Serent Snapshot: Will Clemens, CEO of USATestprep

Serent Snapshot: Will Clemens, CEO of USATestprep

Will's Story on Scaling Through Sales and Pricing

October 6, 2020



Serent Snapshot: Will Clemens, CEO of USATestprep

Meet Will Clemens, CEO of USATestprep and board member at Avionté Staffing Software and Arbiter Sports. We sat down with him to learn more about his experience with Serent Capital over the past 7 years in multiple unique capacities.

“I first got involved with Serent in 2013. They had done due diligence on a company where I was CEO at the time. I was very impressed with their vertical research on specific software industry segments and their approach to helping companies grow through work with the management team. After I left that company, I started working with Serent Capital as an independent board member.”


Scaling USATestprep

As a board member for several different organizations, Will has seen how Serent Capital operates—and how it’s evolved through the years. More recently, he became CEO of USATestprep, a nationwide leader in curriculum resources and test preparation for high schools, middle schools, and elementary schools who partnered with Serent Capital in 2018.

“USATestprep’s mission is to be the most widely used academic assessment solution in American public schools. We pride ourselves on being teacher-led, grassroots, and school-oriented in how we do business. We operate a simple and effective platform for helping schools benchmark how their kids are doing and teach them what they need to know.”

One of the first big initiatives the Growth Team partnered with Will and his team on was building out USATestprep’s sales infrastructure.

 

Building Out the USATestprep Sales Organization

Prior to Serent Capital’s involvement, USATestprep’s sales team had been growing but was missing the structure they needed to continue to expand their go-to-market function. “The Growth Team has worked with us primarily on building out the sales and marketing function of the company. We’ve really started from scratch.”

“We work with the Growth Team on a regular basis to design what the sales organization should look like and what the candidate profile should be. More recently, we’ve been working with them on specific programs around optimizing our pricing and expanding into new states.”

 

Optimizing Highly Nuanced Pricing Models

Next to building the sales function, Serent Capital’s Growth Team has helped the management team optimize USATestprep’s pricing model. “The most significant project we’re working on with the Growth Team is around the pricing of our products. Our high-volume, almost retail go-to-market function means that the way we price and package our products has to be very efficient.”

“We have quick sales cycles, a high volume of new business, and a high volume of contracts that we need to process. So every little wrinkle has to be well thought-out so it can work within the system. The most significant thing we’re doing with the Growth Team is getting our pricing to work within that model.”

 

Accessing a Breadth of Industry Knowledge

As a founder or CEO, it’s very common to be focused on your organization but miss the bigger market forces at play. “The thing that a lot of people notice right away about the Serent Capital team in general—and the Growth Team in particular—is how much they know about the market and the company they’re working with.”

“I’ve seen Serent Capital walk the walk on supporting the other stakeholders in the company, not just their one investment in the company.”

“They’re extremely prepared. In many cases, they have more context for things that we’re working on than we will. But they’ll make all of that available to us in a really easy-to-absorb and collaborative way. What I like most about working with Serent is they help me do my job: they can introduce us to executives we can hire, help us with lenders, help us meet acquisition targets, recommend effective board members, and help us think about planning and budgeting for the long-term.”

“What I value most about working with Serent Capital, and the reason I’ve spent the last half dozen years only working with them, is they understand that for the company to be successful, it’s not just about their ROI in the company; they know it needs to serve its employees, customers, and even the community if it’s really going to thrive. I’ve seen Serent Capital walk the walk on supporting the other stakeholders in the company, not just their one investment in the company.”

 

The Value of a Board of Directors

While building—and reporting to—a board may feel daunting at first, Will knows the importance of building a well-balanced board after years of experience on both sides of the table. “One of the interesting things that Serent does when they set up a board is invite independent board members to also sit on the board. I’ve served in that role myself.”

“What that provides is balance to the discussion, so it’s not just a financial discussion. The independent board members typically have something specific that they bring, whether it’s industry or functional knowledge that rounds out the capabilities of the board.”

“In my experience, I’ve gotten a lot of value out of that because it helps me connect with executives and partners that I might not otherwise have met. In some cases the independent board members knew the functional part of a software company deeply that I had less experience in and I was able to draw on that.”

“I’ve also served in that role myself as an independent board member. It’s fun to participate in another company’s growth. It’s a great experience to see all of the things that different companies do. You can learn a lot as an outside board member by watching the things that companies try—and succeed or fail at.”

 

 

Unlocking Growth Through Partnership

Lastly, we wondered what Will would say to a founder considering a partnership with Serent Capital. “Think about your organization, think about what you’re going to need next. Think about the policies that you need to have in place. They have independent board members that they will bring in to round out the folks at the table. They can introduce you to lenders, acquisition targets, and partners.”

“One of the best things about working with Serent Capital—and something that I’ve seen change over the years that I’ve been working with them—is the scope of how they can help a company’s management team. It’s grown dramatically. They have a Growth Team that can help on operational improvements, particularly around sales and marketing. They also have a Human Capital team that can help you recruit executives.”

 

Searching for Company/Investor Fit

“What strikes me most about Serent is they’re humble. They’re constantly trying to get better at what they do. I have been impressed with how they care about the other stakeholders in the company, the employees, the customers, the community, the founders. They understand that it’s about more than just their investment.”

“I have been impressed with how Serent cares about the other stakeholders in the company, the employees, the customers, the community, the founders. They understand that it’s about more than just their investment.”

“I think a lot of people outside of the private equity industry think that private equity investors are just in it for the money. But as I’ve spent years and multiple deals working with Serent Capital, I’ve realized that they think about it much more broadly. They’re playing the long game and they’re thinking about everybody who’s involved.”

Serent Capital invests in growing businesses that have developed compelling solutions that address their customers' needs. As those businesses grow and evolve, the opportunities and challenges that they face change with them. Principals at Serent Capital have firsthand experience at capturing those opportunities and navigating these difficulties through their experiences as CEOs, strategic advisors, and board members to successful growing businesses. By bringing its expertise and capital to bear, Serent seeks to help growing businesses thrive. Learn more about our portfolio companies.

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Nothing presented herein is intended to constitute investment advice, nor sales material, and no investment decision should be made based on any information provided herein. Information provided reflects Serent's views as of a particular time and are subject to change without notice. Any forward looking statements or forecasts are based on assumptions and actual results are expected to vary from any such statements or forecasts. While Serent has used reasonable efforts to obtain information from reliable sources, we make no representations or warranties as to the accuracy, reliability, or completeness of third party information presented herein. Past performance is not indicative of future results. There can be no guarantee that any investment strategy employed by Serent will be successful. A full list of portfolio holdings is available on Serent's website.