Portfolio Leader Gordon Smith has been through the acquisition process on both sides. Now, he equips software businesses with tools to fuel their growth
Gordon Smith has done a lot over nearly three decades spent in the software industry. After graduating with a computer science degree, he started his career as a programmer in a large, structured software company. Since then, he’s accumulated experience in R&D, professional services, product management, customer support, and senior-level management while working for three different software companies.
“I've been very lucky to have gotten the experience to work within all the disciplines within a software company,” he says. “And I’ve worked with some very talented people from which I have learned so much.”
He joined Volaris in 2008 as part of an acquisition, so he offers a unique perspective when talking to company owners who are considering selling their businesses.
He tells Acquired Knowledge magazine what he has learned about growing businesses over the years.
What perspective did you gain about growth in your early years of joining Volaris?
I was the COO of AssetWorks when Volaris acquired it in 2008. AssetWorks makes software for the Asset Management market, and in 2010, I was lucky to be promoted to the General Manager position at the company.
After taking on that role, my focus became to grow the business. We did that very successfully in part because we also focused on growing our talent. At that time, I had the pleasure of working with a senior leadership team that was experienced, eager to continue learning, and fostered a team environment.
What was your experience with growing the sales and marketing part of the business at AssetWorks?
The new role gave me oversight into sales and marketing, which challenged me with something new to learn. When I came on board, we only had one marketing resource, and I thought we were doing a good job. But once we were able to benchmark and look at best practices of other businesses within Volaris, I realized that we were behind the times. So, as a leadership team, we developed a strategy to build a marketing team.
Now, AssetWorks has a group of about ten people with sales and marketing expertise, including in digital marketing and SEO. We modernized our sales and marketing team in a way that led to us tripling the size of our pipeline. All these actions gave AssetWorks better opportunities, which helped our growth significantly.
Eventually, you moved into M&A, which is what you focus on now. How did that transition happen?
Volaris has always been successful with acquisitions, and after AssetWorks was acquired in 2008, I started to be involved in acquisition discussions as early as 2012. By 2016, we had assembled a dedicated M&A team, and we completed our first acquisition in 2017.
When I made the transition from operating a business to M&A, I moved from overseeing a single business unit to having several business unit leaders reporting to me starting in 2017. My focus shifted to acquiring vertical market software businesses across multiple industries, and my knowledge of how to conduct M&A came completely through Volaris.
By far, one of my biggest career successes was the first acquisition I was responsible for. I was the team lead for that process—bringing the organization into Volaris and integrating it.
“Seeing leaders take the next step and grow after they join us is the most interesting and happiest part of my job.”
-Gordon Smith, Portfolio Leader, Volaris Group
What would you tell software entrepreneurs who are thinking about joining Volaris?
Once we acquire a company, it doesn’t end there. We integrate that organization into all the best practices and capabilities Volaris can provide.
We have the tools, resources, and network needed to help software businesses grow, regardless of the industry. We provide advice and guidance through our network that can provide a company that we acquire with an unfair advantage in their market.
We make sure that business leaders maintain their autonomy as they are experts in their industries and know best about their clients. Because one size doesn't fit all for the businesses we oversee, we provide metrics, benchmarks, best practices, and resources to empower business leaders to make decisions at the local level.
What’s your favorite part about working at Volaris?
My favorite part of Volaris is working with a diverse group of people. I get to learn so much from these experienced folks. Working in a team environment is key and very rewarding.
Too often, entrepreneurs are making solo decisions with only the information they have available. But when you’re working in a team environment like at Volaris, with best practices shared by people who’ve already done what you’re trying to do, you can access an unlimited amount of information. In addition, every level of leadership at Volaris is very generous with their time and knowledge.
"Too often, entrepreneurs are making solo decisions with only the information they have available. But when you’re working in a team environment like at Volaris ... you can access an unlimited amount of information."
-Gordon Smith, Portfolio Leader, Volaris Group
How would you describe yourself as a leader?
I enjoy working in a team environment and believe that people are more receptive to share ideas when they feel they are in a non-judgmental setting. I want to foster that atmosphere where I believe that participation of differing views strengthens the resulting decisions. When people have problems that they would like to discuss, I strongly encourage them to bring forward their thoughts on a solution so we can work together on an outcome. And although we operate in a decentralized environment, I tend to be a structured, organized person.
What do you like to do in your free time?
Golfing is probably number one. It is a great way to enjoy the outdoors and compete, even if it is just against myself. Spending time with family and friends, and taking an occasional beach vacation are a close second. I’m pretty simple in my existence.
Who should get in touch with you?
I’m fascinated to learn about how entrepreneurs run their businesses. It’s interesting to talk to other business leaders, no matter what situation they are in. Three-hour discussions can go by in what feels like ten minutes.