Growth by Acquisition

Erin Keating

October 15, 2021

Last week Advancea made an important announcement about the acquisition of The Moery Company, an Alexandria-based consultancy and growth marketing firm for member-based associations. We rounded out the coverage of this milestone with a great conversation between Lucas McCann, our CEO, and JP Moery, founder of The Moery Company on our 6 Degrees of Associations podcast.  One thing we didn’t go into detail about, but which we believe warrants a second look at, is how this marriage will work.

In a time when businesses consistently wrestle with the “buy or build” question of growth it’s tempting to simply become bigger for the sake of being everything to everyone in your potential market. Advancea has taken a different route with a philosophy centered on strength through collaboration while sticking to core competencies in each of its businesses. This philosophy will assuredly grow the market share for the holding company but will allow each group within to act in its strength, bringing more value to the end customers.

When asked about how McCann plans to keep the collaboration alive across distinctly different organizations with shared clients, he listed three key components to a successful growth plan.

Right People in the Right Seat

As Advancea built its business, the Culture IndexTM played a crucial role in developing the right job descriptions for existing employees while creating an easy and efficient way to evaluate prospective employees. Utilizing such tools can help define what natural aptitudes someone may have, their personality type, and allow for specific assignments to be handled by the best person for the job.  This is critical when working across a larger organization that requires collaboration and big picture thinking.

As an example, if you have distinct business lines that sell complementary but ancillary services, bringing on a salesperson who sees the big picture and can articulate a solution across the organization’s capabilities will enable growth, whereas someone more focused in the weeds of execution may miss the opportunity to bring value more holistically to the client.

Systematic Approach

Another valuable tool in facilitating collaboration without the need for merging operations completely is an enterprise operating system such as EOS®(Entrepreneurial Operating System). According to EOS Worldwide, an EOS is “a proven set of simple, practical tools that synchronizes how people in an organization meet, solve problems, plan, prioritize, follow processes, communicate, measure, structure, clarify roles, lead, and manage.” 

As McCann sees it, there are four core competencies represented across the organization. These are sales, technology, non-dues revenue, and consulting. To leverage these capabilities in an efficient and effective manner there needs to be a systematic approach for sharing information, having unified processes, aligning vision, and bringing discipline and accountability. When these things are known, aligned, and accessible it will shift the entire dynamic of the organization and be the true value add for the clients.

Strategic Planning

If you tuned into our fantastic conversation with Mike Moss on planning, you saw a lot of head nodding and heard some “amens” from this team. Strategic planning is not a buzz word, it’s a culture. The association industry is going through massive transformation with the effects of online education, social media-born communities, and the grand pivot of 2020. Service providers in the industry need to be transformative, and dare we say ahead of the times, to best serve the members who are seeing these innovations up close and personal in whatever industry they represent.

The opportunities to develop new and innovative non-dues revenue channels, reimagine the sales process, leverage data and artificial intelligence, and offer strategic guidance through the digital disruption are endless. A strategic plan is no longer a set it and forget it activity. As mentioned in our last blog post, it’s important to do this early, often, and cross-functionally. McCann embraces this planning culture mindset and looks to create it across all entities in the family to build a proactive position of value rather than a reactive posture of break even.

Better Together

As things shift within the business model that McCann initially set out to create, the foundation he built it on will remain steadfast and sturdy. That’s because from the outset he has created a place for the right talent, established systems for managing all aspects of the business, and is consistently looking at strategic initiatives to be more responsive to the market needs.

Advancea has had the honor to speak with over twenty-five people across the association industry in the past 14 months and some of those have represented various ways to come together.  Be it from a merger or an acquisition, it’s important to remember what made the deal worth it to consider in the first place and then build atop a foundation of solid talent, systems, and strategy. When you bring two or more organizations together, silos are so easy to build but challenging for growth. How organizations manage to break down barriers is what makes the difference. As McCann says, “we’ll be better together, however cliché that sounds, it is how we are building for the future.”