marcia has had an eclectic career, from fashion publishing to a family office to serving on the board of ACG. Her early career placed her in female-dominated teams, and so it wasn’t until she entered the world of finance that she realized the impact of the lack of diversity on company culture and value. She talks us through her experiences and how having role models made a world of difference.
SPECIAL EPISODE: Diversity Matters in the Middle Market. Brought to you in collaboration with the Association for Corporate Growth (ACG).
One of the easiest ways to drive diversity equity and inclusion is to reach out to the youth, show them that they can do it too, or give them the opportunities to enter the field. Talking to us today about how to inspire the next generation is Marcia Nelson, co-founder of Triple C Advisory. Marcia has had an eclectic career, from fashion publishing to a family office to serving on the board of ACG. Her early career placed her in female-dominated teams, and so it wasn’t until she entered the world of finance that she realized the impact of the lack of diversity on company culture and value. She talks us through her experiences and how having role models made a world of difference.
Key Points From This Episode
- Marcia’s eclectic career path: from fashion to family office.
- How starting her career in a female-dominated team inspired Marcia to get involved in DEI.
- The surprising question Marcia was asked on entering the world of finance and how it showed her the impact of a lack of diversity.
- Why creating opportunities for ourselves creates value.
- How diversity within corporations increases their value.
- Marcia’s tips on how to make a change to incorporate more diversity.
- How you can do simple things like helping your alma mater with interviews allows you to share your expertise and inspire the next generation.
- Why we need to educate communities about the important work of private equity.
- Marcia’s advice to people early in their career: get smarter about what you’re interested in.
- The importance of networking in getting a foot in the door.
[00:00:01] ANNOUNCER: Welcome to the Diversity Matters in the Middle Market Podcast, where industry leaders share their compelling growth stories and the unseen challenges they have overcome. Our goal is to inform and inspire our listeners to take action and make diversity, equality and inclusion a pillar of your organization. This is a production of the Association for Corporate Growth, ACG and Connection Builders
[00:00:24] AD: Hi, everyone. Welcome to an episode of the Diversity Matters in the Middle Market Podcast. I’m your host, Alex Drost. Today, we’re joined by Marcia Nelson, co-founder of Triple C advisory a business lifecycle advisory firm focused on middle market companies. Marcia shares her thoughts on why leaders today have the responsibility to be proactive and to look for the next generation. All right. Let’s jump in.
Marcia, welcome to Diversity Matters in the Middle Market Podcast. Excited to have you here today.
[00:00:55] MN: Oh, Alex, I couldn’t be more thrilled to be here today. Thanks so much for including me and I’m looking forward to our conversation today.
[00:01:01] AD: Oh! Me as well. Why don’t we start with just a little bit of background? Could you share for our listeners who you are, what you do and how we kind of got to this conversation today?
[00:01:09] MN: Sure. I have a pretty eclectic, diverse background. I started my career in fashion publishing, spent about 15 years living The Devil Wears Prada life. Then I went to work for a single-family office and that was a really interesting experience. That sort of put me on a journey into the family office community. I went back to grad school, got an MBA and started doing more work in valuation, learned about private equity. For the last eight years, I’ve been on the board of ACG, New York. This is actually my final year as President. I’m very sad to be leaving the board of ACG. But I spent the last five years working for a couple of single-family offices that have investment banking arms. I spent a lot of time negotiating deals and working with single-family offices and middle market private equity community. Then separately, I have my own consulting practice. I work with some early-stage entrepreneurs. I’m an advisor to a single-family offices on this board. Then I actually sit on a really interesting board, a company called Sheryl Grant Enterprises, which is a female-founded, African American women and it’s all about supporting women and minorities in business. Super excited today for this conversation.
