Sullivan Street does not believe in the concept of a discrete, standalone operational model. Investing in and transforming businesses requires a set of highly interlinked skills and operational competences are a critical subset of these skills. Sullivan Street does not believe in operating partners or operating teams being a “resource” to the firm, but instead being inextricably involved in all decision-making processes, risk judgements and structuring discussions. We are collectively accountable to our companies and our investors for the holistic investment and operational decisions made from the earliest stages of looking at a situation.
Nonetheless, once a company has become part of the fold, Sullivan Street is extremely active in helping businesses in its portfolio improve operationally and works alongside management teams continuously to effect not just transformational change projects but also smaller incremental improvements. The fact that operational considerations have been so critical during any acquisition process, represented at the highest level within the firm on investment decisions, major or nuanced, means that the speed with which we can initiate these changes, projects or improvements is radically different from other firms.
The leadership in each Sullivan Street business knows they can call on the team when facing a new challenge, when a decision is not clear or even just to share a problem and gain a second point of view. Larger projects with mixed teams from Sullivan Street, management and external experts are used to accelerate change and have driven major improvements. To date, Sullivan Street Partners has within its portfolio established new standalone central functions, developed export opportunities, launched business units, refocused sales propositions, increased productivity, and restructured logistics processes, all delivering significant improvements. If necessary, we will take and have taken interim executive roles – we will do whatever it takes.
Our operational interactions, while incorporating enormous experience, expertise, and detail, are simple in their basic approach. We commit time and practical support to the company, work with management to analyse and manage performance in detail; we are always interested and available and we lead by example and share the workload wherever we can add value; and throughout our ownership we stay intimate with the businesses to ensure we can be there when needed, anticipate those needs, and just as crucially cause no damage to the business through having only enough knowledge to be dangerous.
Since inception Sullivan Street has incorporated the operational model into all that we do, we focus on very few businesses at one time, consider operations early in any investment and commit to companies assuming we will hold them for a very long time.