Mid-Market Strategic Evolution: The Role Of Strategy For High Growth Businesses

Table of Contents

  1. About Mark Hess and Maven Associates
  2. Who Is This For?
  3. What is Strategy?
  4. Strategic Evolution
  5. Strategic Framework
  6. Big Picture
  7. The 4 Approaches to Building Your Strategy
  8. Client Spotlights

Who Is This For?

It’s not a bold take to say that strategy is crucial for any business aiming to maintain or scale growth levels. The purpose of this white paper isn’t necessarily to convince you of strategy’s importance. The simple fact that you’re reading this tells me you already know it’s crucial.

While every business is unique, there are common growth stages where strategic evolution is paramount. As your organization hits different tiers of growth, you’ll be hit with new challenges that need strategic solutions to overcome.

Executive leadership must understand this for sustained growth and be willing to evolve their business beyond what they’ve previously done.

Do any of the scenarios below sound familiar?

You’re an experienced executive with an inexperienced team, either feeling the pressure from the board or internally based on your experience. You know you need to uplevel your strategy. You recognize what proper strategy looks like (perhaps you were once at Bain, McKinsey, etc. like us), but you also know your team doesn’t have the capacity to think at the level needed to create the right strategy just yet. And if you rely solely on your internal team you won’t get the result you want and need.

You’re a natural strategist hitting roadblocks. You’ve always had an innate gift for strategy, propelling your business forward with remarkable success. But now, as you continue to grow, you’re hitting roadblocks. Everything seems slower and more difficult to achieve than before. The trial and error method that once worked might now cost millions in capital and time for each decision you make. You’re confident in your abilities but lack the experience at the levels you are approaching and/or plan to get to.

You’re a forward-thinking leader with high growth, experiencing high growth with no end in sight. You understand the value of getting an upleveled strategy in place early. You want your leadership team aligned, stepping in the same direction, ensuring your continued success with less reliance on your shoulders alone. In other words you know the importance of having the right strategy, right now.

All three scenarios above are the most common situations I run into when working on a project with new clients.

All three are different in thinking but ultimately have the same goals – you’re having success right now and want to make sure, without a doubt, that you have everything in place moving forward to reinvigorate or maintain your current growth trajectory.


What is Strategy?

Strategy, simply stated, is how you get from Point A (where you are now) to Point B (where you want to be). You want your organization to grow from $100M to $500M.

That requires decisions on which customers to serve (and not serve), what products/services to sell, where to focus the company’s resources, and what capabilities you need on your team. It might seem simple to read here in black and white, but in practice, it’s not simple. In reality, strategy requires clear and objective data, and often, help from someone outside the business to assess the current situation.

Think of it as you would self-diagnose when you’re not feeling well: sometimes you know what to do and you heal swiftly, but sometimes, when the situation is serious, it’s best to call a doctor—an expert trained to assess, diagnose, and solve the problem.

The same reason you’d trust a doctor to diagnose an illness is the same reason you should trust a consultant to craft your strategy. Consultants make decisions based on clear vision, on sound data, and with no agenda other than helping you get from Point A to Point B.

Consultants know what constitutes good strategy and, perhaps more importantly, we know how to implement what we know so you can reach your goals.

According to a report by McKinsey & Company, companies with clearly defined strategies outperform their peers by up to 3x in terms of revenue growth (McKinsey, 2021).

Similarly, Bain & Company has found that firms with a strong strategic focus are 1.6 times more likely to achieve above-average profitability (Bain, 2020).

Big Dreams Do Not Equal Strategy

Long-term objectives are not strategy, but this is a mistake that owners make all the time. It’s common for people to be unrealistic about what they want to achieve. Strategy is balancing risk and return. It’s knowing what to prioritize and how to shift paradigms. It’s showing a business owner—with clear, objective, and fact-based knowledge—what internal changes are required to achieve the most ambitious, most profitable goals.

What’s consistent is that these are not unique challenges. While each business is different, the challenges of growth are fairly consistent. Success will always involve change, it will always involve risk, and it will always require discomfort in some way, shape, or form.

Strategy requires hard work, but not in the conventional “if you work harder you’ll be successful” way; rather, the hard work comes in being open to change, in removing people from the team, in seeing that working IN the business and ON the business are very different—and finding time to work ON the business is very challenging.

There’s a very human element to strategy that is necessary when it comes to human resource considerations. Most people we work with like their teams: they’ve found a work rhythm, they’re loyal, they got the business to where it is now. The hard truth is that some of those same people likely won’t get a business to the next level.

