Depressed PE Principal

-35 years old. Came from an off-target university without the right concentration. 

-7 years of PE work experience, 4 years prior in Corp dev. 

-Joined a start up Fund as the first employee 5 years ago. Myself and the founder took it from 0 to 1bn in AUM during this time. My pay over the years was very poor and I was continually promised carry but it never materialized. My base started off as 60k (associate) and went as high as 200k by the time I left. In my final year I earned 700k all-in but it was an anomaly, most years I earned around 100-120k all-in and would routinely work 70-80 hour weeks. 

-Got fired from my job about 6 months ago as I was pressuring the founder to finally give me carry (as he promised multiple times in writing). He found it cheaper to just get rid of me. At the same time, my wife got really sick and I could barely afford to pay our mortgage as well as our medical bills. 

-Out of desperation I took a job at another PE Fund that is super small. They're paying me 125k base with only a 30% bonus and 7% carry out of our 100m fund. 

-i just feel really depressed with where I'm at. I've raised considerable money and have a great track record (around 60 deals lead and executed), I just feel the current pay is way too low and my employer doesn't want to raise more money for like 2 years. Feel lost.

-I have decent relationships and could probably break out on my own to launch a small 30m fund, but I just don't have the savings to last without a paycheque. All those years working at low wages and then the mortgage and medical bills hasn't left me with much working capital. 

Comments (33)

Most Helpful
  • VP in PE - LBOs
Feb 3, 2022 - 8:49pm

Step one is clear your head and get your confidence back. First thing is Therapy - try to find in network but if you can't afford it in your situation, at least read a reputable self help book on it. After that you need to do all the "right" things to get your mood back - sleep, cut out ANY drugs and alcohol, work out often, eat healthy, go outdoors, and connect/reconnect with relationships. None of that is a silver bullet, but it's critical that you do everything in your power to give your mood a fighting chance to turn around.

AFTER your head is clear - time to job seek. It sounds like raising a fund is off the table for you. Great, rule that out and focus on what is an option. Which sounds like moving to a slightly bigger fund that will pay you at least closer to market. Even if you have to step in as a VP. Get your resume updated and more importantly, your narrative together. Then on the hunt - surely you have a network now at this point in your career you can start to tap to have more "ears on the ground". Then talk to all the usual headhunters. With the right narrative, you should land something quickly in this market. You got this.

  • VP in PE - LBOs
Feb 3, 2022 - 9:43pm

Different guy from the post above and echo everything he said. You've done this rodeo before - now imagine growing your $100mm fund to $1Bn in the coming years. That 7% carry? Ooof. Hope the wife is doing better. Nothing better than seeing loved ones sharing your happiness.

Btw I'm 35 this year as well. Still VP, comp profile not too diff from yours (without a massive home run year) and loving it. Someone said you can't wait until life isn't hard any more to be happy. Hang in there. You'll kill it I call it.

Feb 3, 2022 - 8:53pm
Anonymous244729, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Hey, I hope things get better for you soon. Also I hope your wife makes a fully, speedy recovery soon, too. There are def good times and bad times, hopefully this will be as bad as it gets for you and it's only brighter days ahead very soon. Congrats on your accomplishments so far even if you haven't yet reaped an immediate financial reward at scale. Maybe it does make sense for you to go out on your own if you can, have you considered reaching out to people who may want to invest in your own PE firm? Maybe if you give them a stake in the GP they could fund your operations for some time which may be able to solve your working capital issue? Just an idea. Either way, good luck and best wishes 

Feb 3, 2022 - 9:16pm
Dumbanker, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I know this is not the answer that you're looking for. But before you follow the advice in the above comments, please know this:most of our problems arise from living in the past which results in depression or living in the future which results in anxiety. This is because we let our mind wander without our permission. It's almost cliched to say start living in the moment.

Life is not bad or good. It just is. If you don't like how it is manifesting right now, you need to work to change it the way you want it to be. All you need to do then is just be present and do what got to do.

Happiness has been within you all the time. Discover it and start working on your career.

