At Serent Capital, we are deeply aware that one of the greatest sources of value we bring to our portfolio companies is the collective experience of the executives that lead them. This is why we established the Serent Executive Summits series. Every year, Serent brings together leaders from across the portfolio to network with each other, discuss specific challenges and opportunities they face, and share ways to help scale their companies.
This fall, we hosted a series of five two-day summits in Austin, each focused on a specific business function: Finance, Human Resources, Operations, Product & Technology, and Revenue Generation (Sales and Marketing). Over 200 attendees from more than 40 portfolio companies came together to share insights, discuss best practices, and foster a community of collective expertise through a blend of structured presentations and unstructured discussions in small groups. Participants had the opportunity to talk through their most pressing challenges through informal discussions with fellow leaders in small group sessions and came away with new strategies to move their respective organizations forward.
In this post, we will share a few of the takeaways from our summits, focusing on the most common themes raised:
- Building a community of peers
- Choosing the right tools
- Finding and retaining talent
- Addressing cybersecurity threats
Let’s take a closer look.
Building a community of peers
Our primary goal in planning the Executive Summits series is simple: to bring people together. Unstructured conversations in small groups enabled leaders to talk through the biggest questions on their minds. What are the things keeping me up at night? What are the biggest challenges I’m facing right now? How do I sustain the incredible growth trajectory my organization is experiencing?
Running a fast-growing company can be an isolating experience. Building connections with other leaders is clearly one of the best ways to gain new ideas, resources, and information that can make your company more successful, as the Chief Customer Officer of Quorum found:
It’s rare to have the opportunity to have candid conversations with a group of experienced peers, and the executive summits offer just that forum. Throughout the What’s Keeping You Up at Night sessions, we were able to accelerate what may otherwise take months or years of learning into hours through our peers’ collective insights and experience.
The Chief Information Officer of Payliance added:
While the executive summits offer a wealth of programming, the most important aspect for me is the conversations and connections with my peers at companies in similar stages of growth. We’re able to share the challenges we’ve faced and the solutions that helped us solve those challenges while building a support network for the future.
Choosing The Right Tools
Growing SaaS businesses have more software options to choose from than ever before. With business tools rapidly proliferating and differentiation becoming increasingly murky in the B2B software space, it’s hard to know which tools are right for your organization at a given point in time – and how to integrate them with your existing technology stack.
Recognizing that there is no one-size-fits-all solution, discussions with peers are ideal for developing an informed perspective on fit-for-purpose tools. Over the course of the Summits, leaders were able to exchange advice and recommendations on the best tools for customer and product engagement, revenue operations, lead generation, cybersecurity, contract management, and many more.
At Serent, we recognize the need for best practices for tool selection and implementation considering factors such as the organization’s growth stage and industry. Our new MIS (Management Information Systems) Center of Excellence will address this need and provide portfolio company leaders with the information and guidance needed to build out their business application stacks.
Spearheaded by our Senior VP of Business Applications, this initiative also includes preferred terms with critical software providers – to ensure that companies across our portfolio have access to the right tools and implementation partners at the right terms to ensure a successful outcome.
Finding and Retaining Talent
In the current talent environment, hiring and retention emerged as a particularly significant area of focus across all functions. In today’s hypercompetitive labor market, attracting and retaining top performers is more challenging than ever.
Our discussions surfaced a number of ideas for effective hiring and retention:
- Company culture. Job candidates are looking for more than just a paycheck. They want to work at a place they love. By focusing on transparent communication, organizations can learn what matters to their team and find ways to improve. And with social events like offsite experiences, portfolio companies are helping employees feel connected to the workplace community.
- Flexible work options. In today’s post-COVID world, more people than ever seek a career that fits into their lives. Options like flexible scheduling and remote work arrangements give hiring managers a competitive edge, enabling them to recruit and retain top performers more effectively.
- Employee engagement. Portfolio companies are taking a variety of approaches, including town halls, AMA sessions, and collaboration tools, to keep their team engaged. Measuring employee engagement with eNPS surveys is essential for keeping tabs on overall employee satisfaction.
- Leadership development. One of the most powerful ways to attract top talent is by offering senior leadership access. As early as the job search process, hiring managers can make a position more appealing by connecting prospects with senior leaders and discussing future paths for growth within the organization.
Addressing Cybersecurity Threats
With ransomware attacks and other cyber threats on the rise, many smaller companies are working to ensure they have a strong cybersecurity infrastructure in place. Executives attended sessions led by cybersecurity vendors and participated in group breakouts to discuss approaches to handling cybersecurity threats.
The Chief Information Officer of Employer Direct Healthcare observed:
Cybersecurity is crucial in a remote world and was one of the main topics we covered at the executive summit. Peer professionals sharing real-world scenarios and how they dealt with them was priceless information. The best practices and processes we discussed enabled us to inform our future roadmap to ensure we’re staying at the forefront of cybersecurity innovation.
Conversations focused on different governance models for managing information security, such as a director-level owner of cybersecurity initiatives or a dedicated information security officer. Executives also shared trusted third-party software and service providers and discussed strategies like creating a security playbook and building an incident response plan.
As an outgrowth of these discussions, Serent is investing in Product and Technology capabilities for our portfolio companies to leverage, led by Serent’s Chief Technology Officer. This initiative includes ongoing cybersecurity audits, tactical remediation support, and access to a roster of experts who deliver the best cybersecurity practices to our portfolio companies.
With Serent, you get more than a partner. You get a community. With dozens of organizational leaders ready to share their experience, our Executive Summits are one of our distinctive approaches to build new connections and help our portfolio companies grow. Meet the industry-changing companies that are powering our portfolio.