Part of a consultant’s job is helping a management team understand that a challenge or an uncertainty isn’t a new phenomenon and that they are not experiencing something that no other company has ever experienced.

Ironically, the reward for solving the problems you face today is that you’ll face bigger, more complex problems in the future. This is the nature of growth—as business expands, new problems have to be solved.

 


Client Spotlight | Growth Strategy

 

Located in Toronto, Canada, PointClickCare (PCC) is the number one provider of software to the long term care industry in North America.

 

PCC’s cloud based software is a comprehensive billing and operations platform for skilled nursing, assisted living and critical care facilities. PointClickCare is a portfolio company of JMI Equity.

 

PCC is the dominant player in the long term care software market. Its software is used by most of the largest long term care facilities in North America. In contrast, PCC had historically struggled to grow the independent (single facility) segment of the market. Maven was engaged to help the PCC executive team develop a strategy for increasing the growth of that independent market.

 

The project centered around a large-scale survey of all long term care providers, both large and small. The goal was to understand, at a detailed level, how the needs of large long-term care companies differed from smaller companies.

 

Through analysis of the survey, the team was able to provide practical recommendations for changes to pricing, marketing, product configuration and implementation that led to significant growth.

 

If you want Maven Associates to help identify growth opportunities and create / document the right growth strategy for your mid-market organization check the bottom of this white paper for details on how to get in touch with Mark Hess to talk over your situation and your options.

 


Strategic Evolution

Every company’s strategy must evolve over time. As your business grows, the challenges and opportunities you face will change. This evolution is a natural part of a company’s lifecycle. Where is your company in its strategic evolution?

From startup to scaling to sustaining growth, each stage requires a different approach. What worked when you were a nimble startup won’t suffice as you scale. Similarly, the strategies that fueled your growth to a mid-market leader need refinement to sustain and accelerate that growth further.

  1. Initial Growth Phase: In the early stages, businesses focus on establishing their market presence and scaling operations efficiently. Strategy at this stage often revolves around securing funding, building a customer base, and optimizing product-market fit.
     
  2. Scaling Phase: As businesses grow, they encounter new challenges related to operations, market competition, and resource management. Strategy must evolve to include more sophisticated processes, enhanced operational efficiencies, and possibly geographical expansion to support larger-scale operations.
     
  3. Maturity Phase: When businesses reach maturity, the focus shifts to sustaining growth and competitive advantage. This stage requires strategies that prioritize innovation, diversification, and continuous improvement in core competencies. Companies might also explore mergers and acquisitions to fuel further growth and maintain market leadership.
     
  4. Reinvention or Decline: In this critical stage, businesses either reinvent themselves to adapt to market changes or face decline. Strategic shifts here are essential for revitalizing the business, which may include exploring new business models, entering new markets, or overhauling the existing product/service offerings to stay relevant.

Understanding exactly where you are in this evolution is crucial. This insight allows you to make informed decisions about your next strategic moves. Recognizing the need for strategic evolution and acting on it can differentiate a thriving business from a struggling one.

Research from the Harvard Business Review suggests that companies that regularly update and adapt their strategies are 2.5 times more likely to remain industry leaders (HBR, 2019).

Growing Pains

Every business goes through them. Having growing pains is not an admission of failure. It’s a necessary step that acts as a catalyst to refresh your strategies to a new level of sophistication and complexity. 

Every client I work with comes to me because they’re experiencing growing pains.

And I’ve yet to work with a client with whom I didn’t see a path to daylight.

The path, of course, can vary greatly; but the constant is that most companies experiencing growth also experience growing pains. The good news is that big changes really can solve big problems.

Some clients need completely new products or services to grow. Others simply need to re-envision how they help customers.

One such client had a product that was in steady decline, but the underlying need was still in demand. So the solution was a 90-degree pivot of solving the same problem, but with a different, more modern product.

By focusing on what this client did well—and by researching the market and understanding the true customer need—this company survived a dying market.

I’ll admit that we’re not reinventing the wheel here; the principles we apply to strategy are commonplace in business. But there’s nuance in the mid-market for these principles and there’s skill in deciding what is appropriate for companies in a certain size range. We know this from working with countless clients over the years.


 

Strategic Framework

At the highest level, strategy is about deciding what you are going to do, and equally important, deciding what you are NOT going to do. For businesses, a well-defined strategy allows you to answer and be aligned around key questions for your business.

