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Getting Help – Board, Advisors, YPO, Consultants

Key Takeaways from Kennet Partners’ Dinner Panel on High Growth Companies Part 2

The following story is part 2 of a 2-part series on a panel Kennet Partners held for high growth companies. 

What do great companies’ high growth private companies have in common?  My partners and I hosted a conference for high growth companies and executives last month around the INC 500 event in National Harbor, Maryland to discuss this topic in detail.   Our motivation for the panel topic came from a book called “The Breakthrough Company” by Keith McFarland (review here) that explores this topic in detail – think “Good to Great” for companies going from $5M to $250M.  McFarland’s book covers several themes relating to growth: shifting goals from the founder’s success to that of the company; investing in new markets and approaches (including how and when to do that); and making the transition from being nimble to competing with scalable advantages.  In the spirit of the book, we invited a great group of capital-efficient founders to discuss some of the book’s major themes and their personal experiences.  The panel speakers, listed below, all led fast growth capital-efficient companies that achieved high value outcomes.  

  • Bill Edwards: Bill was part of the founding team of Siebel whereas CTO/VP of Engineering he helped the company grow revenues from zero to nearly $2 Billion in 6 years, through an IPO and a successful exit to Oracle. 
  • Scott Hammack: Previously, Scott was CEO of Cyberguard which he turnaround and sold for $295 million to Secure Computing.  Prior, Scott founded and was CEO of MasterChart, a company he bootstrapped, grew rapidly and sold to Allscripts for $125 million in 2000.  Scott is currently the CEO of Prolexic, a Kennet portfolio company in the cyber security space.
  • Frank Fawzi: Frank is CEO of Intelepeer, a fast growth VoIP provider of on-demand, cloud-based communications services that recently filed an S-1 with the SEC for an IPO (the company is a Kennet portfolio company).  Prior, Frank founded, built, and subsequently sold CommTech Corporation, a bootstrapped, fast growth leader in the communications software sector, to ADC for $178M. 

In the second part of the panel discussion, we discussed the topic of getting help from board members, consultants, and other advisers.

Getting Help – Board, Advisors, YPO, Consultants  

High growth company founders/CEOs often tap others for help.  This becomes critical as companies scale and run into growth challenges.  Help from an advisor or a board member with prior experience navigating through these challenges is highly beneficial for small growth companies.  «Do not reinvent the wheel, find the best wheel maker».   Some outsiders help with advice on managing the business/scaling, others with brand value, and still others with recruiting, networking, sales and M&A.   The panel discussed some of the main benefits of seeking out help.

How have advisors helped you achieve your growth goals?

Frank Fawzi (Selected Quotes): 

“I have found it very important to build a great team of advisers in order to receive useful input and opinions on the company.  It is critical for a company to get the right talent to complement the founder/CEO.  At Intelepeer, we brought in a well-connected politician as an adviser and he has been very helpful in accessing large customers.  He is not just helpful with contacts and access, but more importantly helpful presenting the company’s big vision.”

Scott Hammack (Selected Quotes): 

“I have found great mentors through company boards.  In the first 8-10 years of my life, I thought I knew everything.  Then I started realizing how much you can learn from others.  At Cyberguard, I learned from Rick Scott who was running Cyberguard at the time.  He founded Columbia Healthcare and grew the company from zero to $20 billion in revenue -without outside capital.  I learned from him the importance of measuring employee performance.  If one measures the performance of employees the right way, then one can push employees out of their comfort zone; and ultimately increase productivity.”

Bill Edwards (Selected Quotes):

“I think it is important to receive help anyway you can get it.  I am a firm believer that board members should receive action items.  If a board member is not actively contributing to the company, the founder/CEO should seriously question the value of that board member.”

“Outside analysts can be very helpful. At Siebel, we helped analysts with research in order to educate the market on the value of our product. Analysts gather their research by calling companies in the space, so it is highly beneficial to be part of this process and contribute knowledge. The research-piece itself will then help customers and employees understand the vision and product better, and even help recruit top talent.”