Daniel A. D’Aniello knew he was on the right track when he left his position as vice president of finance and development at Marriott Corp. to co-found the Carlyle Group. Years later, he is chairman emeritus of the Washington, D.C.–based investment firm. When asked about his decision to take the leap to start a business in 1987, D’Aniello responded with a piece of advice that underscored his message about entrepreneurship, mentorship and stewardship as this year’s Lewis H. Durland Memorial Lecturer: “You want the person you’re leaving to bless what you’re doing.”
On March 27, D’Aniello, a magna cum laude graduate of Syracuse University and a former U.S. Navy officer, shared his background and experiences that led to the rise of the Carlyle Group – one of the world’s largest investment firms – and his path to stewardship.
D’Aniello discussed the inevitable roadblocks that arose in the creation of a new business. With his co-founders, William E. Conway Jr. and David M. Rubenstein, the initial decision-making processes centered around how to grow their firm. At first focused on acquiring stakes in defense-related companies, Carlyle broadened its business by investing in industries affected by government policy and regulation. Carlyle’s founders transitioned to a global market and the company now has more than 1,600 professionals in 31 offices on six continents.
The Carlyle Group found support from its advisory board amid its early transitions. D’Aniello stressed the importance of seeking mentorship in the investment world. “It is vital to have people who can vouch for your integrity and ability,” he said. As Carlyle’s success grew, the firm bought out its original investors. With new fund strategies and business segments, the firm grew while meeting demands for more investment choices and customization in Europe and Asia.
While D’Aniello said great success characterized the development of the firm, he also acknowledged the importance of trial and error. He emphasized the importance of humility in recognizing one’s errors and understanding how to spend one’s time: “Allocate your valuable time to things that are going to scale, grow and become profitable. Time is your highest opportunity cost.”
As one of the world’s largest and most diversified global alternative asset management firms, the Carlyle Group still values mentorship. “We pride ourselves in having a culture that brings together a selflessness of sharing one’s intellect and resources across the firm to help our colleagues,” D’Aniello said. When discussing the culture of Carlyle, he said there are advantages to high performance and access to capital but the true value is in how these resources are used within the company.
D’Aniello unplugs from the business world through his five pillars of stewardship: entrepreneurship and free enterprise, veterans’ causes, mental health, the performing arts and faith, which dictate how he allots his money and time. They are also a roadmap for giving back in return for the guidance he received throughout his career.
D’Aniello ended by repeating the importance of practicing communication and positive interpersonal behavior: “Doing great deals relies on working well with people.”
Ashley Win ’19 is a student intern for the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business.