Investors in People – Ken Barragan


February 22nd, 2023


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Vesta Software Group

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Vesta Investors in People Ken Barragan

As part of our Investors in People series, we sat down with our Head of M&A, Ken Barragan, to discuss his journey with the group since joining in early 2021. He talks about why he chose Vesta as the next step in his career and shares an insight into what the world of vertical market software M&A is like.

Ken Barragan Investors in People

How did your journey with the group begin?

Much of my career has been focused on M&A, having spent over a decade buying and selling companies before joining Vesta. I was in private equity for many years, focusing on distressed and special situations investments in Latin American NBFIs, before moving on to a sell-side M&A role in a European corporate finance boutique.

I realised that while the sell-side aspect of M&A can be rewarding, what I really enjoy is working directly with entrepreneurs and founders who trust that I present the best future home for their business. This was the main driver as I searched for my next role as we came out of the COVID pandemic – I wanted to be in a global company with lots of cash which had an intense focus in a specific industry that could provide the best forever home to the companies it acquired.

When I first spoke to Vesta’s CEO, Richard Clancy, in early 2021, and we discussed his global growth ambitions, approach to M&A, his team of operations experts and the group’s intensely disciplined acquisition focus, things really aligned for me. The challenge was there for me to build and lead an M&A team from the ground up, focus strongly on growing our presence in new and existing geographies and contribute directly to the strategy for the group.

Since joining, I’ve assembled an energetic, diverse, enthusiastic and global group of people who are driven to help us achieve our goals. We have also secured some brilliant acquisitions in the last couple of years –  including our first investments in Uruguay, Chile, Peru and Germany.

What does a typical day look like for you?

A typical day is atypical by nature in this job. One minute I can be working with our transactions team in addressing due diligence issues, the other reviewing and negotiating share purchase agreements (SPAs) with advisors and vendors, and then supporting our marketing efforts, portfolio leaders and the central management team as necessary.

Then I might hop on a call with one of our origination executives in the UK to support an introduction to a company in Western Europe, and a few minutes later I could be having a conversation with a potential vendor on the other side of the continent, in Eastern Europe. Later, once the Western Hemisphere wakes up, I might be in a meeting with our team in Canada or Latin America, and then speaking Spanish with entrepreneurs and founders we’re in conversations with throughout that region.

What IS consistent in my day to day is that there is always something going on somewhere in the world in one of the countries we work in. It’s hectic but challenging, and for me a full schedule makes it so much more interesting, fulfilling and rewarding.

What do you enjoy most about your role?

People. I find working with people extremely fulfilling as we solve problems together and dream up new ways of doing things and executing our strategy. Every day is about building strong relationships with people and surrounding yourself with likeminded individuals who all want to work hard towards a shared goal to reap the benefits.

Is there a part of your role you find challenging?

As our team grows, naturally I’m always conscious that I want people to feel fulfilled personally and professionally, but it takes discipline to be able to stay on top of that. It’s easy to get busy and not spend as much time as I would like with the team, so I’m always mindful of this and make an effort to dedicate time each day to everyone individually so that they can do their jobs. I mentor, advise, contribute where necessary and empower the team to do their jobs and achieve their personal and professional goals.

I see that as one of my biggest challenges, but it should be – and it is one I embrace. Ultimately, any success that the group and I have collectively comes down to each individual team member’s contribution.

Can you tell us about the learning and development opportunities the group offers?

Something that’s different at Vesta is that we are highly decentralised and act very autonomously. Each individual is encouraged to take advantage of  the opportunities to grow and further their career whenever they can. The group focuses a lot on knowledge sharing and promoting from within, and this is done by making opportunities readily available to all employees. In the short time I have been here, I have seen colleagues grow professionally and advance their career into senior management and leadership roles. More importantly, as we are an acquisition company, the more we grow, the more opportunities become available and upward career mobility continues to be a reality for those that desire it.

What advice would you give to someone who is looking to progress in their career or business?

Many people will find, as I have, that when you look back on your career, there was that one person who spent time mentoring you, and their support helped you get to where you are. For anyone looking to progress in their career, it’s important they identify those people and communicate with them – let them know who you are, what motivates you and where you want to be long term. You’ll be amazed at how much you learn just by working with the right people, asking lots of questions and speaking out when you need to.

Be curious and show up! The team here at Vesta wants everyone to succeed – playing a part, however small, in each other’s success is very rewarding.

What books or podcasts would you recommend?

I read a lot of history, classic literature and fly-fishing books (John Gierach is a favourite of mine). If I’m out on a walk or a long journey, I listen to long-form podcasts focusing on contemporary social and political issues.