The FortéOne Way: Delivering Value, Knowledge, & Strategic Decision

Lessons learned & Finding Solutions for the Middle Market.

Running a middle market business is a difficult task. While the survival rate is significantly higher than small businesses and startups, it’s still a long and rocky road to reach that success—and then maintain it. The problems you face often require some outside help, to provide a fresh perspective and the experience to lead a change process inside the company. FortéOne delivers full-service consulting and implementation services for middle market businesses. Here’s how we do that, and what we have learned from our clients.

Problems Businesses Face

We’ve been in business for 20 years and worked with hundreds of middle market companies of all types during that time. Here are just a few of the more common problems that those businesses (and their owners) have run into, which either drove them to seek outside assistance, or made them wish that they had:

  • Operational Dysfunction. Factors that can keep day to day operations of a company from running smoothly include rising costs in your supply chain, bottlenecks in your productivity, and customer complaints, among other things. When you run into an issue, how do you find the root cause and address it, to get your company back on track?
  • Out of all the issues that your company faces, which are the most important? Many organizations have trouble prioritizing tasks and concerns. Some treat every issue that comes up as a priority and trying to deal with them all leads to overextending and straining their resources. Others simply prioritize the wrong things, and important tasks fall by the wayside. As markets shift and industries evolve, knowing what to prioritize becomes increasingly difficult, and the path forward grows unclear.
  • Outdated Technology. Technology advances quickly. It can be difficult to keep up with, especially if your company is accustomed to a particular program or application, and the processes that go along with it. After all, why fix what’s not broken? Well, the problem is that your competitors are keeping up with the latest advancements. They’re upgrading their software, accommodating the latest devices, and doing what it takes to remain ahead of the curve with technology. Which means they’re better equipped to provide your customers with what they need than you are. Their technological leg-up enables them do things faster, cheaper, and more efficiently. You will be left behind and at some point unable to catch up, unless you begin thinking of technology as an investment on par with people and capital equipment – that needs to grow with your business.
  • Organizational Problems. Your company’s most important investment is its people. As you know, each new employee that you recruit and train costs a significant amount of money. Is your team delivering a high return on investment? Are they able to grow in skills and capacity as the company grows? Maybe they’re underperforming or you have a high employee turnover rate. For firms looking to improve their performance, it’s important to take a good look at your organization’s capacity, your recruitment strategies, your training methods, your company culture, and a host of other factors that contribute to business performance.
  • Stagnating Growth. This is probably the most common problem a middle market business can have—but there are many potential causes. Perhaps the market has shifted, or competitors have entered your space. Maybe revenues are declining, or maybe you’re just not growing as much as you expected or hoped to.
  • Profitability Drivers. Cost structure changes all the time as prices shift and wages increase. If you’re not continually aware of how these factors are evolving and what those shifts mean for your company, it can cut into your profits and cause your bottom line to suffer.
  • Acquisition Integration. There’s a lot more to acquiring a company than just validating historic financials. Digging into their Operations and IT during due diligence is a good start, as well as ensuring they have the elements required to scale and achieve your growth projections. But a big question is whether your organization and theirs will be successful together. Integrating your new acquisition into your existing organization is a delicate operation that requires time, effort, and coordination.
  • Leadership Gaps. If a key executive leaves your organization, they must be replaced quickly in order for operations to continue functioning as normal. However, the decision is an important one that shouldn’t be rushed. Finding the right candidate who has all the necessary qualifications and will fit your company dynamic can take months. In the meantime, you need someone to step into the position temporarily, to keep your company on track while a permanent decision is made.
  • Family Dynamics. Keeping a business “in the family” may seem like a good thing on the surface, but only if all of the family members running it have the necessary skills and experience to do it right. Often, someone will ascend to a high position within an organization by virtue of their family name, only to demonstrate that they’re not qualified to do the job. For multi-generational businesses, it can be challenging to bring in non-family leaders.
  • Exit Strategy. Every organization needs to have an exit strategy in place at all times—but many neglect to do so. They have no plans to sell, so why even think about it? Well, sometimes circumstances beyond your control can force your hand. Always plan for the future but be prepared to sell your business tomorrow if need be. You should be successful enough and well-organized enough that someone would want to pay you a lot of money for it. Do you have an exit strategy? Do you know how to create one?

Solving Problems

Maybe your organization is experiencing one or more of the problems listed above. What can you do about it? The seemingly obvious answer is to analyze the problem and come up with a solution.

However, consider this: getting to the root cause of your problem and coming up with a course of action to solve it takes time and focus. And while you’re performing your analysis, the situation may continue to get worse. Not to mention new issues that may creep up while you are distracted.