[00:02:19] AD: Well, you’ve got a great background, an eclectic one. I like that word. It definitely applies. To be clear, you started off in the publishing world, worked a handful of different careers. Then now, you’re in the private equity family office, deal space advisory world. You have a broad career path and a broad set of experiences. One of your passions is really around bringing more women and more minorities to the table. We know that in the traditional deal community today, it is heavily dominated by white men. We all know that and our goal here is to figure out how do we change some of that. Why don’t we just start by diving in. You’re a woman in the industry? What do you see? What have you learned? What do you think about being a woman in this industry?
[00:03:01] MN: Sure. Well, as I mentioned, I started my career in fashion publishing, which was primarily women lead, right. I didn’t know that there weren’t women in business, because I was sitting around the table with a staff of 30 females, and the publisher was female, the editor in chief was female. That was my early experience. Then I went to work for a philanthropist, female-founded family office, I worked with her. Then I went to grad school, got my MBA, and completely shifted careers and ended up at a little private equity company that had moved to New York at that time. A little company called The Carlyle Group.
All of a sudden, I was in a room full of men, and it was really like just visually, a very different experience. It never occurred to me that it wasn’t the same as the publishing world, because that was my experience. I really had to take hard stock of myself, in my career, really thought about how I could get ahead in this community as a woman, and really change how I think about the world. I will tell you, the last 20 years, there’s been a lot more support around diversity, equity inclusion. I still think we have a long way to go. But I see podcasts like this, ACG’s newest diversity, equity inclusion initiative across the global board and the global organization, as well as the New York chapter has had a real strong DEI commitment the last couple of years.
I think part of it is like the awareness, when we just finally had to become aware that this was something that we needed to actively recruit, engage. We need to see people like ourselves in leadership positions, both in the nonprofit association side as well as in our companies.
[00:04:42] AD: You said there one, the work has a long ways to go, and I don’t mean that in any negative way. I think the work is never done in many ways. I think it’s a constant effort. I think it’s a constant awareness and a constant focus of saying, “Okay. How do we ensure that we have an appropriate representation of minorities within our organization, our companies?” Wherever we as individuals have a place of influence, we should be looking to ensure that. We know the work is never done, but it has come. There has been progress, and there certainly is a lot of awareness around it, which is a great aspect. It’s part of the whole reason we’re doing this podcast is to help continue to raise awareness. But let me ask you a question, when you look back, and you’ve transitioned into what was a male dominated industry, what were some of the challenges? What were some of the things that maybe you’ve struggled with, or things that you had to overcome along the way?
[00:05:32] MN: Yeah. Well, I’ll tell you and Alex, a side note here. You can edit this if you think [inaudible 00:05:37]. But when I first got into finance, there were lots of conversations even just like in like HR, I had conversations. I will tell you quite honestly, prior to joining Carlyle. One of the concerns that they asked was, one, I was a woman. Two, I was Mormon. They said, “Sometimes a trading desk can be a little raunchy. Will you be uncomfortable?” That was a real question I was asked. Would I be uncomfortable with some of the conversations around what was happening?
I laughed and I said, “You’ve never sat around a boardroom with women in publishing. Women talk about things too, right?” The fact that they actually asked me that question, I was a little bit taken aback, because again, never occurred to me. Part one was like, okay. The underlying message there was like, “Will I fit in? One, I’m a woman. Two, I’m from Utah, not from New York. Three, I’m Mormon”. Like all three of those things are not necessarily like — I don’t want to say issues around diversity, but it did bring some additional diversity to me as a candidate going to work for the firm.
That was really again, the first time I was really aware that diversity matters. Then you could be sidelined for — the fact that I had a conversation with HR before they made the final offer is really, really eye opening. It makes me think like — I’m so obviously blonde. I’m not as diverse on this continuum as an African-American or another ethnic group. I don’t see it’s a problem that I have to overcome. I’m already halfway there. But I do think that — it made me very aware of what other issues — if this is where I am and this is a conversation I’m having, what are the conversations that other people are having?
