Manufacturing Momentum: Challenges, Opportunities in the Modern Landscape

Manufacturing businesses are faced with evolving challenges, especially amid an uncertain economy, constantly pressured from different angles by policy decisions and global events. BluWave sees this every day in the projects it supports for more than 500 private equity firms and thousands of businesses.

Whether in human capital, operations, growth strategy or technology, today’s business leaders have their hands full.

In a recent webinar, Co-Head of Research and Operations Keenan Kolinsky discussed with Product Manager Ryan Perkins the challenges and opportunities in this industry.

An man in a hardhat stands facing yellow industrial equipment, like backhoes, in a warehouse.

The Rising Importance of Human Capital in Manufacturing

The manufacturing sector was once driven primarily by machinery and raw materials. But now it’s recognizing the importance of its most valuable asset: people.

In fact, 74 percent of manufacturers say that “attracting and retaining a quality workforce” is a top challenge, according to the National Association of Manufacturers (NAoM).

Interim executives have emerged as a pivotal solution in this landscape. These temporary business leaders bridge critical leadership gaps, ensuring that companies don’t lose momentum during transitions.

“Interim executives can help businesses keep their foot on the value creation pedal,” Kolinsky says.

Their role is especially crucial in a volatile economic environment where leadership vacancies can’t be left open for extended periods.

But it’s not just about filling gaps. The recruitment process itself is undergoing a transformation. The emphasis is shifting from generalist recruitment approaches to specialized, industry-specific strategies. Manufacturers are realizing that to drive growth and innovation, they need the right people in the right roles, making executive searches a top priority, too.

Operational Excellence: The Backbone of Manufacturing Success

Turning toward a more traditional problem, nearly half of manufacturers identified supply chain issues as a top challenge, per the NAoM. Even with the peak of the COVID pandemic disruption behind us, this issue persists.

“With manufacturers…experiencing a variety of economic and even geopolitical pressures, manufacturing operations and supply chains simply have to be tighter than ever to achieve desired margins and outcomes,” Kolinsky said.

In response, many manufacturers are turning to expert third-party resources to optimize their supply chains. From right-sizing inventory to reducing lead times and optimizing supplier networks, the focus is on efficiency, cost savings and performance.

Beyond the supply chain, there’s a broader push toward operational excellence. Lean Six Sigma principles, rooted in the Toyota production system, are being adopted to streamline processes, identify bottlenecks and drive efficiency. The goal? Faster, more efficient production with greater precision.

Strategizing for Growth in a Competitive Landscape

A weaker domestic economy can poses unique challenges. During those times, growth strategy becomes the north star guiding manufacturers. But how do they chart a course for growth amid such turbulence? The answer is data-driven strategies.

“Markets shift often and they shift quickly,” said Kolinsky, who emphasized the importance of real-time insights. “Base your strategy or plan for growth on current market data and dynamics.”

READ MORE: Analytics, Data & AI Resources

By leveraging data analytics and visualization tools, manufacturers can gain actionable insights, track KPIs and make informed business decisions.

With the advent of more accessible artificial intelligence tools, many businesses in the manufacturing industry and beyond have been focusing on essential pre-cursor activities focused on data hygiene. These will lay the groundwork for a more seamless integration once they’re ready to use AI to accelerate growth.

Embracing Technology: The Future of Manufacturing

The digital revolution is reshaping the manufacturing landscape.

According to Alithya, 43 percent of manufacturers came into 2023 planning to increase their year-over-year spending on technology. it’s clear that the industry is gearing up for a tech-driven future.

“The manufacturing industry is really digitizing rapidly and in more ways than one,” Kolinsky said.

From IT strategy to system selection and implementation, manufacturers are recognizing the need to align their technology tools with broader business objectives.

But it’s not just about adopting the latest tech solutions. Effective change management is crucial. As manufacturers transition to modern systems, they must ensure that their teams are well-equipped and trained to leverage these tools to their fullest potential.

BluWave is here to help you connect with best-in-class, niche-specific manufacturing resources to help with human capital, operational excellence, growth strategies, technology and more.

Contact our research and operations team to scope your need and get quickly connected with  the service provider you need in less than one business day.

Joe DeLuca of NewSpring Capital: Navigating Challenges with Empathy, Strategy

Joe DeLuca recently joined the Karma School of Business podcast to talk private equity. The operating partner with NewSpring Capital spoke with host Sean Mooney about the significance of building genuine relationships during crises, the evolution and adaptability of NewSpring’s value creation model and the unparalleled power of collaboration, drawing parallels from the Manhattan Project.

Their insightful conversation sheds light on the human-centric approach to business and the pivotal role of adaptability in the private equity landscape.

Here are some of the top takeaways from their conversation.

3 Takeaways from Joe

1. Building Relationships in Crisis

In the face of unprecedented challenges, such as the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, DeLuca underscored the importance of human connection and understanding.

“I tried to understand what the people that were working at our business, just what was going on so that we could relate to each other,” he said. “Then I could ask of them, ‘Hey, OK, we really need to do X.’ And then there was some empathy and some relationship building in the first week that I just felt was really critical because it was all happening real-time.”

This sentiment is not just about business strategy but about genuine human empathy. By taking the time to understand the personal challenges faced by employees, leaders can foster a sense of unity and shared purpose.

“People are really what drive these companies,” Mooney added.

In an era where technology and automation are at the forefront, it’s a poignant reminder that at the core of every successful venture are the people who make it run.

2. Evolving Value Creation Model

Adaptability is a hallmark of successful businesses, and NewSpring’s evolving value creation model is a testament to this.

“We started several years ago with what we call the value creation team,” DeLuca said. “The concept was, ‘w’Well, let’s get somebody from each of the disciplines. Let’s have a finance person, a marketing person, an HR person, an IT person.’ You sort of get the idea. ‘And let’s have them on tap to call on them and add value where and when needed.'”

This shift from a broad, external expert-based approach to a more focused, strategy-specific model highlights the importance of being nimble and responsive to the unique needs of each investment.

“The biggest single use case we see in private equity is people,” Mooney said. “It’s every quarter, and it gets bigger and bigger and bigger.”

The emphasis here is clear: while strategies and models are vital, it’s the people who execute them that truly drive value and success.