 

The critical questions are:

Where will we play?

         What products or services are we focused on?

         What are our primary customer segments?

         What geographies will we participate in?

         What sales/marketing channels will we utilize?

How will we win?

         What is our differentiated value proposition?

         What are our competitive advantages?

         How are we incorporating front-line and customer feedback?

What capabilities must be in place?

         What are our current core capabilities?

         What new capabilities will be needed for the strategy to succeed?

Is this the right path?

         What is our bold ambition?

         How adaptable is our strategy?

         What concrete guidance does our strategy provide?

The answers to these questions must also sync and reinforce each other. For example, if you are selling the most high-end product on the market, an unlikely competitive advantage would be the lowest cost of goods in the industry. More likely would be an outstanding engineering and design team.

According to McKinsey & Company, organizations that regularly revisit and adapt their strategies are 2.5 times more likely to outperform their peers in revenue growth and profitability. Bain & Company has found that businesses with clear, focused strategies are 1.6 times more likely to report above-average profitability than those without.


Building Your Strategic Map

You’re a leader at a successful mid-market business so you already know that a well-defined strategy is critical for building a high-growth company.

And that a good strategy will give the company and the management team confidence that the organization is on a solid path toward company goals. But we all know that knowing the importance of high-level strategy doesn’t mean anything if your team and organization don’t know exactly what steps they need to take to turn that strategic vision into tangible results.

You need a clear and concise strategic map to guide them through the process. Even the most competent members of your team will struggle to drive your strategic initiatives forward if the entire team is not all moving in the same direction. 

With your strategic map, you can chart the course to navigate from where you are today to where you want to be on the higher mountain.

Without the map, you may lead your team down a ravine that requires backtracking or to a river with no crossing. You may ultimately achieve your goals, but the path may be longer and riskier than it would have been with a good strategic map.

This map, or properly documented and communicated plan, ensures that your team is in alignment about where they are headed and how they will get there. It gives them something at a higher level they can reference as they lead their individual areas. Are their departments helping execute the strategy?

It also becomes the most important tool when assessing company initiatives on an ongoing basis. Giving you and your leadership teams a uniform document and set of tools to assess whether or not current projects fit into your strategy.

If an important initiative does not support the strategy, the executive team should reassess the importance or direction of the initiative. It is easy to be lured into continually focusing on the urgent versus balancing what is urgent with what is important. The strategy is the constant signpost for what should be important for the company.

When should a strategy change?

A good strategy is connected to the environment in which it was developed. Customer needs and behaviors, competitor strengths and actions, organizational skills and capabilities—all influence the final go-forward strategy. Year-to-year, things change incrementally, and minor tweaks and modifications to your strategy are needed. Companies should do a full review of their strategy every 3-5 years as enough things may have changed to warrant a new strategy or a major revision. Strategies are dynamic, not static.

The more things change, the higher the chances you need to pivot or completely change your strategy. Using the map analogy from above, the right path from point A to point B is good for during the day in good weather.

If the forecast calls for a rainstorm, your strategy would need to evolve to account for these changes.

But what about a hurricane?

While a small “storm” in your business or industry may influence you to change your strategy, what about a hurricane?

When a hurricane looms on the horizon, the response must be far more significant. A hurricane represents sudden, dramatic shifts—like a regulatory overhaul or a major technological disruption—that can fundamentally alter the business environment.

In such cases, businesses must pivot rapidly, much like evacuating to safety or reinforcing structures to not only withstand but thrive in the storm. This could involve overhauling business models, entering new markets, or developing new products to remain competitive.

To do this you must be prepared. Having the right forecast to know when the storm is coming and the measures in place to act quickly when it arrives is the difference between continued growth or potential catastrophic damage to your business.

Stat Callout: A study by PwC indicates that 71% of CEOs believe their organization’s long-term success depends on their ability to respond to a crisis with agility and strategic insight (PwC, 2020).

Common Mistakes That Kill Even The Best Strategy

The worst mistake you can make with strategy is not writing it down. You can do all the right things: you can meet monthly, talk about where you’re headed, brainstorm new ideas and come to what you think is an agreement. But to be truly sure that everyone is rowing in the right direction, you have to write it down.

You have to give it structure. You have to be absolutely certain that the questions your team has have been answered—because if they’re uncertain of the strategy, they could be rowing in different directions.

Think of it as a recipe of sorts: your business has succeeded over the years by developing a recipe, through trial and error, that really works for your customer. To grow, you need new recipes.