  • Associate 1 in HF - Other
Feb 6, 2022 - 3:48am

I would try to nuke that firm if I were OP

  • Director in PE - Other
Feb 3, 2022 - 9:37pm

Man, I thought I wrote the first part of this. Was in a very similar situation at a distressed shop, although horrible to hear about your wife. I hope she is doing better.

I left the "core" industry after years of disappointment, underpayment, making already wealthy people wealthier, and actually losing money from attempting to launch right as covid started-bad timing. What I realized during lockdown, and also due to an opportunity presenting itself, is that you build skills in PE that are so transferrable and you should bet on yourself at all costs. I think getting involved in any direct deal/search fund strategy is the future of the industry regardless, and also affords you an opportunity to earn outright a lot more than you would in some carry scheme. There are plenty of smaller businesses with succession issues out there you can get your hand on, and ways to do it with minimal capital investment-if you were in the distressed/turnaround space, you're definitely creative (also proven by your track record). If the same path is leading to the same places, take the fork in the road.

  • Principal in PE - Other
Feb 3, 2022 - 10:32pm

I really appreciate everyones kindness and advice. Really helpful. Thank you!

Controversial
  • Principal in PE - LBOs
Feb 4, 2022 - 2:48am

You need to maybe be less of a sucker. This guy had you join a start-up and paid you peanuts. You should have made +tens million dollars across that time.

Also, you did 60 deals in 7 years? On $1bn in AUM, translates to $15m checks? Im guessing VC/GE type stuff? If so that should be a very sought after skill set in this job market.

Now you're working for basically what a mid-level F500 HR manager makes? If you're not going to value yourself, why would anyone else? Wake up. You are worth whatever you think you deserve. You need to fix your mindset.

  • Principal in PE - Other
Feb 4, 2022 - 9:17am

I appreciate the wake up call and you're right, I haven't had a good self esteem/self confidence all these years and it has held me back from speaking up and knowing my true worth.

I am generally a very trusting person when it comes to things like salary etc, which is definitely a draw back.

I took my recent gig because I absolutely needed something immediately to help with the mortgage payments and hospital bills.

  • Analyst 2 in IB - Cov
Feb 4, 2022 - 12:34pm

You seem like a good person and sounds like you have a loving relationship with your wife (lucky her, to have your support). I think you know your options, you are smart and experienced enough for this but you have simply lost confidence and momentarily find yourself in a situation of despair.

If you made those deals happen, then it is you who held those relationships over the years. I think the work environment has changed. With how connected the world is (as it has never been before), people are well aware that companies are faceless entities that have to do what is in their best interests to survive, and there seldom is a conflict of interests between employers and employees.

Thank you for sharing your story. Since I started, I have been overworked for years, my health deteriorating a bit more as time passes. I always wanted to start my own business, never had the push to do it. Heck, it may fail, but so what, I will die anyway one day. I should use myself before someone else uses me.

I am sorry that you were treated unfairly. Nobody deserves this.

 wish you courage and success.

  • Associate 2 in IB-M&A
Feb 4, 2022 - 9:23am

Dude. Your background is incredible and try to separate your self-worth from your career, which it sounds like you're doing right now. I would kill for a background like that! Read some self-help books (e.g. The Mental Toughness Handbook), update your resume/deal sheet and prepare to have a gazillion conversations. Failure often breeds great success. These hard times are inevitable and can serve as a real opportunity to learn and grow. 

Sorry about your wife - prayers to you and your family in this difficult time. 

  • Principal in PE - Other
Feb 4, 2022 - 11:55am

Thanks everyone. A large part of the issue is that I'm located in a country that just doesn't have a lot of PE options apart from my previous firm. I have spoken with a few competitors to my old shop who are in the U.S. and they all want me to move there. My wife would like to stay where we are. The whole work remote abroad thing isn't really a "thing" in PE, so I'm trying to network in my small pond.

Feb 4, 2022 - 7:10pm
VCMonkey01, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Sorry that all this happened to you man.

