With coronavirus slowing M&A and lockdowns offering extra time at home, some PE sponsors have adjusted to new life under quarantine – one without hasty airport runs, regular plant tours or long conferences.
Jeremy Holland, managing partner at The Riverside Company, is finding ways to break the ice with entrepreneurs and manage working parent struggles. All the while, new and unusual animals have given him company under isolation.
For Holland, the transition wasn’t too difficult thanks to a dedicated home office space and eight years of “WFH” experience. The same cannot be said about the family, which is now under new rules.
“I’ve created a new game called: ‘When Dad’s office door is closed, come in quietly,’” said Holland. “So far, my eight and 11-year-old kids are both doing quite well. It’s the 45-year-old (my wife) that doesn’t seem to get it.”
While some folks stuck at home have found solace in baking bread, Holland spends his weekends hiking in the hills of Simi Valley, California.
“[It’s] largely a mechanism to keep me away from the cookies my family keeps baking,” Holland joked.
In other calorie-burning hobbies, Holland has been playing soccer with his kids in the backyard – a pastime that resulted in a run-in with a not-so neighborly reptile.
“In retrieving the ball from the ravine behind our house, I nearly stepped on a rattlesnake,” Holland recalled.
More family time has also meant more barbecuing and board games with kids. During these interesting times, a less lethal and more social animal has joined the family unit.
“My wife volunteers to babysit a rabbit from the local elementary school as day workers are out.”
Tips and tricks to ‘WFH’
For his colleagues less accustomed to working from home, Holland has a few tips to keep up spirits and camaraderie.
“We each share a picture every morning from our earlier days – wedding, childhood, etcetera – with a backstory,” Holland said. Another has been frequent cocktail hours held using Zoom.
A personal element, in some ways, has also helped Holland create better connections with management teams and intermediaries.
While he agrees there are limitations to dealmaking over video, Holland found the home office setup surroundings can play a key role in facilitating conversations.
“We enjoyed not using virtual backgrounds,” he said. Home décor elements like a World War II airplane and a folded flag in the backdrop have been conversation starters, he said.
“You get to know each other better; the point is to break down barriers.”
Deals are hard to come by in the current environment, fancy home décor or not.
But in this dislocation, Riverside is seeing interest in its structured equity product, a vehicle that provides subordinated debt to help complete deals or traditional control acquisitions that are stuck due to capital requirements.
The global private equity firm invests in businesses valued at up to $400 million.
Talking about what change he would like to see in the post-coronavirus life, Holland said, “I hope the bunny goes back to school.”