SPECIAL EPISODE: Diversity Matters in the Middle Market, brought to you by the Association for Corporate Growth (ACG) and Connection Builders.
Today we are joined by Leon Brujus, a Partner at Palladium Equity Partners. Leon shares his three-pronged approach to diversity that he and his firm use. We discuss the importance of cognitive diversity and how it drives decision-making and creates alpha. Leon also shares his personal experiences of feeling like an outsider and the challenges he overcame to become his authentic self.
Key Points From This Episode:
- Value that lies in cognitive diversity.
- The problem with the way diversity is viewed by many organizations.
- Findings from studies which highlight the value of diversity.
- Leon’s personal experience as an outsider.
- Limitations of homogeneity within organizations.
- Benefits that come from being your authentic self.
- Leon runs through the three-pronged approach to diversity that he has developed.
- One step that everyone can and should take in the direction of enhanced diversity.
- Some of the diversity-focused organizations that Palladium Equity Partners supports.
- The importance of understanding that finding diverse talent is a challenging task because it takes you out of your comfort zone.
[00:00:02] ANNOUNCER: Welcome to The Diversity Matters in the Middle Market Podcast, where industry leaders share their compelling growth stories and the unseen challenges they have overcome. Our goal is to inform and inspire our listeners to take action and make diversity, equality, and inclusion a pillar of your organization. This is a production of the Association for Corporate Growth, ACG, and Connection Builders.
[00:00:24] AD: Hi, everyone. Welcome to an episode of The Diversity Matters in the Middle Market Podcast. I’m your host, Alex Drost. Today, we’re joined by Leon Brujis, Partner at Palladium Equity Partners, a middle-market-focused private equity firm based in New York. Leon shares how he believes a focus on diversity can help avoid groupthink, resulting in better decision-making and better problem-solving. All right, let’s jump in.
[00:00:50] AD: Leon, welcome to The Diversity Matters Podcast. Excited to have you here today.
[00:00:54] LB: Alex, thank you for having me. Good to see you again. Excited for the discussion.
[00:01:00] AD: I am looking forward to this one as well. Leon, maybe just start us off with, let’s just get a little bit of background. Can you share a little bit to our listeners of who you are and what you do?
[00:01:09] LB: Yes. Again, thank you for having me. Thrilled to be here having this conversation, which is a topic that is very important to me and near dear to my heart. I am a partner with Palladium Equity Partners, a firm that is close to reaching its 25th year of generating outstanding returns for our investors. As you can tell by my thick Brooklyn accent, I have a bit of an international background.
I was born in Mexico. Raised in Argentina, and my parents are from Peru. I have spent 15 years, over 15 years in the investment industry, first focused on the consumer space and now in the services space. I served in Palladium’s Investment and Management Committee. Part of my role involves setting the direction for the firm. Something that you may relate to, Alex, is that one of my hobbies is to record podcasts. You and I recently recorded one on stoicism that I thought was really awesome. Check it out on Alex’s podcast.
[00:02:18] AD: Thank you, Leon. Absolutely. We’ll make sure to throw a link in there. As Leon said, we’ve done a podcast before. We’ve known each other. We’ve had a handful of conversations. I’m really excited to have Leon here today, because every time you and I have talked about diversity, about this topic, it’s something that you very clearly have a lot of passion behind. More importantly, I think the types of conversations we have, the way that we think, and sometimes you and I tend to get a little philosophical at times, but it is a – I think it’s a very open way of thinking that really is core and fundamental to diversity. Before we dive deep into diversity, I just want to ask you, how did you get here? You’ve traveled a lot, you bounced around. How did you get to where you are today?
[00:03:00] LB: Great question. I come from a family of engineers. Every male in my family is an engineer. Coming out of school, that’s what I thought I was going to do. Interestingly enough, I began my career in an internship at Fannie Mae, and started in the technology division, which I thought was related to what I studied in engineering, what have you.
I found it a little boring for me. Wound up, through networking inside the company, I wound up having a job at the trading floor of Fannie Mae. Even those working double the time there, it was just a little more exciting. That was my first foray into Wall Street. After that, I –
[00:03:52] AD: You’re hooked.
