Lecture: Setting High Standards For Yourself


Richard M. Powell, Chairman of The RMP Group, Co-Founder & Sr. Managing Director of AP Capital Partners, LLC

Thursday, October 20, 2011




“The quality of your life is a direct result of the expectations and influence of your peer-group”

I’m not sure exactly where that quote came from and I’ve likely patched together quotes that have inspired me over the last 30 years, but from a young age I was taught to set high goals for myself in all facets of life.  As a young child living in Jamaica, the schools I attended (from 4-17 years old) were in another city, often taking my parents over an hour to drive my siblings and I to and from every day.  Despite the long rides and potholed roads of my beautiful country, my parents sacrificed their time and efforts to do their best where my education was concerned.  They were fully aware of the significance of how far a good education could lead me. 

I was afforded the opportunity to attend top schools such as Campion High School in Jamaica, Phillips Academy (Andover) and Harvard University.  My parents paved the road; however, it took great effort on my part to achieve my goals.  There are a few aphorisms that I live by which I would like to share with you. I believe they assisted me and contributed to my success throughout the years.  These words represent some of the best advice I have received from my mentors along the way; and despite many challenges, these life lessons inspired me to keep going and I hope they will be of some inspiration to you.

One of the most fundamental ideas I live by is he who fails to plan, plans to fail.  There was a Yale University study, which profiled the class of 1960 by asking them to write down the goals for their life. Decades later, the research team analyzed the results and found that the top 3% of successful individuals in that graduating class were the 3% that took the time to write down in detail what they wanted to accomplish with their life.  In fact, there is a relationship with information and your brain when you actually write things down.  When I was 15 years old I wrote down where I wanted to be when I was thirty.  In certain aspects of my life, I have exceeded my goals, and made them happen faster than originally planned.  Certainly, there are still a few that are yet to be attained, but I am confident and still striving.  It is highly likely that your goals may change over time, especially if written at 15.  Even so, still write them down as they do and you will watch your written aspirations morph into reality.

Another key distinction is to find your personal “board of advisors” in life.  It is important to surround yourself with quality people who share your vision and are a source of motivation.  As the quote in the beginning alludes to, “birds of a feather, flock together”.  There is a lot to be learned by the five to seven people that you spend most of your time with.  My mentors and my closest friends, though we may not share the same financial goals, we share a common mindset and they support me in my endeavors.  This is not only important for business, but for your happiness, financial success, life values, and how you deal with others - these are all heavily influenced by the people you surround yourself with most. Choose wisely.
The last important life lesson I will share is don’t let perfection be the enemy of progress. Aim for outstanding, not perfect.  At AP Capital Partners, we take pride in being one of the few private equity firms owned by ethnic minorities in the United States, and one of only 3 that have been able to raise funds and grow a billion dollar portfolio.  In late 2004, we bought our first business, which at the time was generating $60 million in revenue, and by the end of 2010 we created a portfolio that generated over $1.2 billion in revenue.  Through that acquisition we have created over 3500 jobs in 15 countries worldwide.  There were many obstacles, both expected and unforeseen, but the bottom line is, we did overcome them and made our investors and partners extremely wealthy and happy.  If there were a manual on how to do it, and we followed it word-for-word, we still would not have done it perfectly.

I hope these few words of advice inspire you to create your own life plan and set high standards, for yourself and the people you surround yourself with. And don’t be afraid to take risks. We miss 100% of the shots we never take in life!

Richard M. Powell

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Richard M. Powell is the Co-Founder and Sr. Managing Director of AP Capital Partners, a leading middle-market private equity firm based in Orlando, Florida. APCP’s portfolio companies grew to generate annual revenues in excess of US $1 billion and employ over 6000 people around the globe. He is also the Chairman of The RMP Group, established in 2009 to manage his diverse business and philanthropic interests. Prior to forming APCP in 2003, Mr.Powell was an Associate in the Emerging Markets Group at Bear Stearns. He also had a stint in Corporate Finance at UBS Warburg. Mr. Powell’s key strengths include raising capital, selling to large corporations, board-level management and e-business strategies. He has worked on a variety of transactions including: Leveraged Buyouts,
sponsor-backed Management Buyouts, Debt Financings, Initial Public Offerings, Mergers and Acquisitions, and Equity & Credit Derivatives. He has worked with, or consulted for, leading asset management, insurance and nonprofit firms overseas. A serial entrepreneur, Mr. Powell has been involved in creating or enhancing over a dozen successful companies and/or organizations.

Mr. Powell currently serves on the boards of eServices, and the Victoria Mutual Building Society (VMBS). Mr. Powell is currently, or was in the recent past, a director or advisor to a number of leading businesses including ZeroChaos, RMT Woodworth, New Futuro and MAPEX. He is also a founding board member of ACG Orlando and has been actively involved with The RMP Foundation, the 1420 Foundation, the Harvard Club of Central Florida, the Andover Alumni Association, The Powell-Bull Scholarship Fund and the Campion High School Alumni Association. He is a member of the Young Presidents Organization, The Marathon Club, the Council of Urban Professionals, the Leverage Alliance, TiE Florida, and the Archipel Group. He was also named one of the “40 under 40” leaders in mergers & acquisitions by the M&A Advisor, and “40 under 40” executives to watch by the Orlando Business Journal. He was selected by the World Economic Forum as a Young Global Leader (2009) in recognition of his
commitment to positive social change. He has also represented Jamaica in four sports (Soccer, Tennis, Track & Field, and Table-Tennis) at the youth-national level and was the youngest person from the Caribbean ever to be scouted by a professional soccer club (PSV Eindhoven) in Europe.

Mr. Powell has been recognized as one of the rising stars of global finance and has spoken at Harvard Business School, MIT Sloan School of Business, The Marathon Club, numerous ACG events and other venues. He has been featured in various business publications including Inc. Magazine, the Boston Globe and the Wall Street Journal. He is also co-author of The Buyout Game, forthcoming in Fall 2011. Mr. Powell graduated with an AB in Economics from Harvard University, as a Robert Winthrop Scholar. He has done research with Professor Jeffrey Sachs on Economic Development, completed coursework at MIT Sloan and management programs at HBS. He resides in Orlando, FL and enjoys travelling internationally.