Let’s say you’re a post-MBA associate at a buyout shop, and you’re itching to move up the career ladder. How do you do it? How do you send that unmistakable, unspoken message to the partners that you’ll be one of them one day?
I took that question to two sources, including someone who has done it in dramatically speedy fashion—the 45-year-old Terry Mullen, the Arsenal Capital partner who launched his buyout shop in 2000 following a brilliant career at Thomas H. Lee Partners.
After graduating college in 1989, Mullen joined the corporate finance group at Morgan Stanley, working on transportation deals. He parlayed that experience into an analyst position at Thomas H. Lee Partners in the early 1990s. After getting his MBA from Harvard Business School, Mullen returned to Thomas H. Lee in the mid-1990s as an associate. Mullen was promoted to vice president, one rung below managing director at the firm, by the time he left to form his own shop in early 2000.
I also spoke with Peggy Roberts, chief of staff of the Riverside Capital Appreciation Fund, the main fund family at the Riverside Company. Roberts joined the lower mid-market specialist as a senior associate in 2004 after getting her MBA at the Darden Graduate School of Business Administration at University of Virginia and a stint in investment banking. She spent six years leading organizational development and IT during a period of rapid expansion before joining the Riverside Capital Appreciation Fund to help manage a 43-person team. Roberts played a big role in developing a system for talent development at the Riverside Company. I boiled their advice down to 10 top tips.