The more your team is working to improve that recipe from something written down with ingredients, measurements, temperatures, and times, the more confidence you will have that everybody is headed in the same direction, and you will get there faster.

The second worst mistake you can make is relying on anecdotes and opinions rather than facts and objective information. In discussion, a new growth idea can sound very compelling.

When you get the data on market size, growth rates, competitors, and how buying decisions are made, you can make a more objective assessment. Countless times with clients we have analyzed growth opportunities that the executive team loved, only to find that with better and more thorough information, it was not a good opportunity at all. Better to learn that in the evaluation phase, than to have committed time and capital to a bad opportunity.


Client Spotlight | Growth Strategy

Founded in 1996, Custom Truck One Source has grown from a family-owned business to a publicly traded company on the New York Stock Exchange. Specializing in renting, selling, and servicing vocational trucks, the company identified a significant market opportunity in the aftermarket parts and service sector. Under the leadership of CEO Ryan McMonagle, Custom Truck One Source sought to leverage this opportunity by engaging Maven Consultants for a strategic project.

Engagement Overview

Custom Truck One Source partnered with Maven Consultants with a clear objective: to develop a robust strategy for entering and expanding in the aftermarket parts and service market. The project was divided into two primary phases:

  1. Market Analysis: Identifying and confirming the size and potential of the addressable market for aftermarket parts and services.
  2. Strategic Implementation Plan: Developing a business case, financial model, and actionable operational initiatives to capture the identified opportunities.

Methodology

Maven Consultants, led by Mark Hess, employed a structured approach to achieve the engagement goals:

       Market Research: Conducted extensive market research to assess demand and potential within the aftermarket parts and service sector.

       Competitive Analysis: Evaluated the competitive landscape to identify key players and potential gaps for Custom Truck One Source to exploit.

       Customer Insights: Gathered insights from existing and potential customers to understand their needs and preferences.

       Strategic Roadmap: Crafted a detailed roadmap outlining the steps required for successful market entry and growth.

Key Findings

  1. Market Potential: The aftermarket parts and service market presented a compelling opportunity, with an addressable market size in the tens of millions of dollars.
  2. Customer Needs: Significant demand existed for a one-stop-shop solution where customers could buy, rent, and service vocational trucks, along with access to parts and maintenance.
  3. Operational Adjustments: Custom Truck One Source needed to enhance its digital strategy to support the parts and service business, streamline operations, and improve customer engagement.

Implementation Plan

Maven Consultants recommended a phased implementation plan:

       Phase 1: Immediate Actions

       Enhance digital platforms to support online parts sales and service scheduling.

       Establish key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure progress and impact.

       Phase 2: Medium-term Actions

       Expand service center capabilities across the 40 existing locations.

       Train staff to deliver superior parts and service support.

       Phase 3: Long-term Actions

       Develop a marketing campaign to promote the new service offerings.

       Continuously assess market conditions and adjust strategies accordingly.

Results and Impact

The engagement concluded with a clear and actionable strategy positioning Custom Truck One Source for success in the aftermarket parts and service market. Key results included:

       Strategic Clarity: Custom Truck One Source gained a precise understanding of the market potential and necessary steps to capitalize on it.

       Operational Readiness: With a detailed implementation plan, the company was well-prepared to execute the strategy.

       Positive ROI: The potential financial impact of the strategy promised a compelling return on investment, poised to generate substantial profit over time.

The collaboration between Custom Truck One Source and Maven Consultants underscores the importance of strategic partnerships in driving business growth. By leveraging Maven’s expertise, Custom Truck One Source is well-positioned to expand its footprint in the aftermarket parts and service sector, delivering enhanced value to its customers and stakeholders.

Future Prospects

Custom Truck One Source anticipates implementing the strategy throughout the year, with a focus on execution and continuous improvement. The successful partnership with Maven Consultants has also opened the door for future collaborations, as the company looks to explore additional growth opportunities.


 

The 4 Approaches to Building Your Strategy

Internal Planning Meetings

Conducting internal meetings allows your team to discuss and develop strategic initiatives independently. This approach leverages your internal knowledge and promotes team collaboration. However, it may lack external perspective and rigorous methodology.

Facilitated Strategy Meetings

Facilitated meetings involve an external facilitator to guide the discussion and ensure productive outcomes. This approach brings structure and impartiality to the process, helping to uncover blind spots and foster alignment.

