BETWEEN MIDDLE MIDDLE MARKET GROWTH AND HOBBIT:

9 Mar

    Someone said it well, the best looking horse in the glue factory won but still lost. That was what happened with election 2012. Mitt Romney was the hoped for poster child for Private Equity. Problem was, even though Mitt wasn’t Private Equity when it came time for the chopping block, the industry didn’t see the enemy coming nor from all the directions they did.

    A single man cost a lot of people time, money and machinations in that the counsel he followed, inadequately served his needs let alone the needs of Middle Market, the orphan child of finance, sandwiched by its protagonists in between Venture Capitol and Hedge Fund, of  which it is neither. Middle Market is the space occupied by businesses with revenues of between $20 million and $1 billion.

     Private Equity people know who they are. They realized post Election 2013, other people don’t. And in a world where opinion is expressed with out vetting and shared in 4G seconds this is a problem. More correctly this is Private Equities problem.

    Deal making is a good word when it is hundreds of feet high on a theatre screen in the visage of a Mike Douglas playing Gordon Gecko. Or when it is two feet high on a home TV screen in the visage of Mark Cuban and his compadres on SHARK TANK. But on blogs, rants, tweets, FB, Pinterest, HuffPO, what is left of the WashTimes and other print, deal making is bad. That is if you believe what you are told. Most do. Middle Market is learning it has to move with the times, too.

    The battle is lost when you argue up against what people are saying to you. The battle becomes a shared hot tub when people just get in and relax. Listen and respond. Politics and Capitol Hill is a bit more like a snake pit or as some prefer the comparison to Aesops Fable of the Scorpion and the Fox. You really don’t know who to trust, does one? Political bedfellows are made through association. As is guilt. And through ‘gelt’, the jewish world for money. Reality check is politicians start their next run from the day they get in to office. Goals, hope fors, ambitions are often lost in round the clock events that for the first time in memorable history has rhetoric reaching a point few wonder if civility can be backed down to. And it is in this climate that ACG is stepping up to educate themselves and their fearless state and industry leaders on how dire their situation is- stuck between Venture Capitol and Hedge Fund and tethered to Mitt- the man who got them so wrong when everything could have been so right.

     ACG came to DC- to meet, to talk, to teach. Lesson One lost- wasn’t of their doing. It was of the doing of the US Chamber of Commerce. The intimate gathering was held in a building of history- the former home of the Secretary Daniel Webster. The actual meeting was held a closed door away from the library where the desk Daniel Webster used sits. What an amazing photo op missed to tweet out, to share, to socially network (with hashtags of course) in teaching moments to a world of others who would love to see this bit of history, but for lack of opportunity, most likely never will. Webster is famous for having said “God grant liberty only to those who love it, and are always ready to guard and defend it” and “Liberty and Union, now and forever, one and inseparable!” came from the Hayne debate Daniel Webster was a nineteenth-century lawyer, representative, senator, Secretary of State, and one of the great orators in U.S. history.

     Webster was the spokesperson for the Portsmouth business community, who opposed the Jefferson administration’s trade restrictions with Great Britain and France. Webster denounced the trade embargo as well as the War of 1812  against Great Britain is what led to his election to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1812. Imagine, sitting so close to history aligned to the ACG goal of Midde Market growth and not being told their industry’s inspiration was impacted by a man whose desk was a closed door away.

     There is something about history. It repeats itself. Fear expressed by invited ACG speakers is, this time, may be the death spiral, the US as we know it, may not come back from. Leaders from dealmaking ecosystems came to DC to make a difference. The lesson, “if we feed them, they will come” addressing staffers was learned. There is one lesson better and better invested in to- with over 535 legislators on the Hill, including House and Senate, take the food to them, along with literature, one office and a time by a team of people trained to stay on point with a message bullet pointed down to 3 points, maybe 7, but 144 characters at best. Thus is the world of marketing ACG has decided to Re-brand within. Its not about the 50 who come to eat. Its about the 485 that didn’t, that need to be reached.

    But how does one say Private Equity in 144 characters to young people who think the bandwagon of giving everything you work hard for away so others don’t get motivated to “earn for themselves”? Simple- Facebook (8 letters), iPhone (6), iTunes (5), Android (7), why even Honey Boo Boo and Mamma June- reality TV(9). All of these kitch began with cash from somewhere. You got it, dude- Private Equity. That is how re-branding is done simply- not from paying big bucks to people who put too many words on a page for people to take time to read in a rapidly moving global marketplace. AND NO NO NO- don’t even think of doing a Trump like “Apprentice”. Been there done that too many times, one risks re-Mitt’ing themselves all over again- and how many slides back down the ladder can an industry of amazing men and women with vision and accomplishment, suffer before their image becomes more of the caricature Mitt Romney left them perceived as.

    Re-branding is simple. Know who you are. It starts there. Ten words on a page. Go. Now. If you cant describe yourself that simply and quickly how the b’gosh do you think the world you want to give great beginnings to, can do it either. Lunch on the Hill was a start. Meeting how many politicians out of how many? THIS is the industry that knows how to do the math…. you deserve better returns for the good you have given out to the world.

    People do want money. People who do want to succeed are seen all over the Home Shopping Networks, late night TV. What they need? A roadmap from outside the box. And the mantra… give a man to fish and he eats for today. Teach a man to fish, he eats for the rest of his life and feeds others, that is, hopefully, will be able to continue doing even under the weight of the current administration thumb crushing entrepreneurship.

    And that is where Private Equity starts- know the room you walk in to- research- relate to it and share. And remember the words- Ex Nihilo- out of nothing- that is how the world began, shaped from nothing into something that is pretty awesome when someone says, “I did this. You can to it too….” Hence a Brand will be born… ditch the word “private”. Toss the word “equity”. Lose the lingo “middle market” which echoes Middle Earth, Tolkein and Hobbits. Lean towards phrases like “Optimizing the heart & soul of Industry” or “The little Industries that Can & Do” (shades of The Little Engine That Could)…. And embrace your inner pocket protector. Inside every man, woman and child, is a entrepreneur waiting to happen….. that explained this way? Will Love Love Love Private Equity that teaches, making money is good. Its not about paying back, it is about paying it forward….

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