I'd encourage you to take some perspective here and remember that even though $125K/30% bonus/7% carry may not feel like much to show for all your work, the median household income in this country is about $70K. To say nothing of the median income globally.  

I don't want to diminish your struggles, particularly in regards to your wife's medical bills, but at the end of the day, you have a lot more earning power than most, and hopefully you can find a sense of gratitude in that. I know that may be easier said than done.

Array
  • 3
Feb 5, 2022 - 3:53pm
Risk Weighted Ass, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Dude. Sue the fuck out of the first fund. You have it in writing, and they both screwed you over and then fired you. Have no remorse, no mercy, take what is yours. I cannot give you any advice until you do what you should have done at the start. Once you get this low hanging fruit, maybe come back and ask for advice again if you still need it.

  • Associate 2 in PE - LBOs
Feb 5, 2022 - 8:49pm

Risk Weighted Ass

Dude. Sue the fuck out of the first fund. You have it in writing, and they both screwed you over and then fired you. Have no remorse, no mercy, take what is yours. I cannot give you any advice until you do what you should have done at the start. Once you get this low hanging fruit, maybe come back and ask for advice again if you still need it.

That seems like a bad idea

  • Principal in PE - Other
Feb 5, 2022 - 5:29pm

The first thing I did was get a lawyer and we threatened legal action. I was able to get around 200k pretty easily and dropped the carry issue as upfront cash was more meaningful to pay off all our medical bills. I can't bring suit to them anymore as that was part of the dispute resolution. Believe it or not, I am not bitter, I want to move forward but I'm not sure to what exactly.

  • Associate 2 in Consulting
Feb 5, 2022 - 7:44pm

To be honest I think you should've asked for way more. Easy breach of written contract situation with the email promises. How much did the 700bps the founder promised you equate to? Understand the cash flow situation but don't just settle for the first offer they give you.

Feb 6, 2022 - 3:52am
odog808, what's your opinion? Comment below:

You can do it again, maybe, maybe not.  


The song, Gypsy from Fleetwood Mac comes to mind.  "Lightning strikes, maybe once maybe twice."  Listen to it. And again. 

You have to get back to believing in yourself, first.  Your wife will feed off your confidence (or the opposite, your sorrow).  Hope she gets better health wise.  
 

Your belief in other people that will take longer or might never come back the same way.  

Your next opportunity might not be the same, so instead embrace that possibility.  Take this time to reflect.  
 

Read the book, The Alchemist.  Take a mental journey through the desert. What is the universe telling you?


If you're not dead, then money can be made again, hopefully next time in your own way and with long term people.

Have compassion as well as ambition and you’ll go far in life
  • 4
Feb 6, 2022 - 1:43pm
Turkey Sandwich, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Like a poster above mentioned, nobody cares more about you than yourself, so you need to stand up for yourself. If someone isn't valuing you - fuck that noise. There's 7 billion people in the world and it's not worth wasting time with people who don't give you your worth and make you feel fulfilled. There's many more out there who will.

With a skill set like yours, there's literally tons of opportunities out there for you. 

Feb 6, 2022 - 6:29pm
2rigged2fail, what's your opinion? Comment below:

what country and you in and how much $ have you saved?

Feb 7, 2022 - 3:26pm
takenotes08, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Its kind of crazy you helped build this fund from 0 to 1bn AUM and the guy fired you. Im pretty sure you can take some kind of legal action here, especially if you say that carry was promised in writing multiple times. I'd consult an attorney. 

Also, congrats on the accomplishments. Running a fund up from zero and having over 60 deals under your belt is far more than most achieve in a career. 

  • Partner in PE - LBOs
Feb 8, 2022 - 8:34pm

60 deals under your belt and only 125K salary? Wow.

My advice is your doing pretty good relative to where you were at historically (in fact your all in salary is higher than your average salary of 100-120K).

Start networking / contacting recruiters .. may take a while to land a gig, but you should be able to land something decent with the right hustle / networking / interviewing

  • Principal in PE - Other
Feb 8, 2022 - 9:48pm

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Apr 1, 2022 - 5:28pm
elninomaravilla, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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