526: The Inside-Out World of a Carve-Out CFO | Graham Ballbach, CFO, Riverside Insights

Listen to the Episode Below (00:38:09)

Finance leader Graham Ballbach views 2020 as the year when Riverside Insights can begin to satisfy its growing appetite for M&A. “We’ve been refining our processes so that we’re ready to go when it comes to tuck-in acquisitions,” says Ballbach, who has spent a portion of his first year as RI’s CFO in engaging business owners who may be interested in selling their companies.

Still, Ballbach’s most ambitious bit of M&A deal-making to date got underway more than a year ago when he and a team of analysts from private equity firm Alpine Investors began contemplating the purchase of a portfolio of clinical and standardized testing tools owned by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH). The offerings were known to HMH customers as the Riverside tools.

“The stars just sort of aligned where there was an opportunity to jump into the space, and given that it was carve-out, there was no existing leadership team, allowing me and our CEO, Rajib Roy, to be launched into the business,” says Ballbach, who credits a CEO-in-training program run by Alpine for having swung open the door to the CFO office. According to Ballbach, the program was designed to get more young people and minorities into C-suite roles in general. –Jack Sweeney jb

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Guest: Graham Ballbach

Company Riverside Insights

Connect www.riversideinsights.com

CFOTL: What comes to mind when we ask for a finance strategic moment?

Ballbach: We found something really interesting on the go-to-market side that I believe will have a major impact on our top-line growth, and it came through the analysis that the finance team conducted. We looked at our sales model and at the number of customers that we have around the country. We looked at the run rate and the renewals and the retention of these customers. In partnership with our new head of sales, we then did a deeper dive into what kind of time was spent by our sales force—that is, primarily our outside salesforce. We noticed that the sales enablement infrastructure was not set up so that our sales folks could go out and win big deals—win big deals that could make a step change difference in our business.

Instead, they were spending a lot of their time on working with the existing customer base. So, we are actively now reinventing our go-to-market by investing in tech enablement for our sales folks so that they are freed up to truly do what they do best, which is to sell and to go obtain new customers with more strategic, longer-term sales cycles. The second thing that came out of this was a desire to invest in digital marketing. There’s never been any testing of what kind of ROI we can get from investing marketing dollars in these new areas. Given the long list of customers that we have and the disparate array of long-sale customers that do relatively small deals, we suspect that we can invest in digital marketing that will return a very high ROI on the investment as opposed to what we get with the kind of legacy sales model. jb