"I want clients that have the potential to exit at $100m": An interview with Sameer Pal

Sameer Pal has been with RIG almost since its inception. Previously he was with Mercer Management Consultants. Sameer is a RIG partner. A citizen of the world, he was educated in India, Botswana, and the United States. Not a convert (yet) to the religion of blogging, he was interviewed by RIG Principal, Shields Russell.

Sam, why did you join RIG?

I did the big consulting practice. I wanted stay in consulting but to do something entrepreneurial. RIG is an entrepreneurial project in its own right and we work with entrepreneurs. I like seeing the fruits of my labour becoming something real and tangible. The beauty of young companies is that you are starting with a fairly blank slate.

How would you describe what you do?

Well, to be blunt, we help companies (our clients) figure stuff out and get stuff done and we do it better than anyone else. Our value lies in strategy and intelligent execution. We are not afraid to get stuck in and I have no hesitation in saying we are good because we are really smart and we have a strong bias for execution.

Tell us about the most successful client in your current portfolio

Let’s start with revenues won because ultimately that’s what matters. In two years, they have gone from being a single customer vendor to a company with more than 25 major customers. This year (2012) we have closed nearly $6m. That’s what matters. I, and the RIG team, have worked with the CEO to close deals in 5 continents, 17 countries, working in several time zones. And we have done deals in multiple languages including Spanish, French, Chinese, and Portuguese. All our consultants speak more than one language fluently. All, of course, except you Shields.

Describe your ideal client?

First thing, they must have global ambitions and that means they must be targeting a big market.

Second, the product doesn’t eat anyone else’s lunch and can compete in the market based on its technology rather than any business model or accompanying service.

Third, there must be a very capable, professional CEO who has deep expertise and understands their own and the company’s limitations. Someone who is willing to engage with us in a continuous feedback loop. That really matters to me. Someone who is not a micro-manager but trusts us to get the job done in the company’s best interests. And they must not be cheap. By which I mean that they are willing to pay us well because they recognise that when we do our job well we are adding significant equity and cash value.

Accountability is the last point I would make. It has to operate both ways.

Since you aren’t going to be working for them, describe a client you absolutely won’t work with?

The serious nightmare is a company that has a recipe that in my view adds up to nothing but a hard slog and low growth prospects: a company working in commoditised marketplaces where the competitive differentiation is on the margins and value based pricing is near impossible to extract. And it is all made worse when you have a CEO in these circumstances who believes they have a breakthrough product. What you have there is the delusional entrepreneur with misplaced expectations. I am also uninterested in working with companies that have a narrow geographic focus.

What’s it like working at RIG?

We are all different. We are all smart but in markedly different ways. We are a small boutique firm really. Very flat. Producers matter. Can’t produce means you will leave. In that sense, we are an up-or-out company. We are a pretty outspoken bunch. We have a lot of freedom as long as we look after our clients and each other. Teaming really matters for us, both with clients and colleagues. It is a negotiated workplace and that is a good thing. That is the basis of our culture. We don’t always get it right but we know whom to look at when we get it wrong.

What sort of people are you looking to add to your team?

I am not demanding. I just want sharp people with the ability to develop a quicksilver commercial nous. I want people with a genuinely global outlook who aren’t of the nine to six variety. I don’t mean people who taught English in the jungle on their gap year.

What are your ambitions in the next two years?

I want to create an ass-kicking team focused on IP-rich companies with a global market and a product that is truly differentiated and a team of bright ambitious people who are seriously focused on building equity value. And I want clients that have the potential to exit at $100m. That’s fun. That’s a trip. I haven’t manage this yet but I wouldn’t bet against achieving that goal in the next 24 months.

And lastly, why don’t you blog?

My portfolio clients come through reference. I don’t need to blog and I don’t have the time to blog.