[00:03:53] LB: Yeah. I spent the majority of my senior year traveling back and forth to New York, interviewing. I went to a now defunct firm called Lehman Brothers.
[00:04:04] AD: I’ve heard of them before.
[00:04:06] LB: Yeah. Great firm. Great firm. A great training ground, and a lot of great investment professionals have come out of it. In 2007, right before the crisis, I was recruited to go to Palladium.
[00:04:21] AD: You pulled that off.
[00:04:23] LB: Yeah. Apropos to the discussion, though, part of what attracted me to Palladium was the fact that they had a focus, both in hiring diverse folks, and also in investing in the Hispanic market in the US, which – so at Palladium, diversity is not just our employee base, and we’ll talk about this in a moment, but also, the way we invest is informed and educated by that.
[00:04:51] AD: Let’s start with – I think, this is a great time to dive specifically into diversity in why it matters. Let’s start with under all of that, why does diversity matter? You said you invest in both diverse – people and diverse businesses. We’ll come back to how you do that and the thinking behind it, but specifically, what does diversity matter to you and to the company as a whole?
[00:05:12] LB: Well, today, I think diversity is a little bit in vogue, and we now call it DE&I. To me, diversity is not the right thing to do. Put simply, at Palladium, we believe that diversity equals alpha. For those of you who don’t know what alpha means, it means the part of an investment that it’s because you pick the right stock, not because you’re in the right – in a growing market.
When it comes to working in a complex environment, like finance, or law firms, or engineering, or whatever the case maybe, you need what I’m going to refer to as cognitive diversity, to really avoid things like groupthink. I think cognitive diversity would be a tremendous asset. I think, at the moment, too many people think that diversity is the politically correct thing to do. It’s a box-ticking exercise. I think that that leads to diverse voices not being properly included.
If your mission is to solve complex problems, then diversity is the cornerstone of how you do it. Once you realize its strength, organizations start to harness it, and to do great things, the great things that they want to do. Just to bring it to Palladium, we at Palladium come from very diverse backgrounds and disciplines. I mentioned to you before that Palladium is a women- and diverse-owned fund. I believe that because of our non-traditional background, we bring a different perspective. We pride ourselves on finding creative, non-traditional solutions.
Alex, I mentioned that it’s how we invest. It’s how we recruit. Another way that diversity comes into play is that through our investors, we serve – based on our estimates, 3 million beneficiaries, which include teachers, police officers, firefighters, civil servants, across the US, who rely on their pensions for their retirement. A lot of these people don’t have savings, and really, their financial planning is their passion. I think, many of our investors who are pension funds, see it as an opportunity to invest in a fund that is representative of their constituents, okay. I think that we have delivered on that promise.
Then lastly, usually, you may hear in the investment world, when you talk about investors, it sounds like an esoteric word, but to us, it represents our grandparents, our parents that work hard for their retirement, and we take that as a sacred trust.
[00:08:46] AD: You said a lot there that I think is really impactful. Well, let’s go back and I want to peel apart a couple pieces of it, and then I want to circle up to some of the specifics that you do within your firm. First, you said diversity equals alpha. Diversity equals that above and beyond return, the unexpected extra return that above the risk-adjusted expected return is your alpha in theory.
[00:09:10] LB: The return that comes because of the manager’s decision, not because the market is going up.
[00:09:16] AD: The market. The market as a whole. To your point, and I think what you are saying is what drives that alpha, is your ability to better solve complex problems by avoiding groupthink because you have cognitive diversity within your organization. Is that –
[00:09:40] LB: That’s right. That is well summarized. Yeah.
[00:09:44] AD: Because of that, because you – what you’re saying is your organization recognizes that by simply focusing on hiring a diverse pool of talent, you will as a byproduct, and maybe not something you can directly measure or see overnight, or I’m sure there’s no direct way you can correlate the outcome of this in specifics, but what you can say is you outperform. You continually outperform. You are successful because of it. You know that the best way to succeed at what you’re doing is to have that cognitive diversity, right?
[00:10:20] LB: That’s right. I do want to make a slight amendment to what you said, Alex, which is that there is ways to measure this. In particular, there are plenty of studies that show that diverse boards lead to increased performance in publicly traded companies. There’s also been studies that private equity managers that come from diverse backgrounds and have diverse organizations also outperform the average. There’s data to support this belief.
Let’s go and dig in a little bit more on what cognitive diversity actually means. How do you think about that? Because that’s really the root of what you’re saying, right, is that you want cognitive diversity, because it drives everything else behind it. How do we get that?
[00:11:42] LB: I think, what you want to get there is diversity in thought. The way you get diversity in thought is by bringing people together that come from very different backgrounds. Just to bring it to the personal realm, because I am not originally from here, many times I find myself, first, not getting sports analogies and things like that. Also, with different perspective to things, because I have a different upbringing. This is not something that I’ve always thought it was an asset. It sometimes made me feel a bit like an outsider.
It wasn’t up until I realized that that feeling is an asset and bringing different perspectives to a group is important, that I realized how important diversity as a whole is. If you hire from the same pools, and the same people that grew up in the same place, went to the same schools, then you are going to be prone to having similar reactions. By the way, as human beings, we are hardwired to want to relate to people and you want to find common ground. It’s not unnatural for groups of people that have similar traits to congregate and get together. It does bring that potential liability.
As the world has opened up, we become more inclusive. This is now something that, as I mentioned earlier, we can use as an asset. To answer your question succinctly, cognitive diversity is making sure that when you build teams, you make sure that people from very different backgrounds are – you bring them together. That’s going to spur more discussion. Less sort of, “Oh, yes. I agree. Actually, you know what? I think about it a little bit different than you.” I think you’re going to get great results. Let me know if that makes sense.
[00:14:11] AD: It does. It very much does.
[00:14:16] ANNOUNCER: Today’s episode is brought to you by Connection Builders, helping middle-market professionals connect, grow and excel in their careers.
[00:14:24] AD: I want to play back a little bit. Make sure that we’re thinking through this. First off, and I want to come back, you said that at one point, you didn’t realize that your difference of perspective was actually an asset. I want to come back to that. First, what you pointed out is that if you are hiring from the same schools, hiring from the same area, the same people within the same networks, that generally creates an individual who has had a relatively similar lived experience. Since our lived experiences are what form us as people and how we act and how we see and perceive the world and interact with the world and how we think through everything, comes down to our lived experiences, if I have a group of people that have all relatively similar lived experiences, I’m likely to have a lack of cognitive diversity. Because we probably have relatively similar perspectives of the world.
The point you made around community, and it’s very natural to want to surround yourself by like-minded people. I think there’s a lot of value in surrounding yourself with like-minded people. It often can feel more comfortable. It can be better. Your point is that if you want to, if you want to be very – if cognitive diversity is important to you, and that’s what you want to achieve, it’s going to take a level of thoughtfulness and intentionality to step back and assess that. To really assess and say, “Okay, I need to look for it,” because it may not just naturally happen in your current circle, in your current world. Am I thinking about that right?
[00:16:06] LB: I think you are. I want to make a distinction by giving you an analogy I read. Let’s say we’re forming an Olympic relay team, okay. We can ask Usain Bolt to join us, to run with us, and we actually have the technology to clone him. Then, if we clone and we do three Usain Bolts, we don’t need diversity for our relay team, because he is the fastest man. That will give us the best outcome. That is not a situation where you need diversity, because that actually will not yield the best outcome.
In institutions where you’re, and like I mentioned earlier, when we make investments, okay, and making an investment is, it’s a bet, right? You’re gathering data. At the end of the day, there’s the judgment. The judgment is the alpha, okay? It’s very important when you’re investing to look beyond the surface and engage in what some call second-level thinking. That’s your ability to look at things. If you follow the pack, you cannot expect to perform above average, because the pack determines the average. You need to see what others are not seeing. I don’t think you’re as well-positioned to see what others don’t see if you have – you used the word like-minded. I think, like-mindedness is, it’s great to be with like-minded people, but to me, it’s unique people that have had different experiences to you, different upbringings, different education that will see things in a little different, and seeing things a little different, and particularly when it comes to investing, which is what I know well, is what can give you that edge. It’s not coincidence that many of the venture startup CEOs, I think 30% or 40% of them are not from the US. There’s some of that in there.
