n investment banker for the past 25 years, Steve Waters says that what he likes best about his profession is "the opportunity to build businesses." A graduate of Harvard College as well as HBS, Waters spent the first part of his career at Lehman Brothers, where he cofounded the Mergers and Acquisitions department and presided over some of the largest deals transacted during the merger-crazed 1980s.
He joined Morgan Stanley in 1988 as a managing director and later served as cohead of Mergers and Acquisitions, becoming a member of Morgan's Operating Committee in 1990. Beginning in 1992, Waters spent four years in London as cohead of the firm's European operations before resigning in 1996 to found Compass Partners International, a privately held investment banking advisory and investment firm that manages a large European private equity fund.
"I was lucky, both at Lehman and at Morgan, to be given a chance to be involved in the development of some really interesting companies," says Waters. He is pleased, nonetheless, with his decision to go out on his own. "To go from conferring on major issues with heads of global companies to choosing the color of the chairs in the conference room was a bit of an adjustment," he laughs, "but the best thing about this experience is that it's given me a chance to assemble a great group of people and work with them to create what I hope will be an extraordinary fund and firm."
Waters and his wife, Sandy, have three children, including a son who is currently enrolled at Harvard College. A member of the HBS Visiting Committee since 1996, Waters has long been involved in fund-raising activities and as a key member of numerous committees at HBS and at the College. In addition, he has served as Section I's Class Notes correspondent for the Bulletin since 1974.
What was your first job?
Delivering the Hartford Courant at 4:30 in the morning when I was in high school. I was on the track team, and I used to run through my paper route, which allowed me to get in an extra workout each day.
Later, like a lot of our class, I served in the armed forces (Navy) during the Vietnam War before attendingbusiness school. We were probably one of the last classes to have a high percentage of veterans.
What is the most important thing you've learned about business since leaving HBS?
It's better to focus on a few things and do them well than to do lots of things in a mediocre way. I've also learned that, in this business, it's not a bad idea to be a contrarian and resist the urge to follow the herd.
The late Steve Fenster (MBA '66) was a partner at Lehman when I joined the firm. He taught a lot of people about the importance of high standards and about dedication to one's career. There aren't many senior people in this field who will take the time to help younger people along, but Steve was exceptional in that regard.
How have your priorities changed since 1974?
In 1974, achieving financial success was a very important goal. But as I've aged, I've become much more interested in building successful enterprises than in making money personally.
Another change is that when I was starting out, I didn't clearly grasp the difference between being an owner of something and being an employee. I've found that it's much more fun to be the owner.
And, of course, on the personal side, having a wife and family sets up a whole new list of priorities that weren't present at graduation.
Is there anything that you've missed out on because of the demands of your career?
Owning a baseball club. I happen to love baseball, and I think it would be wonderful to have that sort of involvement with a team.
How would you describe the value of Internet stocks today?
Psychological. The same stock could theoretically trade at $2, $20, $200, or $2,000 a share, which is why I view them as apsychological phenomenon as much as anything. I don't have a clue as to how Internet stocks are valued and as a result tend to stay away from them.
How would you rate your personal computing skills?
My children would say laughable, but I can check my e-mail and surf the Net.
|Kevin W. Kennedy||Stephen M. Waters||James A. Stern||William J. Kneisel||Donald H. Layton|