Alum Spotlight: Griffin Horter (BA '15)

“Contact, contact, contact! I have eyes on three dismounts in the open, 11 o’clock, 100 meters! Alpha team on line left, Bravo team lay down suppressing fire while they move!”

As I grabbed my radio operator by his collar and threw him behind cover before raising my rifle to my shoulder to return fire, I could not have been farther away from the serenity of the Lawn, the excitement of the Corner, and the comfort of Garrett Hall. Thankfully this was only a training exercise, we were in the hills of Georgia instead of the hills of Afghanistan, the rounds we shot were blanks, and the ISIS combatants were only actors.

After three years of working in investment banking and private equity, my desire to serve our country and my thirst for excitement (a newfound quality fostered by spending 80+ hours a week behind a desk for three years) led me to join the First Troop Philadelphia City Cavalry as a Cavalry Scout. 

The First Troop Philadelphia City Cavalry, a unit of the Pennsylvania Army National Guard, is the oldest military unit in continuous existence in the United States. Founded on November 17, 1774, the Troop has served continuously in every major military campaign in our nation’s history. It counts among its membership the first Commandant of the US Marine Corps, the first Superintendent of West Point and the third man to walk on the moon as well as three Secretaries of the Navy, two former Defense Secretaries, and a former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. Since 9/11, the Troop has deployed five times in support of the Global War on Terrorism.

After 16 weeks of intense training at Ft. Benning, GA, which included qualifications on heavy machine guns and anti-tank missile systems, rappel towers, hand-to-hand combat, first aid, enemy vehicle identification, radio operations, and of course tens of thousands of pushups in the mud, I returned home to Philadelphia to resume my “day job” as a private equity associate at Inverness Graham Investments, where I evaluate new investment opportunities and provide on-going support for Inverness Graham’s current portfolio of middle market technology and manufacturing companies.

While my two jobs may seem drastically different, I have found that they have several common traits. I wear vests to both of my jobs – Patagonias during the week and Kevlars on the weekend. I work in small teams – at Inverness, our average deal team is only three investors and in the National Guard the average size of a cavalry squad is eight soldiers. I have to keep my communications with my superiors brief and to the point – at Inverness, I distill months of due diligence findings into a brief investment committee memo and in the National Guard I have only seconds to give a battlefield situation report to my commander before he moves troops and equipment.

My experience at Batten prepared me incredibly well for the challenges of working in both a demanding investing role and a combat-ready military unit. Of the many courses I took at Batten, Professor Marc Ferzan’s capstone course, Managing Disaster Recovery, had the greatest impact on my ability to succeed in business and the military. This small capstone course taught me the following lessons about how to navigate presenting to small groups in any career:

1. Keep It Simple Stupid. Whether presenting to a capstone class, briefing a Senator, or pitching an idea to your investment committee, respect the time and attention span of your audience. Do not drown them with information, instead follow Professor Ferzan’s model of memo writing: provide background on the topic, define the issue, provide a set of possible actions, and make a recommendation.

2. Practice, Practice, Practice. No matter how mundane your presentation may be, practice until you are physically exhausted of practicing. Practice leads to confidence which can greatly increase the likelihood of your audience supporting your proposal.

3. Have Presence. Dress smartly, stand confidently, project your voice, and make eye contact. Having a strong presence can make up for lack of preparation and instills in your audience the belief that you are an expert.

4. Avoid Surprises. Never go into a presentation without first having socialized your proposal with a few members of your audience. The fastest way to build support for your policy proposal or business pitch is to already have supporters in the room when you present for the “first time.”

Whether on the battlefield, in the classroom, or in a board meeting, Batten certainly taught me to “lead from anywhere.”

Griffin Horter is an associate at Inverness Graham Investments, a private equity fund focused on growing innovative manufacturing, technology and services companies. He graduated from Batten with a B.A. in Public Policy & Leadership in 2015. In addition to his role as a private equity investor, Horter serves as a cavalry scout in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. As a cavalry scout, Horter is responsible for being the eyes and ears of the commander during battle by engaging the enemy in the field and tracking and reporting enemy movements.