Even 20 years ago, I really started having conversations around diversity, without even calling it DEI. It was like, “Okay. How can I support other women? I really, really got involved early on with other organizations and I do a lot of speaking and presentations for legal, accounting. The organizations and departments sort of touched on the middle market, but it’s not just finance. It’s not just private equity and investment banking. It’s the entire community. I have been a champion for 20 years about diversity, especially for women and minorities.
[00:08:03] ANNOUNCER: Today’s episode is brought to you by Connection Builders, helping middle market professionals connect, grow and excel in their careers.
[00:08:10] AD: Well, in what I hear you saying that I think is really important is one, you acknowledge that the challenge was really you fitting in, right? That was kind of the question that HR had posed to you in that situation. But just understanding that ultimately, a lot of our success, any one of us as individuals, comes down to our confidence and our confidence largely depends on how comfortable we feel in situations and how well we fit into environments. And understanding that environments are, especially if it’s a culture of people that are very different, it can create situations where maybe you aren’t as comfortable or as confident and it creates a challenge. You’ve obviously overcome that, but what you’re highlighting is, just imagine. That exists out there, right? We’re not all the same.
We all have — that’s exactly where the value of diversity comes from, is getting people who have different perspectives and different backgrounds in different histories in their life. But it does create challenges for individuals that they have to be able to feel confident. Now, you did a great job of overcoming that. One of the things I heard you say was, you prior to moving into your career in financial services, you worked in industries that were predominantly female led. To you, you in many ways kind of had this preconceived idea that of course, women are leaders, of course, women are part of this. Of course, that’s how it is. Which isn’t necessarily always the case for women, especially early in the career. They maybe don’t always see that have that same belief, but that seems to have helped you a lot. Is that fair?
[00:09:38] MN: Oh, absolutely. I will add in there going, of course, women are billionaires, right? I mean, because that’s been a real conversation over the last few years about wealth transfer, and then more and more women are going to inherit, which is almost a little patriarchal, because more and more women are actually creating wealth, not just inherited wealth. I think that’s another part of the conversation. That we have these assumptions that men make the money, they control the money and women are going to passively sit back and wait for the men to pass on their money so that they can do something with it.
That informs a lot of our conversations around this and whether or not women are able to handle money. That’s like — I mean, it’s just so old-school thinking.
[00:10:18] AD: It is.
[00:10:18] MN: Right.
[00:10:19] AD: It’s a patriarchy.
[00:10:20] MN: I’m not saying that in a bad way. It’s just like — I mean, this is what we’re trying to overcome. We’re really trying to overcome the we are smart, we go to business school, we start companies, we sell companies, become billionaires, companies. I mean, think about Spanx. It’s a great story. Because we’re solving an issue that supports women. We’re solving our own issues. Then we also have like, “Okay. If you’re a minority, and you see a problem or you need a consumer product, and you can’t find it somewhere, so you create it yourself”. I think there’s this shift, not just like working in the service industry, working in banking and finance, but also creating opportunities for ourselves. I think that’s a big part of this conversation where I think the value is coming in the diversity, equity, inclusion. It’s not just working in the industry. It’s creating value for ourselves.
[00:11:11] AD: One important point that I’ve talked to other guests on, but I’ve also thought on a lot is, we look at the changing demographics of our country, and just speaking specifically to the US right now. I don’t know the exact data out there, but there’s certainly data that points to in the relative near future. We are going to have a country where white men are no longer the dominant force, the largest chunk of the population, right? What that means is that there is going to be 50 plus percent of our market that is represented by minorities. That today, we typically refer to as minorities: women, people of different ethnicities.
What that really means is that if we want to create value, solve problems in service, that section of the market, we need individuals that understand it, that truly understand it. If I’m in an investment role, speaking specifically to many of our ACG members that are in a private equity or investment like decisions, financial sponsor position. When you’re looking to drive value, you really want to find people that come from a minority group, because they are going to see opportunities out there that otherwise just won’t be seen, right?
