Think Parlays Growth and Expansion into Success for Clients
In a time when many businesses are struggling or shuttering their doors, national technology and operations advisory leader Think is growing, to better serve existing clients and expand its capabilities to serve clients in a new market.
Think has broadened its reach into the venture capital arena as it acquired Ventrue LLC, a Naples, Florida-based shared services company in September. The transaction included a partnership agreement with Naples Technology Ventures (NTV), a venture capital fund that invests in technology companies and was served by Ventrue. As part of the agreement, Think will provide technology and advisory services to NTV’s acquisitions.
The joining of Think and Ventrue was the result of combining opportunity and strategic planning, according to Jeff Musgrove, who joins Think as managing director of Executive Advisory and Private Equity & Venture Support. Musgrove is a native Baltimorean and seasoned senior executive in business strategy, operations and technology for more than 30 years. A former Legg Mason executive who spearheaded a $3.7 billion deal that swapped its brokerage unit for Citigroup’s money management business in 2005, Musgrove has created and transformed a variety of companies during his career. He was an informal advisor to Ventrue and prepared to join the company as president just as the Think acquisition was transpiring.
“Think was looking to expand its services beyond the core set they are known so well for and were embarking on a strategy to enter the private equity market,” he explains. “We saw a deficiency in the private equity market and an opportunity,” adds Joe Poling, who was recently promoted to be Think’s director of Client Solutions. “Think’s skillset and capabilities are the perfect complement to the gap in the U.S. market.”
Established in 2004 in Baltimore, Think has built its reputation on providing consultancy services to mid-market clients in broadcast, educational technology, financial services, publishing, health and health science, legal, government and other sectors. In his new role, Poling guides clients through a complement of services including organizational transformation, operational effectiveness, innovation, demand management, PMO (project management office) build-out, scale and growth. Poling has more than 25 years of experience leading organizations of various sizes, both established and startup.
Think’s desire to expand into the venture capital market was simultaneous to Ventrue’s aim to create a consultancy services company for its venture capital funded clients. The company strives to help them grow and optimize, says Musgrove, who reconnected after many years with Think President Tony Gruebl and discussions and due diligence on the part of both entities ensued.
“It became a very logical conversation of what if we took what Think already has and the model we were building for venture capital, and apply it to both venture capital and PE (private equity) firms,” says Musgrove. “Now, we’re putting some of the more traditional management consulting services on top of what had been the core for Think: operations and technology consulting.
“We’re really putting ourselves in a position to help companies grow, whether it’s the strategy of growth, how they look at partnerships, how they go to market. It’s about their business model all the way down into where Think already played strongly, which is helping optimize operations and technology. We’re positioning ourselves to be the strategy to execution partner.”
Adds Poling, “Think’s original services were based around organizational transformation. We’re currently doing operation model assessments and technology assessments. We’re looking at organizational strategies for helping develop and build change management and organizational management plans. Bringing the top half of that, where you can help direct strategy, before costs, values and services come in, and execute on those strategies really gives us a full-service offering, top to bottom.”
The acquisition and Think’s now full-service capability comes at a time of volatility for many companies and adding value will only help Think – and its clients – grow.
The value proposition for clients is having one company do the work from start to finish. Having the same partner who helps develop the strategy be the one to drive the execution inevitably results in a better relationship and ultimately better result. It presents a better opportunity for the client company, instead of taking a strategic plan and attempting to do the work itself, it has access to the resources of the same company with seasoned experts well versed in driving the necessary integration. Think, for example, would have already done its technical due diligence prior to formulating the plan and providing recommendations to generate strategic growth. There’s already a deep understanding of the company and the gaps that led to the formulation of the integration plan that will lead to transformation optimization.
“Putting together and understanding the strategy and the plan for integration is naturally going to allow us to lay the foundation for the optimization and transformation,” Musgrove explains. “It’s about the lifecycle and our value proposition, which is that we can play across that lifecycle. We believe it ends up with a more successful transaction for the venture capital or the private equity firm.”
The timing around COVID-19 comes into play as organizations are forced to transform. “Quickly, organizations are finding that transformation is less about just having an idea and strategy. It’s really about execution along the lifecycle, understanding due diligence, post-merger integration, collaboration,” explains Poling.
“We’ve seen organization after organization have a really good plan and really good leadership, but if the organization is not mature enough, or they aren’t able to understand the strategy, they can fall flat. We want to make sure we prevent that. We have a history of doing it well.”
The challenges of 2020 are not limited to the coronavirus pandemic. Social justice, diversity and inclusion are the emphasis of 2020 that are stimulating change for individuals and for businesses. The transformation of life in 2020 has spurred a transformation in the way companies do business. This transformation has been alluded to for decades, and survival, according to Musgrove, is related to taking the time to understand how the business model and operations model have to adapt accordingly and ensuring that risks and challenges as well as new opportunities are identified.
The remote workplace is one change that resulted from the challenges facing companies in 2020. Going forward, remote work impacts many aspects of an operation, Musgrove says. Remote work can be a recruitment and retention tool. Employees enduring a two-hour commute to New York City, for instance, may be inclined to work remotely for a company located elsewhere – even in another state or country – and get “five hours of their life back each day.”
Employers benefit as well, as the internet has “made the world a smaller place.” Companies can now search for the best talent overall instead of the best talent in the area or who is willing to relocate.
“Companies not knowing how to adapt to the more remote environment are going to struggle with recruiting,” Musgrove says.
There’s also a real estate component to the remote workplace, as the operational space can change. Large offices with large conference space and individual spaces with doors and windows may convert to purely collaborative spaces, with the option of full remote work for those not comfortable. The challenge to this is maintaining a culture in a remote environment. Onboarding new associates remotely leaves out a feel for the company culture.
“We are asked about diversity and inclusion all of the time now,” Musgrove explains. “It has gone from something that was talked about to being something where the expectation is that every organization is intentional about it and building it into their operating model.”
Musgrove refers to the state of business in 2020 as the “next normal.” 2020 has raised expectations for employees and clients and even shareholders and investors. Training is different. There are technology hurdles to overcome related to security. Compliance has become more challenging than ever. Success in this next normal requires agility, sustainability, scalability and creativity to maintain operations and adapt, finding new ways to function and deliver their products and services and also develop new business opportunities. Note the restaurant that is offering curbside pickup and selling groceries or the service provider meeting with clients and conducting business over Zoom.
“The organizations that are going to be able to build some agility are going to survive and thrive,” Poling says. “Those companies that tend to be less agile and more stuck in processes and procedures that are heavy are the proverbial dinosaur. If you can’t change fast enough, you go extinct.”
Think’s Executive Advisory Practice brings the outside perspective to its clients, serving as a trusted partner to ensure the organization’s structure serves all employees, customers and executives. This invaluable, collaborative relationship proves crucial for clients as they navigate the next normal in ensuring their operations, technologies, staffing, and security align with their mission and goals.
*The original story ran in the December 202 Issue of 1-95 Business Magazine