[00:18:35] AD: I believe, if I just read a headline in Bloomberg right the other day, the top three heads of – Three of the large techs. I think it’s Google Twitter, and I can’t remember the other one that was there, oh Microsoft, are all now headed by foreign-born individuals.
[00:18:53] LB: Yeah. Case in point.
[00:18:55] AD: Yeah. No. I think you’re spot on in that. Let’s jump back to your thought at one point was that your difference of background was not actually an asset to you. Walk me through a little bit of that.
[00:19:11] LB: You know, when I moved to the US, believe it or not, my accent was even thicker than it is now. I found myself needing to make a new social circle, make friends and try to fit in. Like we discussed already, naturally, people want to get together with people that have similar traits, like-mindedness. “Oh, you’re from New Jersey, I’m from New Jersey, too.” Whatever.
When you’re starting out relationships, you try to find those points of common ground. Because of my background, that I’m from three different Latin American countries and what have you, and my family actually goes all the way from Europe and the Middle East, I felt that I was having trouble fitting in. I made a conscious effort to try to be more like the group, so I could be part of the group.
Human beings are social beings and you’re being – that we, We’ve evolved to want to belong to groups. Now, eventually, I got used to it, and I found my way. This happened again, when I moved to New York, or when I started my career in finance. As you know, finance is particularly bad about diversity. When I started working, I had that feeling, again, of feeling like an outsider.
I remember I had a conversation with HR about these feelings. At that point, that diversity was becoming – starting to become more important. The comment I remember I was told was, you need to celebrate your differences. I started to change how I thought about this. Instead of trying to contort to fit with the group, I started to have the confidence to be more like myself. The way I am not always landed. Some people you relate with, some people you don’t. But ultimately, I feel more comfortable being myself. When you’re yourself, you come off as more sincere, and you establish more meaningful relationships.
[00:21:44] AD: We all tend to perform better in any – every aspect of our life, but in particular, in relationship building, when we are truly comfortable with who we are and where we are in life, and in recognizing. I think that’s such a valid point behind that. I think that the takeaway is, for anyone out there that doesn’t feel like they fit in, stop thinking like that, and realize that you don’t have to fit in. You can be yourself and learning and leaning into being yourself is absolutely important. Then, I think it becomes incumbent on all of us to try to make those around us feel welcome in the right way. Just to help build people up. No one wants to feel that way.
[00:22:32] LB: Absolutely. Then, the one other thing that to me has come in handy in business was that, I believe, when you find yourself in the position that I was, people don’t see you coming. That can also be a tremendous asset, because when you are underestimated, people are less prepared to deal with what you have to offer. I’ve learned to use that to my advantage as well.
[00:23:01] AD: It’s the underdog, right?
[00:23:03] LB: Right.
[00:23:05] AD: I love it. I love it. Let’s go back then now to – so we know why we’re doing this, and we know how to do this. Let’s talk a little bit about how. How did you and you and your team and your firm think about actually executing on this? It’s like, okay, we know we want to do this, but how do we make it happen? How do we actually bring it to reality?
[00:23:25] LB: Yeah. I’ll talk about a little bit how we do it at Palladium. I’ve come up with a three-point plan on how to do this. It’s important to caveat that every organization has its own journey when it comes to this topic. You have organizations like Palladium that were created with the DE&I in mind, and there’s organizations that were not and are trying to establish this now. Their journey certainly will be different than ours.
As I was saying, I have this three-pronged approach. First, you have to have intent, okay. I think that many organizations have now hired chief diversity officers, or positions like that, and have a concerted effort to improve their diversity metrics. It starts with intent. It sounds self-evident, but it isn’t based on what I’ve seen. Second, I think my old engineering professor used to say, “If you can measure it, you can solve it.” I think you need to have metrics and you need to have transparency. It is important to track the metrics and set aspirational targets of where you want to get.
Then third, and perhaps most importantly, it really takes bold action, okay. For example, many of our limited partners are using their clout and influence to force the public boards that they invest in, to make them be more diverse. That’s because they believe it’s the right thing to do. Also, as I mentioned earlier, because they believe it will drive incremental performance, or alpha.
