Serent Snapshot: John Long, Founder and Co-Chairman of Avionté
John Long is the Founder and Co-Chairman of Avionté, a provider of staffing and recruiting technology solutions for the Staffing industry. We recently sat down with John to hear his story, and why he chose to partner with Serent Capital to grow his company.
John had started his career with Paychex, learning the in and outs of a payroll system. He then joined TempWorks, a staffing software company to help build out their back office. After being promoted to President and leading the company to substantial growth, John and three other partners started Avionté in late 2005.
Finding Their Stride
Over the years, the small Avionté team grew significantly, with no intention to sell. As John puts it, “We thought we were all going to be ‘lifers.’ But as we continued to grow, finding a partner to help scale the business made sense.” The Avionté team reached a point in which recapitalization began to sound like the best next step. The other partners were ready to exit and John began extensive research to find the right private equity firm.
It was important for John to find a private equity partner who took care of Avionté’s customers and the employees. “If you get your customers right, and get your employees right, your business will work.” John noticed that many private equity firms only saw companies through the black and white lens of spreadsheets, budgets, and how much money they could squeeze out of the business. It seemed to John, that those firms only made decisions based on short-term money, with no effort to retain the soul of a company or to look at the long-term horizon.
The “Human” Side of Private Equity
John began to see Serent Capital emerging as an exception to the negative perceptions he’d gained through his research. In Serent Capital, John saw deeper values at work that reassured him that he was dealing with a team who shared his care for the human side of business: treating employees and customers right.
At one point during his research phase, John met with a Serent Capital Principal at a bar. “What brings you to Minnesota?” John asked. The Principal explained that he was visiting a portfolio company to help them navigate an operational challenge. “How much are you charging your portfolio company for that help?”
“What I really like about Serent is they took our essence—our values—and made us better.”
The Principal shot John a curious look. “We don’t charge consulting fees. That’s what we do. We’re here to help our partners.” That answer stood out to John.
“What I really like about Serent is they took our essence—our values—and made us better.” Soon after, John realized he’d found the right partner.
Developing a Partnership Program
Identifying New Revenue Drivers
One of John’s first interactions after the investment with Serent Capital was receiving help developing a partner program for Avionté, aimed at continuing to grow the company and increasing revenue.
“We started by setting the terms of the deal: What could this program look like? When that was decided, they established processes to help Avionté know which companies to work with, how to distinguish good fits from bad ones, and methods to make sure each partnership was mutually beneficial. Being fair to our partners was very important to me.”
Then Avionté was ready to hire a team to run the new program. The Serent Growth Team helped John recruit the right people, including key directors and managers.
“Everybody looks good during the honeymoon stage.” Hiring exceptional, long-term team members is very challenging. Serent Capital spearheaded a lot of the recruiting for Avionté. “They’ve helped me recruit top-notch, incredibly bright people,” John said.
When the partnership program launched, it grew not only Avionté’s capabilities but also increased its revenue.
“Our customers were thrilled to see us partner with a company like Serent Capital because they knew we would continue to scale.”
Making Customers Happy
“Our customers were thrilled to see us partner with a company like Serent Capital because they knew we would continue to scale. With Serent Capital’s help and expertise, we could break through large barriers to give customers an even better experience.”
Before partnering with Serent Capital, Avionté had a small, but mighty development team. Serent Capital helped Avionté double down on continuing to build out that team and nearly doubling the function, a decision that resonated deeply among Avionté customers.
Employees saw improvements as well. “As a small company, we worked very much like a family-oriented company. Serent Capital embraced that, but they also helped us create processes that made it a great working environment for all of our employees.”
Preparing for Future Growth
“I love working with Serent Capital. I feel like they embrace who I am as a person… Serent Capital understands the founders, the CEOs, and the management and executive teams—these are the people who drive the business. Serent Capital really takes an active approach to support people in those leadership roles, as opposed to dictating where we should jump and how high.”
“One of the things that has surprised me since the beginning—and has continued to be reinforced every year that I’ve worked with them—is that Serent Capital is made up of genuinely good people. Their team believes in us as people and as a company. And they truly want to help us improve and succeed.”