3. The Power of Collaboration

The story of the Manhattan Project, as recounted in “The Making of the Atomic Bomb,” serves as a powerful metaphor for the importance of collaboration in achieving seemingly insurmountable goals.

DeLuca drew attention to the unlikely partnership between General Leslie Groves and Robert Oppenheimer.

“These guys pulled it off, and they were completely opposites,” he said. “They were like the stereotypes.”

This collaboration between two starkly different individuals underscores the idea that diverse perspectives can come together to achieve greatness.

“If you work with great people, you kind of understand the situation, come up with a plan,” Mooney said. “If you’re tenacious and you’re going to find a way, and I think that so much just reflects the whole conversation that we’ve had here today.”

The underlying message is clear: with the right team and a shared vision, any challenge can be overcome.

DeLuca’s insights on the importance of understanding and connecting with employees during challenging times, the adaptability required in the ever-evolving world of private equity, and the lessons drawn from historical collaborations, make his episode well worth a listen.

When you’re done listening, head to the main BluWave podcast page for more conversations with business leaders.

What is Commercial Due Diligence?

Private equity firms perform commercial due diligence (CDD) to evaluate the growth and profitability of a potential target acquisition.

A process that was once reserved for large cap funds with extra capital to spend on evaluating the soundness of the investment, CDD is quickly becoming a necessary standard operating procedure for all proactive PE funds.

“Each deal’s different and may require a different slate of providers to get the most out of each diligence phase or diligence stream,” says Keenan Kolinsky, co-head of research and operations at BluWave.

Private equity firms have discovered that in order to drive alpha in a sea of beta, smaller, more specialized commercial due diligence providers can provide them with more unique insights quicker. 

What is Commercial Due Diligence?

Commercial due diligence is a systematic evaluation of a target company’s commercial viability before making an investment decision. It’s an extremely thorough process that, when done well, leaves no stone unturned before papers are signed.

“Commercial due diligence is a term of art for a market study. It’s typically provided by market strategy firms,” BluWave founder and CEO Sean Mooney shared on a recent webinar. “It is standard operating procedure by the best private equity investors in the world.”

It comes as no surprise, then, that CDD is consistently No. 1 due diligence category in the BluWave Activity Index.

That’s why the invite-only network of third-party resources is loaded with world-class diligence providers, such as Don Jenkins* of CommDil Inc.

“When you think about commercial due diligence, there’s often a fairly typical set of objectives,” Jenkins says. “Those will include understanding the market size, how big is the market, how is it segmented, what are the key segmentations or different types of businesses that constitute that market.”

From start to finish, it usually takes weeks, if not several months, depending on the target’s size and complexity.

Specialized Due Diligence

Any consultant can provide intelligence on a target’s total addressable market, prospects for growth, competitors, risks and other vital information through initial industry research. But specialized consultants with pre-existing industry knowledge don’t have to waste their time to gain a sense for the industry.

Instead, they can provide a heightened sense of value by using their base knowledge to dig deeper and therefore provide more in-depth insights in the same amount of time.

READ MORE: What is Buy-Side Commercial Due Diligence?

These steps give investors a deeper understanding of the target company’s business model, financial performance, competitive landscape, and operational and legal risks.

A benefit of specialized commercial due diligence providers is their ability to get up to speed faster. Because they aren’t being run to with projects across various industries, their recent experience primes them to hit the ground running. Generalist firms, on the other hand, will run expert network calls to get smart on an industry.

“We have thousands and thousands of projects, tens of thousands of their quals built into this cognitive engine that we’ve built, and then we’re constantly checking with them on a capacity,” Mooney shared on the webinar of BluWave’s matchmaking process. “By the time the PE firms calls, we already know who they need, why they need it, what their quals are, what their availability is, and then have the ability to compel them to bring the A team to our clients.”

How is CDD Performed?

Kolinsky says there are several variable diligence factors to consider, “such as the target’s industry, the deal size, target technology or operational nuances, timing and more.”

BluWave supports private equity clients by connecting them with the diligence providers whose functional capabilities, expertise and experience account for these different factors.

Here are the four key steps the service providers in the BluWave-grade network take when performing commercial due diligence:

1. Comprehensive Market Analysis: Size

This is where the target company’s market position as well industry trends and growth potential are analyzed.

“We’ll be doing market forecasting, understanding the headwinds and tailwinds that affect growth,” Jenkins says. “We’re looking at trends that exist out there, whether it’s technology trends, regulatory trends, just other emerging competition.”

On the commercial due diligence webinar hosted by BluWave, Andrew Joy of Hidden Harbor talked with Mooney about the importance of looking beyond a private equity firm’s holding period when evaluating a business.

“It’s answering the fundamental question of, ‘What do we believe this business will grow at over our whole period and beyond?'” Joy said. “[The scope is] more 10, 20 years because just as important as the next five years’ growth is what matters just as much as the growth beyond that as you think about your exit and the exit multiple.”

2. Comprehensive Market Analysis: Total Addressable Market

Here’s how Scott Bellinger, BluWave’s co-head of operations, defines this step:

“Of the overall market, how much is currently addressable by the target? What else could they do to get into new markets and increase their total addressable market?” Bellinger says.

He added that businesses that already have a high penetration rate may need for new markets if they want to continue to grow.

Joy shed more insight on this stage in the webinar.

“By the time we close on a transaction, we have a really strong hypothesis around what are the value creation levers that we are going to pull over our whole period to create outsize market returns,” he said. “What adjacent markets should this target enter…and how do you capitalize on that?”

3. Competitive Analysis

Bellinger says there are key questions to answer at this stage: “Who does your business compete against? How are they viewed in the market against competitors? Who else has taken up market share? What’s the differentiation between your business and others?”

Jenkins agrees, and noted that this is a fundamental part of hits firm’s commercial due diligence exercises.

“Typically we’re looking at understanding the competitive landscape that the target company is competing against, and how they’re positioned in terms of share and their offering, and how they position themselves in the marketplace,” Jenkins says.

Read More: Hire the Right Temporary CFO

4. Voice of the Customer

Finally, PE firms and other acquirers need to know how current and potential future customers view the target business.

That’s why Jenkins says “there’s usually a voice-of-the-customer piece.”

There are many ways this can be done, but getting first-hand information from clients and customers is essential to understanding the business. Expert third-party firms will not only know which tactics to use for specific industries, but also how to connect with the customers in a meaningful and insightful way.

