Lesson 1: Never underestimate the importance of a firm foundation
Reflecting on the changes I have seen since I joined the firm in April 2014 as an Investment Associate, I must emphasise that one of the key factors in building this sustainable business is the time we took to lay a firm foundation. This approach can be seen in every area of our business, including our vision, our investment strategy, our recruitment processes, the funds that we have set up and the amount of research we put in to establishing what works for us and the market. Our decisions have never been left to fate but are rather the result of time spent in careful thought. We can now say with pride that we have found what works for us, and it has aided us in achieving our successes. We are determined not to rest on our laurels, but rather to remain curious and to continue to learn.
Lesson 2: Building a solid team unlocks brilliance
We can be justifiably proud of our experienced team of young professionals – they are united in excellence and their commitment to Africa’s growth trajectory. Building a solid team with a diverse skillset has been a key priority for our firm and we have spent a lot of time ensuring we hire the right people. The private equity sector is no longer dominated by the older generation with traditional skills, and the landscape keeps evolving. We have therefore looked to recruit young people into the space and keep them. A key consideration when investors entrust their money to a fund manager is who the team members are and what they bring to the table, so it is important to build a team that is diverse in terms of both skillset and background. As a company, we have the necessary skills to identify the right assets to invest in. Equally, being in a position of influence means that we can and will drive change.
Lesson 3: It helps to have a good support system
Everything starts and ends with a good support system, and we are grateful to be backed and surrounded by people who believe in us. Key stakeholders such as the Harris Family Office, which took a leap of faith in us from the get-go and in all three of our funds, have been very influential in our journey and their confidence in us has played a major role in inspiring us to get to where we are today.
Lesson 4: Partner with the right people
In the private equity business, choosing the right companies and management teams with whom to partner is one of the most important decisions you will ever make. Choosing wisely will open new doors and take your company further than you ever thought possible; poor or rushed choices will most likely prove to be frustrating. At Ata Capital, we take due diligence seriously and always ensure that we are partnering with the right people. We have learned our fair share of lessons in the past and now always ensure that we partner with businesses who share our core values. While we carry out extensive financial modelling and analysis, we have also learned to always trust our gut instincts.
Lesson 5: There are no shortcuts in this game. Be patient and think long-term
Quoting the wise words of Charlie Munger, waiting helps you as an investor and a lot of people just can’t stand to wait. If you didn’t get the deferred-gratification gene, you’ve got to work very hard to overcome that. The rewards in our industry tend to be greater in the long term; therefore, it’s important to have a long-term mindset from the outset. At Ata Capital, we view every investment decision through the lens of sustainable stakeholder impact, and this has worked well for us.
Lesson 6: Know where the value is, understand the asset and know what you are investing in
All investments should be underpinned by a focus on shared value and the transformational use of capital, plus a thorough understanding of the asset in question.