[00:12:24] MN: Yeah, absolutely. The other piece of that is that we also have data that shows that more diverse corporations, boards actually end up with higher valuations and more value to the equity sponsor, to the operating business. There’s like real data that shows that diversity matters, right? I think that’s like really crucial. I think the more data we see, and it becomes less anecdotal and actual quantitative, I think that’s going to be a driver for us as bankers, private equity investors. We’re going to be the drivers to make sure that companies are more diverse, both internally as well as externally.
[00:13:05] AD: Let’s shift into that topic, then for a second, what do we do talking specifically to our target audience in this case? What do we do to actually make that happen?
[00:13:16] MN: Well, personally. I think there’s some things that we can do. One is just starting a dialogue. Having this conversation right here is number one. I also think that we as more senior professionals have to take responsibility for educating the next generation. As I said, I’m originally from Utah, so I spent some time at the universities in Utah speaking in the MBA programs, because I think it’s really important that women and minorities see people like themselves in the professional organization. I can’t tell you how many times I have follow up conversations with people who say, “Oh! I didn’t know that this was even an option. I didn’t know it was a possibility for me to not do X, Y and Z, because I don’t know that many women in the profession. I think that’s number one.
Number two, I think there’s real opportunities for skills and learning. I personally hired a business coach, when I shifted from working in publishing to working in finance. I felt like I needed to know some language, so I hired a business coach. I hired a presentation coach when I started going out and giving speeches. I listened to podcasts. I read books. But I think it’s not enough for me to take that into myself. It’s important that I share those resources, and that knowledge and those opportunities with other people. I think we as investment professionals really need to be proactive, and put ourselves out there and look for the next generation because it starts much earlier than waiting until somebody sends a resume into a business. We have to drill down a lot further and a lot earlier in people’s careers, and let them know and let them see that there’s opportunities for them for future growth in this industry.
[00:14:58] AD: Have a responsibility and be proactive. There are two key things that I think you said there. My take away, and I think it really does. If I’m someone in the industry that is, again, if I’m in a position of influence, and I can create opportunities for minorities, and I’m speaking from the white male perspective, in this case. Where my job is to find opportunities to use the influence that I have and I have a responsibility to do so to highlight and give opportunities for minorities, to share their knowledge with others and really understanding that what the idea of that is, by putting someone else, giving someone else that platform that opportunity. I am creating an opportunity to be able to highlight and bring forward the value that other people might bring and show people that are minority that like, “Look. This is possible. This is something you can do.
Marcia, you said something really important there. You said that we have to look for the next generation. Can you elaborate on that a little bit?
[00:16:01] MN: Sure. I think that it starts early. It starts in elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, college. I can only share my personal experience. So, I went to a small college in Southern Utah. I was an English major. I actually met my husband there. He was also an English major. But in my college, the English majors were on two tracks. The men were steered to law school and the women were steered to education. There was never conversation about using English as a pathway to a business opportunity or working in business. It just didn’t exist. There was no opportunity there for me. In fact, the first time I saw an office was when I went to an interview working for the fashion publishing job that I had. I didn’t know anybody who had been in an office.
I grew up in a blue-collar neighborhood. I knew people who were plumbers and electricians, and my dad was a contractor. Those were people I know. I didn’t know people in business. I moved to New York and I sought out people in business and it was hard. It was hard finding women to be mentors to me. But I personally looked for those and maybe that’s why I really care about the next generation. I think it’s really, really important that we do give back. We go to our alma maters, and we look for opportunities to give services. Not just enough to write a check, a donation. I think it’s really important to — there are things that we can do pretty easily. We can interview prospective students to join that university, for example. We can go to alumni events. We can speak at these organizations.
ACG has a program called the ACG Cup, which is a competition for college students. ACG has opportunities here and we as professionals, if we want diverse candidates, we need to show up and look for those diverse candidates, right. I think there’s some built-in opportunities and I think then we just need to look for those opportunities to get back to — it could be participating in Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts. You can really start earlier with younger generations and just sharing your experience, and expertise, and telling them what you do or Parents Day of your elementary school. There’s a lot of different ways that we can participate that don’t take a lot of time, but we have to find those opportunities.