READ MORE: 5 Steps To an Effective VoC Strategy

We have recently seen many firms turn to more specialized providers due to the valuable insights gained.

In times where other PE firms are struggling to get the right information on the timeline they need, equipping yourself with unique data quickly will provide you with competitive edge.

“The deal process is laborious and it’s fatiguing, but really taking the time upfront to find the right group that will answer the critical questions that you’re really have to will pay dividends,” Joy said on the webinar. A lot of groups that’ll say yes to the project, but the ones that will provide real value is a lot smaller.”

The expertly vetted service providers in the BluWave network have performed countless commercial due diligence analyses for hundreds of PE firms.

“In private equity, one size does not fit all,” Kolinsky says.

We vet each resource before they’re admitted into the network, and again before connecting them to you. After your initial scoping call with our research and operations team, you’ll meet the two or three “best fits” within a single business day.

Tell us about your project now, and we’ll get started with selecting your tailor-made solution.

*Privacy is important to us. While the source and company name have been changed, these are real quotations from a real service provider in the BluWave Business Builders’ Network.

Fractional CFOs: What They Do, Why You Might Need an Interim CFO Instead

The chief financial officer is crucial role. But not all businesses can afford – or are ready – for one.

One alternative to committing to a full-time (and expensive) C-suite financial executive is a fractional CFO.

“The biggest role of a fractional CFO is going to be high-level overview. The business is typically not going to be big enough to really justify a full-time CFO,” BluWave Head of Finance Justin Scott says. “But you do need somebody to validate the financial statements and make sure that your cash flow’s in line. Things that the controller or even a super-controller may miss.”

Let’s look at this part-time position in more detail, and explore whether a full-time temporary CFO – an interim – makes more sense.

Serious young economist in eyeglasses and formalwear looking through financial papers by workplace

What is a Fractional CFO?

A fractional CFO provides high-level financial oversight for businesses that might not be able to justify a full-time CFO.

“The biggest role of a fractional CFO is going to be a high-level overview. You just need that extra set of eyes,” Scott says. “It’s more of a validation role.”

The “fractional” part of the title indicates that the person in this role is working a “fraction” of what would normally be a full work week. In fact, it’s not unusual for someone to serve as a fractional CFO for three or more businesses simultaneously.

A fractional CFO is a great option to help secure funding, and then establish the ongoing reporting process and line of communication with the funding source.

“If you use a fractional CFO because you want to establish a line of credit, that line of credit is going to have regular monthly reporting that has to be provided and you may not want your controller working on it,” Scott says.

While there are other use cases, these are among the more common ones.

How Many Hours Does a Fractional CFO Work?

This will vary, but again, by definition the role is a fraction of full-time.

That could mean as little as 5 hours per month, or as much 10-plus hours per week, which is why people in this role often support multiple businesses at once.

There are, of course, both positives and negatives to having someone work for such a limited amount of time.

Benefits and Drawbacks


1. Cost-Effective

Hiring a fractional CFO is more budget-friendly than bringing on a full-time executive.

Instead of paying a salary plus benefits, you can budget for a set amount of hours each week or month.

Even someone who charges $250 per hour, for example, would only cost $2,500 in a 10-hour month – far below the cost of a full-time chief financial officer.

“I think the larger use case is they just don’t have a need for a full-time one,” Scott says. “They probably have a controller or a super-controller in place that gets them almost everything that they need, and they just want an extra set of eyes for peace of mind. The expense is definitely going to be your primary driver.”

2. Flexibility

A fractional CFO is usually brought in as a specialist in one particular area of the finance function. In fact, CEOs could leverage multiple fractional CFOs at the same time, each focusing on different areas.

Since a part-time hire works so few hours per company, they typically have more flexibility, too.

3. Expertise on Demand

For specific tasks in advanced functionalities, a fractional CFO can be invaluable.

One person can be brought in, laser-focused on a project, and only cost the company the amount of time needed to complete it.

4. Mentoring and Coaching

Whether the person running a company’s finances full-time is an ambitious controller or a green CFO, bringing in a fractional CFO to cover their weaknesses can benefit both the company as well as the permanent hire.

The fractional CFO can not only ensure that the full-time person’s blind spots aren’t a liability, but they can train them along the way so that they’re able to do it on their own in the future.


1. Limited Business Insight

Since a fractional CFO is not fully engaged, they might lack a deep understanding of the company’s needs.

“I use myself as the example here. There’s a lot of things that I catch or help plan for because I’m intimately involved in every step of the business,” Scott says. “If I didn’t understand the complexities of what BluWave does, it would be very easy to give a vanilla, out-of-the-box opinion on something and then it blow up in our face.”

2. Less Commitment

Fractional CFOs might not feel as invested in the team and organization they’re supporting if they’re only involved a few hours a week.

“There’s no long-term commitment,” Scott says.

This means that if things start to go south, they’re not going to feel the pain as much and therefore might not be as motivated as someone whose career is on the line.

3. Lack of Focus

As mentioned, fractional CFOs are likely to be working for multiple companies at the same time.

Depending on the urgency of projects from one situation to the next, the fractional CFO may not be as locked in on your company’s needs as they would be otherwise, despite their best efforts.

4. Risk of Losing Them

Some finance experts are content to keep their hands in multiple pots. Others, however, would be happy to jump to a full-time position if the right opportunity presented itself.

Instead of receiving notice about their departure weeks in advance, they may leave you high and dry for a business that’s willing to pay them more.

“That can almost be even bigger risk because fractional CFO by nature already has less understanding of your business, and now they also have less commitment,” Scott says.

Perhaps your business can’t justify a permanent CFO – or you’re going through a leadership transition or preparing for sale – but you still need the full-time commitment of a finance executive.

An interim chief financial officer, then, may be the perfect solution to strike that balance.

Fractional CFO vs. Interim CFO

An interim CFO includes all the pros of a fractional CFO, but practically none of the cons.

That’s not to say that there aren’t also drawbacks of an interim vs. a permanent CFO, but they tend to be a much more impactful solution than someone who only engages with your business for a few hours per month.

An interim CFO is typically more engaged, provides a deeper understanding and is committed full-time.

This deeper involvement brings with it process improvements, better cash flow management and strategic partnership benefits to CEOs, Scott says.

“The interim CFO is going to be more of a strategic partner.”

