The End of Globalization: Information and the Middle Market

Using information to turn a world full of turbulence and “Shocks” to your strategic advantage.

Information and the Middle Market

This is the second in a multi-part series on the “End of Globalization” and its impact on the middle market.

Managing information and using it to make your business “future ready” has never been a strength of middle market businesses in the best of times. Today’s indicators warn of a growing storm of disruptors impacting globalization and slowing economic growth. The likely future environment will take its toll on those not willing to (or who have not already) become information/data driven.

Companies that win in times of great change have the right information to inform smart choices…and the capacity to act.

Navigating through turbulent economic times is a two-step maneuver. The first is survival. This involves weathering the initial months of unexpected change. The second is to change the enterprise so it can leverage that change to increase growth and profitability. The fact that many companies resist change presents an opportunity for those who leverage change. These companies “never waste a crisis”. They reshape themselves for sustainable value creation, and exit the crisis positioned to gain share of, or lead, a category. They emerge stronger in the new world order.

Navigating economic turbulence demands innovation.

Threats—when met with well organized, accurate, insightful information—can push our brains into productive hyperdrive. Timely access to insightful information opens the flow of innovative ideas.

If we have productive collaborators, those innovative ideas serve to spark the synergy needed to drive the reshaping of the company’s future.

How does the Middle Market business leader use information to ensure resilience, guide the organization, and unlock sustainable value acceleration?

Information doesn’t just report performance. It opens the door to insight which should inform strategy (and tactics), focus behavior, feed culture, and unlock innovation.

For example, times of economic turbulence often demand changes to accommodate cost pressure. This is driven by increased input costs coupled with consumers and businesses becoming more judicious in their spending.

Information “poor” companies react to cost pressure by “cutting.” They cut overhead, margins, capital expenditures, etc. Information “rich” companies respond to indications of sustained disruptions by innovating. Areas of Innovation start with:

  • Business Strategy (What problem does the business solve?)
  • Structural improvements, such as streamlining infrastructure.
  • Adjusting the service delivery model.
  • Redesigning the business model.

But that is not where innovation ends—rather it is where innovation begins. Information rich companies innovate in ways that help stakeholders become more efficient both in terms of time and dollar expenditures. They focus on how to give their stakeholders greater value – or said another way, a better version of themselves.

What insightful information does the enterprise need so its leaders can see ahead, navigate the economic turbulence, and rally stakeholders to reshape the business to thrive?”



Information rich companies have built processes that deliver insights.

Demand Creation: This comes from specialized research conducted to identify implicit and explicit stakeholder aspirations—what we refer to as “the better version of themselves.” This “better version” is defined in terms of product, service, delivery, and convenience— which are then translated into experiential and operational dimensions. These dimensions are used to remodel the customer experience through business model transformations. The end result is a stakeholder experience that transforms the customer base’s aspirations, increases loyalty, and accelerates customer lifetime value.

Demand Capture/Customer Acquisition (Sales): Demand capture is data from marketing process that are built around connecting audience interest building to inbound leads, and then delivering inbound leads to a tech-driven customer journey and/or a sales team. The goal is to understand what drives awareness and interest throughout the entire buyer and customer lifecycle. Demand capture is focused on revenue creation and is most successful when executed through technology that is centered around a Customer Relationship Management System.

Other Business (and Organizational) Processes:

  1. Customer Equity Building Strategy (Customer Retention and Lifetime Value)
  2. Employee Development & Engagement (Human Resources)
  3. Quality, Process Improvement & Change Management
  4. Financial Analysis, Reporting, & Capital Management
  5. Management/Leadership Effectiveness (Organization Development)
  6. Product Development
  7. Product/Service Delivery
  8. Accounting Management
  9. Technology Management (Computer & IT)

Financial Results/KPIs: Common KPIs include profitability measures, such as gross and net profit, and liquidity measures, such as current and quick ratios. The primary types of performance indicators are profitability, leverage, valuation, liquidity, customer equity (calculated via Customer Lifetime Value Analysis) and efficiency KPIs.


