Birthing a Spinoff

 

Accretive / Countsy

We’ve shortened this case study to accommodate humanity’s collective inability to focus for long periods of time. For the full monty, click here.


 

The Challenge

How to recognize the opportunities inherent in launching a sub-practice as its own brand, and how to position and promote that brand as distinct from the parent company, which is itself undergoing a positioning update.

The power of positioning is never more apparent than when a seemingly straightforward positioning refresh results not only in that refresh but also in the spin-off of a company sub-practice, one distinct enough to flourish under its own brand.       

A professional services firm providing consulting, staffing and outsourcing solutions to organizations of all sizes, from startups to Fortune 500 companies, Accretive Solutions engaged us to update its role and relevance to key audiences. Seen predominantly as a staffing resource (Accretive’s areas of expertise encompass accounting and finance, governance and compliance, information technology, and business transformation), the company was eager to establish a stronger presence as a high-level consultancy. It also sought to expand its business.

The Aha!

Whereas Accretive looked to showcase its high-end consulting services, which were geared in large part to big organizations, NBOS (full name: National Business Outsourcing Solutions) was targeted to venture-backed startups that didn’t yet have a finance department. Designed to operate as a dedicated finance department for early-stage companies, it offered on-demand CFOs and comprehensive resources that covered all aspects of accounting, budgeting, payroll and benefits. In addition, unlike its Mechanic’sparent’s emphasis on big-picture consulting, NBOS’ commitment to handling the daily finance needs for its clients revealed it to be a customer-service-oriented Mother.

Given differing client needs and the corporate genetic disconnect, it became clear to us that the smartest thing Accretive could do was to tap into its most profitable practice area and take advantage of the growth the finance-as-a-service segment offered. In short, it should invest more heavily in NBOS and spin it out as its own brand, one that would operate as a separate legal entity but remain under the Accretive umbrella.

We presented the team with two message architectures, one for Accretive and its sub-practices (minus NBOS), and the other for NBOS, which following an exercise with a naming agency was renamed Countsy (a nod to its back-office roots).

Next up was to develop and execute a go-to-market strategy for the new company—to move from message architecture to market resonance via a new name, logo, website content, videos, marketing communications, PR around the brand, sales training, etc. This material would act as a messaging virus, both internally and out into the market.

 

The Results

In addition to providing a positioning refresh for the parent company and added value in the launch and promotion of the Countsy sub-practice as a distinct brand, our work with Accretive sweetened the parent company’s portfolio. At the end of 2017, multinational business consulting firm RGP acquired Accretive, and integrated it within the company—but left Countsy (which had lifted Accretive’s valuation), to operate under its own brand.

With Countsy successfully launched as its own business, and our positioning and brand launch for it completed, we entered the go-to-market plan phase of our engagement with the stand-alone practice, which called for us to provide the leadership and team to deliver on the plan. We went on to take on an interim CMO role to help the brand with a portfolio of marketing initiatives, including lead generation, driving traffic to the website and building company awareness. 

Two years later, we’restill servicing Countsy—the recipient of various industry awards—and our delivery has received nods from other marketing organizations as a best-practice example. Our lead-generation has contributed directly to Countsy’s growth (if personified as a salesperson, we’d be one of the top sellers) and we continue to take part in strategic conversations that impact the business beyond just marketing execution.


Birthing a Spinoff

 
 
 

The Challenge 

How to recognize the opportunities inherent in launching a sub-practice as its own brand, and how to position and promote that brand as distinct from the parent company, which is itself undergoing a positioning update.

 The power of positioning is never more apparent than when a seemingly straightforward positioning refresh results not only in that refresh but also in the spin-off of a company sub-practice, one distinct enough to flourish under its own brand.       

Accretive Solutions—a professional services firm providing consulting, staffing and outsourcing solutions to organizations of all sizes, from startups to Fortune 500 companies—engaged us to update its role and relevance to key audiences. Seen predominantly as a staffing resource (Accretive’s areas of expertise encompass accounting and finance, governance and compliance, information technology, and business transformation), the company was eager to establish a stronger presence as a high-level consultancy. It also sought to expand its business.

The Aha!

We began with a review of Accretive’s market ecosystem through six distinct lenses—what we call the Six C’s of Positioning. A framework that helps companies determine their precise position in the marketing landscape, the Six C’s (CoreDNA, Category, Community, Competition, Context and Criteria) are designed to illuminate what a company brings to the table—in short, who the company is and why it matters. The insights garnered from detailed market analysis, interviewing key stakeholders and facilitating an in-person workshop with the executive team would enable us to create a positioning architecture and narrative that would articulate Accretive’s new vision and strategy.

