Purpose is “the work we strive to do, that is never done”. Why do we get out of bed? At the end of the day, what is this all about? At Straight Bat our purpose is legacy.
Often when you think about legacy, it’s something that is left behind after a person has passed. Legacy is about sharing what you have learnt, not just what you have earnt, bequeathing values over valuables, as material wealth is only a small fraction of your legacy.
At Straight Bat, our legacy is the sum of our actions, the values that bind us, our triumphs and our failures. It’s the lessons we learnt and passed on. It’s the kindness, generosity and wisdom shared with us, that we strive to pay forward. We are certainly not perfect, there will be failures and falls on the path ahead. We would be naïve if we thought we were the “best private equity investors in the world”. We still have much to learn. Inevitably there will be times we fall short of our expectations, misfire or don’t quite live up to our values, but we commit to picking ourselves up, learning from mistakes and forging ahead with integrity. Legacy is the sum of our conduct. It’s not a burden to live up to. It develops the patina of character over time. Like your reputation, it is hard won and easily lost.
We are humbled to be involved with the Straight Bat cornerstone investors. They are also entrepreneurs, operators and business owners – many have built enduring businesses over twenty, thirty and even fifty years. All understand intimately the patience and perseverance that is required to build an enduring legacy. Many of us are familiar with the expression “from rags to riches and back in three generations”. In Australia, we admire what has been achieved by organizations like the Myer Family Office and the Victor Smorgon Group over multiple generations. Further afield we admire and aspire to the principals and success behind the Berkshire Hathaway Group.
Straight Bat is an income-oriented fund that “plays the long game”. We invest in mature, robust, medium sized Australian business, for slightly old-fashioned reasons – income, wealth preservation, sustainable capital growth. We are not “pump and dump” investors. If we make an investment, our departing position is to invest indefinitely. We are inspired and motivated by a promise that Straight Bat Partner, Brad Harris, made to his father “to carefully and responsibly invest to extend our families good fortune for the benefit of five generations – ‘for the benefit of my parents’ grandchildren’s grandchildren’”.
What legacy was left for you? What legacy do you hope to leave behind?
When I asked these questions of Straight Bat Executive Chairman in Residence – Adam Lewis – he laughed and said “nice simple, little questions there Steve!”. He went on to reflect on his childhood. Like most of us there were good things and challenging things, but he was left with a powerful drive to “take responsibility for your own stuff and get on with it”. When asked about his own legacy, he seeks to build on these traits to “take responsibility for your own stuff, get out and get on with it – make things happen”, but for his kids he wants to leave the legacy of “freedom” –
“The one thing money can buy is options. I want my kids to pursue their loves first without thinking too hard about the need to survive. I want them to study all sorts of interesting things, experience interesting things and be free. Families with wealth can sometimes take this for granted – and I really don’t – but those families can also sometimes be stifling for the kids because the kids feel constrained by the family legacy somehow.”
Adam was previous Managing Partner of the McKinsey & Company office in Australia. “The thing I am most proud of at McKinsey, is that I took the Australian practice from bottom quintile financial contribution to #1 in the Firm – and it has hovered around the top quintile ever since. And, I think I led a culture change in terms of impact and activity. In the old days the expression used to be ‘work smart, not hard’. I strove really hard to change that to ‘imagine what you can achieve if you work smart AND hard?’. Again, I think that has been a more-or-less permanent change. The importance of that legacy is that the partners that followed my ‘era’ at McKinsey did so on the back of strong office performance and clients that were extremely welcoming to McKinsey’s help and with a culture focused on performance. The growth since has been phenomenal.”
“Post McKinsey, it has simply been about leaving a legacy of mentored leaders. I don’t think one can claim too much as a mentor if your mentee does extremely well, but I have been privileged to have helped the entire Aconex team, DJ at Palette, KJ at Deliciou, Chris Lane at conveyancing.com.au as well as David and Paul Scoullar at Southern and a few others. Legacy might be too strong a word for these but that is what I want to leave behind – successful leaders who go on to more and more success who eventually give back in the same way.”
“I don’t often think about legacy much, as mine is more or less baked into the behaviours and thinking of others. I am certainly not someone who wants to create a monument.”
My next stop in pursuit of answers to my “simple little questions” I thought I’d seek the counsel of Straight Bat Mentor and Portfolio Advisor – Geoff Harris. Some of us think Geoff makes legacy look effortless – he seems to deliver one without trying!
“Both my parents provided a stable, supportive environment, with an excellent work ethic which gave me every opportunity to succeed in life. A father with practical, life and business experience, was especially encouraging in pursuing my goals and daring to dream.”
As to the legacy I hope to leave behind. Maybe to be remembered as a person who was a good husband and father, who fully supported his children in pursuing their life’s goals.
To be someone who helped to setup, grow and finance businesses. that not only employ many people, but create a great working environment with ample opportunities for people to prosper personally and professionally.
To have helped vulnerable young Australians in the Community sector via Youth at Risk initiatives with work at Reach, Whitelion and the StrEAT Social Enterprise.
“I’ve endeavoured to live my life based on values of egalitarianism, generosity, persistence, honesty and a can-do attitude. I will leave a succession plan in place for my children that is multi-generational and facilitates them to live lives that are honest, in pursuit of their dreams, work as a cohesive group, with a strong vision for supporting our Community and fellow Australians.”
When I reflected on these questions personally, I was grateful for: a happy and stable childhood; an intelligent, generous and kind father; a fun, adventurous and driven mother; wise and loving paternal grandparents and a formidable and capable maternal grandmother. For me, I took over a family business that was my father’s legacy. For me, building a business is not about money, it is about freedom, choice and being in command of my own destiny. This is in service of the legacy I was given and the legacy I hope to leave behind.
My father used to say to me “there is nothing like working for yourself, but it’s a double-edged sword. No one can fire you. You decide when to take holiday, but at the end of the day, the buck stops with you”.
His legacy to me was about kindness, generosity, intellect, persistence and patience. Being generous and fair in your conduct, not seeking to take advantage of others in a deal, but overwhelmingly, playing the long game was the basis of enduring success. When he died, the church overflowed onto the street.
As to my own legacy, it’s still a work in progress. I intend to pay forward the love and good fortune that was afforded to me and, like Adam and Geoff, add a little of my own ‘special sauce’. We are very proud of what we are setting out to achieve at Straight Bat. The journey has just begun. Much hard work lies ahead. There will be “wins” and “loses”. This is a long game and it is the last one I intend to play. But in the end, it is only a game and all of it is in service of my family, friends, Straight Bat business family and the people I love. Pad up!
Play the long game.