Tercera Team

Empowering growth-focused businesses and people

We’re on a mission to change the equation for people-based businesses.

Companies and leaders come to a certain juncture in their journey when it’s necessary to rethink the approach that gotten them to where they are. Growing to $5M in revenue is not easy, but in those early stages, a powerful vision, a few talented people and customers and sheer brute force can get you pretty far. However, what might fuel initial growth spurts cannot necessarily sustain a company in the long-term. Growing an organization north of $100M takes a different approach and a different set of skills.

Not every leader is ready to scale their company beyond that first plateau, which is why the world is packed with hundreds of thousands of small professional services firms that do amazing work, but never get beyond $5M or $10M. As experts agree, it takes a growth mindset and more process-oriented approach to build something that goes beyond that, something that endures.

Our goal at Tercera is to identify those who are ready, who do have that growth mindset. And then to empower them with the capital, counsel and connections they need to grow bigger and faster than they could without help.

We believe capital is the easy part. There are plenty of equity partners out there, but finding one that really understands your space and can provide the specific counsel and guidance you need to get beyond those first few plateaus of growth is difficult. This is where the magic of our methodology and advisor community comes into play.

 

Tercera’s 5 Elements Methodology

 

We developed Tercera’s 5 Elements for Scale based on decades of experience operating and selling professional services businesses. It is the framework we use when evaluating potential portfolio partners, the methodology we use during our first 100 days of working with a partner to prioritize where investments can make a difference, and how we look at building out our Advisor network. Over the years, we’ve found that most companies are great in one or two areas, good in a couple more, but could use help in the others.

Our 5 Elements for Scale are broken up into (this should not surprise you) 5 areas:

Leadership & Talent: The people piece of the puzzle, always integral to the success of any company, is critical in a professional services company. In this area, we look at everything from the strength of an organization’s culture and diversity, to its recruiting and onboarding capabilities, to its leadership development and overall talent management processes.

Corporate Strategy: In early stage growth mode, many leadership teams lean more towards execution than strategy. For sustainable growth, you need both. This element looks at a firm’s strategic planning process, brand and marketing capabilities, sales and account management strategy, and how M&A and international expansion come into play.

Solutions & IP: The professional services firms that will lead in the cloud’s Third Wave will offer a different set of skills and delivery models than those who led in previous waves. Expertise in cybersecurity, AI, DevOps, and hybrid cloud operations are needed more than ever, and vertical IP and productized solutions are no longer nice to have, but must haves. This element looks at a firm’s overall portfolio, reusable assets, product roadmap and more.

Channels & Partnerships: For services companies, success often depends on going to market with the right ISV as well as creating the right partnerships to grow revenue, attract customers, and expand awareness. This element looks at a firms’ overall market positioning, alliances strategy, channel marketing and adjacent partnerships.

Operations & Processes: While this element may be listed last, we find it’s the one with which most younger services firms need the most help. Startups tend to look at process as a bad thing, but when it comes to scaling, having solid processes matters a lot. Those firms that are buttoned up in how they manage their financials, delivery operations, talent, marketing and sales processes have a big leg up on the competition.

 

Growth comes from all directions

While we believe this methodology can make a huge difference in preparing leaders and their organizations for that next phase of growth, if it falls upon deaf ears, it’s of little value. This is why we look for potential portfolio partners with a growth mindset — specifically, founders who are coachable and open to change. Not because we want to change everything about a company or tell founders how to run their business, but because every great company goes through periods of change, transition, and even reinvention. And we want to work with great companies.

When we say coachability, it means people who are open to feedback, self-aware, good listeners and lifelong learners. You’d be surprised at how easy these traits are to recognize, even in first meetings. Coachability is a key trait shared among leaders with the highest potential and it’s integral to building trusting relationships. People want to work with and for leaders who know their own strengths and limitations, who can acknowledge problems when they arise, and who surround themselves with others that have that same mindset.

If that sounds like you, and you are ready to do bigger things with your business, hit us up here.

Tercera’s belief in founder-led businesses

We believe strongly in the power of founder-led businesses for two main reasons.

First and foremost, we believe in founders because founders believe in their companies. Their business is personal to them, and that gives them a unique combination of vision, passion and mission that is essential to building something that lasts.

Secondly, data shows founder-led technology businesses tend to outperform companies who are led by hired guns. It isn’t always the case, but it’s the case more often than not. Studies featured in HBR and Reuters (among others) show that companies that still have a founder at the helm often do better in price performance, profit growth, innovation and recovering faster from a crisis.

 

Founders have a passion that fuels their mission

Founders will run through a brick wall to see their mission come to life. Whether it’s their entrepreneurial mindset, personal connection to the mission, or sheer perseverance, they’re virtually unstoppable, and that kind of passion is contagious with customers, partners and employees.

You can feel it in leaders who still helm the companies they founded: Jeff Bezos’ obsession with customer-centricity, Marc Benioff’s dedication to making Salesforce a platform for change, or Reed Hastings’ quest to reinvent entertainment. It’s not just the big guys either. Smaller technology players like Twilio, Okta, Slack, HashiCorp, who still have an active founder continue to outperform their peers and see huge valuations.

It’s this mix of passion and mission that keeps a company going even when there are only a few wins to celebrate — a situation every company goes through no matter how great it is. It’s what inspires other people to work hard, stick around, and treat every customer like the business depends on it. In professional services, where hundreds or thousands of consultants might be customer facing, and where recruiting and retention is a KPI, this mix is even more important.

Don’t get us wrong, the 1s and 0s are still important, and you still need to find great technologists, but people aren’t loyal to bits and bytes. They’re loyal to people. And founders — the exceptional ones — care about the people and the culture that binds the company together.

 

Freedom for Founders to Build and Lead

We don’t just look for exceptional founders, we also give them the freedom to do what they do best – build and lead. This is one of the reasons we typically choose to take a minority rather than majority stake in our investments.

As former operators and founders ourselves, we take more of an entrepreneurial mindset, not a strictly economic one. We’ve been there. We know the challenges and opportunities that come with scaling a professional services business. What it takes to grab market share and break through those plateaus of growth – getting beyond $10M or $50M to $100M and beyond. Breaking through those first few plateaus can be tough and many people do it, but the decisions and sequenced investments needed to navigate beyond $50M are considerably more challenging. We know what it takes to scale a services business, and how to sustain profitable growth over time. Part of that is capital, but that’s only a fraction of the equation.

Our role as invested operators isn’t to take over that journey for our portfolio founders, it’s to give them the guidance, capital and connections they need to navigate the journey for themselves.

Tercera balances the world of private equity in that we provide guidance to operationalize and scale a business, and the world of venture capitalism in that we come in early and help founders and ideas flourish.

If it sounds like the kind of partnership you’re looking for in your journey, hit us up here.