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Stewart Kohl – Doing Well by Doing Good

Barjunaid Cadir

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Stewart Kohl - Doing Well by Doing Good

The Riverside Company is a global private investment firm that manages billions of dollars in assets and scores of companies. Over 32 years our 300+ associates have gotten very able at identifying investment opportunities and then helping these companies to get both bigger and better. These associates are selected for their investment and operating expertise, but also for their values. They are friends and neighbors in their communities. Mothers and fathers or sisters or brothers in their families. And they live and work according to a set of values.

From the founding of the firm in 1988, Riverside has adhered to the Golden Rule. Early on, the firm did it because Co-CEOs Stewart Kohl and Béla Szigethy simply preferred to do business that way, but they soon discovered it was great for the firm and its stakeholders.

“Béla and I had witnessed bad behavior in our industry and wanted to run our firm differently,” said Kohl. “We didn’t believe that we had to behave this way to be successful enough. We call it ‘Leaving Great References in Our Wake.’ As it turns out, practicing business by starting with strong values attracts great talent, helps select outstanding investments, and drives great results. It causes folks to want to work with us, invest in us, and sell their companies to us. And it lets us sleep better at night and feel better when we look at ourselves in the mirror in the morning.”

Philanthropy is a natural extension of that values-driven approach, Kohl says. It’s part of the firm’s broader commitment to environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues that it considers vital to running the firm well. 

“ESG matters to our multiple stakeholders,” said Kohl. “After investing in more than 650 companies, we’ve learned that great management teams and strong companies tend to outperform here too. So we pay close attention to ESG issues when considering investment opportunities and people with whom we partner.”

Stewart Kohl - Doing Well by Doing Good

Riverside’s Global Volunteer Program provides another way for our associates to live their values. Formalized several years ago, the program offers employees the chance to identify charities and organizations in need across their communities. The firm pledges support that typically includes paid time for employees to volunteer, and often helps with specific needs.

With more than a dozen offices across three continents, Riverside’s volunteer program has served a growing array of people and causes.

The program is led by Riverside’s Global Talent Management Team, which works closely with every Riverside offices to choose what charities to support and the best way to do so. Past recipients have included food banks, children’s programs, homeless shelters, parks, and programs for expectant families, among many others.

“It’s often a cause that one or more people in that office are already engaged with and supporting,” said Kohl. “They are passionate about it and deeply believe in the good it is doing for their communities. It’s a great reminder that we’re not just a faceless firm – we’re neighbors, friends, and families and we want our communities to thrive,” said Kohl.

Another source of charitable activity for the firm is VeloSano, a charity cycling event dedicated to funding research into cancer cures at the Cleveland Clinic. Begun in 2014 with a grant from the Kohl Fund, Riverside has consistently been one of the largest teams and most prolific fundraising groups for the event.

“Of course, VeloSano is mostly our Cleveland office in terms of participation, but cancer touches everyone and those of us who ride – usually about 50 – receive generous support from the whole global Riverside team,” said Kohl. “It’s an amazing event and it’s awesome to see dozens of Riversiders riding and volunteering every year.”

Stewart Kohl - Doing Well by Doing Good

 

The firm’s most recent initiative is called Riverside GIVES, which provides direct financial support to individuals and institutions directly identified by every employee at Riverside.

“Riverside GIVES is an institutional effort, but it’s very personal,” said Kohl. “We’ve been lucky enough to help Riversiders help the causes that need it most. Their choices have been incredibly thoughtful, ranging from food pantries to animal shelter and even individual families. It has been inspiring.”

Just as following the Golden Rule in makes for good business, acts of charity are great for those engaging in them, Kohl said. He also pointed to studies that show a strong interest in giving back among great employees, making a robust approach to charity great business as well. 

“Giving is scientifically proven to improve the health and attitude of those doing the giving,” Kohl said. “As part of Riverside GIVES, we encouraged every employee to also personally donate to their designated cause or family, and we’ve received great feedback on that component of the program. People have truly been touched by the thoughtfulness and the effect of these gifts.”

Barjunaid Cadir is a Content Writer in The Weekly Trends, Web Developer, SEO Content Manager, LinkedIn Specialist, Social Media Manager, and a University Researcher at Anadolu University in Eskisehir, Turkey.

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