Interview with Greg Calaman
“Execution” is a hot topic these days, especially given the speed of technology-enabled business, outsized shareholder growth expectations, and the high valuations and full multiples paid for acquisitions. “Buying right”, a “great strategy”, and a “robust exit model” are certainly all key ingredients for a solid investment; yet execution is the one element in the investment lifecycle that remains elusive for many investors and challenging for many companies of all sizes facing change imperatives. For many years, Execution Gurus
have specialized in helping investors and companies improve results and break through inertia using hands-on execution tools.
They trust that you will find their methodology, podcast topics, and other media useful in your change management activities.
Hi Greg! Could you please introduce Execution Gurus and what led to your co-founding the company back in 2017?
Hi, I'm Greg Calaman of Execution Gurus. I co-founded the organization back into 2017 with my business partner Harry Gray. Harry is also my U.S. Naval Academy classmate. Someone correspondingly that I have known for over 30 years, and we've worked together for over 10.
Execution Gurus is really founded on recognition that one of the shortcomings in the marketplace of professional service providers to major private equity firms and corporations for that matter is support for strategic change and execution of strategy, and responding to that, we've put a platform together that leverages our expertise and our backgrounds, as not only strategy consultants, but also general managers in many other contexts and in that setting, having been involved in many many different types of change initiatives from integrations to carve-outs to spinouts and new launches of products and geographies and so on, and so we saw the opportunity and the need in the marketplace for us to bring to bear that expertise packaged under a platform that focuses on doing that. We also do some other things as we have in the past like diligence and strategy development and so on for our clients.
What are some of the main challenges faced by companies going through the investment or handover process?
So companies that are going through an investment or a change process, and we're talking in this case about things like an acquisition by a private equity firm, or an acquisition of a new entity, all too often these types of organizations have never been through that process, in particular, the private equity example I used that to demonstrate how often these are businesses that have become very successful but they're owned by a family, or they're owned by a single entrepreneur type individual, and the practices that made the company very successful and sort of growing from scratch to whatever size there could be 10 million dollars in revenue, could be one hundred million dollars in revenue or more.
Those behaviors and management styles and so on are not really those that can carry the company to the next level and so there's often difficulty in really understanding how to do things like integrate new assets or come under a new ownership model and so, it's critically important in those kinds of situations to be able to provide the expertise to be able to facilitate and help the company learn how to execute on change initiatives at the same time they're keeping the wheels on the operation as they've always done.
How is the "ChAMP" methodology unique from that of other change management methodologies?
"Champ" is quite unique relative to other change management methodologies. First Harry and I in creating Champ really took what were fundamental military principles and the military is very very good at doing things like, you know teaching young untrained people how to work together to accomplish missions that are incredibly difficult and have to be executed with 100 percent assurance. So it's really founded in and grounded in that type of mindset but then curated by our experience in the corporate world in general management strategy roles where we've driven significant change and you don't have some of the same management dynamics that you do in the military. But some of the unique characteristics are really that, you know champ is centered on being simple and efficient. Secondly, it's it's really a method that encourages and expects 360-degree stakeholder alignment, we have a series of processes within the methodology that ensure that that is gained and that there's a significant commitment to the plan. There is a third element significant communication, it's a fundamental underpinning of any change initiative and often where initiatives fall short and finally that there are commitments that are managed through a closed loop process where you know, people in the integration are firmly committed to the initiative and then there's a put into a recurring process that ensures that things are getting managed and that the CEO can be omnipresent while focusing on the things that really matter.
Who have been some of the biggest clients of Execution Gurus? What is your main client acquisition channel?
Execution Gurus has done work for many of the top 20 private equity firms, as well as dozens of middle-market firms in addition and then occasionally we're asked by a corporation can be a public company, might be private but not private equity owned, to become involved in their strategic change initiatives.
So those are our typical types of clients. The main acquisition channels for them are really referrals.
As it's often said there's nothing better from a sales standpoint than a happy client, so you know we like to do great work for our clients and they are very enthusiastic about the outcomes from that work and they tend to refer to other places so that works pretty well for us.
That said you know, we still do some email marketing, we still do direct business development and outreach to potential target clients and you know those methods do tend to pay off.
We also have a podcast series on iTunes called Strategic Execution, a lot of what we do there will discuss with, either former clients or collaborators of ours, you know aspects of change that we have worked on together and they're very topical but those are primary acquisition methods.
What's next for your work with Execution Gurus? What are the main projects, partnerships and markets you'll be focusing on in 2019?
So at present, we're pretty busy at Execution Gurus and that's a good thing. Our work this year looks like it's going to be a pretty steady diet of things like supporting integrations, supporting some significant carve-outs for clients of ours, and occasionally stepping in on a strategy development exercise or a diligence.
Those are you know, basically the bread and butter activities of Execution Gurus and we're going to continue to do them. The market is very good and very demanding for these types of things right now. As anyone familiar with the space who's watching this right now can attest the market for private equity-driven transactions is very frothy. Valuations are extremely high, there is a significant auction processes around almost any transaction, and as a consequence, when you're paying premiums for assets you know, no matter how good your strategy is or how well you've modeled your potential exit conditions it's all about whether or not you can execute on that, so we see demand for that type of service continuing to skyrocket.
For that matter many organizations while they private equity that have even significant operating teams there's a lot of stress and strain on those organizations and need some flex capability, and that's where we can come in as well and help augment their process and do that with real professional methodology and a real solid way of creating value for them through that post-acquisition or post-event value creation plan.