PETITION: What is the best piece of advice that you’ve been given in your career?
LP: Making a quick and good decision with bad information is much better than a slow and perfect decision with perfect information. In our business sometimes its better to make a pretty good quick decision rather than waiting too long and the decision being made for us. This was taught to me by one of my mentors 15 years ago and has stuck with me.
PETITION: What is the best book you’ve read that’s helped guide you in your career?
LP: As cliché as it may sound, both Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand have had a huge impact on my life. I think the focus on independence, objective thinking, and having a philosophical spine (regardless of whether you agree with it) have turned me into a better practitioner and leader. I also think there is a big emphasis on non-conformist thinking which is, in my opinion, the essence of creative thinking and solution making.
PETITION: What is one notable trend you expect to see in the second half of ‘18 that not enough people are talking about?
LP: More of the same. I think people are expecting things to change, but I don’t see it. There is a lot of talk about a restructuring bubble building, maturities rising, a new real estate bubble, and other themes like this that I’ve heard throughout my career. I’d expect that things will basically stay as they are right now until something absurd or otherwise totally unexpected comes and punches us all in the mouth.
PETITION NOTE: This is a fair point. Everyone gets in the business of prognosticating but the last several cycles started due to wholly unforeseeable exogenous events.
PETITION: What is the most under-appreciated service restructuring professionals can provide a distressed client?
LP: Emotional support of clients and principals. We work primarily with middle market companies — including family-owned businesses. Compassion and empathy are underrated skill sets. We could callously conclude “this is just business,” but, ultimately, we’re dealing with emotional beings caught in an insanely stressful situation. People find themselves retaining us because something bad usually happened, and its very rare that those bad decisions that led to our retention were intentional or otherwise nefarious. I go into situations without preconceived judgement and with the objective of understanding a situation rather than rashly concluding that a person is dumb or unsophisticated. It’s rarely the case that someone is those things, and it’s dangerous as a practitioner to assume so.
PETITION: What is the biggest disservice that restructuring professionals are doing to clients?
LP: Restructuring — particularly formal restructurings — have devolved into a very litigious, expensive, and inefficient way to work out complex situations. A big part of this is the e-mail “thuggery” that is prevalent in these situations: it is more focused on getting a “gotcha” rather than a solution. If people really were trying to get to the right answer, I’d expect that there would be a whole lot more phone calls and face-to-face meetings, rather than 30 person CC lists and 27 versions of documents. If we take the approach that we’re trying to solve the problem, park aside the anger and posturing that comes with the process, and try to work towards a solution knowing that everyone is being impacted, we’ll collectively provide more value to our clients.