In conversation with Libby Gibson
Partner, Piper Private Equity

09.03.2021

Please describe your current role

 

I am a co-founding partner in Piper Private Equity, a UK based, specialist consumer brand focused growth capital and buyout firm.  I oversee our value add team to ensure we bring more to our partners than just money. As well as undertaking our commercial, digital and management due diligence, the value add team support our brands in these areas post investment.

 

I sit as NED on a number of boards (Hickory’s; The Thinking Traveller; Neom) and also help to define sector investment strategy. I am currently taking the lead on our Beauty & Wellness, Food & Drink and Travel investments.

 

How did you get started in private equity and what was the career path to your current role?

 

I started out in marketing with Fitch Design Company,  then set up Piper as a brand strategy consultancy. In the late 1980s, we spotted a gap in the hospitality market and set up Pitcher & Piano. As the business thrived, we needed to raise funds to invest in the roll out, and were underwhelmed by the lack of understanding of brands and the support we could get in return for the money, so decided to set up Piper to provide other entrepreneurs with a better source of capital that would provide advice and support to help them accelerate their growth and realise their potential.

 

What attracted you to the industry?

 

Having the opportunity to work with outstanding entrepreneurs building exciting brands. Being able to make a difference and provide the funding and expertise to help them realise their ambitions. Recognising that no two businesses or entrepreneurs are the same, but many of the issues they face are the same.

 

What advice would you give women considering a career in private equity or to younger women already in the industry?

 

Find the sectors that really interest you and immerse yourselves in them. Become an expert in something so that your knowledge and expertise is invaluable.

 

What do you think it will take to improve the gender gap in private equity and do you think we will see significant change in the coming years?

 

I think it is changing significantly, especially as there are more and more successful female led founders/entrepreneurs. Ignore the gap and the gender issue. Be the best in the market.

 

How does portfolio value creation work differ from deal execution and are there different skills required?

 

Yes, portfolio value creation is all about understanding the market, the business opportunity and most importantly the team and what will need to change/develop to deliver success. People are everything and can be the make or break in terms of successful growth.

 

What is the best advice you received in your career / what advice would you give your younger self?   

 

When we set up Piper our mantra was “Learn, earn and have fun”.  After over 35 years, I’m still doing all three – but the first and last – learn and fun are the most important.

 

What have been some of the key challenges you’ve faced in your career and how did you overcome them?

 

Ageism and sexism. I’ve overcome them by believing in myself and working hard – knowledge is power.

 

Which achievements are you most proud of in your career?

 

Probably setting up two businesses – Piper and Pitcher and Piano.

 

Who has most inspired you in your career / who have been your mentors?

 

Crispin Tweddell, one of the other co-founders of Piper has inspired me and been my mentor. His restless investigation into why a business was better and different stays with me daily when looking at so many deals.

 

Please comment on anything else you would like to say to the Level 20 members 

 

I think work life balance is hugely important. As a mum of two children, I know how difficult it can be, but I also know that as young adults they respect me for working hard, being involved and having a really interesting job and network of people.