Facilitated Strategy Workshops

Facilitated workshops are more intensive sessions designed to dive deep into strategic issues. They combine the benefits of facilitated meetings with hands-on activities and real-time problem-solving, ensuring thorough exploration of strategic options.

Bringing In A Consultant

If you’re looking for large-scale change and/or clarity in your business strategy done quickly without hoping you and your team get it right it may be time to bring in a Consultant to manage the project and ensure that everything moves forward without distracting your leadership team from their other responsibilities.  

Working With Maven

The options listed above are the core services that Maven Associates provides our clients. You can hire us to help plan and facilitate any or all aspects of the planning process or project to make sure everything goes smoothly and on time.

 

Maven Facilitated Strategy Meetings

We offer facilitated annual planning meetings where we spend a few hours or more working through the core questions you need to answer before you can create the right strategy that drives your organization forward in the right direction.

Maven Facilitated Strategy Workshops

Our facilitated strategy workshops are conducted over a few sessions with time in between to allow your executive team to put the work in that is necessary to create a full strategic shift or refresh. Typically, this involves three separate 2-day sessions with two “homework sessions” in between to ensure thorough planning and implementation.

Full Consulting Projects With Maven

Engaging in a full consulting project with Maven Associates provides a comprehensive, end-to-end solution. Our team conducts in-depth analyses, develops tailored strategies, and supports implementation, ensuring your business achieves its strategic objectives.

Project timelines vary based on need, goals, and capabilities but a good ballpark range to wrap your head around is 10-12 weeks per project.


Client Spotlight | Growth Strategy

 

Anchor Partners (Anchor) worked with Maven after purchasing several businesses to strategize both a path forward and to better understand how to improve the future market value of the businesses.

 

Maven’s relationship with Anchor was well-established, as they’d worked together previously on several different companies.

 

When an investor wants to sell a business, they do everything possible to make the business as attractive as it can be to potential investors, especially as they get closer to exit. The actions taken are, often, cosmetic. Think of it as a real estate agent hiring a home stager to make a house look as lovely as possible, without fixing the foundation cracks or drafty windows.

 

Private equity firms typically look at various data points to determine the value of a business. Lower customer concentration, growth in end markets, and higher EBITDA margins all lead to higher exit multiples. Preparing a business for sale within 12 months of the sale means that an investor can do very little to substantially change those variables—which means it can do very little to increase the sale price of the business.

 

But by being thoughtful and working proactively to learn which issues will increase or decrease price at the earliest stages of the investment, a company can work proactively to build a business that’s highly valuable to potential buyers.

 

The first phase of strategy Maven executed for Anchor was to reverse the traditional process by researching, shortly after Anchor purchased the new businesses, which data points would be most important to potential future buyers. With this information in hand, Anchor has a lead time of years—rather than months—to build a business that will be most attractive to potential buyers. 

 

The second phase of strategy was more traditional: Maven worked with Anchor to find ways to scale the business effectively. Maven did this by researching where the businesses currently fit in the market and by strategizing where there were potential growth opportunities, and which practices should be more integrated.

 

The questions Maven worked with Anchor to answer illustrate an important reason to work with a third-party consultant: sometimes it’s more profitable and efficient to rethink how things are always done.

 


Contact Information

For more information or to discuss how Maven Associates can assist with your strategic needs, please contact Mark Hess at:

Email: mark.hess@maven-associates.com
Phone: (555) 123-4567
Website: www.maven-associates.com

Thank you for considering Maven Associates for your strategic consulting needs. We look forward to the opportunity to help your business evolve and thrive.

 

About Mark Hess and Maven Associates

Mark Hess is the founder of Maven Associates, a mid-market management consulting firm established in 2010. Hess identified a gap in the market for high-quality consulting services typically available to large corporations but often out of reach for mid-sized companies due to cost. To address this, he created Maven Associates to offer top-tier consulting at a more accessible price point.

Hess’s background includes studying economics and mechanical engineering, earning an MBA from the Tuck School at Dartmouth, and working at Bain & Company. This extensive experience allows him to bring Fortune 500-level expertise to mid-market clients.

Maven Associates focuses on three core services: growth strategy, operational improvement, and due diligence for private equity. Utilizing consultants with experience from Bain, BCG, or McKinsey, they provide high-quality insights, strategic guidance, and data-driven solutions tailored to clients’ needs. Recognized for its innovative approach and commitment to client success, the firm has earned accolades like the Guiding Principle Award from Satori Capital, helping mid-market businesses navigate challenges and seize opportunities.