[00:18:20] ANNOUNCER: Today’s episode is brought to you by the Association for Corporate Growth, the premier M&A deal making community with a mission to drive middle market growth.
[00:18:30] AD: I think the important element of this is the mentorship and giving people the understanding that this can happen. Opening up that reality for people, and that comes back to — this is really speaking to the minority audience very much as saying, listen, if you are a minority that has made it into this industry, is doing well in this industry. You use that as an opportunity to go back out and showcase that to help bring awareness so that others can say, “Look. I see someone that looks like me, I can go do this.” If you aren’t the minority in the street, look for opportunities to give those people that are minorities an opportunity to showcase that, to do that. In your point of starting younger and recognizing that this comes back to — let’s just talk investment banking private equity for a second.
You mentioned ACG cup, and this, I can share my own story around this. I participate in ACG Cup. At the time, I had no clue what investment banking or private equity was. And because of that, got a job into investment banking, and it wildly changed the trajectory of my life and my career because of it. I had no clue it existed out there. That drives to the point you’re saying that if I grew up not knowing and no one around me that showed me or told me anything around that, I never would have thought about the traditional career path or traditional go to a big school, a top name school, a target recruiting school, get a couple years into investment banking, go back for a B school, go into private equity, the traditional career path. If you’re not raised around that, no one tells you that, no one gives you any idea that this job or that could even exist out there. How do you expect someone to make it in there? How do you expect someone to find that?
The point you’re making is, if we go out and showcase this more, how people see it more, help open more doors, more opportunities to young people to think about that and maybe chase down and try to pursue that, right?
[00:20:11] MN: Well, I think what’s so important too is that, private equity, especially middle market private equity is really an engine driver for the majority of the businesses in the US. Private equity powers so many business opportunities. Why aren’t we in the communities, tooting our own horn about how great we are and how important we are to the community. I think we need to start with that, like we’re awesome. We’re awesome and we’re driving. We’re financial drivers, financial engines for businesses here in the US, primarily. I can’t speak about internationally, but certainly in the US. Let’s build from that.
Why don’t more people know about private equity? Of if they do know about it, it’s because it’s used as a political battering ram. We’re doing ourselves a disservice, as a community by not sharing how awesome we are in what we do, what we provide to the community, right? I think there’s a two flow. There’s like, let’s get back to the community. But at the same time, that helps us as a community too.
[00:21:16] AD: It helps increase the positive perception around the industry as a whole, which has its own series of benefits. But getting out in the community. Doing the right thing and sharing what those career paths might look like, what those opportunities are, and how in the specific example here private equity affects the economy in the world as a whole. Again, it demonstrates new opportunities to bring people into career paths that they maybe didn’t have a clue existed before.
Let’s shift gears a little bit. Let me ask you a question. You look back at yourself in going through your career journey around this? What would you say to someone, to a young person who’s starting their career and saying, “Okay. I might be a minority within this industry, but I want to build a strong career here. What do I do to succeed? How do I make it happen?”
[00:22:05] MN: Yeah, I think there’s a couple of things and full disclosure, I have a son who’s in college, and I’ve been talking to him about what kind of opportunities there are. I think the important thing to know is like, there’s not one right answer.
[00:22:17] AD: Marcia, if you sit and think about someone who’s younger in their career, who is trying to build a career across this industry, what would you say to them? What’s the way that they can really build their career and make their way through?
[00:22:32] MN: I think, the basic thing is get smarter, right? Get smarter about whatever you’re interested in. I think that many times, people have probably come out of a specific industry. So maybe working for a company, you’re interested in gaming, or consumer products, you can work for a company, a consumer products company, gain some information and knowledge there and then transition into the private equity side. You’re going to bring that knowledge, and research and background to the financial side of the business or financial services.