Why You Might Hire an Interim CFO Instead

Scott says portfolio companies and private and public companies that are ready to add a full-time CFO for the first time are well-positioned to seek an interim.

Here are some reasons why:

1. Commitment

Interim CFOs offer a higher level of dedication compared to their fractional counterparts.

“Now all of a sudden, this is their game. It’s their full-time focus, so they’re going to be digging through everything,” Scott says. “You’re going to get process improvements. You’re going to get better cash flow. You’re going to get all of the things that a full-time CFO brings to the table.”

2. Strategic Partnership

CEOs can expect more from an interim CFO than a fractional solution.

“They’re more engaged with business,” Scott says. “They have a deeper understanding of the business. They’re just going to get more out of the relationship.”

READ MORE: Interim CFO for a Financial Crisis

3. Cost-Effective in the Long Run

While the initial cost might be higher, the benefit an interim CFO brings in terms of expertise and commitment can significantly outweigh the expenses.

“The interim CFO is going to be more of a value-add,” Scott says.

Their billable hours can also be capped, and they typically don’t take benefits like health or 401ks.

Whether you seek a fractional, interim or full-time CFO, the Business Builders’ Network is loaded with private equity-grade options for all company types and industries.

The resources BluWave provides have been vetted by multiple PE firms before joining its invite-only network. It’s no surprise, then, that interim CFOs are consistently among the most requested connections we make.

When you’re ready to meet your next chief financial officer, our research and operations team will provide a short list of industry-specific candidates within a single business day. Set up a scoping call to get started today.

“It’s a big step to go from a fractional CFO to a full-time role,” Scott says, “but the benefits are undeniable.”

A Wave of Deals is Coming: Commercial Due Diligence Webinar

The private equity deal market has been slow in 2023. There are signs, however, that that could change soon.

In fact, BluWave founder and CEO Sean Mooney believes PE is ready to “call a bottom” based on proprietary internal data. That means that firms must have their due diligence resources lined up ahead of the anticipated wave of deals this fall and beyond.

Mooney was recently joined by BluWave Head of Technology Houston Slatton and Hidden Harbor CP Partner Andrew Joy to discuss the intricacies of commercial due diligence on a live webinar.

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Here are some of the top takeaways from their conversation:

Understanding Target Markets

The panel touched on how commercial due diligence is pivotal in assessing market conditions.

“The definition of commercial due diligence in my mind is a synthesis of all factors, both historically and in the future that affect the growth and the competitiveness of the target in that particular model,” Joy said.

This “synthesis” involves myriad factors, from end-market demand drivers to regulatory inputs and global competition. The goal is to understand not just the immediate future but to project growth and trends 10-20 years ahead.

“Commercial due diligence is a term of art for a market study,” Mooney added. “It’s standard operating procedure by the best private equity investors in the world.”

READ MORE: What is Commercial Due Diligence?

The Role of Due Diligence in Bid Strategy

The competitive landscape of private equity demands a unique approach to bid strategies.

Mooney said private equity firms aim to see something unique in their investment targets that others don’t.

“One of the big trends is investment bankers are starting to put sell-side commercial due diligence studies in the data rooms,” Mooney said. “The incentive may be for private equity firms, ‘Oh, this is great, I can rely on the money that they’ve spent and I’ll just take their word for it.’ “But a newsflash is, if you’re buying the market study, you get to pick what it says so you can frame it.”

He added that that’s one of the reasons the private equity industry still uses its “own source of truth.”

Joy elaborated on other challenges PE firms are facing.

“I think as information and data has become more commoditized and more accessible, it’s becoming harder and harder to really find areas where you have a competitive advantage,” he said.

Finding that unique angle in a saturated market can make all the difference for a firm.

READ MORE: Buy-Side Commercial Due Diligence Strategies

Choosing the Right Commercial Due Diligence Provider

The choice of a due diligence provider can make or break a deal.

Mooney emphasized the importance of team experience and relevance.

“When you’re vetting your group, I’ll show exactly how we do it. It’s ‘What is your experience in the defined industry you’re exposing? Which projects have you worked on in this industry?’ When did they work on it? Who is the team that worked on it?”

In the end, he said, it comes down to ensuring that the diligence team has relevant experience with the target, the market and the industry.

“I think it’s really finding the right team that has the most relevant experience and just knows the market cold,” Joy added.

Mooney also warned against trying to pull an up-market firm down to your budget. Because of scarcity of resources, this could mean they don’t put their best team members on your project.

As the PE world braces for influx of new deals, having your diligence sources lined up ahead of time is key. To learn more about how to prepare, you can watch the webinar on demand.

If you would like to hear about the commercial due diligence resources in the Business Builders’ Network, contact our research and operations team to scope your need.

Panelist Bios:

Matt Cole’s Route to SBJ Capital ‘A Bit Circuitous’

Matt Cole recently joined the Karma School of Business podcast to talk private equity. The managing director at SBJ Capital spoke with host Sean Mooney about data-based decisions, how he got his start in PE and much more.

Here are some of the top takeaways from their conversation.

3 Takeaways from Matt

1. An Unconventional Route to PE

When asked about his path to the world of private equity, Cole said his journey was atypical.

“Mine is a bit circuitous,” he said. “I feel like it’s a more well-trodden path now and people have to take certain steps and so forth and that was definitely not the case for me.”

Starting in investment banking, Cole transitioned into operations, focusing on understanding the intricacies of making a company successful. His entry into private equity was more opportunistic, stemming from a relationship with a colleague.

He emphasized the importance of his diverse experiences: “It was the right combination of experience that I had to bring banking and operating set of experiences to PE.”

2. Value Creation with a Human Touch

Value creation is at the heart of SBJ Capital’s approach. Matt emphasizes the importance of working closely with family and founder-owned businesses and understanding their unique challenges and opportunities.

“These are family- and founder-owned businesses. They are not looking for someone with necessarily the shiny bulge bracket Wall Street resume to come in and tell them what the next opportunity is with their company,” Cole said. “I think it makes a big difference both in actual experience to be able to say we’ve walked in your shoes and in demeanor and approach for how we present ourselves to these companies and we call them partner companies for a reason.”

For SBJ, value creation revolves around professionalization and accelerating growth. Cole, however, is quick to point out that they approach this with respect and understanding.

