Corporate value growth is a key metric of success for all companies. Measuring and driving this growth holds numerous unique challenges for privately-held companies, especially in the lower middle market. Fortunately, there are resources available to assist with that process. In this article, we’ll focus on the consultant’s role in educating the client on the value of the tools we bring to the table and how they can assist with the implementation process.
As one of our members, Andrew W. noted: “We (advisors) can define plans, and they (business owners) can define plans, but they can get stuck on the execution and the accountability side.”
This post is part of a series based on conversations with the XPX community about the methodologies and tools they use to support their private company clients in value growth engagements. We split their feedback into four articles:
- How to Start the Value Conversation with Your Clients
- Best Books and Methodologies for Value Growth
- Automated Tools for Assessing Business Value
- Automated Tools to Support Corporate Value Growth
The Importance of Education
As we were writing the posts on technical tools, methodologies and platforms we frequently use as advisors, it became clear that a critical component to success is to first educate the client on concepts around value, growth planning and execution.
So how do advisors help their clients think about valuation and value growth? Here, we will share parts of that fascinating discussion with the XPX members:
XPX Member David S.: It occurs to me we’ve got all the tools, we have the consultants, we have all our expertise and we have these processes. When we go and manage these, one of the things that holds back any of these processes or any of these business owners from getting started is understanding value.
I think there’s an educational piece aside from these tools that we’ve really got to get across because even when you go in, even when you’re working the process, I think the motivation can be really enhanced by them truly understanding what it is and what they’re all about, what are they driving towards, i.e., what is transferable business value, that education piece, is critical.
XPX Executive Director Mary A.: How do you do that? Do you use your own content? Do you use other content?
XPX Member Andrew W.: For me, a combination of both actually. I will curate content, I will create my own content. Core Value does provide me with marketing collateral as well, but most importantly, face-to-face is the way that I coach and facilitate. I’m not a consultant of the expert end of that line. I’m more a facilitator type of consultant, process consultant, really. I work hand in glove with a business owner, build trust and then from there, essentially, I might hold a workshop on what value is and how to build value and what it involves before we even start any work.
It’s part of that thing that I call “Building the foundations for growth.” There is an education process there. Once I’ve engaged, it’s easier, but to engage, it’s about creating curiosity and they’re coming in at an oblique angle in terms of you being successful.
As part of my business background, I facilitate workshops with leadership and high performance teams. In terms of setting up on forums in which we offer a value building class, if you like, or other different classes, so we don’t necessarily have to make it an exit or transition process. We can hide that if that’s a concern, and it is a concern to some people, obviously. We just build in parts of that process. It could be in “Exit options” or in “What is value?” or in “How do you build value into the business? The six things you need to know about.” You can run a workshop. Normally, we try to do that no longer than about three hours at a time. I think it works pretty well because it gets that conversation started, which I think is what it’s all about.
XPX Member Gary R.: Do you have a preferred size of group to engage in this education?
Andrew W.: Yes, I do. My experience is I try not to have groups any bigger than 15. Why? Because we can go to round tables and you can have groups of four to five with participation. I’m not the sage on the stage, I’m the guide on the side. It’s interesting: the moment you start asking questions of business owners, the stories start to be told and that’s great. Let the stories be told, let them be shared and then working with the group, get them to report back to the rest of the group to share what we’re doing. And all I’m doing is guiding the track and keeping the workshop on track to achieve a certain objective.
So, 15 with groups of five or groups of three or four, I think is ideal. Any more than that and in terms of the participation and reporting back, you just don’t have the time so some people lose out. For me, if there’s no participation, there’s no commitment, and we want commitment.
XPX Member Tom B.: I do recommend the workshops as being a great way to educate business owners en mass. Some of the Evalusys tools have been used by the Entrepreneurship Institute. We’ve got an exit planning evaluation that they used as the center of one of the workshops that they held a couple of years back. The Institute of Management Consultants is beginning a series of workshops down in Houston chapter where they collaborate with chamber organizations to help educate business owners that are members of the chamber.
They’ve got the Institute of Management Consultants’ members from that chapter paired up with business brokers from the Texas Business Brokers Association, and they’re using the Business Wellness Checkup that EvaluSys brings. I think education, like David did point out, is critically important. There’s education to get people into a process and get them thinking. Then there’s education along the path of value growth.
It’s two different things, but you can’t get them going down the path until you get that breakthrough. Tools like Evalusys or even Value Builder, a lot of those tools provide great opportunities to get people thinking about value growth. Whichever one you use, it’s important to use something to be able to strike their imagination and get them thinking about measuring the growth of their business.
Why Businesses Should Hire Consultants
Andrew W: It’s very difficult for a business owner to do it on their own. This is a question of execution and accountability. Nobody holds them accountable. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but it’s very difficult because they can’t tap into that coaching, guide, facilitation experience.
That’s what I bring to the table. Yes, they can read the book, they can use the tools, but doing it on their own is very, very difficult and so it’s better to have somebody with them guiding them through and holding them accountable to the [chosen] system. That’s essentially what I do, and I find that unless those foundations within that system are put in place in the business, then after the first spring of enthusiasm, nine months down the track, it all falls away.
We hope this article was helpful to you. It’s part of a series of posts about methodologies and tools advisors use to support their private company clients in value growth engagements. Here are the other articles in the series: