Look for opportunities to invest and improve efficiency within your organization, while avoiding being trapped waiting out the market conditions.

LLR’s annual Collaborate forum for portfolio company CEOs and CFOs returned in-person in the Fall of 2022. Leaders were invited to Philadelphia for a day of peer networking and idea sharing on timely topics including employee engagement in a hybrid world, growth hacking through a tough market, and M&A strategy & sourcing.

Here are some of the most quotable moments and valuable learnings that emerged:

Be tirelessly intentional with everything you do

Planning starts with the end in mind. With a well-defined goal and strategic plan, even in a challenging market you can make intentional decisions about where to invest and how to align your organization to get there, while some of your competitors wait things out.

“The first thing I would recommend is to step back and ask, do you still believe in your thesis? Do you believe that three, five or ten years from now, what you’re offering to the marketplace is going to be as, if not more, relevant than it is today? And if you do, then look for ways to go on the offense with the products, segments or verticals that will have demand.”

Louis Alterman, CEO of Stratix

“The ‘growth at all costs’ mindset that got companies through the pandemic has shifted significantly. As you think about strategic decisions moving forward, the market is going to reward an intentional, balanced approach between growth and profitability.”

Jack Slye, Partner at LLR Partners

“If you are going to focus a lot of time and energy on hiring talented people during a tough economy, be prepared to keep them when we come out of it. It’s like an extended interview process, with deliberate plans to help ensure you move out of a bad marketplace together. We all know how painful it has been to lose great people over the last two years, but you can get ahead of that happening again.”

Kevin Jones, CEO of Celero Commerce

“Now is a great time to ‘sharpen the saw’ in all core operational functions, especially your sales engine. I find economic environments like these are great opportunities to better understand and optimize your sales process, structure, and value proposition; to get closer to your customers; and to make sure your team can elevate their skills. In doing so, you’ll be amazed at how much you can influence your conversion rates, close rates, and pipeline.”

Jairo Romero, Managing Director, Go-to-Market Excellence at LLR Partners

“M&A is not a strategy on its own. It’s the outcome of an exploration of your customer base to understand what they need, what they are using, and where are the opportunities for you to better serve them. Only then can you prioritize what will quickly give you greater access to your market and how to acquire it.”

Michael Pantilione, Partner at LLR Partners


Sara Nichols (CFO, Appspace) and Himesh Bhise (LLR Executive in Residence) engage in conversation between Collaborate sessions.

Rethink workplace culture to drive a vital sense of belonging

In the new age of hybrid work, leaders should consider reimagining what purpose and culture really mean for their employees in order to drive retention and engagement.

“For employees, the idea of ‘purpose’ has become more personal than your company’s goals. Focus on listening to your people and what matters to them.”

“We’ve always hired with culture fit in mind, but that’s a sure-fire way to not promote innovative thinking, new ideas or challenge the status quo. What you need to do now is create a culture of transformation.”

“Lonely employees cost companies $406 billion per year due to missed days at work, lower productivity and quality of work, and higher risk of turnover.1 “

“Belonging is everyone’s job, not just Human Resources. Everyone, especially senior leadership, plays a role in fostering meaningful human connections, caring for others and making the workplace safe for people to take risks and then ask for what matters to them.”

Adam Smiley Poswolsky, Workplace Belonging Keynote Speaker and Bestselling Author


Jim Murphy (LLR), Louis Alterman (CEO, Stratix), Jairo Romero (LLR) and Kevin Jones (CEO, Celero) engage in a panel discussion on growth hacking through challenging market conditions.

Seek out offensive opportunities while others wait and see

For many businesses, now is the time to seek out a balance of opportunities that protect you against the potential downside of an uncertain market and enable you to get ahead of the competition. Opportunities can come in many ways, from new partnerships to M&A to enhanced efficiencies and talent.

“Be proactive in developing a 1-2 year plan and then course-correct as circumstances change. Look for opportunities to invest and improve efficiency within your organization, while avoiding being trapped waiting out the market conditions.”

Jack Slye, Partner at LLR Partners

“We have defensive measures in place, looking at what might delay our thesis and what we can turn off and back on depending on how the market shifts. Ultimately, though, we are looking at how we can take offensive advantage of the current market to improve relationships with our partners, stakeholders, and employees and to continue to pursue our thesis by investing in a strong infrastructure for growth, talented people and M&A.”

Kevin Jones, CEO of Celero Commerce

“With respect to M&A, unless you see systemic or structural demand problems for your business that will continue, you can take advantage and make investments at a discount that will enable you to scale when demand snaps back.”

Louis Alterman, CEO of Stratix

“In these types of environments, there will be superheroes that emerge in your organization at all levels. This is a great opportunity to highlight their performance and impact internally so others can model their behaviors.”

Jairo Romero, Managing Director, Go-to-Market Excellence at LLR Partners


Kimberly O’Loughlin (CEO, Health Recovery Solutions) listening to opening remarks from Jack Slye (Partner, LLR Partners).

Successful M&A is as much about the people as anything else

While every company approaches M&A differently, our attendees agreed that a people-centric approach, both prior to and following a transaction, is essential to reap the long-term benefits of combining businesses.

“Invest the time needed to build trust with the people you may acquire. In a family-run business, this can go deep into the management team and be a highly emotional process. Be clear on why their business is so interesting, what you believe you can accomplish together and how things are going to work. Other acquisitions may be purely transactional, but in both situations, you will rely on these people to execute the strategy that makes it all worthwhile. If you lose the people driving success in the first place, you lose a heck of a lot with them.”

Michael Pantilione, Partner at LLR Partners

“When it comes to acquisition integration, the sole focus is taking care of your existing employees, newly acquired employees and customers. There is going to be change, but at the end of the day, your goal is to manage those changes transparently and fulfill your promise on doing the right thing for your people.”

Tom Woodruff, CEO of Allmark Door


  1. “Loneliness and the Workplace: 2020 US Report.” Cigna, 2020. https://www.cigna.com/static/www-cigna-com/docs/about-us/newsroom/studies-and-reports/combatting-loneliness/cigna-2020-loneliness-report.pdf