How do Information Rich companies use their information to gain insight?

They follow a disciplined process! Here’s a typical approach…

Determine the business goal. Clearly define what the outcome you are trying to achieve is. This must be measurable by a qualitative or quantitative metric.

Define the problem statement. Clearly articulate what is holding you back / has you stuck.

Use a Model. Whether it is as simple as 5 Whys, Failure Mode and Effects Analysis, Fault Trees, an Ishikawa Diagram, Pareto Charts, scatter Diagrams, or a more strategy-focused tools [business model analysis, Design Thinking, PESTEL or simple SWOT], choose a method that helps organize your understanding of the situation. This may require assistance from an outside resource if the goal is (or requires) a more radical re-thinking of the business.

Plan your analysis process. Who needs to be on in on the collaboration? For companies that have a solid organization development process, choosing the right participants should follow high-performance team design methodology to ensure a well-balanced task team. What information will need to go into your analysis?

Map out the data sources you might require, as well as what other factors should be taken into consideration throughout the analysis. You may identify gaps in your information here and can use this opportunity to improve data capture, consistency, and accuracy.

Follow the Model. Using the model and good collaboration practices, dig in! What are the insights, and what information supports the conclusions? What’s the next steps? How will you use information to guide progress? How will you gather and communicate information? Does the plan of action meet/deliver the business goal? Does it resolve the stated problem? Do you need to change your goals to reflect what you learned?

So, is your organization Information Rich? And does it follow disciplined processes to gain insights?

SelfawarenessAnswering those two questions requires honest self-assessment and awareness of your business and leadership team. If you can’t answer ‘yes’ to both, one or many of the (often fixable) issues below maybe be plaguing your business—and threatening its very survival (yes, we know that sounds dramatic, but those are the very real issues for Information Poor companies in turbulent times).

  • Low executive sponsorship or buy-in
  • Lack of strategic alignment
  • Culture of disengagement/resistance
  • No process thinking or tools
  • Belief that no one has the time, focus, commitment, and persistence needed
  • Poor data quality
  • No single version of truth
  • Weak data literacy
  • Difficult-to-use tools
  • Detached data workflows
  • Inadequate collaboration
  • Insufficient analytics resources
  • Poor change management

Conclusion – Information Drives Success

A critical indicator of business evolution is a firm’s ability to develop and use information. Middle Market businesses will likely not survive without a strong grasp of information critical to their performance.

Companies with a Culture of Chaos will be very challenged with the economic uncertainty and turbulence over the next 12-18 months. Many will not survive. Those businesses in the middle phases of their evolution that are still working on Consistency and Coordination will face quite significant struggles if they cannot quickly create a path to Efficiency and Effectiveness.

There is, however, opportunity to move toward the other end of the spectrum, for those with a commitment to Information Quality and data-driven Leadership. Those that have evolved (or changed) to use information strategically and are Customer Centric in their strategy will find opportunity in the turbulence and shocks the world throws at them.  In times of great change, you can choose to be predator or prey – and often the difference is how you develop and use information to be successful.


Contributor: Mark Jacobs, Practice Leader


Over the coming weeks we will continue this series with blogs on other meaningful topics aimed at helping middle market business leaders navigate through the seismic shift being caused in their industries and companies by the end of globalization as we know it.  Upcoming topics include…

  • Leadership
  • Strategy
  • Enterprise Value Creation
  • Environmental, Social, and Governance

If you’d like to see something specific in this series or would like our take on another topic of interest, please reach out to us today.


At FortéOne, we’ve been on the forefront of change as thought and implementation leaders for more than 20 years. Our mission is to help Family and Privately Held Business owners as well as Private Equity and Family Office investors become performance leaders in their respective industries. We are more than consultants—we are problem solvers who work side-by-side with you to deliver a business transformation that improves performance and accelerates change in your middle market company.