If and when you have a solution, implementing it will take a significant amount of resources—often during a time when you’re already losing money. And what if it doesn’t work? Especially if it’s a problem you’ve never experienced before and there’s no guarantee that your solution will work. And with the time and energy you’ve put into it, if it doesn’t produce the desired results, you’re now in an even worse position than when you started.

Addressing your issues properly requires two things. First, you need a fresh perspective: someone from outside your company who can look at your organization, assess the situation quickly, and see where your problems are while you continue to run the company. Second, you need someone with the experience and expertise necessary to understand the problem, know what to do about it, and then be able to execute.

What Is Consulting?

We live in a world where almost anyone can attach the word “Consultant” to their title and charge individuals and organizations money for their opinions. Those opinions don’t even necessarily need to be backed by any real qualifications. The majority of consulting firms hire MBAs right out of business school. They have the education, but no practical experience operating a business in the real world.  If you’ve experienced this, then Consultant may have become a 4-letter word for you.

So at FortéOne, we take a different approach, redefining Consultant from %@!# to woah. We believe that consultants should have genuine expertise and decades of practical experience in the fields to which they are assigned. They should know about business in general, but they should also know about your field specifically, and what challenges are unique to it. Our Consultants are seasoned professionals with decades of experience in their fields, armed with proven engagement standards and processes. That is the FortéOne Way.

Presumably, you know a lot about your field. But experience has also taught you that there are hundreds of other factors that must be considered besides just your area of expertise, from finance to marketing to PR to IT, and much, much more. It can be a difficult proposition for a middle market business to have expertise in all of the necessary areas and disciplines required to thrive. And it’s quite impossible for one person to know it all.

That’s why our team of consultants includes experts in a wide variety of different areas. They have owned and/or operated their own businesses. They’ve worked in hundreds of different industries, and they’ve been where you are. They’ve faced the same challenges and have overcome them.

Furthermore, we believe that consulting is about more than just sitting there and offering advice from afar. It’s about helping to implement that advice in a practical way. Real consultants should have a “hands on” approach. That means not just telling you what to do but showing you, by working inside your company with your people. After assessing your situation, we’ll create a rapid action plan to achieve your goals, and work with your leadership team to execute that plan. We’ve found that this approach gives companies the best chance of success that continues long after our job is done.

Who We Are and What We Do

Since 2000, FortéOne has provided consulting services to middle market companies of all types, in order to help them improve performance, boost revenues, and achieve maximum value for their organization. We’re experts in business who know what it takes to get a business on the right track. We work with all kinds of privately held companies, as well as private equity firms, family offices, investment banks, and more.

Many of our clients are companies that are experiencing problems like the ones detailed above—or a host of other potential challenges and hurdles. We help them overcome those problems. For other clients, we help them make small course corrections to their current operations early, so that small issues don’t turn into larger problems down the road. And some aren’t experiencing any specific issues at all, but merely want to run even better than they already do. Whatever the issue, , we have probably seen it and solved it in our own companies or in client companies.

We already talked a bit about our rapid action plan. In developing these plans, we do two things. First, we look for projects that can be implemented quickly, to have an immediate impact on your company’s bottom line. Something that maximizes results while using minimal resources, in order to give your organization the kickstart it needs. In tandem, we set goals to implement in the long term, to help sustain that success over time and keep your company on the right track.

Our Areas of Expertise

As we mentioned, our consultants have worked in a variety of different fields and have practical experience in many different industries. They include…

  • Food and Beverage
  • Consumer Products
  • Manufacturing
  • Automotive
  • Construction
  • Engineering and Design
  • Distribution
  • And many others

Using that experience, we’re able to help companies through all sorts of different challenges. We help underperforming businesses to restructure. We help improve sales and marketing strategies in order to boost revenue growth. We assist companies that need interim leadership services to make the transition to a new permanent CEO, COO, President, or other executive. We analyze operations and supply chain activity to get rid of bottlenecks and keep things running smoothly. We optimize staffing practices to make the best use of the best talent available. We help bring IT processes and systems up to date and keep companies from falling behind their competitors. We can develop an exit strategy for an organization and help them prepare the company for sale. And we can assess a target company before you close the sale.

Contact Us

You’ve read just a bit of what we do for our clients, but that doesn’t begin to cover what we can do for you and your company. Every business is different. They have different problems and each requires different solutions. We’d love to sit down with you and get to know your organization, so that we can see what challenges you’re facing and how we might be able to help.

Give us a call or send us an e-mail, and let us know how we can help you! Or if you’re in the neighborhood, stop by our offices in Chicago, or our headquarters in Northbrook, and meet our team in person!

We’ve been where you are, have operated the same sorts of businesses, and have experienced the same types of problems. Our goal is to be able to share our knowledge and experience with those who need it – not just with advice, or reports, but with action. Together, we can help your company get on track and then reach new levels of growth and performance. That’s what we do. Maximizing the Middle Market.