“We’ll never come in pretending to know more about that business after a few-month diligence period than the people that have been there for extended periods of time or started that business themselves.”

3. Data and Decision-Making

Cole also stressed the importance of being prepared and adaptable. He highlighted the significance of data in driving business decisions and the potential of emerging technologies like AI.

“Part of the value creation story that I didn’t touch on as much before is the use of data and how are you using data? How are you implementing systems?”

Mooney added the importance of sharing information within a company, especially in founder-owned businesses.

“A lot of times the senior member of the teams don’t even know the revenue of the business or certainly don’t know the full P&L or the balance sheet or the income statement,” he said.

Cole’s transition from investment banking to operations and his adeptness at navigating the complex terrains of the business world make his episode well worth a listen.

When you’re done checking out his episode, head to the main BluWave podcast page for more conversations with business leaders.

Manufacturing in the Modern Age: Data-Driven Insights into Challenges, Solutions

The manufacturing sector, historically a cornerstone of economic prosperity, is going through a transformation. As we navigate the intricacies of this evolution, data is our compass.

Industry professionals grapple with sourcing specialized talent, particularly on a geography-specific basis. They’re also navigating complex supply chain dynamics, which require both regional and global considerations, and are affected by disruptions and economic fluctuations.

There’s also a pressing need to balance operational challenges with long-term strategic growth, all while integrating technological advancements and ensuring optimal production processes.

Since 2021, BluWave has seen an increase from 61.3 percent of manufacturing activity in value creation (versus due diligence) to 78.6 percent – the highest it’s been since 2017.

Let’s dive into some of the trends driving this and other changes.

The Talent Conundrum in Manufacturing

The manufacturing landscape is shifting, and with it, the demand for specialized talent. A staggering 74 percent of manufacturers cite “attracting and retaining a quality workforce” as a top challenge, according to the National Association of Manufacturers. As the manufacturing sector becomes more specialized, the demand for niche talent has skyrocketed.

Human capital activity is at an all-time high within the manufacturing activity index, accounting for 45.5 percent of all industry projects in 2023. That’s a more-than 500 percent increase since 2017, due to use cases like interim executive searches and specialized recruiters.

Beyond the numbers, there’s a qualitative challenge, too. It’s not just about filling positions but hiring visionaries who can lead in an era of rapid change while balancing granular details with a broader strategic perspective.

In the face of these challenges, manufacturers are seeking partnerships with specialized firms, emphasizing the importance of regional expertise and industry-specific knowledge. The goal is to secure leaders who can drive innovation and navigate the complexities of the modern manufacturing world.

Navigating the Supply Chain Labyrinth

Supply chain disruptions have become the bane of the manufacturing sector, with 45 percent of professionals identifying it as a top challenge, per NAM. The intricate dance of sourcing raw materials, managing inventory and ensuring timely deliveries has become even more complex.

Supply chain management is one of the top use cases BluWave sees within manufacturing operations, with make up more than 18 percent of industry activity.

Effective supply chain management is no longer just about logistics; it’s about ensuring a seamless flow of materials, information and services, all while mitigating risks.

Supply chains have evolved into intricate global networks. Data indicates that disruptions, whether due to geopolitical tensions or unforeseen global events, can have cascading effects. Manufacturers are now tasked with not just managing but optimizing these complex systems, ensuring resilience and adaptability.

The emphasis is shifting from reactive measures to proactive strategies. By leveraging data analytics and predictive modeling, manufacturers can anticipate disruptions, adjust in real-time and ensure that the supply chain remains a strength rather than a vulnerability.

Economic Realities: The Balancing Act

In a world where 56 percent of manufacturers (per NAM) are wary of a “weaker domestic economy,” economic agility is paramount. Manufacturers must be adept at navigating economic headwinds while capitalizing on opportunities. The insights from BluWave’s client interactions reveal concerns ranging from revenue challenges to market dynamics.

That makes agility paramount. With fluctuating markets and the ever-present specter of global events, manufacturers are in a constant state of adaptation.

By understanding market trends and leveraging data-driven insights, manufacturers can identify growth areas, optimize production and ensure they remain at the forefront of industry innovation.

READ MORE: Industrial Pricing: Strategies for Manufacturing Businesses

The Digital Transformation: Beyond the Buzz

The future is digital. A significant 43 percent of manufacturers planned to ramp up their technology spending in 2023, according to Alithya. From optimizing operations to strategic decision-making, technology is reshaping the manufacturing landscape. The emphasis on IT strategy and diligence in client interactions underscores the sector’s tech-driven trajectory. Manufacturers that fail to embrace this digital shift risk being left behind.

Among the top technology-related manufacturing use cases we’re seeing are system selection & implementation, and IT strategy and diligence.

Successful digital transformation, however, requires a holistic approach. It’s not just about technology but about aligning organizational goals, processes and culture with these digital initiatives. Manufacturers must ensure that their teams are equipped with the skills and knowledge to leverage these tools effectively, driving both efficiency and innovation.

READ MORE: Manufacturing Equipment Financing: Machine Loans, Leases

Growth in the Face of Uncertainty

Growth remains a top priority for manufacturers, but it’s a goal fraught with challenges. Data highlights the importance of strategic expansion, ensuring that growth is sustainable and aligned with broader market trends. In an era of uncertainty, it’s not just about growing but growing smartly.

Strategic partnerships play a crucial role in this growth narrative. By collaborating with experts, whether in technology, supply chain management, or market research, manufacturers can tap into specialized knowledge, ensuring their growth strategies are both data-driven and future-focused.

The manufacturing sector is at a crossroads, shaped by technological innovations, economic challenges, and global trends. But with challenges come opportunities. By leveraging data-driven insights and forging strategic partnerships, manufacturers can navigate this complex landscape, driving growth and innovation.

For a deeper exploration of how data-driven insights can shape your manufacturing journey, reach out to our team.

Scott Becker of McGuireWoods: Insights from the Mind Behind Becker’s Healthcare

When Scott Becker speaks, the healthcare and private equity sectors listen. As a partner with McGuireWoods and the founder and publisher of Becker’s Healthcare and Becker’s Hospital Review, Scott’s insights are invaluable. Recently, he shared his journey and perspectives on the Karma School of Business podcast, hosted by Sean Mooney.