To that end, we employed our proprietary DNA-based positioning methodology to discover the lead-off C, Core, which showed Accretive to be a Mechanic. An examination of the remaining Cs, however, quickly brought into focus a corporate strategy component we needed to address before moving forward on positioning and branding. Research conducted with company stakeholders and clients (Community) and on the market in general (Competition) brought to light the untapped potential of NBOS, a thriving Accretive sub-practice that provided a back-office suite of services to startups, and whose buyer profile stood apart from the rest of the firm’s divisions. 

Whereas Accretive looked to showcase its high-end consulting services, which were geared in large part to big organizations, NBOS (full name: National Business Outsourcing Solutions) was targeted to venture-backed startups that didn’t yet have a finance department. Designed to operate as a dedicated finance department for early-stage companies, it offered on-demand CFOs and comprehensive resources that covered all aspects of accounting, budgeting, payroll and benefits. In addition, unlike its Mechanic parent’s emphasis on big-picture consulting, NBOS’ commitment to handling the daily finance needs for its clients revealed it to be a customer-service-oriented Mother.

Given differing client needs and the corporate genetic disconnect, it became clear to us that the smartest thing Accretive could do was to tap into its most profitable practice area and take advantage of the growth the finance-as-a-service segment offered. In short, it should invest more heavily in NBOS and spin it out as its own brand, one that would operate as a separate legal entity but remain under the Accretive umbrella.

With Accretive’s management on board with the idea of the practice operating as an offshoot company—renamed, branded and promoted as an asset—we presented the team with two message architectures, one for Accretive and its sub-practices (minus NBOS), and the other for NBOS, which following an exercise with a naming agency was renamed Countsy (a nod to its back-office roots):

Accretive positioning and elevator story:

Accretive is a professional services firm providing consulting, outsourcing and search. Accretive accelerates your company’s performance by quickly executing top quality projects through curated expertise and value-driven solutions. Accretive’s 700 consultants are Big 4 alumni with client-side operating experience, giving them an inside-out perspective that ensures projects are completed effectively and efficiently. Accretive provides its services in accounting and finance, enterprise governance, and technology. The firm's clients range from small companies to Fortune 500 enterprises in the U.S. and across the globe.

Countsy positioning and elevator story:

Countsy is your company’s back-office function. We provide accounting and HR as a service to venture backed startups across the globe. Through a unique combination of on-demand CFOs and streamlined technologies, we free you from back-office management and empower you to focus on what matters most. Delighting customers. Perfecting solutions. Accelerating growth. From payroll and benefits to GAAP financials and board reporting, you get the support you need to be transaction ready. Efficient. Scalable. Done Right.

Next up was to develop and execute a go-to-market strategy for the new company—to move from message architecture to market resonance via a new name, logo, website content, videos, marketing communications, PR around the brand, sales training, etc. Our earlier, collaborative work in establishing business objectives and nailing down Countsy’s positioning enabled us to ensure that all newly created collateral and other communications were aligned against the company’s narrative and embedded in all disseminated material. This material would act as a messaging virus, both internally and out into the market.

 

The Results

In addition to providing a positioning refresh for the parent company and added value in the launch and promotion of the Countsy sub-practice as a distinct brand, our work with Accretive  sweetened the parent company’s portfolio. In fact, at the end of 2017, multinational business consulting firm RGP acquired Accretive, and integrated it within the company—but left Countsy (which had lifted Accretive’s valuation), to operate under its own brand.

“The re-branding and positioning of Countsy, a Cunningham initiative, was a key factor in helping sell the company to a great strategic partner,” said Jonathan Rosenthal, the executive chairman of the board of Accretive, who added that the firm’s buyer intended “to continue Cunningham’s work on Countsy.” Kate Duchene, president and CEO of RGP, echoed that sentiment, noting in a press release about the acquisition that “We are…excited about the growth opportunities provided by Countsy, which we hope to expand into additional markets.”

With Countsy successfully launched as its own business, and our positioning and brand launch for it completed, we enteredthe go-to-market plan phase of our engagement with the stand-alone practice, which called for us to provide the leadership and team to deliver on the plan. We went on to take on an interim CMO role to help the brand with a portfolio of marketing initiatives, including lead generation, driving traffic to the website and building company awareness. 

Two years later, we’re still servicing Countsy—the recipient of various industry awards—and our delivery has received nods from other marketing organizations as a best-practice example. Our lead-generation has contributed directly to Countsy’s growth (if personified as a salesperson, we’d be one of the top sellers) and we continue to take part in strategic conversations that impact the business beyond just marketing execution.                

From birth…to launch…to market impact: the baby is growing up!