What I really learned from the COVID lockdown: Carlyle Group Executive Co-Chairman David Rubenstein

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I am often asked what I have learned from working from home over the past seven months. I conscientiously give the answer that everyone expects: it is binding, but very effective; this reduces the chances of infection; it’s tiring to make Zoom calls all day.

These answers are true, but that’s what I really learned.

First, there’s a massive industry that calls people home during the day to sell them things they never realized they needed: to convince me that the electricity is about to be cut unless I wire quickly money to an offshore account apparently unrelated to my usefulness; solicit contributions to charities I didn’t know existed (or think they should exist) and solicit my opinion on surveys so detailed they take an hour to respond.

As I receive these calls almost daily, there must be a high success rate even though many callers appear to be trapped in a submarine or on a static cell phone in a remote part of the world. And those who call are clearly well trained – as soon as a serious question is asked, the phone immediately turns off – to the next. call to someone, hopefully, more likely to listen and believe.

DHL, UPS, DELIVERY COMPANIES HIRING THOUSANDS WHILE PURCHASES REMAIN AT YOUR HOME

I wish there was an ETF for companies making these calls – there is gold there.

Second, roofing companies must be among the most profitable industries. Every week, two to three companies knock on my door to repair my roof. My claim that it was recently fixed falls on deaf ears. Apparently there is a new type of tile designed to repair roofs that were repaired only a few weeks ago.

Third, the activity of religious conversion must also be profitable, for I receive at least two supplications at the door each week seeking to convert from my religion to theirs. Or at least to give money to this religion. And I guess they must know what they’re doing. I converted and bought a sticker for my door stating that I have already converted and do not need to knock on my door.

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Fourth, one of the big growth companies is lawn mowing. In my neighborhood, every neighbor feels obligated to have their lawn mowed every two days. On alternate days, powerful Ghostbuster-type machines blow leaves as Paul Bunyan lookalikes cut branches and trees. The sound of all these cuts and blows is uninterrupted, seven days a week. If Shakespeare had lived in my noisy neighborhood, he could not have written a single sonnet, let alone a play.

In the past, I would receive emails from Nigeria telling me that money had been put in a secret account which I could access by providing a lesser amount in another account. I miss those emails. I guess those who sent them made so much money that they retired, or realized that the phone canvassing, roofing repair, religious conversion, lawn care and cutting trees had much higher margins.

Private equity is good business. But clearly not as good as the companies I learned about staying home doing private equity work.

David M. Rubenstein is Co-Founder and Executive Co-Chairman, The Carlyle Group.

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