3 Takeaways from Scott

1. The Evolution of Becker’s Healthcare

“I started it literally 30 plus years ago,” Becker began, “trying to develop a reputation as somebody who knew the business and legal issues around, at that point, surgery centers, better than anybody else.”

This drive was not just about establishing a brand but about creating a niche in a saturated market. Scott’s vision for Becker’s Healthcare was rooted in his legal background and his desire to provide thought leadership in the healthcare sector.

Over the years, the focus of Becker’s Healthcare expanded. While it was initially centered around surgery centers, it now revolves around hospitals, health systems and health IT, among other areas. This evolution showcases Scott’s adaptability and his keen sense for market needs.

2. Recognizing and Capitalizing on Opportunities

“A lot of it is not brilliant. It’s following what’s working and doubling down on it as a constant business imperative,” Scott emphasized.

This approach is not about reinventing the wheel but about recognizing what’s effective and enhancing it. Scott’s success is a testament to his ability to identify emerging trends and strategically position himself and his ventures to benefit from them.

Mooney, echoing this sentiment, added, “If you’re the smartest person in the room, you need to find a new room.”

3. Challenges and Trends in Healthcare

Scott delved deep into the current landscape of healthcare, highlighting several significant trends: “Challenges with margins, labor shortages, especially in the physician and nursing sectors, and the increasing involvement of various players in the healthcare space.”

These challenges are not isolated but are interconnected, shaping the future of healthcare. For instance, as healthcare sites increase, there’s a projected shortage in certain specialties, like anesthesiologists. This, in turn, affects patient care, with many unable to access their doctors promptly, leading to a resurgence in ER visits.

Scott’s insights provide a comprehensive overview of the challenges and opportunities in the healthcare sector, offering a roadmap for professionals navigating this complicated domain.

READ MORE: Specialized Healthcare Recruiters

Becker’s keen insights offer a deep dive into the intricacies of healthcare and private equity. His journey from attorney to entrepreneur and his ability to recognize and seize opportunities make him a voice worth listening to in the industry.

When you’re done checking out his episode, head to the main BluWave podcast page for more conversations with business leaders.

Mastering Board Recruitment: Strategies for Attracting Top Talent

Strategic leadership forms the crux of organizational development and success. Just as the driving force of a car is its engine, so too is a high-performing board the engine of an organization, guiding strategic decisions and growth.

The assembly of a board requires careful selection of individuals, each possessing diverse expertise and perspectives that complement one another, fostering a rich ecosystem of leadership. This is where the concept of board recruitment becomes essential.

READ MORE: Best Practices for Board Recruitment

“Bringing on a board member who comes from that industry and can bring in-specific experience is a value add to any organization,” says Scott Bellinger, BluWave’s co-head of research and operations. “They can work closer to the management team and give outside insight of someone who’s been there and done that previously.”

It’s a process that goes beyond filling seats. It’s about attracting the top talent that can steer your business. For organizations looking for professional support in this crucial process, BluWave is ready to connect you with industry-specific resources that can guide your process with expertise and precision.

A women in a black sleeveless dress standing at the end of a glass table in a business meeting. There are high glass windows behind. It's a clear day.

Defining Your Board Member Needs

The journey toward effective board recruitment begins with understanding your unique needs. An assessment of the specific gaps in your current board composition and identification of skill requirements helps direct the recruitment process.

By aligning the desired attributes and expertise of potential board members with the organization’s strategic goals and challenges, you can ensure the recruited individuals will provide the most value.

Job Description

When beginning your board recruitment journey, a comprehensive job description serves as your map. By clearly outlining the board’s purpose, responsibilities and expectations, you set the course for attracting qualified board candidates.

A well-crafted job description, complete with the organization’s mission, board member roles, committee involvement and time commitment requirements, helps filter in individuals who align with your needs. To maximize impact, use concise language, focus on essential qualifications and illuminate your organization’s unique value proposition.

Benefits, Responsibilities and Skills

The board position comes with a wealth of benefits, including opportunities for personal and professional growth, networking and the privilege to make a significant impact on an organization. These benefits should be presented upfront to attract motivated individuals.

Board members shoulder several responsibilities, such as fiduciary duty, strategic planning, risk management and providing guidance to the executive team. Ensuring these duties align with your organization’s needs and strategic direction helps attract the right talent.

“They can be a great outside partner to the CEO – and it’s a portco, the PE firm – to ensure everyone is growing in the same direction and on the same page,” Bellinger adds.

Term and General Duties

Board member terms typically have a defined duration, and adopting staggered terms brings a mix of continuity and fresh perspectives into the proceedings. General duties could span from regular attendance at board meetings and active participation in committees to fulfilling fiduciary responsibilities. Clear articulation of these expectations can help potential members better understand their role.

Time, Legal and Financial Commitments

Time commitments for board members can range from regular board and committee meetings to additional engagement requirements. Alongside time, potential board members should be aware of any legal or financial obligations, such as adherence to regulatory compliance, potential liability issues and the expectation of making personal financial contributions or securing sponsorships.

Strategies to Find Potential Board Candidates

Sourcing potential board candidates requires a multifaceted approach. Utilizing board posting programs and matching platforms, such as LinkedIn and Executive Search Firms, can offer access to a pool of qualified board candidates. Local Chambers of Commerce can also serve as valuable resources for finding candidates.

Oftentimes, though, you can save time and resources by connecting with a service provider who already knows exactly who you need and where to find them. The Business Builders’ Network from BluWave is full of exact-fit third parties who know how to do just that.

Word-of-Mouth and Referrals

Existing networks and relationships form a treasure trove of potential board candidates. From board members of other organizations and industry leaders to professional associations and community influencers, your network contacts can be a rich source of referrals. Clearly articulating your organization’s mission and the specific qualifications you seek in potential board candidates can help garner more suitable referrals.

Publicizing Within Network and Local Community

Promoting board opportunities within your network and local community allows you to target individuals already familiar with your organization or industry. Email newsletters, social media platforms, industry events and community-based publications can be effective channels for publicizing these opportunities. A compelling announcement combined with engaging storytelling can pique interest and attract potential board members.

External Promotion

Expanding your search beyond your immediate networks through external promotion can attract diverse candidates. Digital platforms and industry-specific networks can reach individuals with the desired expertise who might not be in your immediate circle. In addition to LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook can be effective platforms.