[00:25:24] AD: Let’s walk through those. I like your caveat, that every organization is going to have its own journey. I think that’s true as an individual. Anyone who’s going through and doing their own diversity work and trying to learn about themselves and others. That’s your own individual journey, and similar to an organization. There is no perfect plan. There is no perfect way. It’s going to be, what’s the – you see it all the time, the road to success. There’s bumps and lines, and yeah.
[00:25:53] LB: It’s a winding road.
[00:25:55] AD: Absolutely. Knowing that, that the three pillars that hold up this journey and allow this journey to take place is number one, having intent. Having intentionality, thoughtfulness, being, “I’m doing this. I want this to happen.” Whether that’s if you’re an organization that is hiring an individual to champion that, or even if you’re a smaller organization that maybe doesn’t have the ability to have an individual, not seek full-time, who in your organization is championing it? What are you doing? How are you going to make sure there’s some very specific way to go do it? Some action?
Then, we have to be able to measure the outcome. This goes for anything, right? If you want to know if it’s actually working, you have to have some metric to be able to point to. You look for metrics, you set metrics, you track metrics. As you said, you set aspirational goals. Walk through that a little bit with me. How do you think about, what are the metrics? How do you settle?
[00:26:55] LB: There is a good friend and mentor of mine that has this thesis that we are in a crisis of incrementalism. If you think about it, what made the US a superpower was not incrementalism, it was exceptionalism. That’s where the American dream comes from. You can start a business and you can create a whole industry. I think, during our journey, as things became more sophisticated, more efficient, and in our – We started focusing on, “How can I do just incrementally better?”
Look, there’s something to be said to – to grow, and you’ve probably heard, or seen, if you grow every day by 1%, you do really well. I think, there’s something to be said about trying to – I think, we need more, we as corporate America and the workforce, need to strive for more exceptional outcomes, okay? It’s a little bit of that, “If you want to hit the moon, aim for the stars. If you miss it –” I’m probably butchering the phrase. I think that, if you – you want to set aspirational targets that you know are very difficult to hit. Then if you get halfway, you’re going to be happy with the outcome. I believe, by pushing yourself that way, you’re going to achieve more than if you set very achievable targets.
[00:28:39] AD: I think that ties a lot into number three, as well, the pool action. This isn’t just a small move. From my own perspective and experience around diversity work, I think there’s – it’s bold action for two reasons. One, if you want to make a big change, you want to move and you really want to move the needle, it’s going to take a bold action. Also, this is a wildly uncomfortable topic for people at times. Rightfully so, because to your point, we like to be in like-minded communities. It’s a comfort zone. Really, we’re pushing outside of that many times when we dig into this. When you say bold action, is that fair to look at both sides of that and trying to overcome that?
[00:29:28] LB: I think so. I think that the bold action is – The way I think about it is, it’s a variety of reasons. One, you need in order to see the effects of what I’m talking about, and for diversity and inclusion to be a tremendous asset, you need critical mass. You have to, if you have 1,000 people and you hire 10 diverse people, that’s not going to make any difference. That’s why I think bold action – In order for this, as I said, not to be a check-the-box item, or be something meaningful to your organization, you need to take bold action.
Then, the other reason is because we have a lot of work to do on this stuff, on this subject. We need to do a lot more. I think that we need to bend the curve of how we’re – of how diversity is progressing in our organizations, and we need to accelerate the pace. That’s how I think about it.
[00:30:43] ANNOUNCER: Today’s episode is brought to you by the Association for Corporate Growth, the premier M&A deal-making community with a mission to drive middle market growth.
[00:30:53] AD: I want to dig into that for a second. I think that’s a really important point. Talking specifically to our listeners right now, and this podcast is a joint production with the Association of Corporate Growth, ACG. Our ACG members that I hope are listening to this, we all know if we look around the community, the professional services deal world community, it is a largely homogenous group of individuals. There’s certainly pockets where it’s improving. The truth is, we know that there is a major lack of representation of diverse individuals across the organization. I don’t think anyone can really look and deny that. The bold action point specific to this is we’ve got a long way to go and a lot of work to do, so we need to start taking some big steps today.
[00:31:50] LB: That’s right. Again, I think, you summarized it well. Yeah.
[00:31:55] AD: Do you have any thoughts of what some steps people – anything that you see, and just probably bouncing some ideas around here to give our listeners maybe some inspiration of where they can start taking some steps?
