Helping small and mid-size growth companies evolve, scale and create value.
Welcome to Catalysis
We want this site to tell you a bit about us and the work we do… but mostly we hope it can provide useful insight and tools to help you navigate the challenging, messy but vital processes of evolving, scaling and creating value in small and mid-size growth companies.
We don’t have all the answers to those challenges but, if you are an investor, Chair or executive director in such a company, then we are probably all thinking about similar issues. So, let’s compare notes.
Why is growing companies so fun but sometimes so frustrating?
Growth companies typically have well-qualified people, a track record in their markets and great ideas and ambition. However, the teams which provide the momentum are rarely complete and the wider organisation is often running hard to catch up.
Getting from today to a bigger, better future involves solving 1001 – often complex – issues. The challenge is that:
Investor directors are expected to be experts across a whole range of topics in which they may have little formal training or direct experience.
Board decisions - around strategy formulation, senior appointments, sustaining performance, acquisitions, organisational change - are high impact but as well-established evidence demonstrates, also rife with surprises and disappointment.
Structural changes in the economy over the last 30 years have created many more entrepreneurial businesses to invest into – but leadership teams are less classically trained than in the 1980s and 1990s – and so management practices are often more rudimentary.
Traditional levers for enhancing investment returns, like leverage and multiple arbitrage, have become less effective and so the relative importance of strategic, management and organisational factors has increased.
The combination of high growth ambitions with blind spots in some of these areas can lead to confused teams, under-performance and stress between investors and executive directors.
Who is Catalysis?
We are a highly-qualified team of advisers with many years of experience leading or working with ambitious growth companies. What we share is:
After establishing our blue-chip credentials, we chose to direct our energies towards the more ‘real’ world of small and mid-sized companies. We have all taken risks in creating new businesses or transforming them.
Direct experience of leading or governing businesses and social enterprises: we don’t sit in any ivory towers but, rather, all have scars to show for our successful (and less successful) efforts.
Alongside core skills, we each have our special interests: Katy in management development; Aly as a relentless change agent; Peter’s appetite for EMEA languages and cultures, and helping clients make step changes; Andy’s focus on translating strategy into day-to-day actions; Mike’s obsession with analytical tools.
Consequently, we each bring a good sense of how strategy, organisational and people issues interact in interesting and sometimes perverse ways.
Which kind of investors and teams seem to benefit most from working with Catalysis?
Some kinds of investors and directors seem to warm to our style more than others. Our most enduring relationships involve:
Investors who recognise that current methods for dealing with management, organisation and strategy issues are still imperfect and require improvement.
Chairs and management teams who are keen to build on recent successes by working harder on the current obstacles to growth and on anticipating future challenges.
If you would like to find out more about how we work with investors and leadership teams, feel free to ask us for introductions to clients who know us best.
How does Catalysis support investors and teams?
Most management, organisation and strategy challenges require teams to "diagnose, crystallise and make it happen". Sometimes external help is needed. Over the last decade clients have entrusted us with over 500 projects. Catalysis supports all three stages - our different advisory services include elements of each depending on the situation. We tend to work more on the ‘how’ than just the ‘what’.
We deploy specialised tools to help clients achieve a 3D understanding of how individuals, teams and organisations are operating.
We help clients assess options for improvement, reach balanced judgement calls and build executable plans to move forward.
We expand management bandwidth and help to support with sustained execution and facilitation of on-going developments.
What is the distinctive style Catalysis brings to its work?
The fifty or so projects we carry out each year typically arise through our on-going trusted relationships or word of mouth recommendations. We believe that is due to some particular ways of working and attitudes:
Working in partnership
The issues we work on with investors and managers cannot be entirely outsourced: we have to work in close coordination in what is essentially a co-creation process. When we work together, we are on your team, not just paid hands.
Advisers not consultants
We always look to play the role of trusted advisers, not disconnected providers of specialist input. As such, we tend to think as much about what companies or investors might need as much as what they say they want.
Our main focus is almost always on company level performance and value creation. Our name, Catalysis, reflects our aim to create major impact with only limited injections of our time, leveraging company skills and resources.
Blending challenge and support
Any adviser (or Chair, or investor) needs to provide an appropriate mix of challenge and support – and we do as well. However, overall, we lean towards the challenging end of that spectrum because we find that that generates a higher quality of engagement and useful change. We expect to be challenged back because debate produces better decisions.
Management teams are our clients as much as investors
Better quality decisions seem to happen when everyone feels treated constructively and fairly – whether that be a team going through a transaction or a candidate being considered for a role. We work as ambassadors for our clients, not just as technicians.
Innovators and learners
We are activists for better investor processes and management practices. We seek feedback from our clients, carry out research and keep up to date with the latest thinking on growth company performance. This gives us wider and deeper knowledge of what is happening ‘under the bonnet’ of growth companies than most. And it means we can continuously update our toolkit and conceptual frameworks.
Data driven and evidence focused
We offer insights and inform client decision-making through an unwavering focus on the data. Depending on the engagement, we might gather data on individual leadership attributes, team dynamics, organisational effectiveness and business strategies. We use benchmarks and performance predictors that have been built from our experience over hundreds of projects. And we make sure we incorporate external expertise, such as from our friends at the Centre for Evidence-Based Management
How can I learn more and get access to useful tools and perspectives?
This website is designed not only to present the ways Catalysis works with growth companies and investors but also to provide easily accessible advice, perspective and tools to our clients, friends and collaborators.
We would kindly ask you to register so we can then keep you updated as we offer more insights, webinars and new tools.