Published May 01, 2012

Improving Small Businesses

By Paul Wormley

This week's issue of BusinessWeek has a good article about how Monomoy Capital Partners, a private equity firm, uses operational improvements to improve underperforming companies.

Despite the misleading cover, the article details how Monomoy rapidly implements lean manufacturing practices (based on the Toyota Production System) through a series of management "boot-camps". Monomoy's goal is to make their companies more efficient – to use less capital to produce more goods or services. Capital includes hard capital like equipment, fork lifts, and buildings; working capital like inventory and receivables; and human capital or payroll. When less capital produces more goods, profits rise and cash flow increases, resulting in increased value for Monomoy.

Hadley Capital has the same end goal – increasing the value of our companies. But, because we focus on small companies, we tend to take a different approach to achieving the end goal. First, we tend to buy high performing businesses so we apply a "first do no harm" approach to our early periods of ownership. Later, we work directly with management to design and implement 1–3 strategic initiatives per year. These strategic initiatives may focus on operating efficiencies, much like Monomoy's, or improving sales force management or developing new market strategies.

As the article suggests, improving any small business involves a solid plan, a focus on results and a lot of hard work. Hadley Capital works in partnership with the management teams at our companies to design and implement plans for improvement. And so do a lot of other private equity firms. The notion that private equity buyers are simply slash-and-burn owners is worn-out; the days of buying bloated companies, streamlining and then "flipping" them are long gone. The BusinessWeek article does a nice job of capturing one private equity firm's modern value creation strategy.

Paul Wormley - General Partner

Paul joined Hadley Capital in 2005. He has spent his entire career working with small and emerging companies. Paul grew up in a family business environment and is an owner of his family’s community newspaper business. Paul works with GT Golf Supplies, Pneu-Con, Open Sky Media and Centare. He was the chairman of the board of directors for i-deal Optics, a previous Hadley Capital company.

Paul is an outdoor enthusiast who enjoys fishing, hunting, riding motorbikes, Crossfit and an occasional craft beer. He works closely with a number of non-profit organizations including One Acre Fund and Trout & Salmon Foundation, and serves as chairman of the Finance Committee at his church.

Paul is a graduate of the University of Colorado at Boulder and received an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. He and his wife, Rosemary, have three children.