[00:32:09] LB: I think, the biggest thought I have is thinking about your network. I think as all of us grow in our professional careers, your network, your professional network becomes more and more important. I think, Alex, for the reasons that we’ve been talking about in this podcast, I think you’ll be surprised how homogenous your network is. I think the challenge to the listeners is, broaden your network and access other networks of people that are different than you are. Not necessarily needs to be a gender or ethnic diversity. To me, diversity goes beyond that, and to people that have different backgrounds, experiences, upbringing, etc. I think, access in those networks and realizing that the world is bigger than one tends to think. It’s an important and necessary step to accomplish what we’re talking about.
[00:33:12] AD: I’m going to share a personal story for a quick moment, because I think it’s relevant and I think it can resonate with some people. I have, in the last year and a half, I’ve been really trying to dig in and do diversity work for myself, and really, just trying to better understand, everything we’re talking about, I wholeheartedly agree with, I think this is wildly important. I know as an individual, I need to expand my knowledge and understanding, but also expand my network around that.
Obviously, I do some podcasting work. I have tried to be thoughtful in making sure that we do look and find a diverse set of individuals to bring a broad perspective to what we’re doing. In even just putting together these episodes with The Diversity Matters Podcast, my network – Yeah. You start looking, you’re like, “Ah, yeah.” You don’t realize it, because we just go along with life, day-to-day and it just is. Then you look and you’re like, “Oh, man.”
The lesson for me is it’s forced me to say, “Okay, I need to expand it. I need to talk to different people. I want to hear different perspectives. I need to reach out in different places. I need to spend time in areas that I don’t usually spend time in.” I think that’s a really important thing for people to do, is to really do an assessment of who you spend time around with? Does everyone that you see and interact with, it goes back to, as people, we are nothing more than our lived experiences and many, we’re a product of our own experiences that we have lived through. If you on a day-to-day basis are always surrounded by people that look and think and act and are all a lot like yourself, then you’re probably not going to have that opportunity to see different things. You’ve got to go look for it.
[00:34:57] LB: Thanks for sharing that experience. I think, more people than not will probably be faced with the same issue that you just highlighted. A few thoughts to continue, to add to the discussion. One is that there is a large number of organizations that their entire focus is to bring more diversity and inclusion to whatever –
[00:35:23] AD: Whatever they’re looking to build it in.
[00:35:24] LB: Yeah. It’s worth mentioning a few of them, which are organizations that, for full disclosure, Palladium’s a big supporter of, and some of them you may have heard. There’s obviously, SEO. I think, it used to stand for, now it’s Seizing Opportunity, but it used to stand for Sponsors for Equal Opportunity, which they focus on training and recruiting kids from diverse ethnic backgrounds and putting them in positions in finance. There is a similar organization that we also support called The [inaudible 0:36:02] Foundation that focuses a little bit more on graduate students. They have a fellowship program. Many MBA students can sign up to it.
There are also two organizations that were very supportive of – one is called the National Association of Investment Companies. The NAIC. Then a similar organization called The New America Alliance, that I am a board member of. These organizations focus on bringing diversity to the world of investment management. There is quite a staggering statistic that the asset management industry is a 70 trillion-dollar industry. 1.3% is managed by folks that are women, or diverse. If you think about it, diverse folks and women represent 70% of the population. That cohort of the population only manages close to 1% of a massive industry.
[00:37:07] AD: It highlights the opportunities to bring change, to drive even greater outcomes in the long run. I think that summarizes it, or I think that’s the core of it. We’ll make sure those organizations that you support are linked in the show notes here. We’d love to – Anyone listening, make sure to check them out.
Leon, I’m going to do a quick top to bottom recap of what we talked about here, just to really summarize the conversation here. Starting with, we talked about diversity really equals alpha. Diversity equals that above market returns. That return that’s attributable to the decision-making that happen along the way. That really means that if we want to succeed, our biggest way to succeed is by being able to solve complex problems, the best. I mean, the core of it, right?
If we want to do that, if we really want to solve complex problems, we have to avoid groupthink. We avoid groupthink by having cognitive diversity. That all brought us back to why cognitive diversity matters. Now, what that leads us to is understanding that we have to be intentional and thoughtful and look around, because we tend to be around people that are similar at times.
