Operating Advice

Growing Up Fast: Midmarket Businesses Rethink Their Approach to Growth

This article was originally published by Middle Market Growth

In turbulent times, business growth tends to take a backseat to survival.

That was the case for plenty of companies during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, however, the defensive instincts that got them through the crisis have become habits that can interfere with growth.

The “Add-Ons v. Organic Growth” panel at ACG’s virtual Operators’ Summit on Aug. 16 discussed how midmarket businesses are rethinking their approach to growth and ways to balance organic and M&A strategies. John Broderick, operating partner at Argosy Private Equity, moderated the conversation. EPG and Craig Group sponsored the event.

Tighter credit markets, rising interest rates and scarce high-quality targets have shined a light on the importance of organic growth, which Joe McDougall, operating partner at Trive Capital and managing director at TC Operating Partners, said “has been on the back burner for too many companies for far too long.”

As a first step toward reinvigorating growth, particularly for companies that have been in a portfolio for several years, McDougall recommended revisiting the strategic plan, refreshing it and reexamining organic growth opportunities. He also suggested looking at competitors as potential acquisition opportunities.

Evaluating pricing presents another growth lever. A private equity operating partner can help company leaders and sales teams understand the value of a product or service and price it appropriately. “I think it’s easier to get folks enamored around volume—they just get excited about that,” McDougall said. “But I’ll take $1 of price all day of an existing product over some more volume.”

Jeff Goodman, senior operating partner at The Riverside Company, noted that consistent and compelling organic growth throughout the holding period drives the best exit outcomes. At Riverside, operating partners begin engaging with a business before the deal closes, he said. They look both for gaps in the information provided, as well as opportunities for future revenue expansion and incremental investment.

NewSpring Capital Operating Partner Kamal Advani underscored the role of an operating partner in adding value. Asked to share advice for peers in his profession, he recommended finding a way to contribute to the business.

“Identify something that’s going to make a difference, something that they (the business) don’t necessarily have the talent in-house to do, and help them get there. Bring in the talent if it isn’t you yourself.”
— NewSpring Capital Operating Partner, Kamal Advani

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