Venture capitalism: Change is fine as long as it enhances what came before

With private equity buyouts soaring in the UK, Caroline Bullock says the pursuit of growth doesn’t always mix well with job creation and security

Monday 22 November 2021 07:00

Venture capitalists’ dogged pursuit of the highest yield rarely proves compatible with job creation and security. It’s why, on average, corporate buyouts lead to a 5 per cent loss of employees – a disregard for the status quo that also exposes one of the workplace’s harshest realities: in the fight for survival, loyalties split, allegiances are fragile and teams and workplace culture prove to be painfully disposable – as I discovered first-hand.

For me, the new era post-acquisition started on a late August afternoon in a marquee heavy with heat, stilted conviviality and temperature checks after a just-lifted lockdown. Tense, darting eyes and nervous smiles shyly assessed the investors – one of whom had just been appointed the new chair – heading to the stage ready to address the masses. Inevitably, they were the most relaxed people in the room – on the cusp of a cabinet reshuffle, blessed with all the answers and control.

Their task that day was to convey a tricky message, one that would allude to an agenda set to rip out the heart and spirit of a 30-year business built on the credentials of its warm-hearted founder while reassuring the masses they’d be no disruption. Truth and detail made way for “business as usual” soundbites with assurances that the process would amount to little more than seeing some new faces around the building. Indeed, what incentive would there be to deviate from the established path, such was their esteem and appreciation for the existing values and integrity? Another blazer and jeans added that no one was going to lose their jobs with an excessive laugh as those listening forced weak smiles that didn’t reach their eyes.

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