We have to step outside of that and really be cognizant of that. That’s a three-point plan. I think that the start of the three-point plan is saying, every organization has their own journey. It’s going to look different for everyone. If you start with the intent, the intentionality, the thoughtfulness, the, “I want this to happen,” and putting people in place to make it happen and being very clear about it, that’s how you start implementing this.
From there, you really have to have some goals. You have to be able to track it. You have to have metrics. You need to be able to see that. The goals you set should be aspirational. It should be big goals. That’s because we need, number three, bold action. We really need bold action. If we set those major goals, they’re going to help push us. If we miss some, that’s all right. We’re still getting a lot farther than if we wouldn’t have.
That bold action is one, we need to take big steps. As you just said, we have a long way to go to truly bring a well-represented level of diversity within the industry. It’s also if you want to succeed, you have to take bold actions. Then, we talked a little bit about how do we actually do this? You talked about your network. Think about your network. If you look around – I mentioned, I realized my network was relatively homogenous. You have to go out and assess that yourself and look at that as a place to start, and knowing that if you start surrounding yourself with more diverse people, different backgrounds, different experiences, different genders, different socioeconomic levels, whatever it might be, it allows you to see things in different lights. That’s the best way as an individual to start understanding this.
Then, we said, we have some links that we’re going to put in the show notes, that lists some support. Ultimately, you just gotta start doing it. You’ve got to start making action. You got to prioritize it, and you’ve got to look for opportunities to bring diversity in every aspect of your life.
[00:40:30] LB: Alex, there’s two more things that I want to mention that I think are incredibly important. One is that in addition to the three-step plan that we discussed, it is important to realize that, because we are where we are, and we have a lot of work to do, I will say that it’s also difficult when you’re out there looking for diverse talent, to find it. You have to recognize that it’s going to take time, and it’s going to be difficult. It’s going to force you to look outside the concentric circles that you’re typically comfortable looking into. It’s important to understand that it’s not an easy journey. Because if it was, we wouldn’t have to have to have this discussion.
[00:41:17] AD: Everyone would have done it already.
[00:41:19] LB: The other thing that I think is very important to highlight is that no one that is my belief, at least, is that no one that is in this – that will qualify as a DE&I candidate, so to speak, wants a handout. I don’t think I would want to be offered a job because of how I look. I want to be offered a job, because you looked at my credentials, and you’re like, “Okay, Leon has a good investing track record,” or whatever the case may be.
[00:41:51] AD: You want to be hired because someone believes in you. They believe you can succeed in the job. Yeah.
[00:41:55] LB: Exactly. I think it is important, and you will avoid footfalls by not giving handouts, and by looking hard for the right person for the job, versus for you to try to check the box. It’s also important to know that, and this goes for everything that we do in life, you’re going to make mistakes and things are not going to work out, and that’s okay. Anyway, I couldn’t finish our podcast without mentioning those two things.
[00:42:28]AD: No. I think you said it very well. It’s a tough journey. It’s going to take time. It’s not going to be easy. If it was easy, we wouldn’t be doing this. We wouldn’t be sitting here. The whole reason we’re doing this is because it’s not easy. Know that and embrace that. Leon, I really appreciate you coming on today. I appreciate the conversation. I hope everyone enjoyed it. I think we got through some really great things. For our listeners, how can they get in touch with you, Leon?
[00:42:54] LB: I think the best way to get in touch with me is through LinkedIn. I’m very active on the platform. Please, hit me up. I tend to be responsive.
[00:43:03] AD: Awesome. Well, listeners, make sure to reach out and connect with Leon here. Leon, appreciate you for being on here today. I’m sure we’ll be talking again soon.
[00:43:10] LB: Thank you, Alex. Thanks for having me. Thanks for the discussion.
[END OF INTERVIEW]
[00:43:15] ANNOUNCER: Thank you for tuning into today’s episode of The Diversity Matters in the Middle Market Podcast. We hope you enjoyed our content and encourage you to take action today. While no individual will bring all the changes necessary, we can all make an impact. If you enjoyed our content, please share with your network. This is a production of the Association for Corporate Growth, ACG and Connection Builders.