Private companies

Robert Natzler

Robert is an investment manager on the Private Companies Team and deputy manager of The Schiehallion Fund.

Connect on LinkedIn

Robert Natzler standing while holding a drinks cup.
First in mind, first in choice, first in price. In the long run, distribution eats product for breakfast. The point of a product advantage is to use the window it gives you to build a distribution advantage. And there’s no distribution advantage as powerful as being the default in your customer’s mind.

Creating value is just the beginning

I have never believed that value creation automatically equates to value capture. It is only the start.

My grandfather aside, all my relatives are academics or civil servants. The savers I work for are all people who have contributed more to society than they have withdrawn, be they nurses, firemen or successful entrepreneurs. For these people, as for great companies, creating value for society is only one step on the road to wealth accumulation.

A great company must not only create value for its consumers but also be able to claim a share of the value that it created back for its own stakeholders. The power to do this arises from scarcity. It must create value in ways others cannot replicate or synthesise.

Companies are not castles with ‘moats’

Even incumbent businesses can never afford to be static and reactive. If the analogy must be a military one, then the better choice is an infantry platoon. A dynamic configuration of living, thinking people moving through an uncertain and shifting environment.

The company is more than the sum of its employees. It is about how they work together, how they understand their mission, how much initiative they take and how they interact with their environs. These qualities define a company’s capability. They evolve dynamically in response to the path the company has taken to date.

Unique companies are made by walking paths that others cannot or will not follow. This is how unique capabilities are forged.

I love cooking

It is how I express love. It is how I shift gears at the end of the day. When I think of master craftspeople, I think of great chefs. But whether it’s Marco Pierre White or Steve Jobs, there is a commonality between great masters, between great leaders.

They must be brutally frank in their relationship to reality, to themselves and others. They must have a vision of what better might look like. And they must have belief in their ability to cross that gap. Frankness, vision and belief – these three things feed each other. Great leaders bring them to their organisations. They mark the difference between ‘can’ and ‘do’.

Growth is good

It is rare to have differentiated capability, leadership and customer fit. When you have these, don’t waste time. Profitability – relative to the resources used – is how reality signals that you are creating something valuably different. Understand the KPIs (key performance indicators) that underpin that signal. Track them with paranoia. But then lean in. The best time to be aggressive is when others are hunkering down.


Edinburgh, Scotland

Favourite book

Viktor Frankl: Man’s Search for Meaning

Get in touch

Send a message to Robert, or email the Private Companies Team directly.