Kellogg Magazine  |  Spring/Summer 2015




It all starts with management. We can run computer programs and scenarios until we’re blue in the face, but if you don’t have the right management, you’re not going to be successful. You need management that can look at things objectively, communicate effectively, lead and inspire. They need to be able to make the tough decisions that may create angst in the near term, but are best for the company in the long term.

One of the most important things to change is culture. We emphasize, without being threatening, that there’s a new attitude that everyone needs to embrace. If the company is successful, everybody is going to be successful, but to create success there’s got to be an attitude of finding a way to make things happen and to expect accountability.

For more than two decades, Rick Neuman has held leading roles at several firms led by Texas businessman Thomas Hicks, who’s regarded as the pioneer of the buy-and-build private equity investment strategy. After serving as a partner with Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst, he joined Hicks Equity Partners in 2005 when Mr. Hicks established that firm.

Some members of management are able to adhere to this new culture, but many times they aren’t. It’s unfortunate, but if we have someone who’s locked into old ways, we have to replace him or her. You have to make changes. That’s just part of this business.

Getting employees on board is really important to cut down on the water cooler rumors and the uneasiness that comes from this. We want to make sure employees see that these changes are good for them and their families. We also make sure that we talk to key customers and suppliers very quickly so they know the business is going to continue to do what it had been doing, but better.

Today, there are fewer opportunities for financial engineering and arbitrage. Thus, it’s more important to find good growth businesses that can create value. Also, there are fewer protected niches. Thirty years ago, if you owned a TV station in a small market, you didn’t have to be the smartest guy in the room to make good money. That’s not the case now. There are so many more ways for competition to get into markets.

It’s fun to come into the office, look at a new deal and see that we’re not going to be able to roll out the same playbook we used in the past. Things are continually different. The world has become a lot more competitive. Companies have to be better to succeed.

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