[00:23:09] AD: If we get someone that starts like that, they go out, you’re saying, go out and find new opportunities, find ways to leverage your way in and to build the relationships or to get experience. But then, how do they get their foot in the door?
[00:23:23] MN: Yeah. There’s lots of ways to get your foot in the door, and some of it is coming from individual experience and background. I know several people who work for private equity firms now who had a career as a corporate executive. I know people who work in investment banking and private equity who have started their careers in accounting. I know people who started their careers in pharmaceutical sales and went on to do investment banking for medical devices and medical products.
I think in this day and age, I don’t know very many people who have a very strong trajectory of like, they got out of high school, went to college, they knew exactly what they were going to do, went to business school and they had this career ladder that went like this. The wind sort of like straight up, at a 45-degree angle. Most of us had different things. We tried something, maybe we went to law school and decided that we didn’t really — maybe we like the law school, we like the research and the education side of it, but our skill set was more business focused.
I think the message I want to get to here is take advantage of wherever you are, learn as much as you can, make connections, meet people and then like start asking questions. If you’re working for a company that has private equity investments, maybe you reach out to somebody who’s on the PE team, and say, “Hey! I’m really interested in this as a career. Can you tell me a little bit about it?” Or I tell students all the time when I give presentation to students, “Talk to your friends, parents”, right? Ask them what kind of jobs they have. There are so many things you can learn along the way. Every time you learn, you’re getting like building blocks for yourself for future opportunities.
[00:25:01] AD: I think that’s so well said. This kind of goes all the way back to the beginning where we said that, this is about creating opportunities and about having more of a conversation with the next generation, helping the next generation see and understand the opportunities that exist out there. In particular, recognizing that if we want to increase diversity across our organizations, and within our own companies or firms, we need to be finding ways to give back to the community to educate others, and to help people see some of the career paths that exist out there. Because long term, that’s really how we’re going to build that increased diversity, and really, again, looking for that next generation. Part of that is, we have to recognize that we have the responsibility and we need to be proactive to go out there and look to make that impact.
That’s talking specifically to those of us that are in the financial services, investment banking, private equity, accounting, legal, wherever you might be across the ecosystem. But recognizing that if you go out and use your position, use the responsibility you have to be proactive, to help the next generation see these opportunities. That’s what’s going to really help drive change in the long term. I think that’s just so key and fundamental to all of this.
Marcia, I really appreciate you being on here, I think you had some great insights to share. I hope it’s inspiring for those listening. For our listeners, how can they get in touch with you?
[00:26:21] MN: Oh! I’m all over LinkedIn. It’s so easy. You can’t miss me on LinkedIn. I post regularly. Back to that word I used at the beginning, eclectic. I post about things that I like and that I’m interested in. It’s so easy to find me. I’m pretty responsive to people. I would recommend if somebody is listening to this podcast, and they hear me and they want to reach out to me, please reference it in LinkedIn. I do get a lot of requests and I don’t take every request if it’s somebody that I don’t know. But if you say, “Hey! I heard you on this podcast, I’d like to have a conversation,” I’m more likely to respond to you and set up time. But I love talking to people. I’m happy to do a 15, 20-minute, 30-minute conversation with anybody who reaches out to me just to share resources and ideas because I learn from everybody else along the way.
[00:27:06] AD: I love it. I completely agree with you on that. To our listeners, make sure you reach out. We’ll make sure to link your profile in the show notes below. Marcia, I really appreciate you being on here. It’s been a great conversation and I’m looking forward to keeping the dialogue going.
[00:27:19] MN: Terrific. Alex, thank you so much. Thanks for having me today.
[END OF INTERVIEW]
[00:27:24] ANNOUNCER: Thank you for tuning in to today’s episode of the Diversity Matters in the Middle Market Podcast. We hope you enjoyed our content and encourage you to take action today. While no individual will bring all the change necessary, we can all make an impact. If you enjoyed our content, please share with your network. This is a production of the Association for Corporate Growth, ACG and Connection Builders.