Screening and Selecting Board Members

Choosing the right candidate requires a structured process. An efficient application process, including resume, cover letter and reference submission, can facilitate the evaluation of potential board candidates. Initial screenings through phone or video interviews can help narrow the candidate pool. Utilizing behavioral-based interviewing techniques and strategic questions can further help assess the qualifications, values, commitment and potential contributions of board candidates.

Short-listing and Final Selection

The final stage of board recruitment involves short-listing and selecting the ideal candidates. Reviewing candidates based on predefined criteria and qualifications ensures an objective selection process. Thoughtful deliberation among board members, consensus-building, conducting reference checks and considering overall board dynamics can further aid in the selection of the right candidate.

“The main thing is getting someone who’s willing to be an active board member and not just meet once a quarter, but actually help with some value creation plans throughout the period and stay engaged between quarterly meetings,” Bellinger says.

A successful board recruitment strategy is a meticulous process. It doesn’t have to be an uphill task, though. BluWave’s research and operations team can be your ally in this process, connecting you with exact-fit service providers. Connect with us here to start your journey to master board recruitment.

Best Practices for Board Recruitment

An outstanding board is invaluable to an organization. The power to make strategic decisions, the ability to drive innovation and the capacity to inspire stakeholder confidence is all within its power. Having helped countless businesses with this very process, BluWave has a unique perspective into the fundamentals of the board recruitment process and the best practices that make it efficient and effective.

Working with one of the expert third-party resources in the Business Builders’ Network can save you time and money while ensuring that you make the right selection for your company.

Let’s take a deeper look at the details that go into this critical decision.

Understanding the Board Member Recruitment Process

Board member recruitment goes beyond the confines of structured interviews – it is a crucial facet of organizational governance. A well-executed process determines the structure of leadership, influencing decision-making and strategic oversight.

“We’re starting to see some PE firms look for those board members during due diligence to help with some of those diligence opportunities as senior advisors then convert post-close to board members,” says Scott Bellinger, BluWave’s co-head of research and operations.

Industry-specific third parties not only know how to run the process for your business, they’re also connected with the most qualified candidates for your specific situation. Access to these resources can save businesses from the headache of sifting through unknown or unproven options.

Best Practices for Recruiting Board Members

Identifying Desired Board Member Attributes

First, you must identify the qualifications, skills and diversity that board members need to possess. These attributes should be aligned with the objectives of the organization, facilitating its growth trajectory.

Developing a Comprehensive Recruitment Strategy

A clear blueprint and timeline form the foundations of a robust recruitment strategy. Tapping into various channels – from professional organizations to networks and referrals – can greatly enhance your reach to potential board members.

Navigating these channels can be intricate, though, highlighting the need for expert third-party resources to guide the process.

Implementing an Effective Screening and Selection Process

The backbone of successful board recruitment is a comprehensive screening and evaluation process. The stages – ranging from interviews, application reviews, reference checks, background investigations, to skills assessments and board observations – require careful execution. Thorough due diligence, particularly during reference checks and interviews, should never be rushed or downplayed.

Utilizing a Board Recruitment Matrix

A board recruitment matrix can be a game-changer. This visual tool evaluates the current composition of the board, unveiling gaps that need to be addressed. The matrix ensures that new board members are appointed based on the required skills, expertise and diversity, fostering a team that’s well-equipped to navigate organizational challenges and stimulate success.

READ MORE: Effective Board Recruitment Strategies

So what does a great board member look like?

“Someone who has scaled a business in the same space at a larger size company,” Bellinger says. “Someone who knows what best-in-class looks like in this industry.”

BluWave is prepared to connect you with an exact-fit service provider, equipped to streamline and optimize your board recruitment process.

When you’re ready to elevate your board recruitment process, get in touch with us. Our research and operations team will scope your needs and provide best-fit candidates for you to evaluate within a single business day.

Understanding Voice of Customer: Metrics, KPIs, Analytics

Customer-centricity is a business imperative, which makes understanding the voice of customer (VoC) critical to success. VoC insights provide a deep understanding of customer needs, preferences and pain points, guiding the strategic direction of a business.

The value of VoC, however, isn’t merely in its collection, but in the ability to quantify it using the right metrics, KPIs and analytics. By focusing on the metrics below, companies can track progress, identify trends and make data-driven decisions.

Not employing these metrics effectively could lead to misguided strategies and missed opportunities, underlining the need for expert advice on this critical subject.

Third-party resources, such as those BluWave connects you with, offer businesses the expertise to measure, analyze and make strategic use of VoC data. Having access to such proficiency could mean the difference between having a wealth of customer data and leveraging it for business growth. Let’s explore the potential of VoC data.

Essential Voice of Customer (VoC) Metrics and KPIs

Understanding and implementing standard VoC metrics and KPIs is the first step toward a comprehensive customer-centric strategy.

READ MORE: Voice of Customer Methodologies

Keenan Kolinsky, BluWave’s co-head of research and operations, says working with specialized third parties can uncover insights the company wouldn’t be able to on its own.

“Before determining your growth strategy or any commercial strategy, you should get targeted insights from your customers and potential customers,” he says.

Sometimes clients will have very specific questions they want included in the scope. Other times they will look to the third party to advise.

Net Promoter Score (NPS)

NPS serves as a barometer of customer loyalty and satisfaction. It is determined by asking customers a single question: “On a scale of 0-10, how likely are you to recommend our company/product/service to a friend or colleague?” NPS provides valuable insights into your customers’ overall perception of your brand and their willingness to endorse you to others.

Customer Satisfaction (CSAT)

CSAT is a key metric that measures customer satisfaction with a specific product or service or an overall experience with your company. Typically measured on a scale, CSAT helps businesses understand how well they meet or exceed customer expectations, guiding improvements in product or service offerings.

Customer Effort Score (CES)

CES gauges the ease of interaction with your company. It measures the effort a customer must exert to obtain a product or service, resolve an issue or get a query answered. Low CES indicates smooth interactions and processes, directly contributing to higher customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Customer Loyalty Index (CLI)

CLI is a composite metric that gauges multiple dimensions of loyalty, including repurchasing, upselling and recommendation likelihood. A high CLI indicates strong customer loyalty, suggesting repeat business and customer advocacy.

