Virtual Panel Replay:

Driving Private Equity Returns Through Transformational Change 

As valuations rise, and competition for deals heats up, the need for PE firms to understand which value creation levers to pull has never been more intense. Of these levers, the effectiveness and caliber of the management team is arguably the main driver of investment success.

Our Lancer Group Q2 panel featured proven technology CEOs discussing how to assemble the right management team to scale a software company after a PE investment. These CEOs were brought in to drive the transformational change needed to propel their companies to a new level of growth. Each made significant changes to their management teams.

(If you need the password, please email  victoria.lakers@thelancergroup.com)

Our virtual CEO panel included:

Laura Ipsen – President & CEO, Ellucian
Market leader in higher education software solutions backed by TPG and Leonard Green. Just announced a sale to Vista Equity and Blackstone.

Christa Quarles  CEO, Corel
A suite of graphics software brands serving over 90 million users backed by KKR. Former CEO of OpenTable, part of Booking Holdings [NASDAQ: BKNG].

Sharon Love – President & CEO, Community Brands
Roll-up of 30+ software brands serving K-12, non-profits, and associations backed by Insight Partners.

Watch the replay to hear our discussion on how to:

  • Evaluate the competencies and capabilities of the management team
  • Time executive hires
  • Weigh executive development vs new hires
  • Attract top talent
  • Implement cultural transformation in a PE-backed environment

We examined the importance of hiring for a growth mindset and ensuring the executive team is deeply invested in the mission. A CEO that elevates those traits and creates an open, transparent culture where executives can take risks, innovate, and challenge themselves as well as each other helps drive higher returns.

Excerpts include:

“Change is always a constant… We need to transform, and in transformation there is change and it’s very powerful… When you think about change, it’s not scary if you say clearly what are we changing, why are we are changing, how are we going to do it, and what’s next for you.” – Laura Ipsen

“You can’t bring everyone along when you change a company… Certain skill sets are just not needed anymore for the next wave of growth… If you are an apple, and I need an orange, I need to go get an orange. All I can do is make you a juicier apple. I believe deeply in leaning into your zone of genius, what are you excellent at, what are you good at doing, what do you like to do, and what does the company need you to do. If all those things are not in alignment then you have to make a change.” Christa Quarles

“In looking for new executives, what we have focused on is really a growth mindset… With a growth mindset, you are really comfortable making mistakes because it means you learned something, you are really comfortable trying new things, you will ask a lot of why questions because you know you are not supposed to know everything. Being able to operate from that premise lets the whole team go faster, be able to be more vulnerable and more transparent, and lock and load and go.” – Sharon Love

Our panelists referenced a number of books that they found interesting, which include:

  • Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carole Dweck
  • Radical Candor: How to Get What You Want by Saying What You Mean by Kim Scott
  • Humor, Seriously: Why Humor Is a Secret Weapon in Business and Life (And how anyone can harness it. Even you.) by Jennifer Aaker & Naomi Bagdonas
  • Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know by Adam Grant
  • Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein

Virtual Panelist Biographies

Laura Ipsen, President and CEO, Ellucian

Laura has more than 25 years of experience as a technology executive, working to drive transformation in the public and private sectors and spur adoption of comprehensive solutions in high-growth industries.

Laura joined Ellucian from Oracle Corporation, where she most recently served as general manager and senior vice president for Oracle Marketing Cloud—leading all customer-facing aspects of the business, including sales, account management, marketing, and customer services. Previously, she served as corporate vice president of Microsoft’s worldwide public sector organization, where she led a team of more than 2,000 sales and marketing professionals serving government, education, and non-privatized healthcare customers in more than 100 countries.

Laura’s experience also includes more than a decade at Cisco Systems, where she led an effort to transform how the world manages energy supplies and build smart-grid solutions for utilities around the world. Prior to that, she established and managed Cisco’s global policy and government affairs division, where she led the company’s public policy agenda as it related to the Internet and global adoption of broadband access. Laura has also held leadership roles at PricewaterhouseCoopers, Acer America, and Hitachi Data Systems.

Laura currently serves as a member of the Board of Directors for Verisk, a leading data analytics provider, as well as the Business-Higher Ed Forum (BHEF) based in Washington, D.C. She is also a member of WomenCorporateDirectors (WCD). She previously served on the Board of Directors of Monsanto for nearly eight years, and as the chair of the Washington, D.C.-based Information Technology Industry Council.

Laura holds a bachelor’s degree in international relations from the Woodrow Wilson School of Foreign Affairs at the University of Virginia, and she studied Arabic at Yarmouk University in Jordan. She is also a Senior Fellow of the American Leadership Forum, Silicon Valley Chapter.

Christa Quarles, CEO, Corel

Christa Quarles serves as Corel’s CEO and sits on the company’s Board of Directors. Joining Corel in 2020, Christa is a seasoned executive with over two decades of experience leading companies and spearheading financial and operational initiatives. As CEO of OpenTable, she led a period of transformational change, successfully navigating the company’s transition to cloud-based, small business solutions, and drove meaningful bottom- and top-line growth across its global operations. Christa also recently served as an Operating Partner at Advent International. Prior to joining OpenTable, she served as Chief Business Officer of Nextdoor, a marketplace connecting local communities to small businesses. Earlier in her career, she served as Senior Vice President, Interactive Games at The Walt Disney Company, where she led Disney Interactive to profitability. Christa also served as Chief Financial Officer of Playdom, which was later acquired by Disney. Prior to that, she held the role of Partner in Equity Research covering the internet sector at Thomas Weisel Partners LLC (now Stifel Financial).

Christa also currently serves on the Boards of Directors of Affirm and Kimberly-Clark. She received a BS in Economics and German from Carnegie Mellon University and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

Sharon Love, President & CEO, Community Brands
Sharon Love is the CEO of Community Brands, the leading provider of cloud-based software and payment solutions to associations, nonprofits, faith-based groups, and K-12 schools. With more than 2000 employees serving over 120,000 clients in 30 countries, they help organizations grow stronger and achieve their missions. Sharon comes with a lot of experience as an executive in private equity owned businesses such as Social Solutions Global and CentralSquare. Earlier in her career she worked with big brands such as NCR, Lenovo, and FedEx.