Named Founder Friendly Investors 2021 & 2022 by Inc.
The interview below is part of an ongoing effort by McGuireWoods to profile up-and-coming women leaders in private equity (PE). To read previous profiles, click here.
Kaitlynn Akins is a member of the Valesco Industries analyst team. Her primary responsibilities include portfolio monitoring, financial modeling and data management, with additional focus on transaction diligence, new investment evaluation and research. Akins’ prior experience in project management, marketing and operations provided her exposure to emerging technologies, high-growth business strategy and value-driven operations. Akins received her MBA from the Naveen Jindal School of Management at the University of Texas at Dallas and received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida.
Kaitlynn Akins: My path to PE has been very nontraditional. I started my career in marketing and advertising, working for a regional print and digital media company, and eventually shifted to a project management role at a technology startup. It wasn’t until I was in my graduate degree program that I realized PE was where I wanted to land. PE had all the things I was passionate about: business models, strategic thinking, financial analysis and an infinite learning opportunity.
To be honest, PE seemed to be a long shot since I didn’t have any prior internships or “relevant” experience in the industry. My greatest concern was whether I would ever have an opportunity to get my foot in the door. Thankfully, my Valesco team took a chance and gave me the opportunity.
KA: Greater perspective opens more doors for opportunity. As women, we bring additive viewpoints to the table. This allows us a more comprehensive outlook as a firm — whether we are looking at a new opportunity, meeting with a management team or discussing our own internal strategy. Having more women at the table opens doors that otherwise would have been closed.
This additional opportunity also leads to greater value generation. A 2019 study published by the International Finance Corporation, Oliver Wyman and RockCreek found that gender-balanced firms outperform unbalanced firms by 20 percent on average. The more women continue to pursue careers in PE, the greater potential for firms both in terms of opportunity and value creation.
KA: I think that women of my generation can create greater opportunity and value for the PE community by continuing to show younger generations of women that there is opportunity for them in the industry. With more women recognizing the career possibilities earlier on, more women will grab seats at the table, and we can continue to build a more diverse and inclusive industry together, alongside our male counterparts.
At Valesco, we currently have two women in our partnership, which is more of a rarity. I believe that this can become more common as more women become aware of their opportunities and potential.
KA: There are so many lessons. One of the key lessons I have learned that has made Valesco successful is the importance of valuing relationships. Just as we prepare investments for long-term success, we approach relationships in the same way. From the business owners that we partner with to the intermediaries that send deals our way, relationships are at the center of what we do.
The value of relationships not only matters externally, it matters internally. At Valesco, our firm is built on a 30-plus-year relationship between our two founding partners and the mutual respect they have for one another permeates the entire organization. In PE, the hours are going to be long and there will without a doubt be flight delays with team members, so building valued relationships is key to long-term success.