Customer Lifetime Value (CLV)

CLV predicts the net profit associated with the entire future relationship with a customer. It helps businesses allocate resources efficiently for customer retention and acquisition strategies.

While business may be able to answer some of these questions on their own, Kolinsky says getting an outside perspective can be invaluable.

“Sometimes clients will have very specific questions they want included in the scope. Other times they will look to the third party to advise,” he says. “One of the insights they’re looking to get is buying drivers. What influences that customer to purchase that service or product?”

Advanced Voice of Customer (VoC) Metrics

With a strong foundation in place, businesses can progress to more advanced VoC metrics that delve deeper into customer sentiment and behavior.

Learning Opportunities: Improving Products Based on Feedback

This metric identifies specific areas where your product or service could improve based on customer feedback. By proactively spotting and addressing these opportunities, you enhance your offerings and customer satisfaction.

Repurchase Ratio: Evaluating Customer Retention

The Repurchase Ratio measures the percentage of customers who have made repeat purchases. This metric is critical for assessing customer loyalty and informing retention strategies.

“Would You Miss Us?” (WYMU): Assessing Customer Dependency

WYMU assesses the extent of customer dependency on your products or services. High scores indicate significant customer reliance, which is indicative of a strong customer-business relationship and often results in brand loyalty and advocacy.

READ MORE: What is Voice of the Customer?

Integrating VoC Metrics into Your Strategy

Accumulating VoC metrics is just the beginning; integrating these insights into your business strategy is where the real value lies. A tool that proves vital in this integration process is the Customer Journey Map, a visual representation of your customers’ experiences across all touchpoints. A well-constructed journey map can guide you on where to collect VoC data, adding to your voice of customer strategy.

Amplifying Results with Voice of Customer Analytics

VoC metrics and KPIs provide vast amounts of data, but it is the role of VoC analytics to interpret this data and glean actionable insights. Analytics facilitate the understanding of complex customer behaviors and sentiments, allowing businesses to make strategic decisions that drive customer satisfaction and business growth.

Companies often find interpreting and actioning VoC data a complex task, calling for specialist expertise. BluWave can connect you with an exact-fit service provider to navigate this complexity and help you amplify your VoC strategy, based on proven voice of customer methodologies.

Focusing on voice of customer metrics, KPIs and analytics is not just a best practice, but a necessity. They offer quantifiable measures to track progress, understand customer behavior and preferences and make strategic decisions that lead to enhanced customer satisfaction and business growth.

Looking to strengthen your VoC strategy with expert third-party resources? Get in touch with BluWave today. Our dedicated research and operations team will connect you with an exact-fit service provider to aid your journey to customer-centric growth.

5 Steps to an Effective Voice of Customer (VoC) Strategy

In today’s competitive market landscape, understanding your customers’ perceptions and needs is paramount. This is where an effective voice of customer (VoC) strategy comes into play, allowing businesses to capture and analyze customer feedback for informed decision-making.

But without a strategic approach based on proven voice of customer best practices, deciphering customer pain points and optimizing your business operations can be challenging.

This guide will take you through five essential steps to building and implementing a successful VoC strategy.

Building a Customer-Centric Company Culture

An effective VoC strategy begins by cultivating a customer-centric culture within your organization. This involves adopting a mindset where customer needs and feedback are the driving force behind every decision. From the C-suite to the front-line employees, every team member should understand the value of the customer’s voice and its impact on business success.

The integration of a VoC strategy extends across all departments, with each having a unique role and benefiting differently. For instance, the marketing department might prioritize understanding customer preferences for promotional channels, while the product development team might focus on feedback about product usability.

Building a Robust VoC Data Collection Framework

Your VoC strategy is only as good as the data you collect. Diverse methods of data collection provide a multifaceted view of customer preferences, expectations and pain points. As you adopt different VoC methodologies, you’ll gain a more comprehensive understanding of the customer journey.

Select feedback channels that align with your customer’s preferences and your business sneeds. Whether it’s through direct interviews, surveys, social media or customer support interactions, diversifying your feedback channels is crucial. Continually assess the strengths and weaknesses of your current channels to fine-tune your data collection strategy.

Transforming VoC Data into Actionable Insights

Collecting VoC data is just the beginning. The power of your VoC strategy lies in transforming this raw data into actionable insights. Analytical tools are indispensable for interpreting the data and identifying patterns that signify customer sentiment, preferences and pain points.

READ MORE: The Power of AI and Data Analytics

For instance, you may notice a recurring theme of customers struggling with a particular feature of your product. Grouping similar feedback points helps you identify and prioritize areas for improvement. By mapping these themes against customer personas and journey stages, you can gain a deeper understanding of specific customer experiences and expectations.

Prioritizing and Implementing VoC-Driven Initiatives

Having extracted insights from your VoC data, the next step involves implementing VoC-driven initiatives. Prioritization of these initiatives depends on several factors, including the feasibility of implementation, expected impact and alignment with business objectives.

A VoC roadmap can help you systematically execute prioritized initiatives over time. Transparent communication is key during this phase, ensuring everyone understands the changes and is on board with the new initiatives. Key performance indicators (KPIs) should be set to measure the effectiveness of these initiatives, providing tangible proof of your VoC strategy’s success.

Enhancing Customer Engagement and VoC Program Evolution

A successful VoC strategy doesn’t stop at implementation—it’s an ongoing process that evolves with your customers’ needs and expectations. Keep your customers informed about the changes you’re making based on their feedback. This not only shows your commitment to their satisfaction but also encourages their continued participation in your VoC program.

Regular reviews and updates to your VoC program are essential to stay in sync with changing customer needs. Your VoC strategy should be flexible, allowing for continuous improvement and adaptation.

Building and implementing an effective VoC strategy may seem like a daunting task, but the rewards of increased customer satisfaction and business growth are worth the effort.

Working with a trusted third-party expert can help ease this process, and BluWave is here to connect you with the perfect resource.

“There are providers with networks of contacts across different industries,” says Keenan Kolinsky, BluWave co-head of research and operations. “Not only is it interesting to survey existing customers, but also potential customers to gain their insights and perspectives, and that’s really where these third parties can add value, is helping businesses get insights from potential customers – not just the ones they already have.”

Whether you need help refining your data collection methods, analyzing VoC data or implementing VoC-driven initiatives, our research and operations team is ready to assist. Contact us today and let us guide you to success in your VoC journey.